The ISRA is offering a mobile marksmanship training trailer for use across Illinois. The new trailer made its debut last weekend at Oak Ridge Sportsman's Club near Mackinaw for a shoot that attracted 24 youngsters from the Peoria area. In addition to learning proper use of shotguns, youngsters could receive instruction in handling pistols, rifles and even compound bows.
For years, Richard Pearson received calls from groups seeking help teaching youngsters how to handle firearms.
"Most of the time, they didn't have the right equipment or information to put on a youth shoot or a shoot for women," said Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
And much of the time, Pearson couldn't help those groups as much as he would have liked.
Those days may be past thanks to a mobile marksmanship training trailer the ISRA is offering for use across Illinois. The new trailer made its debut last weekend at Oak Ridge Sportsman's Club near Mackinaw for a shoot that attracted 24 youngsters from the Peoria area.
In addition to learning proper use of shotguns, youngsters could receive instruction in handling pistols, rifles and even compound bows.
"One thing that was nice is you had everything right there," said Dewey Kraushaar, who runs Oak Ridge. "There's no way I could have that many handguns and bows, (instructional materials) and instructors. It was fantastic."
If the trailer was a hit at Oak Ridge, which is already set up to accommodate shooters, think how much it will help in settings that don't have any infrastructure.
Let's say you'd like to do a youth shoot at a typical Illinois state site. At most state areas, you can find a nice grassy field near a toilet and some picnic tables. But in terms of shooting amenities, that's about the extent of what you'll find.
By contacting the ISRA, you could turn that grassy spot into a shooting training area by merely hauling in the 14-foot by 8 1/2-foot trailer.
"If you find a place and have volunteers to run an event, I can give you the equipment you need," Pearson said. "With what we've got, we can put on a camp for up to 20 people easily.
"And the trailer is made so anybody can hitch up to it, haul it off and have an event."
Funding for the trailer and equipment came from the National Rifle Association and the ISRA. Planning for the trailer has gone on for the past year and includes creative solutions for how to keep guns from banging around in a gun safe while on the road (the answer is to stuff old pillows in the gun safe).
Available equipment includes two portable battery-powered clay bird throwers, eight .22 pistols, eight Savage bolt-action .22 long rifles, eight Matthews youth bows, targets, target stands, ear and eye protection, sand bag rifle rests and a wide array of training information.
The training literature and signs are particularly important, Pearson said.
"I've noticed people often have a good start but get bogged down in the details," Pearson said of many youth marksmanship events.
That shouldn't be a problem with the trailer. Inside are handouts for participants and glossy instructional posters for instructors that show correct handling and positioning for firearm use.
If you want, you can also request tables, chairs, easels and dry-erase boards for instructors. The ISRA even has two large tents for events.
Pearson had the trailer at this year's Grand American shoot in Sparta and received numerous inquiries from prospective users.
"It looks likes next year is going to be busy," Pearson said. "The main thing with this is we want to get people trained correctly and trained on the right equipment."
Jeff Lampe is Peoria Journal Star outdoors columnist. Write to him at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3212 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.