What do a penny, eggs, shaving cream and candy have in common? They are all objects used by the Phelps County Shooting Sports club as targets.

What do a penny, eggs, shaving cream and candy have in common? They are all objects used by the Phelps County Shooting Sports club as targets.

"Phelps County Shooting Sports is a program designed for the youth to come out and experience different things when it comes to safe shooting of different guns and archery equipment," said Jeff McPeak, an instructor with the program. "It brings them together. It actually builds teamwork and life skills. It isn't just about coming out here, shooting and having a good time. We actually teach life skills and other things other than just shooting.

This group became a very, very close-knit group, and I am very proud of all of them."

"We all get together and practice because we enjoy shooting and have a fun time together," said Luke Walker, a member of Phelps County Shooting Sports.

The group, which is several years old, started the shooting season out with 44 kids enrolled. By the end of the season, 27 children passed tests on the various firearms used by the group, including air pistol, .22, shotgun and archery.

"You have to have so much time on the range, shoot so many times, you have to put so many hours into it," said McPeak. "Some kids showed up and just didn't like it."

While McPeak said the group enjoys having fun, he said that safety is stressed above everything else.

"We are organized and we are safe," said McPeak. "We do everything in an organized fashion."

No previous training is necessary to join the group, and Phelps County Shooting Sports provides all the necessary equipment to participate.

"You can come without having any experience whatsoever," said McPeak. "We teach everybody every year from the ground up. The only thing you have to do is get involved with your local 4-H. Every kid in the county comes and shoots with us."

He added that youth wanting to get involved in the shooting sports club need to complete the hunters safety course. The group has a class to satisfy the requirement before the club gets started every year.

Ethan Walker, another member of the group, said his favorite part about the Phelps County Shooting Sports was competing against other kids from across the state.

"It was fun to shoot in competitions against other people who you don't know," said Walker. "There is a whole range of difficulties. I decided to join because I like to shoot and I thought it would help teach me better habits and how to shoot better."

Megan Lenox said she joined because she liked shooting and being around her friends in the group.

The group recently participated in a statewide shooting event with about 2,000 youth participating.

Ethan Walker shot a 280 out of 300 in the intermediate division. Luke Walker shot a 205 out of 300 in the senior division.

There were 594 competing in archery with 250 competing in the intermediate division. Jessica Fraser placed 37th, Ethan Walker placed 38th, Alyssa McPeak placed 53rd and Gabby Foust placed 129th.

Jessica Fraser was the top scorer for Phelps County in archery.

McPeak said that he, along with other instructors and the group members, are very appreciative of community members, businesses and organizations that donated time, space and money to help make the group a success.

Chris Blair, Smokey Acres, Ralph Hess, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Rolla Area Archers Club all donated space for ranges for the kids to practice. Dave McPeak maintained the range at the Little Prairie Conservation Area, and the Phelps County Bank and Walmart Distribution Center both made donations. McPeak also thanked the parents for chauffering their children to and from practices.

"I would like to thank all the instructors," said Luke Walker. "Without them coming out here, putting in all the time they put in, we wouldn't be out here shooting. I would like to thank them all for giving their time to us. I think it has made us all better."

Walker's remarks put a smile on McPeak's face.

"It's reasons like that (the instructors) come out here and do this," said McPeak.

Anyone wanting to get involved with the club needs to join their local 4-H club. If you are interested in making a donation to the club, contact Collette Walker at 573-578-4440