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The five seniors on the Hudson High School Rod and Gun team are, front to back, Josh Mattis, Tavis Foust, Zach Lohman, Mat Lohman and Drake Thoemke. Photo by Rebecca Rudolph

Hudson High School Rod and Gun Club shoots to state competition

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The Hudson High School Rod and Gun Club will take 12 students to state this weekend after starting one year ago.

The 36-member club started last year when Rick Persinger, president of the Hudson Rod, Gun and Archery Club, noticed his son's and his son's friends' growing interests in shooting.

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"After that it snowballed," he said.

This year, the club had the highest conference standings in Varsity and Junior Varsity, which, after being together one year, Persinger said was, "pretty darn good."

When the team goes to state, the club members will be competing individually, but also as a team and as a squad, said Persinger. He calls it a "multifaceted" sport for this reason.

While the obvious goal is to teach the high school students how to shoot confidently, "It's one of the top priorities to make sure everyone is safe here," said Teal Persinger, an assistant coach for the club.

In the outline of the club, safety rules extend from the types of clothing students are told to wear, to requiring hearing and eye protection when they practice, to completing hunter's safety before they join the club.

With these safety measures in place the club has been injury free, which Rick Persinger said was unique to high school sports.

"Whereas a lot of other high school sports have a lot of injury rates," he said, "as far as I know in Wisconsin, in the last 8, 10, 15 years, there have been no accidents."

Tom Hellmers is a school psychologist at Hudson High School and the school liaison for the club.

"My thought going into this is that we have a lot of activities what I consider athletes and artistic people," he said. "This is a group of kids that don't really fit that mold"

He said that he has not heard any concerns about allowing students to shoot guns from parents or faculty. Instead, he said Principal Laura Love has "been a great supporter of us."

"I think once they find out were trying to teach and reinforce the safety part of it too," he said, "they're pretty comfortable with it."

"I've had nothing but positive experiences," said Matt Pasche, a parent of a club member.

"(You) see on the news people are doing really irresponsible things and falling off the deep end and taking innocent people with them," he said, which he said only creates more of a reason to have clubs like this, so stereotypes can be removed.

Pasche said his son was learning skills beyond just how to shoot a gun.

"The real world application is kind of sobering for them," he said, comparing shooting in video games to shooting in reality.

He said when his son, Jack Pasche, first started he would get discouraged because he was not good at it right away, which taught him dedication.

"It's an applied skill," Matt Pasche said, "and you really have to work at it to become proficient at it."

"It's fun," Jack Pasche said. "It's a fun experience, you get to meet new people, and it's a fun way to get out of the house."

Pasche was ranked 16 on the Intermediate level of the conference leaderboard.

Nikki Meyer said she has noticed her two sons change since they joined as well.

"Their attitudes have changed a lot. They're very positive towards each other," she said.

Meyer added that it was good because, as being two boys, that did not always happen.

Of the 36 members, two of them are girls, and "of our top five squad members, one of them is the gal," he said.

That gal's father is an assistant coach, and Briana Cravens said that was how she got involved in the club.

"I've learned more about my weapon," she said, "how to carry more responsibly, how to shoot more responsibly."

Cravens, along with Hunter Ellstrom, Sawyer Massie, Riley Meyer, Jake Zillmer, Nick Persinger, Bradyn Lundquist, Reed Meyer, Jordan Persinger, Will Gavic, Luke Holden, Cody Anderson, Andrew Johnson, RJ Schultz, Austin Vizenar, Matthew Lohman, Zachary Lohman, Conor Dougherty, Tavis Foust and Drake Thoemke will be going to state.

"I think you should come out and experience what the kids are doing," said Meyer, "see what they're doing and see how the coaches interact with them individually, as a team. Gun safety- that's what it's all about."

Persinger said he would be "happy to work with any kids that haven't shot," and that they do not need to provide their own gun right away. He has access to youth guns for students to "get fitted correctly" before they buy their own.

What is required is that when they join the club, is that they volunteer in the club house. By volunteering around four or five hours a week, Persinger said, they do not need to pay membership fees to shoot during practice.

Another expense when shooting is ammunition, but Persinger said he teaches students how to use the reloading press he said, so "instead of $5, $6, $7 a box, its only $3.50 if they reload and put a little time into it."

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