COTTONWOOD - High school students at American Heritage Academy now have the option of learning how to shoot shotguns competitively. The school recently received 10 Beretta shotguns and three electronic clay-pigeon throwers.
The 20-gauge and 12-gauge shotguns, along with the throwers and other equipment, come from the Arizona Game & Fish Department as part of the Interscholastic Clay Pigeon Program.
This year, students will be able to learn to shoot clay pigeons through an after-school club. "Next year, we'll try to put it into the high school curriculum," said Aaron Anderson, academy teacher and head of the school's shooting, hunter safety and clay pigeon programs.
To qualify for the program Anderson had to go to Phoenix to become certified as a lead instructor. Then the department had to verify that AHA is in a geographic area that does not have a gun club.
The school's requirements to be in the program include taking the students to a minimum of three shooting tournaments, Fun Shoots or cup shoots each year. The Fun Shoots allow the students to compete against students from other schools. But the cup competition can actually qualify shooters for the U.S. Olympic shooting team.
Game & Fish will set up an instructor for AHA in Phoenix to teach the students how to shoot in three different styles of shotgun competition: trap, skeet and clay.
"At the Fun Shoots, they have to shoot in all three courses," Anderson said.
"Our primary goal is to let these kids know they don't have to hunt to enjoy shooting sports," he said. "It's a fun recreational sport."
Another goal, according to Anderson, is to help the students understand the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Helping teach the students is Clint Dobrinski, of Integrity Firearms. Dobrinski is a certified instructor in firearm safety and firearm handling. He in turn, will teach a two-week course to certify the students in firearm safety by the National Rifle Association, before the students begin shooting competitively.
AHA also offers Hunter Education courses each year to its students. That course uses .177 caliber target air rifles as part of the instruction. The Hunter Education course meets twice each week, with one hour of classroom instruction and one hour of hands-on marksmanship.