PELKIE - Bang! The report of a firearm is a brief flash of sound that lasts only a moment, but the time necessary to learn to do it right and hit the target takes much longer.
Thirteen area students invested that time last week at the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club's Junior Shooting Sports Camp.
Katy Ellenich of Calumet said a friend on the club's pistol-shooting team cajoled her into participating in the camp.
A group of young shooters in the Ottawa Sportsmen’s Club’s Junior Shooting Sports Camp takes aim at a target while practicing in the kneeling rifle discipline during camp activities last week at the OSC’s headquarters in Pelkie. The group of 13 learned gun safety and techniques to improve shooting accuracy. (Photo courtesy of Ottawa Sportsmen's Club)
"That's all he talks about. So, I thought, 'That sounds like a lot of fun, so, I'll come down and give it a shot,' no pun intended," she said.
The goal of the camp is to train young athletes to safely excel in shooting sports.
"This year, like every year, there are some that have never shot a gun before. By the end, everyone's on equal footing," camp director Mark Wuori said.
The three rules for safe gun handling are the foundation for all the week's activities: Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, always make sure that the gun is unloaded until it's ready to be used and always keep the finger away from the trigger until ready for shooting.
"We want to develop good shooting habits and good safety habits," Wuori said.
Sixty to 90 minutes of each day was devoted to classroom instruction during the five-day camp, but one of the goals is to demonstrate the athletic demands required for competitive shooting. Shooting has been in all but two Summer Olympics since 1896, and there are currently 14 events in the Olympic program, including pistol, rifle and shotgun disciplines.
"Like all athletes, they've got to stretch and be physically prepared as well as mentally prepared," Wuori said.
Chet Kraker of Pelkie said he got involved because he wanted to learn more about .22 rifle safety and become a more accurate shooter. He said his favorite part of the camp was shooting the .22 from the sitting position.
"The sitting position was comfortable and also took off the shakes from the front of the rifle and kept me steady. When I shot, I kept them (the shots) in a nice, small group," he said.
Accurate shooting is achieved through attention to the fundamentals throughout each phase of the process.
Taking a solid, comfortable position aligned with one's natural point of aim, establishing and repeating a consistent and proper grip, controlling breathing, properly aligning the shot, correctly pushing the trigger and properly following through are the building blocks students are drilled in.
"I knew that it was going to be tough. I knew it wasn't going to be point-and-shoot, but there's so much you have to think about when you're on the (firing) line," Ellenich said.
The camp just finished its 10th year, with Wuori taking over from previous director Ron Granroth. Many camp alumni have gone on to shoot competitively with the club's competitive pistol team. The camp concluded with a day of competitive events in which the students split into "Huskies" and "Wildcats" to show what they've learned.
"Of course, they just got out of school, so they love hearing 'final exam,'" Wuori said.
Ellenich loved the experience, saying "There's nothing like it that I've tried, at least."
"I thought it was a blast, pun intended. It's been so much fun and the people are so great."
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.