4-H Shooting Sports is a volunteer-led program teaching life skills and STEM principles through shooting. Volunteers must be at least 21 years of age and have completed a state level 4-H shooting sports workshop. The 4-H certified training program focuses on safety, ethics, risk management, youth development and proper hands-on training techniques.

For 4-H members, the program’s curriculum stresses safety and ethical development and aims to instill lifetime participation in recreation, hobbies, and careers related to shooting sports and wildlife.

4-H members choose between shotgun, air rifle, air pistol, BB, or archery for a shooting discipline and become well educated about their project. Throughout the year, members can participate in several competitions on the local, state and potentially the national level.

In the spring, there are three 4-H Shooting Sports Jamborees, focused on archery, shotgun, air rifle, air pistol, and BB. These Spring Jamborees are qualifiers for the Fall State 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational, which is a qualifier for the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championships.

During the year, youth enrolled in grades five through nine also have the opportunity to participate in 4-H Target Smart Camp, a resident camp based out of Columbia. At camp, youth spend four days focused on one shooting discipline to develop skills, practice correct form and responsible use.

In the last decade alone, Tennessee Shooting Sports entries have nearly tripled and though 2018 competitions are not yet complete, that number is expected to keep growing.

“Today, there are approximately 20,000 youth involved annually in 4-H Shooting Sports activities in Tennessee, through clubs and camps,” says Daniel Sarver, an Extension specialist for 4-H STEM and camping.

Unique to the training program is that it is 100 percent focused on youth development. Shooting is the tool volunteers and 4-H professionals use to keep youth engaged while teaching them valuable life skills. The goal is not just to teach youth to shoot, but to help youth take proper aim at life.

“My favorite part of the program is seeing the progression of a County 4-H program from start to finish,” says Sarver. “Seeing County volunteers become certified 4-H Instructors, with all their energy and enthusiasm, then turning that energy into real 4-H development is a wonderful thing.”