Straight shooters earn awards

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Another good year of learning respect for firearms while also possibly earning an athletic letter from school is a great combination. On July 21, kids of the Central Iowa Straight Shooters met for their final fun event and awards banquet at the trap range near Marshalltown's airport. After a year of more practice, helpful coaching and matches with other schools participating in the Scholastic Clay Target Program, the students grew in knowledge, safety, team work and discipline. The group photo has representatives from Marshalltown, East Marshall, West Marshall, BCLUW and Grundy Center.

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS are what they call themselves. They are students from all area high schools that have chosen to take up a shooting sport as part of their education. They learn lots of things and primary on this list is respect for firearms, not fear of them. They learn safety essentials that become ingrained responses to how to handle a firearm. They learn about teamwork, self discipline and how to have fun in a competitive environment using shotguns to break fast moving clay targets. Rewards include points earned during the year, respect among their peers, and fun events including the statewide clay target tournament held at Cedar Falls every summer.

It would be safe to say that many of these kids got started trap shooting as a means of target practice. Later these skills will prove beneficial if hunting quail, pheasants, or waterfowl. All of the above move fast, go in unpredictable directions high and low, in all kinds of weather. But before any field hunts take place, lets move the time machine back a number of years to when these kids were toddlers. They observed dad, a bigger brother or sister, uncle or good friend suiting up for bird hunt. Shotguns were carefully cleaned and cared for. As always the firearm was respected and kept unloaded. And the inevitable question the kids would ask was “when can I go hunting with your daddy?” Answer: Maybe next year after you have grown up some more.

Next year rolls around. The hunters suit up for a pheasant, quail or waterfowl hunt. Little kids watch with envy. “Am I big enough this year to go with your daddy?” Maybe their first field event will just a tag along kind of thing, being outdoors with family and friends, enjoying the sights and sounds of forest, marsh or grassland. A few birds may be seen and maybe a few were taken by the grown-ups. The kid may even be allowed and escorted to retrieve the downed game. Their eyes will light up with excitement.

The following Christmas, under the tree, are two long boxes. One is wrapped in pink ribbon for the girl. The other is wrapped in forest green. When it comes time to open the gifts, excitement has built to high level. The girl pulls a small pink youth model Daisy BB gun out of the box. Her brother pulls out another youth model BB Red Rider. Both exclaim that come fall time, they are going hunting with dad. Dad smiles.

Dad knows his work of safety training using a BB gun has just begun. Many lessons of how to properly handle a BB gun will last a lifetime if the lessons of respect, not fear, are learned at this tender age. So safety lessons begin immediately. A safe range is prepared, paper targets made, and how to stand, sit or prone position one-self and properly aim the BB gun are repeated often. Finally it comes show time, dad loads some BBs into the gun, and actual shooting takes place. Targets are hit, targets are missed, but always safety is paramount in these early gun handling situations.

To bring more fun into the game of marksmanship training, balloons are used as targets. When one is hit, a load pop is an instant reward that the BB hitting the target. Even if the balloons have to be very big at the beginning of these range times, and the target very close to the firing line, success at hitting balloons is fun. Gradually over time the balloons will be made smaller and smaller so that critical aiming skills are reinforced. Later on, the balloons go away and small bulls eye targets are used at greater and greater distances. At no time during any of these initial training with a BB gun was safety not emphasized.

Come fall, as dad, big brother, sister or uncle or friend suit up for a day afield to go hunting, the new questions will be “dad, can I go hunting and take my BB gun?” At the right time and place, the answer is yes. Proud as punch, the little boy and girl that have grown up a lot and learned a lot about firearms safety, are eager to tag along. This time they are carrying their own gun. With the right clothes, blaze orange coat and cap, the kids move through tall grasses in hopes a pheasant or quail be bust out right in front of them. And if it does, instruction of how to then and only then move the gun safety from on to off takes place.

The kids have already been drilled on how to do this, while simultaneously raising the barrel of the gun to align it with the fast moving target. The live birds takes to the air. BB guns take aim and pop the shot goes off. Was it a hit or a miss. Another lesson in life takes place. There will be lots of misses and maybe a few hits. A cool thing is if dad’s shotgun firing is at the same time as the BB gun went off, and everyone watches as the pheasant tumbles to the ground, a young kid cannot be contained when they say “I got it, I got it.” Dad just smiles and watches with excitement as his little boy or girl reacts.

“Remember our training” he says, put the BB gun safety back to the on position. “Now lets go find that pheasant you helped get.” Another question from dad is addressed to the kids. “Where did you last see the bird go down? Did you mark its location or general direction?” “Yes daddy it was along the last corn row.” OK lets find bird. So off they go to find the pheasant. It is found. Its bright orange, red and brown feathers gleam in the sunlight. Its green emerald head feathers and white neck ring are intricately mesmerizing. With the bird tucked into a kids backpack hunting vest, tail feathers stick out the side and help frame a picture that dad will remember forever. He smiles. A little hunter, a safe hunter, has been brought into the realm of hands-on conservation in action.

Kids grow up fast. Middle school and then high school. They learn about and hear about The Central Iowa Straight Shooters and the Scholastic Clay Target Program. They enroll. They enjoy. They have fun. They excel. Congratulations to all of this years participants. You did well. Pictured in the group photo above are: Front row, from left: Taevin Perisho (Marshalltown), Noah Kellogg (East Marshall), Syndey Vilez (East Marshall), Dawson Kitzman (BCLUW), Ray Callaway (BCLUW) and Blaedyn Benscoter (Marshalltown). Middle row, from left: Logan Dolezal (East Marshall), Brianna Heltibridle (Grundy Center), Jessley Ash (West Marshall), Sage Lewis (BCLUW), Hunter Vilez (East Marshall), Logan Profitt (BCLUW), Nate Casady (West Marshall) and George Wengert (West Marshall). Back row, front left: Ethan Gannaway (East Marshall), Britlynn Klass (BCLUW), Seth Cook (East Marshall), Tucker Wall (BCLUW) and Conor McCrary (East Marshall).

Lots of awards were presented to all in various categories. Special recognition was awarded to George Wengert, a sophomore who was a first year student athlete in 2017. And a special fun award, the clay bird with a drawing of a real bird, was awarded to Sydney Vilez. At the state trap shoot at Cedar Falls a few weeks ago, she was busting the clay targets as normal. On one of the shots, a real bird happened to fly past at the same exact time as the target and shot came together. She hit the clay target and the real bird with one shot!

Coaches for Central Iowa Straight Shooters are volunteers who dedicate their time to mentor their students. They are Dawson Kitzman, Brad Wall, Tim Dolezal, Matt Gannaway, Rae Lee Wall, Robin Mann, Joe Wagner, Niki Kitzman, Charlie Casady, Rocky Monk, Troy Emley, Jeff Kellogg and Tim Welton. Thank you!

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Reminders: Green Castle’s 40th anniversary activities are in the afternoon of Aug. 5. The State Fair is Aug. 10-20. And Aug. 21 is the total eclipse of the Sun with its pathway across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. P.S., the speed of the moon’s shadow will be 2,955 mph in western Oregon, 1,747 mph in central Nebraska, 1,462 mph in western Kentucky and 1,502 mph near Charleston, S.C. Why the range of speeds? Because of the geometry of the Earth’s shape. From Oregon to South Carolina the moon’s 100 percent shadow will be over the United States from 12:18 p.m. to 1:47 p.m. Iowa time. This natural history moment is being brought to you by Mother Nature and her cosmic friends. Enjoy it when it arrives.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.