Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on May 17, 2012. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
4-H leaders promote shooting sports' safety
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Members of the inaugural team of 4-H shooting sports ambassadors hit the bull’s eye in their first year of service, said their Mississippi State University leader.
“We selected four experienced 4-H shooting sports competitors who are enthusiastic about the sport to represent Mississippi at local, state and national events, and this team has exemplified good sportsmanship, patience, respect and self-discipline,” said John Long, assistant Extension professor and state shooting sports coordinator.
Long said the Generation One ambassadors -- Grace Raymond of Madison County, Jessica Tedford of Bolivar County, Logan Raines of Union County and Luke South of Tishomingo County -- will serve a two-year term and may then reapply.
The ambassadors promoted 4-H, gun safety, wildlife conservation, hunting and the other shooting sports disciplines.
“One of their main jobs was outreach,” Long said. “Luke South was a national representative at the SHOT show, the world’s largest tradeshow for professionals involved in shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement. The ambassadors spent time at the state fair talking to families about gun safety and 4-H shooting sports.
“They ran a booth for 4-H Day at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, they assisted in opening assemblies at district- and state-level events, and they spoke to the 4-H advisory council to share what their sport means to them,” he said.
The ambassadors take their responsibilities seriously.
“Guns are not toys; they are serious firearms, and they need to be treated like they’re loaded at all times,” said Raymond, a homeschooled 17-year-old finishing her junior year. “I learned to be aware of my surroundings, and how to help teach 4-H’ers to be safe with firearms and archery equipment.”
Raymond stressed the safety rules ingrained in her by her instructors in Madison County 4-H, who are also her parents.
“We teach everyone the same rules: point the gun in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot and keep the action open when the firearm is not loaded,” she said.
Raymond applied to be an ambassador because she wanted to learn more leadership skills and to get more people involved in the sport she loves.
“Last year, I was privileged to attend the 2011 national shooting sports ambassador training in San Antonio, Texas,” she said. “My experiences at the training gave me the courage later on to stand before 2,000 people and serve as the master of ceremonies for the two awards nights at the 2011 national shooting sports invitational.”
Raymond said safety is the top priority of everyone in 4-H shooting sports.
“We stress safety before participants are allowed to even touch a gun,” she said. “A youth has to go through eight hours of safety training for each discipline.”
Raymond has been on the state 4-H leadership team for one year, and she has participated in numerous projects, including photography, modeling squad, food and nutrition, dairy judging and sewing construction. After 4-H, she plans to continue participating in shooting sports with the National Rifle Association and USA Shooting.
Tedford has completed her first year as an ambassador representing archery and shooting sports to youth across the state. She has vivid memories of her first experiences in the program.
“My first day at practice, I got lots of attention because I was the only girl, and I was only 10 years old,” Tedford said.
The ninth-grader from Bayou Academy in Cleveland said her early attempts at hitting clay targets provided entertainment for everyone who watched.
“By the end of my first day of shooting practice, I was hitting eight out of 15, and that was as good as some of the older boys were doing. From that moment on, I was hooked,” she said.
Tedford said her participation in shooting sports has taught her valuable life lessons, including ambition, determination and self-esteem.
“My ambition was to be the first girl in Bolivar County shooting sports,” she said. “I was determined to hit those skeet, and I am now averaging 12 out of 15 at every practice. I take pride in my accomplishments as well as those of my teammates. Plus, out-shooting the boys is always fun.”
In addition to competing in shotgun and archery, Tedford is on 4-H’s ATV team and the modeling squad and participates in expressive arts. In 2009, she received the Governor’s Award for her Community Pride project.
The first generation of 4-H shooting sports ambassadors will begin training Generation Two after Long announces the four newest ambassadors at the 4-H Club Congress awards day June 1.