Local youth shooting team takes aim at some hardware from the Daisy National BB Gun Championship Match

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Members of the Timber Beasts practice in Forest Grove last week in preparation for an upcoming trip to the Daisy National BB Gun Championship Match in Rogers, Ark.Howard Baker has been doing this a long time.

He got involved with Forest Grove’s BB gun team almost 30 years ago when his son and daughter joined, and he stayed with it when his grandchildren started. As the team’s director and head coach, Baker has become an integral component of the team, as essential as BBs and targets.

This week, for the 23rd consecutive year, Baker is bringing the Timber Beasts — the only competitive BB gun shooting team in Oregon — to the Daisy National BB Gun Championship Match in Rogers, Ark.

For the first time in the team’s history, the lineup at the national championship will be all girls, who range in age from 11 to 15. Cassie Jones, Abby Campbell, Nessa Hartman, Jessica Mohorich and Jessica Brewer leave tomorrow for nationals, where they will shoot four rounds Saturday and Sunday against some of the best young BB-gun shooters in the country.

“Watching the kids develop is my favorite part of this,” said Baker, of Forest Grove. “They think they can’t do it, and pretty soon they start correcting themselves and catching themselves before they make a mistake as they progress.”by: COURTESY PHOTO - BAKER

In Arkansas, competitors will shoot four rounds apiece in prone, standing, kneeling and sitting positions. In a round, competitors have 10 minutes to shoot at 10 targets from 5 meters away. A perfect individual score for a round is 100 points — when a shooter hits 10 bull’s-eyes. Points are deducted for shots that land anywhere but on the center mark.

Competitors will also take a test about gun safety, knowledge and shooting range rules that is worth 100 points, to be added to their shooting scores. Awards will be given for those who earn the closest to the maximum individual (500) and team (2,500) point totals.

A BB gun shoots ammunition at 240 feet per second while a .22-caliber bullet travels at 1,100 feet per second. The guns used in the Daisy national competition are single-load, which means competitors must load a BB after every shot. BB guns aren’t precision instruments, making aiming even more of a challenge.

“But fundamentals for shooting are the same,” said Baker, who crafts his own pistol grips and also participates in a cowboy fast-draw club that prompts members to hit targets as fast as possible with wax bullets.

Although Baker said it’s exciting to send an all-female team to nationals, it’s not unusual for girls to outshoot boys at this age. “They’re often more open to instruction,” he noted.

Hartman, 11, who has been shooting with the team for four years, has always liked the sport, and she likes the team because “if you don’t get something someone will help you, and if I get something I will help someone. Everyone has different parts they understand. At first, I didn’t know how, but now I do.”

The team meets once a week starting in the fall, and newcomers take a multi-week course on gun safety before they start shooting.

“We don’t take a young person and give them the keys to the car before taking drivers’ ed,” Baker said. “If kids are around firearms, they should know how to handle them safely.”

Team members take regular tests on gun safety and equipment basics, and there is a focus to improve their personal best.

Baker said he would like to see more teams in this area so his squad would have more competition. When the Timber Beasts head to Arkansas, they’ll be in a strange environment and competing against new people, which they aren’t used to. Nevertheless, the team has achieved success away from home in the past, including individual national championships and a second-place team finish.

For many current shooters and those who passed through the program in their youth, memories of Baker’s mentorship stand out as strong as learning to aim.

Chantel Obrist came back last Tuesday to watch the team practice in the Forest Grove Knights of Pythias room — where targets are set up in front of thick tarps — that looks much the same as it did when she shot with the team for four years.

The Beaverton resident moved away from Forest Grove and isn’t doing much shooting these days with a baby on the way, but she wanted to come back to the place where she learned “patience, self-confidence and focus.”

“It was about learning you could do it,” said Obrist, whose name is still engraved on the record high score plaque on one of the Pythias’ walls.

“Howard is the one who taught me to believe in myself. He’s just a great coach and a great person,” Obrist said. “He taught us to have the right attitude and to work with other people and to appreciate those things.”

She’s hoping to help out the club again, and maybe her on-the-way son will want to join someday.

“With a program like this people shouldn’t worry about kids becoming thugs because they’re shooting a gun. It can be a sport; it doesn’t have to be violent,” Obrist said. “They learn the responsibility that comes with gun handling and that they can’t just throw it around and point it anywhere.”

Kelly Campbell’s daughter Abby is traveling with the national team this week.

“Abby has learned to bring herself in and refocus on the next target. If she has a bad shot she can leave it and move on to the next one,” said Campbell, who added that the team has taught her children focus, mental preparation, responsibility, discipline and safety.

“Howard is wonderful,” Campbell said. “He’s very good with the kids, and he’s not just a coach, he’s a friend.”

“I think more people should get involved because it’s such a great thing,” Obrist said. “It’s a great environment. I was comfortable here.”

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