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Regional Qualifiers for Youth Shooting Sports Start Friday

BY Jim Harris

ON 04-24-2024


JACKSONVILLE — Qualifying for 64-team state tournaments in both senior and junior divisions in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Youth Shooting Sports championships begins this week with the first of four regional tournaments at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation/Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex on Graham Road.

Junior age trap shooters (grades 5-8) from the South Region will compete beginning at 9 a.m. Friday. Senior division shooters (grades 9-12) compete Saturday starting at 9 a.m.

Regional tournaments will be conducted at the complex the following three weekends: East Region, May 3-4; North Region, May 10-11; and West Region, May 17-18. Each day’s competition begins at 9 a.m. The top 16 teams from each region in each division advance to fill a 64-team state tournament bracket, which will be contested here May 31-June 1.

“They’ve been shooting and practicing since January and February and we’re finally coming into regional tournament time,” Jimmy Self, YSS coordinator for the AGFC and its Recreational Shooting Division, said. “Everybody is coming into their regional tournaments ready to compete and wanting to qualify for state.”

Self said the program has registered nearly 5,500 male and female shooters for 2024 in its 18th season. That number is up about 100 shooters from last year. Each regional draws dozens of teams; Saturday’s action typically will run as late as 3:30 p.m. during regional competition with so many teams trying to qualify for the top 16.

The most significant change from regional competition is shifting schools and clubs from Arkansas County out of the South Region to the East.

“The South is one of the largest and fastest-growing of the regions,” Self said. “Now the West is growing extremely fast, too, but the South has gotten very big in terms of number of schools and number of kids. So we moved those Arkansas County schools to the East.”

He also noted that the South Region has produced several winning teams in both divisions, including teams from Nashville and Fouke.

The East Region, with such regular contenders as Harrisburg, Corning, Gosnell, Five Rivers (Pocahontas, last year’s senior division winner), Brookland and Jonesboro Westside, figures to be as competitive as usual, Self said. Bald Knob and Southside Batesville are regular powerhouses in the North, along with nearby Cabot and others along the U.S. 67-167 corridor or up Highway 5 to Mountain Home. Northwest Arkansas is sending potent squads to the West Region on a yearly basis now and contending for state honors; Shiloh Christian recently won a statewide Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation event here.

Junior shooters during regional tournaments shoot at 25 clay targets, while seniors have 50 shots. A team is made up of five shooters (clubs and schools can enter several teams). A team’s score is made up of all five shooters’ totals. Ties in the team placement are decided by “card-off” of the most shots made by one individual, moving to the next shooter if needed to break the tie. Also, individuals who shoot a perfect qualifying round in junior or senior divisions advance to a Champion of Champions round, held during the state tournament.

In both divisions, the shooters rotate through five stations at a trap stand (the Jacksonville complex has 14 separate shooting areas) and set up 16 yards from the throwing house. The trap-throwing machine sends out clay targets at various isolated patterns. Shooters typically are using 12- or 20-gauge shotguns.

All teams in the state were eligible for their particular region if they got in five practices since J January.
For the parents, families and spectators, as well as shooters who have completed their turns, the complex will have a fishing station set up at a pond on the east end of the complex, as well as a nearby archery setup. “We’ll try to add a few more things for state,” Self said. Concession vendors will also be on hand. The city of Jacksonville is in charge of selling merchandise such as T-shirts. There is no admission charge.

“This is our first tournament since the new (Recreational Shooting) division was created at the AGFC,” Self noted. Previously, shooting sports fell under the purview of the AGFC’s Education Division. Recreational Shooting Sports is led by new chief Jose Jimenez.

“The Game and Fish is standing behind recreational shooting enough to put it inside its own division,” Self said. “We have a new chief, he’s only a month and a half in, and we have goals and we’re working to create more recreational shooting disciplines. We’re looking at partnerships with new ranges around the state.”

Self also serves as the central Arkansas director of the Arkansas State Trap Shooting Federation. He sees how much impact the AGFC’s YSS program has on building recreational shooters of all ages.

“We have colleges shooting all the time now. You can shoot this sport at any age, there are a lot of (styles) to shoot out there,” he said. “You can shoot in those tournaments in any age bracket. We see, as they move on, we’re retaining those shooters at older ages now.

“YSS is a beginner program, that’s where they first can travel and get into recreational shooting. We have all-Americans who have participated in the program, an Olympian (Kayle Browning) who participated in the program, kids who have come through our program and have made it their careers.”





Teams composed of five shooters each will take their mark from 16 yards and try to hit clay targets thrown in random directions from the traphouse. AGFC photo.

Before competing, all teams will be briefed with a short refresher course on proper firearms safety and the rules of the game. AGFC photo.

The AGFC will host shooting sports regional tournaments during the next four weekends, then hold the state championship meet May 31-June 1.

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