The L'Anse Sentinel, Wednesday, June 21, 2000
by Barry Drue
Their days were long and as rigorous as any summer sports Camp. The 16 kids who participated in the Ottawa Sportsmens Club's "Shooting Sports Camp" may not have anticipated the training they received. Calisthenics, for instance, probably wasn't foremost on the minds of most of the 13, 14 and 15 year olds attending!
"One of the kids said, 'I didn't realize shooting was actually a sport,'" OSC instructor Jim Hulkkonen said.
Shooting is a sport, from the Olympic level on down, and the crew at OSC's camp learned that long before chambering the first .22 round. The week-long camp was organized around a rigorous classroom and range program patterned after successful national training programs for expert marksmen.
Ronald Granroth was among the instructors of the camp. He's been involved With competitive shooting on the national level for several years, and has led similar youth camps through the Portage Lake Sportsmens Club. Granroth's son, Ben, and another young man, Ben Seppala, also have range and competitive shooting experience and were at the camp to lend a hand.
"We stress marksmanship technique," Ron Granroth said. "That includes a positive attitude necessary to compete successfully, and courtesy of others on the range along with safety, safety and safety."
Rick Freeman of the Northwoods Trading Post in Hancock also helped, as did Ron Haka and Jim Proctor.
"I'm a real stickler on safety," Freeman emphasized as he walked the firing line at the range and kept the youngsters' minds on safe operation of their target pistols. Teams of eight youngsters competed as the "Huskies" and the "Wildcats". For each two shooters on the range an instructor kept a careful eye, in addition to Granroth or Freeman overseeing everything and issuing standard commands as magazines were loaded, inserted and guns were raised and fired. First came single-shot loading and firing, and later, rapid fire and timed events. Targets were peppered as the bullets eventually honed in on the bulls eyes.
Camp shooters spent hours absorbing instruction and proving what they'd learned before the first shot was fired. However, many hours were dedicated to shooting on the OSC range. Granroth said about 8,000 rounds were shot as the kids practiced standard competitive positions and target distances and basically learned to handle pistols and .22 caliber target rifles properly. From wrapping their hands around the grips and stocks of the target guns to breathing technique and oxygenating their bodies, the youths were given a framework of knowledge for competitive shooting.
"This is not plinking tin cans... it's hard," Granroth said. "They learned that the positions weren't comfortable at first, and that it's hard to concentrate on everything. The neat thing is they all want to be here.
"Virtually all of them had never shot a haadgun before and some of them had never shot a gun at all. The fun thing is to watch them progress in a week from never having shot to putting them (bullets) all on the paper," Granroth said as the Huskies and Wildcats shot, unloaded, properly handled the pistols, and then eagerly checked their results on the targets.
The kids were well equipped with hats, camp t-shirts, and safety items such as "ears" to protect their hearing, and glasses with side protection. "Hot brass" ejecting from the semi-auto guns is also something they quickly learned to respect! The shooters were helped in determining whether they preferred right or left handed styles, and they found their dominant eye. Eye occluders (like black patches) were placed on their safety glasses over their non-dominant eye, eliminating the squint many casual shooters acquire.
Classroom sessions in the OSC clubhouse covered everything from range commands, safety and courtesy to marksmanship basics to numerous positions for pistol and rifle competition. Review from one day to the next was stressed. On the range the kids learned to sweep up all the spent brass and clean up after each day's shooting.
Helping to sponsor the shooting sports camp and providing the clothes, ammunition, printing and other services were Northwoods Trading Post, Indian Country Sports, Coast to Coast hardware, Wilkinson's General Store, Pettibone Michigan and Office Max. The Michigan Tech Pistol Club, with which Granroth is an instructor, loaned high quality .22 target pistols and rifles.
Culminating the week's events was a 12-hour day on Friday in which the 16 kids began with the normal morning classroom work, and then headed to the range for the all-important competition. They shot in various competitive styles all afternoon, taking breaks and relaxing during events.
On Friday evening family and friends converged on the clubhouse for a barbecue. Then the moms and dads had their chance to shoot competitively against the youngsters. The trap range was opened and the shotgunners went after the clay pigeons for a couple hours. Certificates and awards were presented to conclude a long week of competitive shooting.
Granroth and other instructors are acutely aware of the negative image "guns" have acquired across the nation. In fact, a couple years ago, following a terribly tragic school shooting, Granroth wondered if he should continue offering the intense week of training to Houghton and Baraga County youth. He was convinced by the parent of one of his stand-out students, Ben Seppala, that he had to continue..,
The entire week begins with a definition of a "gun", Granroth noted. When it comes to competitive shooting a gun is a tool, a piece of equipment used in one's sport, he tells the youngsters. "It is not a weapon. Soldiers, police officers and bad guys have weapons. Competitive shooting does not inflict violence."
Kurt Szyszkoski excelled as the top rifleman and was top over all in shooting marksmanship. He was followed by Jeff Tuomi who took the honors as top pistol shooter as well as second place in over all marksmanship. Taking third, fourth and fifth places, respectively were Andy Young, Dale Freeman and Chelsea Markham.
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