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Getting Behind a Gun: 4-H Shooting Sports Sampler



Then a bang. The clay pigeon shatters in midair, leaving a small could of dust.

Getting behind the 20-gauge shotgun was Miranda Lanzatella’s favorite part of the Seneca County Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Shooting Sports Sampler.
“I don’t know, I just like shooting bigger stuff,” Lanzatella said with a laugh.

She was one of a little more than a dozen youth participants.

“So the idea was to introduce multiple disciplines to kids from around the county. We did muzzleloader today, shotgun today, air pistol and air rifle,” Keith Tidball, Assistant Director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, said. “Many times, they haven’t done those things before, so they get to be familiarized with those firearms.”

The participants rotated through the three events this past Saturday at the Kuneytown Sportsmen’s Club in Seneca Falls.

Tidball coached the teens on shotgun. He and the other instructors emphasize safety as a main priority of the training by stressing the M.A.T.T. system.

  • M.uzzle – always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and under control.

  • A.ction – keep the action open except when you are prepared to shoot.

  • T.rigger – keep your finger off the trigger until you are shooting.

  • T.arget – know where your target is and what is beyond it.

“That’s why 4-H Shooting Sports has such a good reputation in this area,” said Tidball, “because we focus on safety first and as a result we take the fear and the mystery and all the problematic stuff out of the world of firearms.”

4-H, which is a non-profit, is a collection of more than 100 universities that seeks to teach youth through hands-on experience.

At each station, the young shooters learned how to prepare and load each firearm. The shotgun, air rifle and air pistol are more straightforward. Muzzleloaders are more of a process.

“Powder, patch and ball or it won’t shoot at all,” read a card that instructors showed students.

“I enjoyed the muzzleloader a lot,” Abby Ludwig said. “It was just really cool to put the gunpowder in and the ball, patch everything up.”

Two of the participants said they’ll be able to use some of the skills they learned today in other spaces.

“And actually part of the reason I wanted to come today is because I’m in Pony Club,” said Clara Whilden. “And there’s this thing called the Tetrathlon and it’s … shooting, swimming, [horseback] riding and running.”

According to the Pony Club’s website, the Tetrathlon “requires sound horsemanship and general athletic ability.”

Competitors face off in the four events in a battle for the best total score. The Club says the Tetrathlon is a good test for those that wish to pursue the Modern Pentathlon.

“I wanted to get a little better at the air pistol so I could bring up my overall score,” Wilden said.

My hard-hitting question? How did the kids do?

“The kids did great. You know we had people of all ranges of size and ability,” Keith Tidball said.
At his shotgun station, Tidball thinks every participant hit at least one stationary target.


“And we had probably about half of them to not only hit the stationary targets but also hit flying targets, which is an accomplishment,” Tidball said. “There are lots of guys I’ve seen at the sportsmen’s club that don’t manage to do that sometimes.”

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