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Shooting sports are great for developing positive characteristics and skills in young people, writes outdoors columnist Larry Case, and activities like this 4-H shooting camp are one way to introduce and encourage such activities.

"As the tree is bent, the tree inclines." — Virgil

They say ol' Virgil was a pretty smart guy.

Mr. Virgil was, as I am sure you recall from high school, an ancient Roman poet back there in the Augustan period. His full name was Publius Vergilius Maro. With a name like that, I bet he had to learn to fight at an early age.

I doubt Virgil knew much about .22 rifles and BB guns, but as you may have guessed, as a kid I did. I have often written about certain aspects of my misspent youth, much of which occurred in the woods and on the riverbank with a Daisy BB gun in hand, ready for action. Later I graduated to a .22 rifle.

In the BB stage, I believe I handled the weapon safely and had a wide variety of targets. Leaves drifting on the river were a favorite because they helped develop the basics of leading a moving target. Thousands (maybe millions) of BB's and pellets fired over the years helped me learn marksmanship basics: sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze, etc.

While I had very little exposure to organized shooting, that is not a problem for today's youth, thankfully. One of the best programs out there is found in 4-H. Shooting program? Yep, that's right.

If — like me — you thought 4-H clubs were only for farm kids who show a cow or a sheep at the state fair, brother, you have a lot to learn.

Although the organization is now global in its reach, 4-H in the United States (where oversight comes from the nation's Cooperative Extension System and the U.S. Department of Agriculture) bills itself at 4-H.org as "the nation's largest positive youth development and youth mentoring organization, empowering six million young people in the U.S. In partnership with 110 universities, 4-H life-changing programs are research-backed and available through 4-H clubs, camps, afterschool and school enrichment programs in every county and parish in the U.S."

Sound like something that maybe we need a lot more of these days? I agree, and I bet Virgil would, too.

The organization's shooting sports program provides an outstanding way of promoting human growth and development in the life skills identified by the national 4-H program. Decision-making, teamwork, problem-solving, being responsible and having high self-esteem are just a few of the many skills 4-H helps to develop to enable youth to be productive and positive adults in our society. Youth development is the top goal of the shooting sports prgram.

Here are some other targets for 4-H shooting sports:

' Give youth safe and thorough instruction and training in the use of firearms (muzzleloading, air pistol, air rifle —including small bore — and shotgun), archery equipment and wildlife conservation.

' Enhance self-confidence, personal development, responsibility and sportsmanship.

' Create an appreciation and understanding of natural resources.

' Provide volunteer instructors safe and proper instructional techniques, as well as information on how to plan and manage shooting and conservation clubs.

These points are but a glimpse into 4-H and its opportunities. Start at the national website, but you can go to your own state's site to connect with your local 4-H.

At this point, it's probably obvious that I think you and your young ones should be shooting more; if you're going to do that, you need a good firearm and access to good ammo. Today, let's think about .22 rifles.

The CZ-USA 455 training rifle is a great place to start for both young and older new shooters. The 455 features a 24.8-inch barrel, a five-shot magazine (10-shot is available) and tangent rear sight (adjustable for distance), weighs only 6.3 pounds and has an adjustable trigger and very nice wood stock.

This rifle looks good and feels good, and here is the kicker — it boasts a suggested retail price of $374, and we all know that if you look around a little, you may get it for less than that. Experienced shooters may be surprised when they put this .22 on paper, because although it's called a training rifle and has a modest price, accuracy was not sacrificed when CZ (cz-usa.com) put this weapon together.

Also consider Aguila, the best .22 ammo you've never heard of. Since 1961, Aguila Ammunition (aguilaammo.com) has produced a wide variety of quality ammo. It's manufactured in Morelos, Mexico, and in 2011 Aquila's parent company partnered with Texas Armament and Technology. Together these two companies started a facility-wide plan of modernization and optimization to redefine how ammunition is made.

Besides shotgun, rifle and pistol ammunition, Aguila makes an amazing array of .22 ammo. If you are a .22 shooter, you need to check out what they have available, but there is one in particular I want to tell you about.

Aguila offers two different versions of a .22 round that is powderless — that's right, no powder in the casing. Aguila calls this ammo the Colibri, and it has plenty enough power for target practice and use on small game and pests. This unique round delivers very little sound and no recoil, which is perfect for new and young shooters.

Virgil may have not known much about .22 rifles and ammo, but I know he would have agreed with me on all the worthy aspects that are to be learned from good training with firearms and shooting.

He knew if the twig was bent in the right way, the tree grew a lot straighter.

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va., has been a devoted outdoorsman all of his life and is a contributing columnist for The Times Free Press. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.

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