Success for SCI resounded with every gunshot, as youth flocked to participate in the fifteenth annual “Ray Day” on June 4th. The carnival style event with themed sporting clay shooting stations, educational training sessions, bounce house, barbecue and more, made for lasting memories for over 225 youth.
Birds Landing, a top-notch facility hunting preserve for sporting clays and upland game, seated in the town of the same name in a rural region of California’s Bay Area, hosted the event. Ray Day is free and open to the public for participants ages three to seventeen. Forty-eight dedicated volunteers manned different booths, tables, and stations. These volunteers were known as “mentors,” because they poured their experience into the youth. There were many female youth participants, and an encouraging number of women in total, fulfilling SCI’s mission to involve women. The volunteers were pleased to see families interacting with each other and enjoying fellowship. Those with special needs were also accommodated. Safari Club International’s Sacramento chapter, Sacramento Safari Club (SSC) sponsored the event, along with the Clays For Kids Board and Volunteers.
The day was sunny and clear. Bright orange clays zipped through the blue sky and were shattered by the shots of future hunters, conservationists and SCI members. Chip Anderson, President of Clays for Kids, shared his dedication to youth shooters and his appreciation for SCI saying, “The goal of Ray Day is to expose youth in a safe environment to shotgun shooting and outdoor sports. SCI, specifically the Sacramento chapter, gives their time, effort, and money, and makes this event a success.”
After registration, the youth entered the marvelous new world of outdoor sports as they received a goodie-bag, selected a free t-shirt with the SCI and Ray Day logo, perused the Sensory Safari booth, and sat for a thorough training session on firearm safety. It was delightful to see little children raise their hands with enthusiasm and confidence, interested to learn about firearm safety. Kids were taught to think and adapt to various situations as they were shown how to clear a shotgun, and questioned about what direction to point a firearm.
After the safety session, participants were classified based on age, experience and skill level. Families then rotated through the sporting clays courses designed for the youth shooters’ individual skill levels. California Waterfowl Association, a proud sponsor of the event, hosted educational booths on ducks and taught kids to use duck calls. CWA’s Heritage Program Supervisor George Oberstadt expressed his appreciation for SCI’s sponsorship and leadership. Berkley Fishing mentors hauled in a bass boat and taught the children the proper technique of casting in a fun fishing game. Young children not old enough to use shotguns were provided air guns to snipe fixed clay targets on a close-range wall. The little shooters received immediate gratification and encouragement as they kept the “trophy” of a bright orange broken clay.
Additionally, bows and arrows were provided to kids on an archery course. The event mentors made sure everyone stayed safe while operating firearms. With the theme of “safety first,” eye and ear protection was provided to every participant. Each child operating a shotgun received direct hands-on instruction. In such a safe and fun environment, participants enjoyed the challenge of filling their scorecards with check marks for clay targets they hit. At the sporting clay shooting stations various shotguns were available for each young shooter on deck, from .410 bore to 12 gauge, with plenty in between! Shooters could also choose different types of shotguns, including break-action, pump, and semi-auto (my favorite). I laughed that some kids marveled at the “cutting edge/modern” technology that a semiauto reloads itself using the force of the previous shot, even though they have smartphones that can send a video to someone on the other side of the planet. Just like a carnival, different shooting stations had special themes. In the “What’s that bird” game, kids had to identify the color of the clay targets thrown into the air before they shot them, teaching them a skill essential to bird hunting. Green! POW! Orange! POW! Kids lit up with excitement at the challenge. I seized the opportunity to blast some clays myself. Like Craig Boddington, I love trying out various gauges, calibers, and styles of guns, and
I absolutely loved using a 28 gauge for the first time! An exciting exhibition shoot drew a large crowd as PSCA champion clay shooter Alex Wampler shot an array of targets, from watermelons to pressurized whipped cream. Children cheered and shouted as the mist of blasted water balloons swept through the crowd.
Ray Day participants worked up an appetite with all the activities; hot dogs were fresh off the barbecue! The day ended with closing remarks and an exciting raffle. I’m sure Ray Yater, the man after whom the event is named, would be very proud to see his legacy impact so many children by giving them the day of a lifetime. Before he passed away in 2002, Ray asked that donations be made in his name to Clays for Kids to ensure that the sport he loved could continue through the next generation. Introducing so many youths to the exciting world of shooting, sportsmanship and conservation is an awesome SCI success story! As the blasts of shotguns, countless broken clays and kids’ smiles and thank you’s would attest, Ray Day was a resounding success!