Posted Online: March 26, 2013, 6:27 pm

Start 'em young, teach 'em right

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Bob Groene, groene@qconline.com

Photo:
A group of young students practice shouldering a long gun in a University of Illinois Extension Education 4-H beginners class held at Bi-State Sportsmens Association, Colona.
Instructor Bill Peterson asked the attentive class of three girls and five boys in the learn-to-shoot class this question: "Do you remember the first three safety rules about picking up a gun that we talked about last week?"

When no hands went up, Peterson smiled, pointed to a girl and asked, "OK, what do the letters MTA stand for when you pick up a gun?"

"I've never picked up a gun before," was the young lass' reply.

If there was any doubt, it quickly was erased — this is as basic of a beginner gun class as could be. The ground-level, six-session, Wednesday evening class was being held at Bi-State Sportsmen's Association, Colona. It was the first such learning experience aimed at youngsters as young as 10 and old as 18. The course was organized by University of Illinois Extension Education in conjunction with 4-H of Rock Island and Henry Counties.

A few months ago, Peterson, an Andalusia resident, advised me that some classes for youngsters were in the planning stages and that he and Jerry Shillinton of Orion, both active members of Bi-State, both had become National Rifle Association (NRA) and Amateur Trap Association (ATA) certified instructors. That duo has hit the teaching running — beginner and advanced classes for youngsters on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings at Bi-State are already in place.

"There's nothing more important in the use of guns than to learn from the beginning the safe and proper ways to handle and shoot," Peterson explained. "And that's exactly what we're doing here. We start at ground level and slowly work our way up, with lots of one-on-one hands-on instruction."

Following along a 4-H Shooting Sports Fundamental Training handout, the eight youngsters in this class stood in a line and, using a simulated shotgun made of a piece of PVC pipe, went through steps to safely shoot a shotgun -- your stance, gun ready opposition, mounting the gun to shoulder.

Tonight was the night for this group to shoot a shotgun for the first time, at a stationary clay bird target about five yards away. Thus, trigger pull was discussed. When moving targets were to be introduced in future classes, swinging to the target and follow-through would be added.

"I was excited and nervous," 11-year-old Ely Pettit of Port Byron said after shooting a 20-gauge shotgun for the first time. "I wasn't sure what would happen and didn't know if it would hurt. I felt the recoil, but it didn't hurt. I want to learn how to shoot a gun and I want to learn all of the rules."

"University of Illinois Extension Service and 4H has offered shooting sports in Illinois for three years," explained Cheryl Geitner, youth development educator. "This is the first class here in Rock Island and Henry counties, because we needed volunteer instructors and now we have them. We're always in need of volunteers or mentors for shooting and other activities. The kids will do community service activities here at the club grounds as a leadership component of the activity."

For complete information on youth 4-H shooting classes, call Geitner at 309-756-9978. For information on ATA youth shooting classes, call Peterson at 309-945-2108.

And, if you are still wondering about the safety rules, MTA stands for muzzle — trigger — action. That means: keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, do not touch the trigger and keep the gun action open and unloaded.

* CPO applicant testing coming very soon: Want to be a conservation police officer or learn more about it? Go to www.work.illinois.gov or www.dnr.illinois.gov. for information.

* DU banquet: The Rock Island County chapter of Ducks Unlimited, the granddaddy of Illinois Q-C area outdoor organizations, will have its annual fundraising banquet on April 5 at Milan Community Center. Tickets are: $45 per membership, $15 for Greenwings (youngsters) and $20 for an accompanying spouse. For complete information, call Dave Temple, 309-737-4987.

* Inland trout season: The Illinois inland trout season will open on April 6 at 42 locations across the Land of Lincoln, however, none of those are close to the Quad-Cities. The closest are Hennepin Canal Parkway in Bureau County and Centennial Park Lake in Rock Falls.

* Illinois hunt/fish licenses: Reminder that licenses from last year (2012-13) expire March 31.
Bob Groene is outdoors writer for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, he can be reached at groene@qconline.com