Henges Shooting Range hosts St. Charles County high school outdoor education program

News from the region
Saint Louis
Published Date

HIGH RIDGE, Mo.—A gray, overcast sky made it more difficult spotting clay disks as they catapulted through the air, even with their brilliant orange color, but it was even more challenging breaking them in mid-flight with shotgun blasts.  29 students from Timberland High School in the Wentzville R-IV School District; however, were more than eager to take on that challenge.  And there was a sky full of splintering clay birds to show for it.

The high school students were hosted March 28 by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff and volunteer shooting instructors at MDC’s Jay Henges Shooting Range in High Ridge.  A number of school districts in St. Charles County offer an elective semester course in their high school physical education departments that gives students the opportunity to learn a variety of outdoor skills.

The goal is to introduce young people to forms of physical activity that can become lifetime pursuits.  Students complete the Missouri Hunter Education Course and, depending on the specific program, go fishing, hiking and engage in nature study and conservation practices. They also spend half of a day at Henges Range where they learn rifle and shotgun shooting.

The school district’s outdoor education program places great emphasis on sporting ethics and safety.  The morning session at the shooting range enables them to put those concepts into practice.

“Their time here includes a basic introduction to rifle, shotgun and trap shooting,” said Len Patton, MDC Shooting Range Volunteer and Hunter Education Instructor.

Patton explained that MDC has been participating with local school districts in this program for a number of years. In the last two, 1,444 students have participated in the program at Henges Range. In addition to group instruction, Patton and the other MDC staff and volunteers who teach the program pride themselves on the individual assistance they give every student. 

“This includes one-on-one interaction and personal coaching for each one,” Patton said.  He also indicated that safety practices, such as keeping the muzzle pointed safely at all times, were stressed first and throughout the day.

Students got to sample both shotgun and .22 rifle shooting under the mentorship of MDC staff and volunteers, and the success of the program seemed validated by their reactions.

“I used to shoot shotguns a lot, but it’s been a long time.  After doing this it was so much fun, I’m probably going to get back into shotgunning.  It was a great experience,” said 16-year-old Brandon.

Valerie, age 16, indicated she too prefers the precision of target shooting with a rifle as she proudly displayed the tightly-grouped holes on her target.  Still, she did manage to overcome her reluctance to try out a shotgun and gave busting clays a go. 

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it at first, but once I actually tried it I did it just fine,” she said. In this case, “fine” meant a respectable performance of breaking nine clays out of 12.  Valerie added she was glad she tried it.

Patton was gratified to see the students’ enthusiasm toward sampling various shooting sports.  

“Youth are our future. If we can somehow get kids into wanting to learn how to do this and enjoy it and have the opportunities to do it, then we’re going to open up new avenues,” he said. “I hope that when they’re 78 they can stand before a group of young people and talk about having fun and making this a lifetime sport.”

For more information on youth programs or events at Henges Range, go to https://goo.gl/lgmwPC