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Adams County 4-H Shooting Club readies for district competition

Emily Hootsell, 12, takes aim before shooting with her bow and arrow as she practices with the 4-H Shooting Club Saturday afternoon at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office shooting range. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)


NATCHEZ — Sisters Allison and Kathryn Freeman and their cousins Hannah and Natalie Russell participated in a different kind of Easter egg hunt than most Miss-Lou children Easter Sunday.

Instead of hiding and finding eggs, the four girls used their decorated eggs for target practice with a .22 air rifle.

“It was fun to watch them blow up,” 11-year-old Kathryn said.

All four girls are members of the Adams County 4-H Shooting Club, and instructor Jason Jones said all seven of his shooters have similar target-practice stories.

The team is preparing to participate in the Southwest District 4-H Shooting Sports Competition May 5 in Pearl, and Jones said the team has been preparing for the competition since February.

“They are working very hard,” he said. “Not only do we practice every Saturday (as a team), but they also practice on their own at home to get more repetitions.”

Natalie, 13, will be participating in the event for the third time this year, and she said the competition is a measuring stick for her.

“You get to go shoot against other people and see how good you got since the year before,” she said.

Natalie said the thrill of the perfect shot is something that draws her to shooting.

“It’s fun when you hit the bullseye,” she said. “It’s like you accomplished something you put lots of hard work into and practiced.”

Jones said the team took five competitors last year and all five placed in the top three in at least one shooting discipline.

This year the team will take seven participants, including three newcomers.

Emily Hootsell, 12, is one of those new competitors this year and she said she is looking forward to her first competition.

Hootsell said she has been shooting with her father for as long as she can remember, but has never done a competition.

“(Shooting) is just fun,” she said. “I always liked shooting. I don’t play very many sports, so it’s nice to have it to do.”

Hootsell said she is pretty good with a .22 air rifle, and she is improving with her archery.

“This is my first year for archery,” she said. “I’m doing pretty well I guess. It’s not my best, but I’m getting better.”

Regina Hootsell and her son Griffin, 9, check out his pellet shots during shooting practice. The club is practicing for the upcoming Southwest Mississippi competition at the end of April. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

Emily’s younger brother Griffin will also participate in the competition for the first time this year.

Griffin, 9, said he likes the competitive aspect of shooting sports.

“It’s fun winning,” he said.

Regina Hootsell, mother of Griffin and Emily, said shooting sports are good for her children.

“It teaches them competition, discipline and safety,” she said. “It’s fun to just compete against yourself, even if you aren’t in a competition.”

Cullen Mophett, 10, is also a first-time competitor on the team, and his favorite event is the shotgun, he said.

“I’ve had a passion for it for like five or six years,” he said.

Mophett said he still has some work to do with the archery discipline, because he is used to practicing at longer distances.

“I’m used to shooting for the middle (rings) and now I have to aim smaller,” he said.

Mophett also said he has learned a lot about bow safety.

“I learned that when you load the arrow you have to put (the bow) down range,” he said. “I was used to putting the arrow in (facing sideways).”

This year’s competition will be the third for Hannah and Natalie Russell and Allison and Kathryn Freeman, they said.

Allison, 12, said she enjoyed receiving three ribbons for her shooting last year.

Kathryn, 11, hopes to get better in the next three weeks before the competition by practicing as often as she can at home.

Hannah, 10, won first-place and third-place ribbons last year, she said.

Jones said competitions like the district competition are important for young shooters.

“It’s very important, not just to compete, but to learn the proper way to use firearms,” he said. “There are not many programs that teach safety and sportsmanship, and this will help them when they are adults.”