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Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports
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Frequently Asked Questions

Why does 4-H have a Shooting Sports program?
4-H uses shooting sports to teach youth development. Our programs are valuable for helping young people develop self-confidence, personal discipline, responsibility, teamwork, self-esteem, sportsmanship as well as other life skills. The skills required for the responsible use of firearms carries over into many other parts of life. 4-H Shooting Sports Programs provide a positive experience for youth and promote the safe and ethical use of firearms. It is our belief that firearm education reduces gun accidents. Hunting and shooting have been a strong part of our American tradition, and the 4-H shooting sports programs helps to continue this tradition through involvement of the whole family.

How did the 4-H Shooting Sports program get started?
Shooting Sports have been a part of 4-H since the 1930's when there were shooting competitions in many states. There was also shooting sports at some 4-H camps that had ranges. However, there was no organized training program where leaders were taught how to teach youth about shooting. In 1976, staff members in Texas realized that there needed to be a training program in place to teach volunteers how to teach shooting skills. They requested that this be done as an expansion of the existing rifle project. Approval was given, and 4-H Shooting Sports was born. After being effective in Texas, it was decided in 1977 that the program should be expanded to include other states.

Do you have to be a 4-H Member to be in a 4-H Shooting Sports club?
Yes, Shooting Sports Club members are required to be part of the 4-H program. Contact your local Extension office for more information on how to join 4-H.

Why is it so important that members are enrolled as regular 4-H members as well?
To ensure our positive youth development focus and for University of Illinois liability reasons, all youth in our shooting sports programs must be club members. If a young person is a member of another county club, they would only need to pay the program fee ($20) once per year. Our goal is to make sure all of our youth involved in shooting sports have access to all activities, events and programs that their county and the state offers. SPIN Clubs (Special Interest 4-H Clubs) provide an opportunity for youth to enroll in a club that focuses only on Shooting Sports. Check with your local Extension office to see if one is available.

What do 4-H Shooting Sports Club members do at club meetings?
Club meetings typically consist of a short program and an hour or more of shooting practice. Many clubs go on field trips and invite guest speakers to share special talents or interesting experiences with club members. Business meetings, fundraising activities and special community service projects are sometimes part of the club's yearly plan. All shooting sports programs must adhere to the elements that make up a 4-H club experience: communication activities, opportunities for leadership, record-keeping, and meet a minimum of six times annually.

What shooting sports disciplines are currently offered in Illinois?
We currently have statewide programs offered in shotgun, rifle, hunting, wildlife, and outdoor skills, and archery. All of these disciplines may not be offered in your county, so check with your local club.

How do I find a club to join?
Contact your county Extension office to see if a club is offered in your county or nearby. Contact the leaders to find out about meeting times and activities. Youth are allowed to be members in a county that they do not live in, as long as they attend the meetings and activities, and are accepted by the county. If there is not a club currently offered in your county, you can begin the process of getting one started.

What does it cost?
In Illinois, there is a $20 fee to be a 4-H member. If a member has already paid this fee, they do not have to pay again, although some clubs may have an additional membership fee to cover the cost of materials. Check with your local club for more details on costs.

Do I need to bring my own equipment?
Many counties have equipment that is provided for the club members. This way anyone can participate. It also lets members find out what they prefer to work with and what fits them the best. However, most clubs allow members to bring their own equipment with the approval of the Certified Instructor. Check with your local club for more details on their equipment policies.

If members bring their own equipment, does it need to be certified by a gunsmith before they can use it?
If you have certified instructors in that discipline, they should have the expertise to decide if the firearm is safe, unsafe, or needs to be checked by a gunsmith. Most clubs usually do not require a check by a gunsmith but require that any firearm or bow that isn't the club's property be inspected and approved by the certified instructor.

How old do the youth have to be to participate in the program?
Youth aged 8-19 can enroll in archery and air rifle, while .22 rifle and shotgun require youth to be at least 10 years of age to enroll. In order to qualify and compete at the National 4-H Invitational Match, youth must be 14 years old.

What competitions are available to participate in?
Illinois is in the process of developing shooting competitions. If a county wishes to set up their own competitions, they may do so. As we progress, we envision holding an annual State Shoot and select Illinois 4-Hers to attend the National 4-H Invitational - this year being held at Grand Island, Nebraska.

What is a "Postal Match?"
Postal matches are an easy way for youth to compete against each other without having to really travel anywhere. What basically happens is that the youth shoot at their local range, at the meeting or another time, and the scores are collected and then sent to be scored. Everyone in all the counties use the same targets and same rules so that things are as fair as possible. The scores are then tabulated and results are sent to competing counties.

How do you start a 4-H Shooting Sports Club?
If there is not currently a Shooting Sports program in your county and you would like to start one, find a team of adults who are also interested and attend the next statewide training that is available. Then find youth in the county that are interested in joining the club, and enroll with the county Extension office. Start meeting with the club, and enjoy learning together! It is important to contact your county Extension office prior to attending a training.

Can parents be involved?
Yes! In fact, parents are encouraged to be involved. Parents can help out with safety and act as assistant instructors for many activities.

Who leads the club?
Adult leaders who have completed a state training for the program usually serve as leaders for the club. These leaders are interested in working with young people on shooting skills, as well as life skills. Certified leaders may also train assistant volunteer instructors to help with their club on the county level. All county-level practices must be performed with at least one certified instructor present in each discipline area that is being taught.

How can I become a certified instructor?
To become a certified instructor you must attend a state certification workshop. You must be 21 and be accepted as a 4-H volunteer leader which includes an application process and approval from screening processes. You must have in interest to work both with adults and youth, have an interest in shooting sports, and have some knowledge of shooting techniques.

Where can I get more information about 4-H Shooting Sports?
Your local Extension office will have information; You can also contact Dan Dawson, State Coordinator at 217-782-6515 or