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Today is November 25, 2020

Target practice

Competitive student shooting at McIvor

By Steven Ward

Target practice

Mississippi high school football, basketball and baseball may be known as traditional sports that teach students about teamwork, the importance of practice and sportsmanship, but there’s another pastime becoming more popular each year.

In 2015, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) started the Mississippi Scholastic Shooting Program.

The program provides an outlet for 7th-12th-grade students who want to compete in skeet, trap and sporting clays shooting.

When the program began, they started out with four participating schools and 30 students.

Today, 47 schools from around the state are involved with 800 students shooting competitively, said Michelle Carter, director of outreach programs at MDWFP.

Almost half of the 47 schools that field teams are based in north Mississippi. Last year, a new shooting facility opened near Sardis in Panola County.

MDWFP operates three shooting ranges in the state — Turcotte Shooting Facility in Canton, McHenry Shooting Facility in Perkinston and the new McIvor Shooting Facility near Sardis.

McIvor, which is open to the public, allows visitors use of a 330-yard rifle range, two 100-yard rifle ranges, a 50-yard pistol range, two skeet/trap fields, a 5-stand Duck Flush and a 15 station sporting clays trail.

The 300-acre shooting facility was built with a $1.425 million grant from Olin Chemical, the parent company of Winchester Ammunition, which operates a plant near Oxford. MDWFP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were able to obtain additional grant money to help fund the facility, which began construction in 2016.

This past June, the program’s state shooting tournament was held at McIvor where students competed for $10,000 in college scholarship money.

In 2019, MDWFP and the State Treasury Department partnered with the Foundation For Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to provide the scholarships. The students who win the money will have interest-bearing Mississippi Affordable College Savings accounts established for them.

The tournament is usually held in May, but was pushed back this year because of COVID-19.

Carter said one of the many positives of competitive shooting is that the sport is considered low risk in the time of COVID-19.

“It’s considered low risk by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the National Federation of High Schools because of easy social distancing, space, preventing opposing teams from interacting and the students don’t share equipment,” Carter said. Scottie Jones, the MDWFP shooting range coordinator, said the program teaches students about team building but is also another tool to teach gun safety and firearm responsibility.

“We teach them, you don’t just shoot it. You respect it,” Jones said.

Jones said it’s amazing to watch young people compete.

“And it’s boys and girls. The girls shoot just as well as boys,” Jones said.

Carter said the winner of this year’s state tournament was an eighth-grader who won $4,000 in college scholarship money.

 

Visit mdwfp.com/law-enforcement/ms-scholastic-shooting-program for more information about the program and mdwfp.com/law-enforcement/ mcivor-shooting-facility for more information about the shooting range.

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