Young Guns are shooting stars

Chandler Whaley of the Partridge Creek Young Guns during a shooting competition.

In a roundabout way, the 30-member Partridge Creek Young Guns 4-H shooting team can trace its rebirth to neighbors Robert Lindley, who coaches the Young Guns, and Chandler Whaley.

Whaley didn't grow up in a family immersed in the shooting sports. When the now 15-year-old Pinewood Prep freshman began working toward his Boy Scouts shotgun merit badge, Whaley's mother asked Lindley for some guidance.

Lindley, meanwhile, who with his wife moved to the Summerville area from Texas nine years ago, had been resisting requests from fellow Partridge Creek Gun Club members to coach the youth team that had been defunct for a few years. Lindley already was a certified 4-H shooting instructor from his days in Texas and finally agreed to coach the Young Guns.

The team (pcyoungguns.blogspot.com), comprised of youths ages 9-18 from Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, recently earned awards for second, high overall junior first-year division and first, high overall senior first-year division at the 4-H 50:50 Skeet & Trap event held at Mid-Carolina Gun Club in Orangeburg.

"We started the first year with 12 kids and the program continues to grow, mostly by word of mouth," Lindley said. "We meet at Partridge Creek (partridgecreekgunclub.com) pretty much on a weekly basis and we have an annual calendar of events through the 4-H program."

The Young Guns compete primarily in skeet and trap, but many also compete on Pinewood Prep's sporting clays team.

A skeet competition, said team member Sonny Kay, consists of 25 shots from eight different stations arranged in a semi-circle with the clay targets thrown from low and high houses. In trap, the targets are thrown from an oscillating machine straight in front of the shooter. Scoring is based on 100 targets. Sporting clays is a rather recent addition that tries to simulate hunting experiences.

Kay, 17 and a junior at Pinewood Prep, said he had always been a good shot, doing well when going on dove hunts with his father or throwing targets at their hunting club. He transferred to Pinewood Prep because of the sporting clays team and became involved with the Young Guns because both teams practiced at Partridge Creek Gun Club in Ridgeville.

"When I heard there was a way for me to shoot and compete at the same time. I jumped on it," Kay said. "Sporting clays is not a collegiate sport, but skeet and trap are. I began shooting with the Young Guns, mainly for practice."

Kay said his average score is in the mid-80s (out of 100 targets) and he hopes eventually to make it to the mid-90s.

"Most people my age have been shooting since they were 10 or 11 in the actual sport. I've only been shooting competitively for two years," he said.

Whaley said his average scores range from 75 to 85. Like Kay, he also competes in sporting clays and joined Young Guns for extra shooting practice. Each group generally shoots one day a week at Partridge Creek, which allows the youth to shoot at member rates.

"Things are going really well with the team," Lindley said. "I'm very excited about this season. The parents are very supportive and the kids are enthusiastic. I began coach as a form of giving back to the sport. I've been involved in competition skeet shooting for 37 years now. It's been very fulfilling personally. The kids talk about it at school. Today's social media, networking, that sort of thing helps get the word out."