What used to be known as the Tri-River Area (TRA) 4-H Invitational shoot has grown in popularity and is now the Delta County 4-H Invitational Shoot, drawing participants from Delta, Mesa, Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties.
The event was hosted by the Delta County 4-H Shooting Sports Council and local 4-H clubs last Saturday, June 28, at the shooting sports facility located in Tongue Creek Valley west of Eckert.
There were over 70 entrants participating.
The Invitational event is considered a practice in the run-up to the County Fair Shoot that is scheduled for July 26.
The County Fair is the biggest event of the year. The Fair competition is the one that qualifies young sportsmen and women for competition at the State Fair where superior individual performances can earn a trip to the national finals.
The facility in Tongue Creek is located on property owned by the county and administered for youth shooting activities by the 4-H Shooting Sports Council.
Having the local facility available is one reason the shooting sports program is popular — and highly successful. Since the facility has opened, Delta County 4-H’ers have competed regularly at state and national events.
In addition to utilizing the Tongue Creek facility, local 4-H shooters also have events at The Stengel range on Rogers Mesa where Casey Stengel opens his facility for youth to participate in sporting opportunities not available at the 4-H range.
The local 4-H shooting sports program is one of the largest in the state, explains Jackie Shea, Tri-River Area youth extension agent.
There are almost 100 participants in the county shooting sports program. The .22-caliber rifle and archery are the two most popular. Almost all of the youth participate in the .22-caliber rifle program. Archery is highly popular, with 65 participants.
Safety is taken seriously and is the number-one goal of the program, stressing the 4-H emphasis on personal growth and responsibility of the shooters themselves.
Adult 4-H leader Kathy Welt of Hotchkiss explains there are also other reasons the program is popular here. The council has structured a program for youth from eight years old to 18 that provides for any level of participation a 4-H’er chooses.
For example, youth can choose to participate as one of many 4-H project activity options. At that level, the youth learns the basics, emphasizing safety, personal responsibility and skills development. In addition, the 4-H life-skills development focuses experience on individual initiative, self-discovery, community service, self-reliance, record keeping, socialization skills and public presentation skills, both oral and written.
Beyond the project level of the program, there are opportunities for competition ranging from the local practice shoots like the one staged last weekend on up to state and national competition.
This year there is a new .22-caliber pistol class competition to supplement the popular 22-caliber rifle, air rifle and air pistol, archery, muzzleloader and trap shooting offerings.
The adult volunteer leaders who supervise the program and all on-range activities must pass an intensive, two-day, 20-hour-long training to qualify as range safety supervisors and instructors.
While shooting sports is probably the most popular 4-H program offered in Delta County, there are many other programs and projects that any county youth can participate in.
Everyone is welcome. They don’t have to live on a farm or ranch or have space to raise lamb or beef to show at the county fair. The list of projects is a long one and all emphasize the same 4-H values of personal growth, responsibility, community service and excellence.
Extension Agent Shea notes there are over 300 youth in Delta County who participate in 4-H programs, and about 100 parent volunteer leaders in clubs throughout the county.
“We have a really strong 4-H program here in Delta County,” Shea said.