SEBRING - Allen Abe's archery career began five years ago when his dad talked about his first bow. So junior and senior went to the local Gander Mountain sports store, where Allen picked out his first compound bow, a Hoyt Contender Elite.
Fast forward to Saturday. "Allen is a Florida shooting sports state champ," said Highlands County 4-H volunteer leader Chanea Turner. Allen represented Florida in the national competition, coming in seventh.
He was also among two dozen at the 4-H first archery fun shoot, where kids could pay $5 for five arrows. The winner of the 20-yard long shot could win half the jackpot. Others had a chance at more prizes.
The Shooting Sports 4-H Club is for members 8 to 18. They can learn archery, air rifle, air pistol, shotgun, outdoor, hunting safety, exploring and survival skills.
"You get to get outside," Turner said. "And the more you know, the better educated you are, the safer you are. And not everyone likes basketball or football."
Allen, a Sebring High School senior, had tried bowling and swimming, but he excelled at archery.
"I learned to never give up, that's for sure," said Allen, 17. "Try your best all the time, even if you think you're going to lose. And that it's better to have your personal best than to come in first place."
On Saturday, every member was taught by one of 11 certified instructors, Turner said. Parents learn rules too: it's not a drop-off opportunity; moms and dads must stay, and they mustn't bring siblings.
Kids don't have to buy their own firearms. A National Rifle Association grant provides bows, guns, targets - all the equipment every member needs, Turner said. Several of Saturday's would-be archers were shooting for the first time.
The 2013 project list also includes making animal calls, making a long bow and arrows, making a pocket survival kit, using maps and compasses, land navigation, surviving the outdoors, demonstrations in firearm safety and loading a gun, and a hunter safety course.
A county wide open house and open enrollment is scheduled for Aug. 24 at the Highlands County agricultural office on George Boulevard.
More information: Chanea Turner, 381-1313 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Morgan Gibbs, 441-2631 or email@example.com