Outdoors: Twin Rivers Junior Shooting Sports

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

I met Bev Hilbish at a recent youth event called Exploring the Great Outdoors, EGO for short, at the Flint Hills Mall in Emporia. Joyce and I represented the Kansas Fur Harvesters Assn. with a display of Kansas fur pelts and trapping information. EGO was hosted by Twin Rivers Junior Shooting Sports from Emporia.

If anyone ever had a reason to take a stand against guns, it would be Bev Hilbish. When she was 18, she was in church with her dad and two sisters, when a man burst through the side door of the church with a gun and began indiscriminately shooting, wounding her and killing her dad. She told reporters back then, “I don’t think it’s the guns that kill, it’s the people behind em,’ the evil, the hatred and the anger of those people.” Today, Bev, her husband John and daughters Jessica and Megan are staunch advocates for teaching youth safe and responsible use of guns, and for shooting sports.

Both Hilbish girls were very involved with shooting sports in 4H, which also included junior leadership training, teaching them skills to become leaders in life. Megan is a decorated shooter who has won Kansas Junior Olympic championships 6 times. Both are avid hunters too, as their dad strapped them to a backpack and took them hunting with him when they were very little.

The Hilbish family was aware of an arm of the Friends of the NRA that supported and helped finance junior shooting sports programs through annual banquets and fundraisers. It frustrated them, however, that money raised was distributed beyond local clubs and programs, and that a percentage of funds raised always went toward administration at the national level. Eager to see locally-raised funds used to support only local shooting sports programs, and to be free of national guidelines, including administration costs, Twin Rivers Junior Shooting Sports was formed in 2011 by a group belonging to Lyon County 4H shooting sports, including the Hilbish family.

Twin Rivers Junior Shooting Sports supports any youth organizations in Emporia and the surrounding area that offer archery and firearms programs for youth. They first tried fundraiser banquets, but now obtain funds mainly through gun raffles and direct donations.

EGO was their first attempt at that kind of event.

It included displays from the Fire, Police and Sheriff’s departments of Emporia and Lyon Co., a martial arts group, representatives from Kansas Dept of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) Fish Kansas, Boy and Girl Scouts, people from KS Bow Hunters, KS Muzzleloaders and KS Fur Harvesters, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Both an archery and an air rifle range were also set up and run by Twin Rivers. Each kid was given a card listing all the above, and as they visited each booth and display, their card was checked, allowing them to be entered for prize drawings.

Also, kudos to Clarence Frye, manager of the Flint Hills Mall for allowing the group to have the event there and to set up the archery and air rifle ranges. Frye got involved with the Kansas Hunting and Fishing Expo that was held there at the mall some years ago, and told me “I absolutely believe all kids should know how to hunt and fish.”

The keys to keeping our rights to own and to use guns for hunting, for protection and for sport shooting, are keeping guns out of the hands of those that should not have them, and teaching our youth responsible gun use and gun safety. 4H shooting sports programs are an excellent way to do all of that, and Kansas should be proud to be the home of organizations like Twin Rivers Junior Shooting Sports that work hard to help those programs thrive. Check out their website www.twinriversshootingsports.com, and their Facebook page…Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com