What is 4-H and 4-H Shooting Sports
Updated: May 4, 2021
Since I became involved with 4-H, I've gotten lot of questions about 4-H and heard a lot of misconceptions about 4-H and 4-H Shooting Sports...Here are some of them and some thoughts on 4-H.
Not to go into the history of 4-H, Not my intention, but 4-H has its roots going back to 1902 as a community group of farm kids. 4-H as a National Organization goes back to 1912. It has always been an organization with it's roots in Agriculture. Many may be more familiar with it's "younger sister"... Future Farmers of America, FFA. (No Offense) I love both and they actually have a lot of similarities. Both Organizations are under the US Department of Agriculture and both have the goal of working with young people and making better citizens. In much of the US, 4-H and FFA are both active in Public Schools. 4-H tends to be more prevalent in Elementary and Middle Schools and FFA in High Schools. In North Carolina, this is very true. In fact in most counties in NC there is not a huge presence of 4-H in Public Schools at all. In our county I think there is an effort to get back into the schools. In our County and in many counties, 4-H is highly utilized by Homeschool families as a means for socialization and community involvement. That is very true in Davie County, NC. My "day job" is as a High School Administrator. In one of my former schools, West Rowan High School, we had a phenomenal AG Program and consequently a phenomenal FFA. the two were so integrated, that there was really no distinguishing between the two. Many of our High School kids had grown up in 4-H and many of the Activities are very similar. Horse and livestock projects etc...However most Public School kids left 4-H when they got to High School. This seems to be a trend in many places.
Now for how I ended up in 4-H, If you read the opening page of the website then you know about our son Tom. He is the reason for my entry into Shooting Sports and 4-H. As it states, Tom loved Boy Scouts and 4-H and anything that created a projectile. When Tom was in his final days and he knew and we all knew that he was, I was thinking of ways I could honor him and his memory. I like to shoot, I like to hunt (Tom did not like to hunt, but had no problem with hunting...he would go with me, he just didn't want to kill anything) and I like the outdoors just like Tom. I had been a volunteer with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Scouts were probably Tom's first passion, Tom loved being a Scout! He fit in with Scouts, where he did not always feel comfortable in athletics or other social situations, he was in his element with scouts. He had just moved from Webelos to Boy Scouts the year he was diagnosed with Cancer. So when Tom passed, my first intention was to work in shooting sports with BSA. I contacted them, and found out what all I needed to do to become certified to work with BSA. I took all of the courses for rifle and shotgun and and pistol. Basically they are NRA Instructor Courses with an emphasis on working with youth. Working with Youth is something I have done all my life...35 years in Education, 18 years of High School Coaching. When I finished the NRA Courses, I got "Merit Badge" Certified and was ready to go...Problem was, they really didn't need me. Turns out, at least in 2012 (can't speak for the present) they only had shooting sports in summer camps and they had no shortage of Instructors. I got on essentially a "waiting list" to be an Instructor and got the impression that I was in a "Don't call us, we'll call you" situation. So I began to look for another way to get involved in Youth Shooting Sports. The other two organizations I found were NC Wildlife Resources Commission and 4-H. I took the NC WRC Instructor Class and contacted our local 4-H Agent to see what she thought. Well, our Agent absolutely jumped at the chance to start a 4-H Shooting Sports Club!! Seems that our existing 4-H Clubs, mostly horse clubs could not keep males beyond the age of 13. The Clover Buds were doing good with the young kids and the horse clubs had plenty of girls, but Boys were dropping out by the time they got to High School. My thought was that they were going to FFA like the school where I worked, but turns out the majority of kids involved in 4-H were Home School kids. Davie County has one of the highest populations per capita of home school kids in the State of NC. They just lost interest in horses, and apparently girls who like horses?? Our 4-H Agent thought that Shooting Sports would be a good way to keep both boys and girls in 4-H beyond the age of 13 and it has been very effective!
So..."the rest is history" as they say. We were chartered in November of 2012. The 4-H Office did not want to own of handle any guns so TCYSS was born. We built a range on our property initially a 30 foot by 300 foot swath through the woods and cut out of a hillside. Our initial meeting had about 12 kids, by the time we actually made it to the range we were down to about 6, but as of May 2021, we are up to over 70 in our membership and growing.
Since I got involved I found that a lot of people have no idea what 4-H is...they have heard of it, but don't have a clue. Many think we are the same as the NC WRC Hunter Education Teams. We do now share a great many kids and TCYSS supports them as well when they ask but we are totally separate as of now. Works out pretty well, our competitions are in the summer and fall theirs in the winter and spring, so kids interested in the Competitive aspects shoot for both it's almost like two seasons, like playing football in the fall and baseball in the spring. Our competitions are fairly different, even our Hunting Skills Tournament varies a great deal from the NC HE Tournament.
Some think we are a Church Organization. During a fundraiser we were selling tickets and were told by a potential ticket buyer, that he only supported Baptist Churches and not 4-H Churches. My own first cousin asked me while we were shooting clays about 4-H and while I was explaining it he said, "and you are Christian Faith based, right?" He was surprised that we are actually a part on NC State University and NC A&T University, and entirely secular and always have been. We do have a prayer to start our meeting, as that was agreed to by our members. If any member was opposed we would not have it.
Another misconception is that we are a "paramilitary" organization that teaches our kids military and defense skills. That's pretty hilarious if you know me and nothing could be any further from the truth. National 4-H Policy is that we can never shoot any 'Humanoid' Target, not even Zombie Targets. We never even refer to firearms as "weapons"! It takes our Instructors who have served in the Military and Law Enforcement a while to get use to it. Our Club and TCYSS are both affiliated with several organizations involved with firearms, Shooting Sports and the Second Amendment. In 4-H, we have no political agenda whatsoever! In fact, a few years ago we had a Candidate for the House of Representatives come to speak to us, the first thing we had to tell him is that he could not talk about his platform. He could tell us about the election process and how he got started in politics, but not his "agenda". He did an excellent job. Our kids know how to register as a candidate and what is involved in running for office, but most couldn't tell you which Party he belongs to.
To keep this program going, with no dues or costs to families requires a lot of money. With that in mind we do a lot of fundraising. I will mention Tractor Supply Company because they are so supportive of 4-H. We sold raffle tickets there last summer. We had people that were appalled at the idea of teaching kids to use firearms. Have to say, if that's how you feel, that is fine, but they need to realize that we are teaching kids to be responsible and safe with firearms. Our entire mission is POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT! The Vehicle we use for that is Shooting Sports. Our kids are learning to be good citizens and learning skills they can use their entire lifetime for recreation and enjoyment. 4-H kids aren't out robbing banks, selling drugs and shooting up schools, they have too much going for them!