The smiles on the young faces said it all.
Sarasota Sportsmens Association’s annual Youth Expo, held Saturday at Knight’s Trail was a resounding success.
The SSA’s mission is to “insure that our children will be able to enjoy fishing, hunting and outdoor natural resources in the future.”
On Saturday, they got their point across in a fun way.
The 40-plus kids that attended had a great time.
There were three reasons for the event’s success: the largesse of the donors, the hard work of the SSA volunteers, and the high quality of the instructors.
Denis Bosch, NRA, NSSA and ATA-certified trap/skeet instructor was one of the finest
wing-shooting coaches I’ve ever seen.
Bosch has this way about him, a casualness around kids that’s non-threatening but very professional. He keeps it safe and fun. He’s been coaching for more than a dozen years. He took brand new shooters, many of whom had never even fired a .22, and had them busting clay after a couple rounds.
Likewise Don Jackson and Jim Adam, archery masters from Lekatchka Archery Club, where an annual membership is only $50.
Adam told me he hasn’t picked up a gun in years. He shoots geese with a bow – from the air – with flu-flu arrows. True Zen, that. Once that becomes boring, I’m sure he’ll take to stalking grizzly with a handful of dry leaves.
Mike Cash, a former military firearms instructor, and Rick Martin, led the BB-gun course, which consisted of clay pigeons on plywood. Reactive targets are the way to go, especially for new shooters. There’s nothing better.
Their one-on-one instruction kept it fun and safe.
Keith Pittenger taught the kids how to make a turkey tote, and how to use a slate call. Then each of the kids got a new slate call to take home, for free.
A few years ago, they gave away crow calls.
“We won’t do that again,” Pittenger said.
In case you don’t know, the Sarasota Sportsmens Association is hyper-local.
All the funds they raise go to local projects. Nothing is sent off to a national organization.
The group has created an artificial reef of the Venice inlet. It’s a boon to fishing and scuba diving. It also adds vital habitat.
It’s a great project, but the SSA’s primary mission is youth education.
They have given away more than $20,000 in scholarships, using funds raised primarily through Spring and Fall banquets.
It’s hard to believe they can be so active, succeeding at so many viable projects without one paid staffer.
Everyone at the nonprofit is an unpaid volunteer.
For more information about the Sarasota Sportsmen Association, visit their website or call Keith Pittenger at (941) 366-4450.