Feb. 16, 2023
Arkansas 4-H youth aim for perfection in BB shooting
By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Teams from Faulkner, Madison counties qualify for nationals
- Record participation this year: 164 competitors from 17 counties
- Caleb Mahan of Madison County shoots perfect score
With art at https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjArGp2)
LITTLE ROCK — One bullseye might be considered a lucky shot. But 40 perfect shots is undeniable skill.
Caleb Mahan has been part of the Arkansas 4-H Shooting Sports program since he was 8 and competes with the Madison County Bullseyes, coached by his mother, April Mahan.
“The kids have been practicing twice a week since November,” Madison County 4-H agent Caramie Edwards said of the team from Northwest Arkansas.
The Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, hosts the Arkansas 4-H BB Shooting Competition contest. Individual counties hosted shooting competitions events on Jan. 28, with final scores released this week.
The 4-H competition is also a qualifier for the Daisy National BB Gun Competition that will take place in Rogers in July.
First Place — Faulkner County Team Blue: Victoria Bellish, Colt Jones, Kylie Watson, Charleigh Herburger and Jonathan Garst
Second Place — Madison County Bullseyes: Caleb Mahan, Matthew Rightsell, Thomas Snyder, Cainan Whitley and Peyton Parker
Third place — Faulkner County Red: Tayhlor Henson, John Gibson, Maddison Lee, Hagan Carter and Bria Butler
First Place — Faulkner County Flyers: Kaitlyn Edwards, Abigail Faulkner, Chloe Parish, Luke Ramsey and Bodie Smith
A COVID Success Story
This year’s competition drew a record number of participants, with 164 4-H members from 17 counties. In years past, the statewide competition has been held at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition was restructured to reduce large gatherings. County extension offices across the state now host local shooting events for their 4-H members using standardized targets, which are then scored at the Cooperative Extension Service’s state office in Little Rock.
“It’s really one of our COVID success stories,” said 4-H Outdoor Skills Instructor Jesse Bocksnick, who coordinates the competition. “We’re having a record year. People seem to like this hybrid format because it’s convenient. The kids don’t have to travel as far, and so more youth are able to participate.”
Safety and Skills
In the 4-H Shooting Sports program, youth can compete in BB gun, air rifle, shotgun, bow and arrow and muzzle loaders, but they all start by learning firearm safety.
“They’re developing skills that last a lifetime,” Bocksnick said. “Shooting requires concentration, decision-making and responsibility. They’re learning how to keep records, how to contribute to the team effort, and how to manage time, since competitions are timed. They also learn empathy and sportsmanship.”
Many 4-H members involved in shooting sports also compete in other competitions.
“We’ve had kids get college scholarships and go on to compete in the Junior Olympics and the Olympics,” Bocksnick said. “We’ve got some of the best shooters in the nation. It’s pretty cool to see.”
The Daisy 499 BB gun is the standard for competition, and all competitors shoot 10 rounds from a distance of 5 meters in four positions: sitting, kneeling, standing and lying on the ground.
Bodie Smith often practices in the hallway of his Vilonia home — his paper target taped to a cardboard box propped against a wall.
“I wouldn’t let him do it if I didn’t know what a good shot he was,” his mother, Amy Smith, said.
A Little Luck
While skills develop through practice, everyone wishes for a little luck. Competitors – and even their coaches – hold to routines that have worked well for them in the past.
Faulkner County Shooting Sports Coach Keri Jo Davidson has smelling salts and lavender oil on hand for calming nervous competitors. Faulkner County 4-H volunteer coach Andy Faulkner wears his lucky black cowboy hat. And wherever his team is shooting, there’s usually a small green Good Luck Care Bear somewhere in the room.
“All of the kids touch it for good luck,” Faulkner County 4-H agent Kami Green said.
Coach Faulkner’s daughter, Abigail, 12, takes a very disciplined approach: a good night’s sleep, followed by a low-sugar breakfast of shredded wheat the morning of a competition.
“You’re really not supposed to have sugar,” she said. “Sugar makes you jittery, and you don’t want that.”
Smith, who has twice made it to nationals, tries to keep it simple.
“I drink a Dr Pepper and try not to think too much about it,” he said. Though when he attended nationals, he carried a rabbit’s foot for luck. As for whether it helped, “I like to think so,” he said.
The 4-H Shooting Sports program is one of more than 50 projects available through Arkansas 4-H, the state’s largest youth leadership development program. To learn more about Arkansas 4-H, visit 4h.uada.edu or contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @AR_Extension.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service