4-H Shooting Sports Team aiming for success

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Chris Harth of McDonough appreciates the lessons he has learned since joining Henry County’s 4-H Shooting Sports Team six months ago.

Henry County’s 4-H Shooting Sports Team recently received a grant to help purchase clay targets. Special photo

“It’s taught me a lot about the way I shoot, how I shoot and the way I handle myself in shooting competitions -- how I react when I shoot well, and how I react when I shoot badly,” says Harth.

The Shooting Sports Team recently received a $1,332 grant from the NRA Foundation. The funds will help with the cost of purchasing clay targets, which 4-H’ers use to practice for competitions.

The 19-year-old Harth recently wrote a letter to one of his local 4-H leaders, Frank Hancock, who oversees the Shooting Sports Team. In the letter, Harth expresses gratitude for what he has learned from Hancock and his coaches.

“You have given me the chance to learn a skill I plan to use for the rest of my life and pass on one day,” Harth writes.

Hancock, agriculture and natural resource agent for the University of Georgia Extension Office in McDonough, oversees activities for the Shooting Sports Team. He says 4-H’ers in Henry have been active in shooting sports for more than a decade, with a constant focus on safety.

“We shoot modified trap – clay targets – with shotguns,” says Hancock. “There’s a coach that stands with each person when they shoot. The coach is in charge of the ammunition and the shotgun. All the guns are kept in a gun rack, and nobody messes with them until it’s time to shoot.”

Shooting Sports Teams in Georgia’s 4-H program adhere to standards set forth as part of Project S.A.F.E., which is an acronym for Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education. The team begins its season in October, with monthly meetings through December on gun safety. The students practice on Saturdays from January through March at the Griffin Gun Club, to prepare for competitions in April and May.

Forty students in seventh through 12th grades – both boys and girls – are involved with Henry’s 4-H Shooting Sports Team. Of that total, 32 competed at the district level in Griffin in April, and 19 of those qualified to take part in state competition at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton last month.

Hancock notes that sixth-graders are welcome to practice with the team but are not eligible to participate in competitions.

Henry County Police Lt. Joey Smith has served as a team coach for the last two years. A father of two teenage sons who are also on the team, Smith congratulated those who made it to the district and state competitions.

“For any kid that is interested in the outdoors, 4-H is a great opportunity to learn about the outdoors, hunting or shooting sports,” he says. “It gives the kids a positive influence that they can compete at any level. It’s a good accomplishment for them.”

As for Harth, he says that while his days on the Shooting Sports Team are officially over, he’s not putting 4-H behind him completely just yet. He has already filled out paperwork to be a volunteer at the 4-H office at the end of the summer.

“I’ve just always enjoyed helping people and being able to work,” says Harth. “I enjoy watching the younger kids as they come through and being able to help them as they move up through the program.”

The Extension Office will begin taking applications at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, for those who are interested in being on the Shooting Sports Team. For more information, call 770-288-8421.