Walter Patton is a man on a mission. The mission is for kids to learn safe and effective shooting skills with shotguns and rifles. The motto for his Poetry Shooting Club: “Take a youth shooting to build boldness and confidence in their future.”
Poetry Shooting Club is about 35 miles east of Dallas on land that’s been in Patton’s family for more than 58 years. Patton has set up rifle ranges out to 700 yards, and he has a simple trap to throw clay targets for shotgun lessons and practice.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has numerous excellent shooting facilities. Elm Fork Shooting Range is a good all-around public shooting facility nearly in the shadow of urban skyscrapers. Upscale facilities such as Frisco Gun Club have indoor rifle ranges, where shooters can sight in at 100 yards, regardless of weather.
Patton goes a step beyond. When parents want their novice children to learn shooting, they can reserve the range.
“That’s the only way to be certain the youth shooters are not distracted by other guns going off around them while they are learning,” Patton said. “Single mothers and parents who have never personally shot a gun can bring their kids out and I will teach them myself. I don’t charge a fee for instructing young shooters.”
The statewide youth-only hunting weekend for white-tailed deer and Rio Grande turkeys and the youth-only duck hunting weekend in the North and South Zones is Oct. 25-26. The early season gives youth hunters a chance at game that becomes much more wary once traditional hunting seasons begin.
It takes most shooters a lot of practice to become effective at hitting fast-flying targets with a shotgun, but shooting a rifle is easier. With a rifle, three simple skills allow a youngster to quickly become an effective hunter, particularly in Texas, where baiting game to a blind is legal.
Beyond safety, the most important rifle skills are learning to secure a solid rifle rest, learning to acquire the target through a telescopic sight (more than 95 percent of Texas hunting rifles are equipped with some form of scope) and learning to squeeze the trigger.
A three-point rifle rest is the most stable. That means a rest for the rifle forearm, with the butt of the stock pulled snugly against the shoulder and the elbow of the shooting hand braced equally well. Every deer blind is different, and none are made specifically for children.
Anytime you climb into a blind where you’ve never hunted, take a minute to put the rifle in the window and determine how to best secure a solid rest for where you expect a deer to appear. That is a critical exercise for a youth about to shoot a first animal.
Repetition builds the confidence a novice needs to adjust his or her head on the stock to see properly through the scope and also to squeeze the trigger until the rifle fires. Those skills can be practiced at home under supervision with a snap cap protecting the firing pin from falling repeatedly on an empty chamber. The best practice is live ammunition with a .22 rifle.
Patton starts a novice with a BB gun to first learn the fundamentals of shooting and safety. The youth then graduates to a .22 rifle with either open sights or a scope, depending on the rifle that will actually be used for the hunt.
Centerfire rifles powerful enough to humanely dispatch a deer or hog are loud (even with hearing protection) and the ammunition is expensive. It is neither pleasant nor practical for a beginner to sit at a bench and shoot 100 rounds of centerfire ammunition.
A .22 rifle has virtually no felt recoil and the sound is minimal enough that good hearing protection muffles the report so it’s not a factor. Bought in an economy pack of 500 or more, .22 rimfire costs less than a nickel a shot. If you can find them, that is.
Hoarding is a problem that affects the availability of .22 rimfire ammo. Patton buys the ammunition whenever he can find it and saves it for the kids.
Poetry Shooting Club charges an annual membership fee of $15, but no fee is required for youths, seniors 65 and older, disabled veterans or active members of the military.
Range use fees are $25 per two shooters. Additional shooters in the same party pay $15 each. Details are at poetryshootingclub.com or 214-728-2755.
Updated: 13 September 2014 05:34 PM