Tempting with targets

By: 
Summer Bonnar, NLJ Reporter

Submitted photo

Tanner Lendardson, a sixth-grader at Newcastle Middle School, has excelled in shooting sports through the Weston County 4-H program. He placed in several events at this year’s state shoot. 

 

4-H shooting members are ready to get excited for Pistol Mondays and Rifle Tuesdays again after the group held their Shooting Gallery at the Weston County Fairgrounds for the annual Ag Day.

 

The kids are already anxious for the season to start the first week of January, and a whopping 75 of the 170 kids in 4-H were involved in shooting sports, easily making it the largest project of kids in Weston County. 

 

However, it isn’t just a popular sport in Weston County. Erin Persche, 4-H youth development educator, told NLJ that “shooting sports is definitely the largest project across the state.”

 

4-H is in partnership with the county commissioners as they provide operating funds for the programs offered in Weston County. 4-H also has a number of local volunteers helping to make sure that the program runs smoothly and there are people to teach all the different projects that 4-H offers.

 

Persche is relatively new to the Weston County 4-H program, just starting in March 2022, but she is not new to the 4-H scene in Wyoming. She previously worked in the 4-H department in Niobrara County, where she was also an 11-year 4-H member, starting in 1993. 

 

“Being involved my whole life, I have a really good network of people throughout the area that I can call upon for more specific projects,” Percshe explained.

 

While Percshe has spent a lifetime around 4-H, she admittedly needed to call for help with the shooting sports. 

 

Tony Lenardson, a former national champion archer, has been noted as a big help on the archery side of things. His son Tanner competed this past year in the State Shoot and will be starting his third year of 4-H this season when shooting gets under way in January.

 

Tony is certified in archery instruction and has used his skills and knowledge to help kids for years. He used to make it to the annual fifth-grade trip to Mallo Camp to help with archery as well.

 

“You’ll get a kid who has never shot a bow before who by the end of the day, they are putting all the arrows on the target,” Tony told NLJ.

 

His efforts and skills have definitely shown in Tanner, though.

 

Tanner competed in all but one discipline and placed in four different events at the State Shoot for his class and age. He placed first in both Target and 3D in archery for his class.

 

“I’ve worked with Tanner so much over the years on the archery side of things, and I think that is why he has been so successful with that,” Tony said.

 

Despite doing so well in archery, Tanner’s favorite shooting discipline is the air rifle. 

 

“I just have more fun with it, it’s not something I get to go do at home,” Tanner said.

 

In the off season, Tanner is not shy of practice, shooting archery, .22 and shotgun year round with his dad at home. 

 

For kids not as lucky as Tanner — who gets to shoot at home — 4-H makes it easy for kids to get involved in shooting sports. Parents do not have to provide their kids with their own equipment, and they are able to check out whichever discipline they are interested in for a small fee. 

 

“(It) opens up the opportunity for kids to come try it without their parents having to invest in a really nice .22 before kids get a taste and figure out what they are interested in,” Percshe said. 

 

Shooting sports season runs from January to May, and the kids are exposed to seven different disciplines in that time. The first six weeks they work on pistol and air rifle, then they transition to six weeks of .22 pistol and .22 rifle. They then move on to six weeks of archery, and as the weather gets nicer, they are able to do shotgun and muzzle loader as the season finishes up.

 


 

Thanks to the Newcastle Gun Club, Upton Gun Club and Cambria Bowhunters, the 4-H kids have plenty of spaces, indoor and outdoor, to practice.

 

“There’s no way we can offer what we do without the ability to have all those indoor ranges,” Percshe said.

 

Weston County 4-H already has 50 kids re-enrolled for next year, and word of mouth has been their best recruitment tool. Four of Weston County’s shooters placed in numerous events at State Shoot, and this is the type of spark that gets kids talking.

 

Tanner got started because he heard about 4-H from some friends.

 

“I’ve been shooting forever. I just thought maybe I could meet some new kids and shoot in competition” Tanner told NLJ.

 

Tanner’s sister has also expressed interest in 4-H as she has started shooting a .22 at home with her brother and dad. What she is really excited about is the cooking program 4-H has to offer.

 

With 4-H offering 43 different projects, “there is truly something for every kiddo,” Persche said.

 

The White family in Upton didn’t get started much differently. Nick and Kasi White heard there weren’t many kids from Upton in the shooting program and decided it was time to get their kids involved. Nick and Kasi have both been invested in the program since their boys, Kevin and Trevon, got started.

 

“It’s definitely a whole family affair for them,” Persche said.

 

Trevon White, an eight-year 4-H member shooting in four disciplines at last year’s State Shoot, got the opportunity last year to go to Grand Island, Nebraska, for the National 4-H Championships. 

 

Trevon got himself to nationals for wildlife identification and outdoor skills based on how well he placed at State Shoot the previous year. He had his mom alongside him, who went as a coach.

 

Nationals had kids coming in from 42 states, with just 32 of the nearly 600 kids being from Wyoming.

 

“It was great to see how many states are there that compete, because we compete in a lot of things, and it was good to see other states doing the same thing,” Kasi White told NLJ.

 

Nick and Kasi had two busy boys at last year’s State Shoot. Kevin White shot five disciplines at last year’s event. Kevin is no stranger to State Shoot because this was his sixth trip to the Wyoming State Fairgrounds for the event.

 

“It is definitely both of those boys’ passions,” Persche said.

 

Kasi White, a 4-H leader in Upton, has started to raise interest in her community.

 

“I’ve been trying to get the program back, not necessarily for my boys –my boys are already involved, but I think there are a lot of kids out here who still want to be involved and parents just don’t know about it,” Kasi said.

 

The Whites got involved in 4-H as a family that was always shooting together but wanted their boys to learn the technical skills.

 

“We just started them young so they would know how to do it correctly for life,” Kasi said. 

 

4-H offers a hands-on experience for kids who are ready to try something new, or expand on skills they have. The program is equipped with leaders to teach kids what each project is all about and how to do it the correct way.

 

“The whole purpose of this is, come and learn,” Persche said.

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