April 27, 2022
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
JACKSONVILLE – Everything is back to normal, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission organizers say, with the return of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program championships, scheduled for five of the next six weekends at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex.
After a year wiped out by the COVID pandemic in 2020, then a limited return in 2021 that included social distancing, no usual trophy presentations and the urge for visitors to wear masks, this year’s AYSSP regional and state tournaments will be like the old days, both AGFC Assistant Chief Grant Tomlin and Jimmy Self, the AYSSP coordinator, said.
“This year, we’re operating as we normally would,” Tomlin said. “Of course, if people want to wear the masks, that’s totally up to them, but we’re not enforcing a masking or social distancing policy.”
Self said, “The big thing is, everything is back to normal. We want to get everybody back out and enjoy the event, let their kids fish at the pond or try out the archery station. We’ll have AGFC personnel there to help. We’ll stock the pond so the kids can fish. Everything is free, so come and enjoy it. We’re back where everybody’s going to be cooking and hanging out, bringing their tents and canopies.”
Self said the return to normal operations with schools and shooting clubs means a nice recovery in AYSSP participation in 2022. “We’re back to 5,200 kids back in the program. We’ve had a pretty major comeback since COVID. There’s more participation all over, and teams will have more kids participating. The program’s looking really good actually.”
Junior and senior teams from all over Arkansas will account for 428 total teams participating. The tournament begins Friday, April 29, with the North Regional junior division. The North Regional senior division is Saturday. Teams begin shooting at 9 a.m. each day, with the top 16 finishers from each division qualifying for the AYSSP State Championship, scheduled for June 3-4.
The same format is followed, with junior shooters on Friday and seniors on Saturday, for the West Regional, May 6-7; the South Regional, May 13-14; and the East Regional on May 20-21. Each shooter on a junior squad gets 25 shots; seniors will shoot 50 times. Five shooters make up a team. Some schools, like perennial contender Jonesboro Westside, have several teams participating. While a regional championship is on the line, teams get their one round in to land a spot in the junior or senior 64-team State Championship, which is decided by head-to-head matches.
Junior individuals who connect on all 25 targets and seniors who hit 50 of 50 advance to the Champion of Champions tournament, held on State Championship weekend. The senior Champion of Champions will win a $2,500 college scholarship funded by the Doyne and Nancy Williams Endowment.
The AGFC will fund college scholarship money to the top three senior teams at the state final: $7,500 to first place, $5,000 to second and $2,500 to third.
Trophies and other prizes donated by such sponsors as Mack’s Prairie Wings and Fort Thompson Sporting Goods will be presented from the stage following each regional. Also, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation will be conducting a raffle for three shotguns and shells to be awarded during the State Championship.
“We’ll have food vendors each day, though some will switch up during the entire event,” Self said. “We’ll have vendors like the city of Jacksonville for shirts and other merchandise gear, a photography crew will be taking photos of the kids and selling them, and we’ll have gun dealers with shooting supplies,” Self said.