The boys in the Chelsea Rod and Gun Club youth shooting group will tell you that 7-year-old Emma Hedding of Chelsea knows a thing or two about shooting her pint-size bow.
“That little girl, she’s a good shot for her age,” said Zack Calhoun, 11, of Stockbridge, another member of the group, which meets at the club on Lingane in Sylvan Township.
In addition to the new youth building, the Rod and Gun Club is proud of “Pineview,” its adult clubhouse and grounds, which club members utilize year-round. The property includes a trap range, rifle and pistol ranges, an archery and practice ranges as well as nature trails.
But twice a month on Wednesday nights, it’s all about the future of the sport.
Hedding and at various events, about 30 other youth members of the club get together and hone their skills with the help of skilled youth instructors.
Hedding has been practicing with her bow-and-arrow skills for about a half and a half, she said.
The North Creek Elementary student said when she’s old enough, she’d like to go out hunting with her mom and dad, but until then, she’ll keep practicing on targets both at the club and at home.
The youth group, now in its 11th year, is for kids 12-18 years, but younger members are also invited and accompanied by their parents. And, they receive instruction from three youth instructors – Dave Stoll, Dave Steinbach and Doug Wright.
The group alternates — shooting rifles, archery and trap during the summer, and pellet rifles and indoor archery during the cold months.
Amanda Wright, 14, of Dexter Township also participates in the youth shoot and her dad is a member of the Rod and Gun Club.
Jake Belcher, 14 of Ann Arbor, said he used to shoot but hadn’t in a while until he found the youth group and the Rod and Gun Club. He just finished the hunter’s safety class at the gun club as well. Although not a pre-requisite, several of the youth members had attended the class.
The club offers hunter safety classes 4 to 5 classes times a year and boasts a staff of more than 12 state-certified instructors.
Aiden Griswald, 9, of Ann Arbor said he’d been shooting a bow for five years, adding, “It’s fun to come out here and shoot with kids my age.”
He and his brother, Grant Griswald, 11, said his dad and uncle hunt and he wants to learn how, too.
The boys’ dad said he looks forward to going out hunting with his two sons. “We can make memorials together,” he said.
For Donavan Buckner, 15, of Gregory, he said bow hunting was his favorite because “it’s not loud.” Normally, he said, he shoots with his uncles, and added that he took the hunter’s safety course as well.
“I’m fascinated by bows and arrows,” Buckner said.
Steinbach said that learning archery at an early age can lead to participating in the sport through the college level. “There are collages with archery programs,” he said.
And, the Rod and Gun Club has all the equipment necessary for the youth to get a feel for the sport. It’s $25 a year to be a youth member and the kids can earn medals, patches and certificates as they move through the levels and programs offered by the National Rifle Association program.
The Chelsea Rod and Gun Club is a 501-C-3 organization, founded in 1936. The members support local educational programs, environmental and conservation efforts as well.
“The charter of the club reflects the commitment to participate and inform others in efforts to protect the environment and conserve our natural resources,” according to the club’s website.