April 24, 2019
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
JACKSONVILLE – Schools and shooting teams from throughout Arkansas will begin converging each Friday and Saturday over the next six weeks, all hoping to unseat Bald Knob High School’s top senior division team and Nashville’s top junior squad as champions of youth trap shooting in Arkansas.
Bald Knob’s senior and Nashville’s juniors won the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program championships last year at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex. As many as 100 teams could be competing in each of the next four weeks to finish in the top 16 of their regionals and advance to the State Finals, set for May 31-June 1 at the shooting facility here. This marks the 13th year for the competition, with more than 5,000 students competing in AYSSP.
“Recreational shooting is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the nation,” Grant Tomlin, Education Division assistant chief in charge of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s shooting sports programs. “Between recreational shooting and hunters, they generate over $100 billion into the national economy. Several hundred-million dollars go into the Arkansas economy per year.
“Also, our goal with this program is to turn these trap shooters into lifelong hunters and fishers and license holders. That’s the No. 1 goal of the program, to make sure these kids grow up to get into the hunting culture and continue a tradition that we’re rapidly losing.”
Jimmy Self is the coordinator of the event, which will bring in teams for the South Region juniors on Friday, April 26, and seniors on Saturday, April 27, followed by the East Region (May 3-4), North Region (May 10-11) and West Region (May 17-18). The top 16 teams by total score in both the junior division and senior division from each region advance to the finals, which are played as head-to-head matches in a 64-team bracket until a champion is determined.
Tomlin said, “This year the South Region is first. We rotate that out every year, so the South gets to lead it off. The South Region is the largest region we have in terms of kids involved.”
Any school or club team can compete in the regionals as long as the team is registered with the AYSSP system, has a coach or coaches certified through the program, and has shooters who have practiced a minimum of five times this year.
Junior competitors will shoot at 25 clay targets during the regionals, while the seniors have 50 clays. Each team has up to five members, and team scores are determined by totaling each individual score. Individuals who shoot a perfect score in their regionals advance to the Tournament of Champions competition held in conjunction with the State Finals.
Bald Knob returns several shooters from last year’s senior state champion Bulldogs White squad, as well as several who were on a second squad. “They’re pretty salty,” Tomlin said. “They have one of the top programs in the state.” Texarkana, Booneville and Greene County Tech were regional champs alongside Bald Knob last year.
Regional competition start times on Friday and Saturday is 8:30 a.m. Food vendors will be available along with other retail vendors selling shirts, hats and other apparel and items. The Jacksonville range pond is stocked with catfish, and any youngster can fish while they wait for their turn to compete or to find out how they finished. The AGFC will have poles, or people can bring their own. Also, Tomlin said, there will be an archery station for kids.
There is no admission charge for spectators, and there is bleacher seating available as well as covered pavilions on either side of the complex. More information on the program is available at www.agfc.com/ayssp.