Aiming high in shooting sports |

Aiming high in shooting sports

Sean Strode
Garfield County Communications Coordinator
DJ Hill aims at a target with his air rifle during a 4-H practice in a training facility, while instructor Jason Neil oversees with binoculars, and his grandfather looks on.
Sean Strode / Garfield County |

If you meet 14-year-old DJ Hill, you’ll probably never know that he is one of the top competitive young shooters in Colorado. He’ll never brag about winning ribbons at the Garfield County Fair & Rodeo year after year, or winning at state competitions. He probably won’t even tell you about how he won the Herdsman award two years in a row for volunteering to help other youth in 4-H livestock shows. DJ Hill is a quiet, humble and kind young man, and the last thing he wants to do is brag about himself.

But DJ is one of the rising stars of competitive shooting. He is quickly making his name known locally and throughout the state. DJ is one of the young talents to watch from Garfield County.

Starting shooting as many boys do, DJ learned how to shoot an air pellet gun under the tutelage of his grandfather in the backyard. But this isn’t your average grandfather — this grandfather is highly experienced with multiple certifications in shooting safety and instruction. DJ says proudly that it was his grandfather who was the main inspiration for him to get into sport shooting.

“When I started, I wasn’t very good at all,” said DJ. “But I knew I liked it, and I made progress quickly.” After getting the basics of shooting, DJ went outside every day and tried to hone his skills. By the time he was 9, DJ joined the 4-H shooting sports in Garfield County. Recalling his first year, DJ admitted that he wasn’t very good, but he worked really hard to improve in the group.

“I made sure I went to every practice,” DJ said enthusiastically. “I started shooting a score of 27 with a 0.22 rifle. Now my average score is around 300. But it took a lot of hard work and consistency to get there.”

Since competing for the first time at the Garfield County Fair & Rodeo at age 9, DJ has been successfully competing locally and at the state level every year. This year, he competed in 13 different categories prior to the Garfield County Fair, and is now the senior grand champion in air pistol and muzzleloading, after winning first place in both. He also won numerous second and third place standings in .22 rifle and air rifle classes. He will compete in .22 rifle, air rifle, air pistol and muzzleloading classes at the Colorado State Fair.

“The key is consistency,” shared DJ. He proudly states that he has not missed a practice all year. Contrary to a lot of youth, he says, “I’d rather be at 4-H target practice than sitting at home playing video games.” It doesn’t hurt that the 4-H youth in sport shooting have created a positive and supportive community. DJ feels that practices and competition in Garfield County is all about supporting each other as a team. And he likes it that way. Plus he appreciates being able to spend time with his grandfather and learn from him. Because of his supportive environment, he said he doesn’t get really nervous when he shoots.

DJ highly encourages others to try sport shooting. “You don’t have to be a good shot; it’s OK, you’ll get better,” he says. He encourages newcomers to stay calm, relaxed and focused. “Focus and consistency are two really big things,” DJ emphasizes. He adds further, “Everybody has a bad shooting day. The important thing is that you don’t focus on shooting poorly, you move on and focus on what you’re doing now, not what you did then.”

The future is wide open for DJ Hill. He’s not sure where he wants to go with his shooting career, but he knows he wants to stick with it and always strive to improve. One day he may go to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs to shoot with whom he’s already began talking with. Until that day, DJ keeps himself busy with football, basketball, soccer and dirt biking.

4-H shooting sports in Garfield County

Shooting sports is the largest project division of 4-H in Garfield County. Currently, there are 157 youth participants in shooting sport disciplines. It has been part of 4-H in Garfield County for more than 20 years, and there are three youth shooting clubs spread out geographically in the county. All shooting sport participants must complete a hunters safety course before being a part of 4-H, even if they are not going to hunt. Instructors in shooting sports must obtain multiple certifications in order to work with youth.

“The objective is to teach a child how to shoot correctly and safely, in a responsible and controlled environment,” shared Carla Farrand, extension associate/county liaison, 4-H Youth Development, Colorado State University (CSU) Extension. “One of the reasons shooting sports is so popular is because it’s a really strong, positive and professional community.”

New enrollment for 4-H shooting sports begins Oct. 16.

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