WATSON — Gunshots rang out Saturday over the verdant acreage of Kemp Farm in Watson.
The shots weren’t harmful, however, but sounds from practice shots fired by youths gathered at the 4-H Shooting Sports’ first practice of the season. Once a month — from September to March — 4-H Shooting Sports youth teams from across the country meet to develop their shooting skills and marksmanship.
Approximately 98 students signed up for the training program, said Jessie Hoover, the 4-H agent for Livingston Parish. The 4-H Shooting Sports club promotes safety and marksmanship for its participants, Hoover said.
“Youth learn marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and much more,” she said. “There are seven primary disciplines which students can learn: BB gun, air pistol, air rifle, .22 pistol, .22 rifle, shotgun and archery. Overall, the Livingston Parish 4-H division has 13 certified instructors for the seven disciplines.”
After paying the $40 registration fee, each student was given a T-shirt and a shooting sports project book, Hoover said.
Last year, 20 Livingston Parish students placed at regionals and were able to proceed to state competitions, Hoover said. Harold Seguin, the instructor of archery for the Livingston Parish division, was able to serve as coach for the Louisiana team in the national 4-H Shooting Sports competition, leading them to their victory.
“The experience is great,” said Seguin, who has coached his own sons, Hunter, Matthew and Luke, during the past four years. “You get to meet kids from all over the state. They get to bond. You get to see the camaraderie and friendship that builds as a team.”
Archery student Mason Turner, 12, said he loves the sport for the friendship it has brought him over the past year.
“I have a good time and get to meet new people,” Mason said. “I also get to learn new stuff.”
Leland Brandon, 16, said that through the program, he’s been able to improve his personal skill set. Since starting with 4-H Shooting Sports seven years ago, he has mastered four disciplines: the .22 pistol, .22 rifle, archery and shotgun.
“Instead of beating a team, I want to beat myself,” Brandon said.
Seguin said he takes pride in watching the youths set and win goals — whether it’s with a target or a competition.
“You don’t have to be the strongest and the fittest,” Seguin said. “Archery can take somebody who’s average in any other sport and make them excel here.”
Leland Brandon’s younger sister, Skylar Brandon, 14, got involved with the club after watching her brother participate for two years. Although she loves to sew and make her own dresses, she said, “I do like showing the boys that I can shoot a gun.” The 4-H club “has gotten bigger and better, and it has improved. The more people who join, the more we’re able to do,” Skylar said.
“I like the quote, ‘You miss every shot you don’t take.’ You have to try,” Skylar said.
“It not just about helping yourself, it’s about helping the community become better,” Leland Brandon said.
“Looking at my kids, I’ve seen how they’ve grown and matured as leaders,” said Renette Seguin, the co-coordinator and bookkeeper for the club. “They enjoy it and have confidence. I see the same in myself.”
David Brandon, the father of Leland and Skylar and an instructor for shotgun and .22 pistol disciplines, said he believes if the students learn how to handle firearms respectfully, when they grow up, they’ll appreciate it, “and maybe we’ll keep this Second Amendment around in our country for a little while longer.”
“It’s up to us to educate our kids and teach them about these things, and let them know how to enjoy it responsibly,” David Brandon said. “It’s not just all about hunting.”