The Columbia County 4-H S.A.F.E. (Shooting, Awareness, Fun and Education) Clay Pigeon Target Sporting Program is coming off a successful season, and its organizers hope for an even better one this year.
In 2012, the junior team, consisting of seventh- and eighth-graders, won the region team title and finished fifth in the state. That team was comprised of Ben Brewton, Brooks Lemmon and Garrett Serigney, with Serigney taking first in the regional individual competition and fifth in the state. The senior squad of ninth- through 12th-graders – Carson Belding, Charlie Duncan, Madison Harrington, Hunter Hyatt, Nolan Johnson and Tyler Kitchens – won its region title with Harrington placing third at the state level.
Practices are every Thursday beginning Feb. 21 at the decommissioned Columbia County Landfill. Regional competition is April 20 and state competition is June 11.
The program, colloquially known as the shotgun club, has grown since its inception in 2002 and head coach Keith Howard has been there every step of the way.
“We started out with 10 kids and we will have upwards of 100 this year,” he said. “We teach these kids about guns and gun safety while they enjoy the sport of shooting clay pigeons.”
A final enrollment meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29 at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. A parent or guardian must attend. The yearly club fee is $135 and members must have a hunter safety card. A safety exam will be given by the Department of Natural Resources at the meeting for those needing a card. Those unable to attend the meeting can sign up at the 4-H office in Appling.
County 4-H Agent Shirley Williamson deals with 3,000 children a month at her office and has come to rely on Howard and the other nine volunteer coaches who run practices.
“Those volunteers are the ones who are out there every single week with the kids and they have to set all this up, take it all down,” Williamson said. “They have got it down to a fine organized science.”
That includes ensuring the highest levels of safety. With three stations, Howard wants at least six coaches at each practice. Coaches bring shooters’ guns to the firing line unloaded and hand out one shell at a time.
“We try to provide an opportunity and place for them to shoot in a safe and instructive environment,” Howard said. “And we have fun.”
Students in neighboring counties whose 4-H programs do not offer the activity can join.
For information about acquiring a hunter safety card, go to www.columbia4htrap.org. For club information, call (706) 541-4011 or Howard at (706) 829-3090.