South Dakota youth shooting club promotes ethics
PIERRE, S.D. — With around 50 kids cycling in and out all afternoon, coaches Jonathan Hays and Sean Krueger are getting the Pierre Junior Shooters and 4-H’ers organized for practice.
Hays began helping coach the Pierre Junior Shooters four years ago after he moved his family from Wyoming to Pierre. Hayes got involved in 4-H shooting sports with his oldest daughter in Wyoming. They joined the local BB gun team when the family relocated. He assisted Jon Foreman and Gene Garber before their retirement two years ago and has gone on to coach with Krueger.
The Pierre Capital-Journal reports Pierre Junior Shooters combines the education of 4-H with the competitiveness of a club sport. Hays said that many of the kids start out coming to learn through the 4-H part of the program.
“There’s the educational side of it where we teach them about safe shooting along with hunting, and then how to shoot a gun properly,” Hays said. “From there, it rolls into the competition side of it. We teach them about that. Then as time goes on, a few of them decide they want to go to nationals.”
There’s a good reason the kids want to try and earn a place on the Pierre Junior Shooters team. They’ve got seven national titles under the team’s belt.
At the end of June, the team will be traveling down to Rogers, Ark., for another shot at the Daisy BB Gun National Championships, this time with ten members, rather than the usual seven. The additional three will compete in a match of champions because they competed at the national championship the previous year and are unable to compete again.
“Daisy came up with this match of champions for those kids so they can compete individually,” Hays said.
Daisy, an air gun company established in the 1880s, has held a national championship BB gun match since 1966. The company also created the first written curriculum on shooting education, which ties into the foundation of the 4-H side of the Pierre Junior Shooters.
The kids learn how to hold a gun, sight a gun, shoot it, and all of what’s required of gun safety. That’s just on the surface.
Natalie Mohr, 15, has been shooting BB guns for five years and was a member of the team that went to nationals last year. She said her dad wanted her to learn gun safety and she just stuck with it from there.
“It’s taught me good sportsmanship, and learning to compose myself after I make a mistake in shooting,” she said.
This will be the first year that Rylie Stoeser, 12, can go to nationals if he qualifies, and he plans to work hard for it.
“I’ve learned you have to work hard in order to achieve it,” he said. “If you don’t come to practice whenever you need to, you won’t get better. Instead of just shooting at the tournaments, you need to work hard to get good at it.”
Hays’ two daughters, Jessica and Jasmine, and his son, Josiah, all are involved in the sport. Jessica Hays scored 479 points at nationals last year, earning her sixth place overall and as well as the team’s win. She said it was the best she ever shot.
Jonathan Hays said the kids learn more than just the ethics of the sport.
“They learn how to be competitive, be good sportsmen, when they do lose versus when they don’t lose,” he said. “They become better marksmen, and I think some of them learn how to deal with parents a little better because their parents have to be here.”
Parents are required to assist their children with sighting their rifles, helping them with positioning, and — for the younger ones — loading and cocking their guns.
“We require that the parents are here with their children. We want to make it a safe sport,” Hays said.
The parents peer through binoculars, even with the close quarters of the shooting range, to see how close their child is to hitting the mark and to help adjust the sights.
Still, it’s not the national titles and the awards the Pierre Junior Shooters has accumulated over the years that’s rewarding to Hays.
“It’s the smile on their face when they finally get it. It is so rewarding when kids finally figure out something that I’ve been trying to teach them and it clicks and then they turn to you afterward and give you that big smile,” he said. “I get a little emotional over that because that’s what drives me to do this.”