by Lee Arten
Learning to shoot can be difficult today, even in the rural Upper Peninsula. Seven years ago Ron Granroth decided to start a camp to give youths a chance to try different types of shooting.
The first camp was in 1996 at the Portage Lake Sportsmen's Club, not far from Granroth's home outside Chassell. Six teenagers attended. Granroth continued to hold the camp at Portage Lake for the next three years.
In 2000, the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club in Baraga County asked Granroth if he'd like to hold the camp there, and he decided the Ottawa club and the camp were a good fit. This year, the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club Shooting Sports Camp was held the week of June 10. Sixteen slots were available for youths between the ages of 14 and 18.
Those who haven't attended the camp before have priority, but otherwise registration is first come, first served. The cost is $20 per youth. Firearms and ammunition are supplied. Campers bring their own lunches, jackets, rain gear, and other incidentals.
The Ottawa Sportsmen's Club gets support for the camp from several local businesses. One supplied 5,000 rounds of .22 rimfire ammunition; others paid for hats and T-shirts for the campers.
Camp begins in the classroom. Safety is covered first, and then shooting mechanics. Students are assigned to two eight-person teams. "Usually the Huskies and the Wildcats," Granroth said.
In late morning, rifle shooting begins with dryfiring from the bench and then live fire off the bench and standing. Campers use the club's Remington 541X target rifles. Targets are set at 50 yards. On Day 2, campers shoot offhand again and move to the kneeling, sitting, and prone positions. Coaching is available throughout the rifle instruction and safety is emphasized.
Handgun shooting with Ruger Mark II target pistols begins on the third day and continues through Day 4. Stance, grip, breath control, sight alignment, trigger push, and fellow-through are stressed throughout the pistol course. Firing begins with single shots from a benchrest.
"Some kids have never fired a shot and they're nervous," Granroth said. Starting out firing single rounds with a coach for every shooter ensures that safety is observed. Training moves on to shooting from standing with two handed grip, and then one handed from the traditional target shooting stance.
On the fifth day campers have a review session and shoot a 40 round rifle match, firing 10 shots in each position.They then shoot a 60 round pistol match with two slowfire targets, two time fire targets, and two rapid fire targets. No coaching is provided during the competition but safety continues to be emphasized.
"It is a long day," Granroth said.
A cookout follows the matches. "We had 100 people attend last year, parents, grandparents..." Granroth said. The club provides burgers and hot dogs and relatives bring dishes for a potluck.
After the cookout, campers go to the shotgun range for 25 rounds of trap shooting. Certificates are then awarded at a closing ceremony.
Granroth also coaches the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club's Junior Pistol Team, whose members all attended the shooting-sports camp and now help to organize it. The older team members help coach new campers.
Seven members of the junior pistol team went to the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, this summer. Six shot in the pistol matches and one worked as a volunteer.
Club member Lee Arten, columnist for Woods-and-Waters News, also writes for Small Arms Review, Shotgun News, Gun Digest and other outdoor publications.
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