Brian Witty, Prescott Bird Busters volunteer leader, works with children in fourth grade through senior year of high school, teaching not only gun safety and shooting skills, but also life skills such as discipline, safety, teamwork, ethics and self-confidence.
His shotgun sports team is part of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Scholastic Clay Target Program, a team-based youth development program that teaches the shotgun sports of trap, skeet, and sporting clays. Team members can participate in any or all three of the clay target disciplines.
Witty himself started out at age 5 or 6 shooting a BB gun. His instruction in handling guns came from his father.
"Dad basically said any time you point that trigger, there are consequences downrange. You better know what's there because you cannot pull it back," Witty said. "It helped me solve some curiosities that I had. And it was fun, especially when it progressed from paper targets to soda cans."
From that point, he went on to learn the intricacies involved in hitting a moving target. It wasn't until in his late 20s, early 30s, that he discovered clay target.
Prescott Bird Busters is active October through May, and impacts a maximum of 50 youngsters each year. Witty said participants join for a variety of reasons.
"Some have parents wanting someone who knows and understands firearms to give supervised instruction - all the safety facets, handling a shotgun, learning the rules of the different sports - and then they can grow from those experiences. If they want to participate, they know exactly the safety facets and operating fundamentals. And they have a ton of fun. It's a lifetime benefit to them," he said.
Anyone, regardless of age or gender, who wants to be introduced to shotguns, will learn how to operate guns correctly, disassemble, maintain and store them safely. Witty said he sees 12-year-old girls competing against gentlemen in their 60s and 70s. One participant competes from a wheelchair. It's a great team sport for kids who may not be athletically inclined, he said.
"There is no other disadvantage or benefit other than experience," Witty said.
In the nine years the club has been in existence, there have been no safety breaches. Sometimes members have broken rules, like forgetting to wear a hat or stepping out on the field without ear protection, but injuries or misfirings have occurred, Witty said.
Some of the gun safety rules students learn while out on the field are to keep the barrel of the gun above the head, ("that's why we wear hats, as a reminder"), and the action or breech remains open so everyone can see it is not loaded.
"Until we are out on the range and take our turns, that is only time there is ammo in the gun, and it's pointed downrange," Witty said, adding that the ratio of instructors to students is 1:5.
"In the past four years, we have basically doubled our members," Witty said. "And every year, we've either had a runner up or a state champion."
For more information, call Brian Witty at 928-420-2991, or email email@example.com.