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4-Hers shoot at landfill shotgun range

Posted: April 8, 2014 - 11:17pm
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Jonathan Saul (left) competes in a 4-H sporting clays competition at the Columbia County landfill.  A noise complaint from a nearby homeowner might cause the club to relocate its shooting range.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Jonathan Saul (left) competes in a 4-H sporting clays competition at the Columbia County landfill. A noise complaint from a nearby homeowner might cause the club to relocate its shooting range.

As the clay flung into the sky, Hunter Garnto zeroed in on his target and squeezed the trigger.

A shot rang out against the rolling berms at the decommissioned Columbia County landfill and part of the clay target shattered away.

Garnto, and Evans High School senior, shot 23 out of 25 clays at the Columbia County 4-H Project SAFE’s countywide meet Thursday.

The 18-year-old has been a member of the “shotgun club” since he was in the seventh grade and wouldn’t miss a regular Thursday afternoon practice.

“I’ve been in it since the beginning,” Garnto said. “I enjoy it every Thursday. ... It’s fun. You can get out here and hang out with your buddies you don’t see during the week.”

Garnto is one of 135 students from Columbia, Richmond, Lincoln and Burke counties that participate in the trap shooting program.

“They love it,” said Shirley Williamson, county 4-H director. “They stay in it from the beginning.”

The students celebrated their abilities and showed off for their parents and friends with a family picnic and meet Thursday.

“This is the time when the parents come,” said Keith Howard, coordinator of the program.

“A lot of them work and can’t get here during the week,” he said. “This is usually their fun time. They compete. We give trophies. We have a raffle. This is the fun part right here. These kids get really competitive and we do well.”

Howard helped get the club started in 2002 with about 10 members. Then meeting at Pinetucky Gun Club in Blythe, members drove about 45 minutes for the weekly practices and meets.

Columbia County commissioners zoned the landfill property to be used for recreational use and approved the 4-H’s request to shoot trap on the property in March 2004.

“It’s perfect,” Howard said of the landfill range set up with berms and natural buffer zones around the property. “It’s centrally located for Columbia County. It’s in a closed area.”

The area might not be perfect for everyone, however.

Noise from the weekly shooting sessions has become the subject of complaints for a nearby resident, who has brought his concerns before the Columbia County commission on two occasions.

Most recently, Steve Mock, who lives in the Ashbrooke subdivision, appeared at the April 1 meeting to reiterate his complaints about the gunfire, which he said were an annoyance and disturbed the normally peaceful neighborhood.

Mock said he supported the program, but hope officilas could find another gun range in a more remote area.

“I just want to be able to enjoy my home,” Mock said.

Commissioners asked Williamson to look into finding alternative sites for the next season, if it was feasible, but took no formal action.

Williamson said she can’t pull the plug on the group before the season ends in early May. But she told commissioners that she would look into other options.

“They want me to investigate the opportunities or to see if anywhere else could be found for it to be relocated,” Williamson said.

Mock’s home is more than a half mile from the range with a tree buffer, two schools, Columbia County Animal Services facility and William Few Parkway between them.

Williamson said she’s had a handful of complaints and inquiries about the shots this season.

Most were curious about what the gunshots were and how far away they were and were appeased when they were told it was 4-Hers.

Williamson, who has spoken to Mock and county officials about his complaints, said the few complaints have come only this year as residential development encroached onto property surrounding the landfill.

With the development, the buffer zones have thinned out.

The group is approved by county officials to shoot on the range daily from dawn until dusk. They only shoot a few hours a day one or two days a week.

Howard said the landfill has been the perfect location for the past decade and moving the program to a new site would be difficult.

“We need to stay here real bad,” Howard said. “If we don’t stay here, it’s going to be real hard.

“It’s going to be a real hardship. To find somewhere with this much acreage in the center of town that somebody is going to let you shoot on is probably going to be real hard. It took us a long time to get to this point.”

Howard said the program is open to any student in the seventh through 12th grade.

Students from neighboring counties also can participate if the 4-H programs in those counties don’t offer a similar program.

It’s open to boys and girls and has grown exponentially each year.

“They love this and they enjoy it,” Howard said, watching as his students took their turn on one of four trap stations set up at the landfill. “I’ve got some here that never shot a gun before until they came out here. And that’s the fun part.”

Howard said the students shoot for a few hours on Thursday afternoons and sometimes a few hours on Saturday mornings.

He said on Saturdays they mainly try to spend extra time with new shooters and to squeeze in some practice for those who couldn’t make it on Thursday.

The shooting season runs from the last week in February to the first week in May.

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Comments (3)

Little Lamb

Peace and Quiet

It is overrated. Let the kids have their fun. The Ashbrooke folks are just curmudgeons.


I was the Shotgun Club

I was the Shotgun Club coordinator for 8 seasons, 6 of which my son was an active member. This club is an awesome opportunity for our county's youth. This club, since its inception in 2002, has received tremendous local and national support. The official club name is Columbia County 4H Project S.A.F.E. ~ which stands for Shooting Awareness, Fun, and Education. It isn't just kids shooting, the club actually follows the 4H beliefs and works with the youth one on one to instill these practices. Like Mrs. Williamson pointed out, this is a total of 3 month club, shooting a few hours mainly on Thursday afternoon. It's not like it's an open gun range every day. There is absolutely NO possibility the shotgun rounds can travel anywhere close to any homes or roads. This ONE gentleman should don a pair of earplugs and come out and volunteer with these boys and girls, he may just learn a few things himself. And if he doesn't have his own earplugs...the club has cases, he's welcome to a new pair each week. SHOOT'EM IF YOU GOT'EM!! Ms Lori


Thursday shooting

I am a parent of one of the shooters. My child has been doing this for about 4 years now. This club isn't just about shooting guns. It teaches the children about respect, safety,teamwork, and much more.Each child strives to hit 25 out of 25. It is not an easy task. This program teaches them to work hard to achieve that goal and not to give up if you don't reach it the first year. If this guy would come and see the program and what it is actually about I would hope he could reconsider his complaint. It really is a wonderful program. If he could see the kids faces when they shoot, when they do a little better each practice maybe he could stand one evening with the TV a little louder. Or volunteer one evening a week and he wouldn't even notice the shooting because you get use to it.