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Young marksmen get their day at the range

Elijah Gordhamer fires a bow at Saturday's Youth Day at the Range.

When the Dakota County Gun Club held its first shooting event for kids five years ago, three people showed up. Two were the grandchildren of one of the event's planners. The third had never shot a gun before.

But that third kid became a regular. He attended just about every youth shooting event the club held until he got too old to participate. Eventually, plenty of other young shooters joined him.

These days the gun club's twice-monthly summer youth shoots draw 100 or more kids who want to try their hands at shooting rifles, shotguns and bows. The event has become so popular gun club members have started talking about building a new range just to keep up with demand.

"We want to keep doing these, and it's getting bigger and bigger," said Fran Szczesniak, one of the club members who came out to run the July 2 event.

Last Saturday's shoot featured long lines for several of the activities. Kids wearing safety goggles and ear protection fired rifles at a target in one spot. Nearby, kids launched arrows at -- or over, or near -- targets. Just about everywhere there were smiles.

Before she showed up for Saturday's event Faith Haley had only fired a gun at church camp. She'd taken an archery class through community education, but that was about it. Haley attended the gun club's event because she wanted to learn how to hunt. She doesn't have family members that hunt, but she likes the idea of getting out into nature and seeing wildlife.

"I just really like getting into it," she said.

That's the kind of thing organizer Leroy VanBrunt likes to hear. The whole idea behind the youth shoots is to give young people a safe introduction to the sport, whether they're interested in hunting or trap shooting or anything else. The three rules for the day are be safe, have fun and repeat rules one and two.

The people who were at the range Saturday seemed to be following the rules. Many of the young people who were lined up at the rifle range had never fired a gun before, but instructors were at every station to show them the right way to do things. Jose Solis, an exchange student from Spain, put his .22-caliber rifle shots into a tight pattern on the target despite never having held a rifle before.

Carrie Ferguson, who brought Solis to the range to show him an American activity, described trap shooting to the Spanish teen in terms of a Nintendo Wii game.

Solis, who is visiting from Jaen, in southern Spain, said his parents might not like the fact he was firing a gun. But he had a smile on his face while he was doing it.

"I've never shot, so I liked it," he said.

That is exactly what VanBrunt and the event's other organizers hope to hear.

"Basically, we just wanted to promote the shooting and show there's nothing to be afraid of. We like the fact there's a lot of kids getting involved."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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