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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Lonnie Robinson (right) congratulates Trenton Laughlin after Laughlin broke five out of six targets his first time to shoot a shotgun.

Clay birds flew through the air with the greatest of ease, but didn't get far once a young shooter raised a shotgun and fired.

Bright-orange disks shattered into shards high above the ground when the blast from a 20-gauge sounded through the countryside near Hiwasse. It became obvious in a hurry that a lot of these Bentonville High School students are natural born shooters.

Educated hunters

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission requires that anyone born after Jan. 1, 1969 must complete a hunter education course to hunt in Arkansas.

Game and Fish offers an online course and instructor-led courses. To take a hunter education course, visit agfc.com for information and registration.

Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

The shotgun session was a final step for outdoor education students to earn their hunter education certification from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

They'll need that hunter ed card if they want to hunt in Arkansas. Regulations state that anyone born after Jan. 1, 1968 must complete a hunter education course to hunt in Arkansas.

Under florescent classroom lights, teachers drilled the students in wildlife and nature education, the different types of firearms, but most of all, firearms safety.

Weeks of lectures and book learning led up to the shooting lesson, said Tony Cherico, an outdoor education teacher at Bentonville High School. Game and Fish hunter education instructors brought all types of guns and ammo to classes as teaching aides.

Now, under the blue sky on a warm sunny morning, students wrapped their hands around the real thing, swinging a shotgun and squeezing a trigger.

Blam! Another target bites the dust.

Trenton Laughlin was a quick learner during the session held at the Benton County Quail property near Hiwasse. Laughlin broke five out of six flying clay targets in his first-ever try at shotgun shooting.

That got him a congratulatory fist-bump from Lonnie Robinson, a volunteer hunter education teacher. Robinson and Steve Dunlap with Game and Fish, coached students in the proper way to stand, how to raise the gun to their shoulder and when to squeeze the trigger.

For students like Savannah Rubino, it was their first time to shoot a firearm.

"It was kind of scary. The noise was kind of loud, but you get used to it," she said. All students wore hearing protection and safety glasses when shooting.

"It was fun," piped Ashley Dunmon as she walked off the range. "The gun was lighter than I thought it would be."

Robinson said the instructors strive to help students feel comfortable shooting a firearm and not be afraid of it.

"If there are some who don't want to shoot, that's fine. But we try to encourage them to take at least one shot."

Earning a hunter education card is one of a list of activities students experience in outdoor education, Cherico said. Soon they'll travel to Lincoln Lake to learn rappelling, and take a float trip on the Kings River.

"It gets them out to see what this state has to offer, and what they can do outdoor here locally," Cherico said. "It give them respect and exposure to the outdoors."

Sports on 10/09/2018

Print Headline: Natural born shooters

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