• 59°
franklin county times

County Extension promotes 4-H shooting sports program

For youth shooting enthusiasts in Franklin County, a new year for the 4-H shooting program – the Freedom Hills 4-H Gun Club – is about to begin.

Although a new shooting sports program is being implemented this year through the Franklin County school system, this separate and unconnected program, Freedom Hills 4-H Gun Club, through the Alabama Cooperative Extension in Franklin County has long been available to young shooting enthusiasts in Franklin County, and it will continue to operate separately from the FCS’ program.

“Our shooting sports program in Franklin County is out at Wade Willingham’s Cedar Hill Trap Range, under his direction,” explained program coordinator Leslie Goins. Within 4-H, coordinators and volunteers are carefully trained and certified to carry out the programs; Willingham is one of those certified volunteers and is heavily involved in the local 4-H shooting program. “He’s a jewel. The way he can get through to kids is amazing,” Goins said. “He has helped us out tremendously.”

The club is open to ages 9-18 and meets once a month starting in September – the first meeting for 2016 will be Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. at Cedar Hill. Both boys and girls may participate in these trap shooting events at Cedar Hill Trap Range, and Goins said she expects the number of girls involved to continue to grow. “The Olympics really helped out, with all the women who just medaled in shooting,” Goins said.

At the monthly shoots, about 50 students attend from across Franklin and Colbert counties. “Those are open to everybody, even if you’ve never shot,” Goins said. Out of those, the most dedicated students are formed into a competitive team for 4-H to compete against other such teams in April, Goins said. Team members get the opportunity to shoot trap, skeet and sporting clays.

For many young people, the club can fulfill a desire for an extracurricular activity for someone who doesn’t like the more common sports or other pursuits like music or theatre. “Shooting sports offer a new and innovative educational avenue for kids to learn,” Goins said. “It offers something for kids who want to be in the outdoors and learn responsibility and leadership.”

Extension director Katernia Cole-Coffey also pointed out the importance of having a program that “teaches safe and responsible use of firearms, including sound decision-making, self-discipline and concentration.”

Students are invited to bring their own guns, although Willingham does have a few extras for use by youth shooters.

To sign up for the Freedom Hills 4-H Gun Club, find out more information or learn about other 4-H programs, call 256-332-8880. The Sept. 10 shoot will cost $5 per round, and shooters must provide their own shells. Sign-up for 4-H is free.