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Southern Clinton County youth hunters compete at state shoot

PHOTO PROVIDED Participants of the Southern Clinton County Youth Hunter Education Challenge pose for a group photo after their recent competition.

From staff reports

LOGANTON –At a time when America’s debate about gun control is at a fever pitch, young people are learning to use firearms in ever greater numbers.

While some young people in America are choosing to spend their time protesting for stricter gun-control laws, other teens are busy having fun enjoying their Second Amendment freedoms. They’re doing so by participating in youth shooting team sports, learning to properly and safely handle firearms while at the same time becoming more accurate shooters.

One such team in Pennsylvania is the Southern Clinton County YHEC team.

Their parent organization is the Southern Clinton County Sportsman’s Association located in Loganton. The team was started in 1997 by Doug Desmond with only two youth– Clayton Desmond and Josh Day — shooting as individuals.

PHOTO PROVIDED From left are members of the Junior Blue Team: Coach Chad Haagen, Malachi Gottshall, Joseph Proctor, Trenton Haagen, Wyatt Ripka, Ian Kellner, Coach Rich Ripka.

The first team representing Southern Clinton County was established in 1998. Southern Clinton YHEC currently has 22 youth, who make up four teams. The club is run by president Dave Gunsallus with numerous parents helping.

In June, the Southern Clinton YHEC teams competed at the Pennsylvania State YHEC Shoot held at Scotia Range in State College. The youth competed in four shooting events as well as three written exams including the Hunter Ed exam and Wildlife Identification. Twenty-eight teams from across the Commonwealth participated in the competition, with the Southern Clinton team bringing home their fair share of awards.

The Junior Blue team consisting of Malachi Gottshall, Trenton Haagen, Ian Kellner, Joseph Proctor and Wyatt Ripka, earned a third place Wildlife I.D., third place Rifle and third place as Overall Junior Team. Trenton Haagen also earned first place as an individual in Wildlife I.D.

The Junior Orange team consisting of Dylan Baker, Thayne Jeffries, Hunter Jeirles, Jackson Proctorand Pierce Long earned a third place in Shotgun.

The senior team consisting of Tanner Bierly, Lance Bowman, Emery Gunsallus, Chase Long and Tyler Weaver earned a second place in Muzzleloader and third place in Archery.

PHOTO PROVIDED From left are membrs of the Junior Orange Team: Jackson Proctor, Hunter Jeirles, Pierce Long, Coach Gary Proctor. Missing from the photo are Thayne Jeffries and Dylan Baker.

In addition to the state competition, one Southern Clinton YHEC youth, Emery Gunsallus, also competed in the Eastern Regional Championship held in New York at the Chemung Rod and Gun Club during the week of July 10 – 13. Gunsallus competed in eight events during the three-day competition which included .22 Rifle, Muzzleloader, Shotgun, Archery, Hunter Ed Exam, Wildlife I.D., Hunter Safety Trail, and Orienteering. He came home with a second place award in Wildlife Identification, and finished 10th overall.

Rather than being fearful of guns, many kids see firearms for what they are –tools used to perform certain tasks and, in this case, sporting equipment not unlike a javelin in track and field or a bat in baseball.

Shooting appeals to young people for unexpected reasons; the sport is unlike the standard competitive fare offered at most of their schools, they say, and measures their individual skill in ways that team play does not. It doesn’t matter how tall you are or how fast you are… no one sits the bench, everyone competes.

Competitive recreational shooting is not cheap, especially for families on a tight budget, so obtaining donations and fundraising is important. That said Southern Clinton County YHEC would like to thank the NRA Foundation for their continued support through grants to their club. This year’s grant in the amount of $3,737.20 provided the YHEC club with eight new archery targets, ammunition and safety gear. The club would also like to recognize the Southern Clinton County Friends of NRA, Southern Clinton County Sportsman’s Association, NWTF – Clinton County Chapter, Liberty Township Sportsmen’s Club, Black Eagle Bowmen Club and Miller’s Gun Shop for their continued support and mentorship.

American headlines may be full of negative news these days, but that’s not all there is to the story. The positive news is that many young people — boys and girls, young men and young women — want to see the firearms heritage in our country continue, and are shooting to make that happen.

For more information about YHEC, please contact Dave Gunsallus @

570-726-3432.

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