Young guns: Girls discover the fun of shooting
TOWN OF BELOIT—One of the best parts of being young is that you don't always realize when you should be nervous.
This is usually because you're having too much fun.
On Saturday, the two youngest competitors at the Beloit Rifle Club in the Wisconsin State Smallbore Silhouette Championship were 10- and 11-year-old girls who only recently started shooting.
The girls competed in an event in which participants had 2.5 minutes to shoot five metal targets shaped like animals. Competitors, who are all using .22 caliber rifles, can't shoot at the same target twice in an attempt to hit it. Targets are 40, 60, 77 and 100 meters away.
All rifles are equipped with scopes, and junior competitors hold youth-sized rifles but shoot the same distances.
It's a decidedly grown-up sport. Not so much because guns are involved, but because patience and concentration required to succeed.
“Once you master the mechanics, it becomes a mental sport,” said Steve Downs, one of the competitors.
Athletes in all sports have experienced that insidious, internal mental chatter that occurs during competition. It can derail anything from an afternoon of golf to the NFC championship game.
But neither Tierra Owens, 11 or Breanne Baker, appeared anxious or uncertain about their place among so many—and so much older—competitors.
“The hardest part is keeping the gun steady,” said Owens.
On her best outing, she hit eight of the 40 targets. Her grandfather, Dennis Loertscher, who got her involved in shooting, hit 34 or 40 targets on his best day out.
“Once, when the bullet wouldn't come out of the gun, I got worried because there wasn't very much time,” Owens said.
Owens was referring to the shell casing that comes out of the gun after it has been discharged.
Her mother, Kari Cox, said that her daughter was “very competitive” and simply enjoyed the challenge of trying to get better.
Breanne Baker, 10, agreed that the hardest part was holding the gun steady. She seemed most excited about sharing a hobby with her dad, Matt Baker, who was also competing.
When Breanne was shooting, she would take aim and stand poised, with the gun in her hand, waiting for the perfect moment. A split second after pulling the trigger, she would turn around and grin at her dad.
Her dad would grin back.
The club tries to encourage young people in shooting sports. It sponsors an annual youth shoot, and in the past they have had as many as 150 participants, said Jon Flora, a club member. The club also sponsors an annual 4-H youth shoot.