Young sharpshooters take aim at state title

With clockwork efficiency, members of the Hoosier Daddys Shooting Team will take their best shot at a state championship this weekend.

They’ll show off the speed, precision and focus that they work on every week. More importantly, they’ll display the safety and respect for firearms that will make them responsible gun owners.

Since all of the competitors are between the ages of 12 and 22, that’s the most important concept.

“We want to re-energize the shooting sports with youth but also teach them safety, responsibility and respect, using shooting as a catalyst,” said Nick Mason, a Whiteland resident and head coach of the Hoosier Daddys.

Young shooting enthusiasts from Johnson, Bartholomew and Morgan counties have banded together to form the Hoosier Daddys Shooting Team. The competitors will show off their markmanship and speed in the Scholastic Pistol Program state championship this weekend at the South Central Gun Club near Freetown in western Jackson County.

Participants drill rigorously to safely handle shotguns and pistols, practicing weekly to improve their firearm proficiency as well as train for contests and competitions.

“Once you develop your skills well enough, you can shoot consistency. Then it becomes more of a mental game, where you have to control the mental side of it,” said Trevor Duncan, a senior at Center Grove High School.

The competition is sanctioned through the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, a Texas-based group that introduces school-age youths to shooting sports.

Hoosier Daddys Shooting Club is the local participant in the foundation, serving as the youth branch of the adult-oriented Hoosier Hills Rifle and Pistol Club based in Columbus.

Duncan was a member of the Boy Scouts in sixth grade when he learned about the shooting club. He completed a round of trap shooting for one of his badges and was captivated by the patience, skill and coordination needed for the sport.

“It helps develop a sort of focus, where you have to block out everything else except the focus on the shooting,” he said. “It’s nice being able to forget about things at school or at home and just focus on the shooting.”

Center Grove High School freshman Sydnye Todd’s brother started taking shooting lessons, which led her to the sport. She attended one of his practices, and Mason offered to help her take her first shots from a .28-caliber shotgun.

She enjoyed the experience enough that she started taking lessons as well. Four years later, Sydnye has accumulated numerous prizes and awards for her proficiency.

Her goal down the line is to make it to the Olympics in shooting.

“I want to go into the military when I get older, and I feel like this is helping with getting me ready for that,” she said.

The focus of the team is youth development, with shooting as the pathway, Mason said. Participants have grade requirements they need to meet in order to be on the team, and a heavy emphasis is placed on safety.

Before any participant takes the field, the club conducts three practices indoors focused solely on safety. They learn the basic parts of the firearm such as the stock, the barrel and the trigger guard, as well as the function of each.

Coaches teach the foundational aspects of safe shooting, including always keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and never loading a firearm until you’re ready to shoot.

Club members are never on the shooting field without a coach or trained volunteer. For the first two or three years a member participates, overseers keep a vigilant watch for any potential safety violations.

“Even if something is even safely off, we let them know about it in a calm manner,” Mason said. “We want to keep things positive but teach them at the same time.”

Because of that repetitive attention to detail, the Hoosier Daddys have become extremely hypersensitive to safety concerns.

“I can take any one of our kids out to any shooting range, and they’ll pick out five things that someone’s done wrong before I even notice them sometimes,” Mason said. “They’re very well-trained.”

Before the formation of the Hoosier Daddys, the only experience young firearm enthusiasts could get came from an existing 4-H program, Mason said.

“If you wanted to learn, you had your dad or your uncle or somebody who knew shooting go out and teach you, or you could join the 4-H team,” he said. “That’s a very basic program, and my dad saw me getting very tired of it.”

The Masons searched out another shooting option, eventually finding the scholastic clay target program with the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The family helped start the first scholastic shooting team in Indiana, and it has grown since its founding in 2000.

The club has added skeet shooting, international skeet and sporting clays. Pistol shooting is the most recent discipline for club members.

Preparing requires hours and hours spent on the shooting range, said Chris Todd, Sydnye’s mother.

The team itself conducts practices every Thursday. Individual competitors also spend their own time during the week at the range.

Part of what sets shooting sports apart from other athletic contests is the ability to measure your progress and development, Duncan said.

“You can measure your scores. In football, you’re not really measuring your performance like a number,” he said. “One day you can shoot 95 out of 100, and the next day shoot 85 out of 100. You can see that decrease in performance. So you try to keep yourself where you’re shooting consistently and always trying to improve.”

The pistol competition is broken into four stations — go-fast, speed trap, in-and-out and focus. Each station works on a different skill set, from pure quickness to concentration.

Competitors fire at five targets at each station, aiming for accuracy while completing the round as quickly as possible. Their highest time at each station is tossed out of the scoring, and their results are compiled over the remaining 16 sets.

The lowest score wins, Mason said.

This year’s event has six teams participating from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Different teams will meet up at the various stations, offering the opportunity for kids from Hoosier Daddys to meet other shooting enthusiasts, Mason said.

“It’s really neat to watch them. They’re encouraging each other even if they’re on another team, telling them they’ll do better next time, giving them fist bumps,” he said.

The state competition is a qualifier for nationals, and any team member who participates Sunday can move on to the national contest.

“Pistol is a growing sport, so right now they have enough spots to accommodate everyone,” Mason said.

If you go

The Indiana State Championships of the 2015 Scholastic Pistol Program will take place Sunday in western Jackson County.  

The competition will begin at 9 a.m. at the South Central Gun Club, 4427 N. State Road 135 near Freetown.

Divisions are Centerfire (using 9-mm ammunition) and Rimfire (using .22-caliber ammunition).

While the public is welcome, spectators are required to check in with the event’s safety officer, attend an 8:30 a.m. meeting, and bring eye and ear protection.    

At a glance

What: Hoosier Daddys Shooting Club, a youth-oriented shooting club based in Columbus, focusing on teaching safety and proficiency with firearms. It consists of two programs: the Scholastic Pistol program and the Scholastic Clay Target Program.

Who: The club is part of the Hoosier Hills Rifle and Pistol Club, a private shooting club.

Where from: Participants come from Johnson, Bartholomew and Morgan counties.

Johnson County participants are

  • Wyatt Parker, Center Grove area
  • Trevor Duncan, Center Grove area
  • Samantha Schaffer, Greenwood
  • Sydnye Todd, Center Grove area
  • Morgan Chesser-Schritter, Greenwood
  • Owen Marten, Whiteland
  • Mitchell Marren, Whiteland
  • Cameron Brichler, Bargersville

Email inquiries:

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.