Legion-sponsored Sharpshooters well named

Courtesy photo
The Southern Indiana Sharpshooters was founded in September 2014. The professional Junior Sports Shooting Club is sponsored by American Legion Post 147 of Jasper.

Guest Columnist

Growing up in a small town, I had no video games and three channels on the TV. Most all of the men in my family — and many of my friends — were hunters and/or fishermen, so I naturally progressed that direction.

Like most rural youth, I started out with a BB gun. I doctored it up with a scope and became pretty good at nailing sparrows, starlings and blackbirds with my trusty Daisy. Why those birds were fair game and no others is a bit of a mystery, but I was warned not to shoot robins, cardinals or any other variety of songbird. I do recall that hundreds of sparrows used to nest in two big maple trees across the road from our convenience store in St. Croix. We had a porch in front where people used to sit and visit. Toward evening the raucous sparrows were loud, settling into the trees for the night. One porch-sitter got aggravated at the noise, went to his car which I had filled with gas, pulled out a double-barrel shotgun, took aim and blasted both barrels across Highway 37 at the trees, maybe 50 yards away. It scared the heck out of everybody in the store, but the birds took off, and quite a few fell. Peace and quiet reigned. Those were different times, for sure.

Of course, I got my sons their BB guns as they grew, progressing to a pellet gun. I recall telling my oldest to never shoot at rocks or gravel with it, because that pellet was dangerous and could fly back, nailing you in the eye like Ralphie. So naturally when we were visiting my relatives over near Leopold, he was outside proudly showing his cousins his new weapon. Soon we adults heard a terrible crash. We rushed outside to find that he had indeed shot at something in the gravel. The pellet ricocheted into the side window of our little Plymouth Horizon, blowing it completely out. We drove home with a garbage bag taped to the opening.

The Legion program

Today kids have fewer chances to learn how to handle a gun, so that’s why fine programs like 4H Shooting Sports have been so successful. Another group called the Southern Indiana Sharpshooters is also doing good work teaching kids how to handle a weapon and challenging them with competitions. I contacted Sharpshooter leader Daniel Lawson, who gave me some background.

“I started wanting to begin a shooting club,” he said, “after I attended a show-and-tell promoting the Junior Shooting Sports Program at an American Legion conference at Indianapolis in 2011. I came back and looked at our [Legion] building and decided to pursue the matter.

“My first mission was to start raising money.  Everything is very expensive, and there is only one company that has shooting items suitable for our program, Champions Choice out of Tennessee. I started applying for grants from the Indiana Rifle and Pistol Association, Indiana Shooting Sports Foundation, NRA Foundation and local organizations. Within three years, I was in business. Our club was founded in September 2014. Since then we’ve evolved into a professional Junior Sports Shooting Club. We raise our own money through gun raffles and the Midway Foundation, and we just received another NRA grand award worth $2,900.”

Helpers assist

Daniel is first to admit he can’t do it alone.

“Our staff is the greatest,” he said. “Katrina Seitz is our program coordinator ensuring targets are properly scored and recorded in our Orion scoring system. She also helps me plan our shooting schedule, travel and administration. Her daughters, Emilee and Abby, are not only shooters, but Junior NRA Trained Coaches training new shooters. Coach Jud Collett, also NRA trained, is my line coach running the firing line and local matches. We are training all parents in various duties.

“We are sponsored by the American Legion Post 147 of Jasper. Our club is located in the Legion basement, and we’ve developed a firing range which can accommodate up to 12 shooters. This is an expensive program which can cost up to $1,000 a shooter. We use state-of-the-art equipment. Our program runs from early September through early April. The program is for school-aged boys and girls ranging from 12 through age 18. They must be attending some type of school, whether public, private or home school.”

I asked 17-year-old Emilee and 15-year-old Abby for their input, and they sent me their thoughts on the program. That will be the next column in about two weeks. In the meantime, it’s fishing season. The outdoors is calling you.

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