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Alabama 4-H Archery target

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of medically treated firearm injuries are unintentional. These injuries can too often involve young people. The Alabama 4-H Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education (S.A.F.E.) program works to provide young people with the needed exposure and safety lessons on properly handling and storing firearms and other shooting apparatuses.

Shannon Andress, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System 4-H Foundation regional agent, said safety is the cornerstone of the 4-H Shooting S.A.F.E. program. Through trained coaches and volunteers, young people can learn how to protect themselves and others from the dangers of improper firearm handling.

S.A.F.E. Participation

Participation in the program took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many events were canceled or had reduced capacities. However, the numbers are quickly trending back up, and participation and interest are growing again.

“In Alabama, there is a tremendous impact and interest in our 4-H S.A.F.E. program and activities,” Andress said.

In the S.A.F.E. program, 4-H participation ages are divided into two divisions. The junior division consists of young people ages 9 to 13, while the senior division consists of ages 14 to 18. The program is divided into different disciplines that are then made into clubs at the county level.

  • Archery. This is one of the more popular disciplines in Alabama.
  • Shotgun. The shotgun discipline has three events: trap, skeet and sporting clay.
  • Rifle. This discipline includes air rifles, BB guns and smallbore .22 rimfire
  • Hunting and outdoor skills. This discipline promotes stewardship of the environment.

Championships

Members of each club are split into teams to represent their county at different events. These include the state and national championships. Earlier this year, Alabama hosted the air gun, air pistol and BB gun championship on March 6. Upcoming championship dates include the following:

  • Archery – April 9
  • Shotgun – April 29, 30 and May 1
  • Smallbore .22 rimfire rifle and pistol – May 7

The national championships are on the calendar for June 26 through July 1 in Grand Island, Nebraska. 

More Than Competition

While competition is an aspect of the program, one of the main focuses of 4-H programs like S.A.F.E. is to help young people develop important life skills such as responsibility and respect. Andress said the clubs help provide a sense of belongingness, service and mastery for the participants.  

“The goal is not to make a blue-ribbon winner but a blue-ribbon kid,” Andress said.

Volunteers Are Welcome

Andress said one of the best assets for this program is the volunteers. The program divides volunteers into two categories: direct and indirect. Direct volunteers go through a 12-hour training program and background checks so they can have personal contact and instruction with the participants. Indirect volunteers are still able to help but not in an instructing role.

More Information

For more information on this program, visit the 4-H S.A.F.E. webpage at www.aces.edu. For information on other 4-H clubs and programs, visit www.Alabama4H.com

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