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Animal magnetism has youngsters buzzing at SSAA Bowen

The SSAA Bowen Branch has found a novel means of attracting junior shooters to its range.

The club on the Whitsunday Coast in Queensland recently set up a gallery of novelty animal knockdown targets on its Roddy Hughes range and found that the idea went down a treat with the youngsters who attended and were able to use air rifles to take aim. Targets were positioned from 8m to 20m and contained measured fluorescent strike zones.

Quirky targets included low-level red-eyed devil bats, red-eyed ground-dwelling drop bears, mutant redback spiders and even a Pokémon lookalike. As a result, the club had a horde of excited youngsters who dashed to the scene to try their luck. The ripple effect was that the adult shooters had to forget their plans of organising their own competition for the weekend afternoon and hand over the precharged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles to let the juniors have a go.

SSAA Bowen Club Junior Shooters Discipline Captain Brian Schwarz, in tandem with Co-Junior Discipline Captain Gene Anderson, made the targets out of wood and painted on the figures with the help of a couple of his grandchildren so he was able to use their knowledge to produce the Pokémon variation. Others also assisted by drilling holes in the galvanised sheet used to minimise damage. It took a bit of work but he reckons he now has about 30 targets, which can all stand up to the rigours of being hit by the air rifles.

“The kids just love it,” said Brian. “We couldn’t carry on with the comp so we just let them use our air rifles...Two of them had not shot before but by the end they were knocking over targets.”

The club has a healthy percentage of juniors among its members but faces problems in trying to make sure they stay. Brian feels one of the main hindrances to juniors’ progress is the expense of buying firearms. He intends to try to put in for a grant for the club to buy a couple of PCPs for the kids to use. “If the club could have a couple of our own, that would really bring the youngsters flocking in,” he said. “I want to try to get some cash from someone, somewhere to help the kids, then their parents won’t have to fork out so much money.”

The age of the youngsters spans from 11 to 17 and Brian feels that it is the 11- to 13-year-olds who really benefit from the chance to learn.

SSAA Bowen Secretary Brendan Grant was also pleased at the reaction that the mock animal-shaped targets had stirred. “We had about five to eight kids at the start,” he said. “Then we had a whole family arrive. They just wanted to see what it was all about.”

He explained one of the routes by which youngsters first came to the club. “Where we are finding is a big growth area is among shooters between 30 and 50 years old who have been shooting all their lives and given it away but then come back to it,” he said. “Then they want to get their sons and daughters involved to show them what shooting is all about; that it is a real sport, not a computer game...We have about 18 juniors who are really interested and nearly always turn up.”

Though Brendan was happy with the influx of juniors, he also felt that the Bowen club faced difficulties fuelling their curiosity because of its idyllic geographical location. “Our club is situated near the beach so we have sailing to compete with which is a big draw,” he said. “We are also fighting football for attention - rugby league and rugby union, plus hockey is popular around here with plenty of teams.”

Despite the nearby distractions, the club is making good headway. “We have started sessions for juniors every Friday afternoon between 3pm and 5.30pm and sometimes on Thursdays as well,” said Brendan. “We have to fit it in around Mum and Dad’s time because someone has to be there to bring the kids along.”

The Bowen club seems to have tapped into a rich vein of potential with its rigged-up animal targets. Now it aims to keep that momentum going.

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