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Nearly 5,400 boys and girls statewide signed up for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Youth Shooting Sports Program this spring, and the first of four regional tournaments starts this Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, to determine which of those kids’ teams are the best in 2023.
Jimmy Self, youth shooting sports coordinator for the AGFC, said the total number of youths participating is up 277 youths from last year, helped by the program adding fifth-grade participation for the first time to the junior division, which previously included sixth- through eighth-graders. Self said there are 100 fifth-graders participating.
“That’s the only change to the program this year is adding fifth grade to the roster and registration system,” he said. “Now we have four age brackets in the junior division and four in the senior division (ninth through 12th grade).”
Junior division competition is on Fridays and seniors compete on Saturdays at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex on Graham Road northeast of downtown. Competition begins at 9 a.m. throughout the regionals. Team shooting times and fields are determined by computer draw. The top 16 finishers in each of four regions in both junior and senior divisions advance to the State Championship rounds here June 2-3. The juniors on Friday and seniors on Saturday that weekend will compete in a 64-team bracket, head-to-head format with the state champions needing to win six matches to claim the title.
The West Region is first up on April 28-29, followed by the South (May 5-6), East (May 12-13) and North (May 19-20).
Any junior or senior division shooter with a perfect round also will compete on state title weekend in last-person-standing shoot-offs to determine a Champion of Champions.
Regional winning teams along with second-place and third-place finishers will be awarded trophies at the end of each day’s competition, and Self says there will be prize giveaways for participants and spectators as well.
There is no admission charge for spectators. Food will be available for purchase from Smokin’ Joes barbecue of McCrory. Archery and fishing stations will be set up around the shooting complex’s pond and open to everyone. The complex will be selling regional and state tournament shirts for competitors and spectators.
Raffle tickets will be sold throughout the regional competitions for the AGFF’s 10-gun raffle giveaway, which will be held during the senior state championship June 3. The fundraising raffle is part of an AGFF project to raise money that will be matched 2:1 by Midway USA Foundation of Columbia, Missouri, to boost the agency’s shooting sports program. As a run-up to the regional championships, the AGFF hosted its 10th annual Youth Trap Tournament at the complex on Saturday, April 22, which drew 300 junior and senior division participants from around the state. The free tournament was made possible by 40 sponsors, with over $30,000 raised to benefit the program.
“We are thrilled to take part in the Midway USA Foundation’s matching campaign that will help sustain shooting sports across Arkansas,” Deke Whitbeck, president of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, said. “Our goal is to raise $1 million for AGFC’s Youth Shooting Sports program, and the success of this event will no doubt excite our donor base to help us reach our goal. We are so grateful for Mr. and Mrs. (Larry and Brenda) Potterfield and all of the folks at Midway USA Foundation for their continued support.”