Our Appleseed Experience

By Aaron Kirkingburg

I awoke early in the morning, most of the gear already loaded in the truck. It would be an hour and a half drive down to Athens County Fish and Game where our first Appleseed experience awaited. I woke my oldest daughter, who would be with me on the firing line for the weekend. She prepared for the ride with stoic anticipation. We had only the vaguest idea what we were in for that first day, but looked forward to every minute of it, if for no other reason than this would be a weekend that father and daughter would spend together on the range.

As I drove in the pre-dawn light down the twisted curvy roads that carve their way through the Hocking Hills, my thoughts were on the rifle instruction we would receive that day, and whether my skills would be honed enough over the course of this weekend to earn the coveted "Rifleman" patch. Would my daughter enjoy herself enough that first day to willingly participate the second? I wished more of my family had been able to come along, but glad I would be sharing the time with my daughter and my cousin who was meeting us there. What will this place be like? How will the people be? Is it going to live up to my expectations?

We arrived at a 270-acre sportsman's club nestled into the Hills of Southern Ohio. Athens County Fish and Game had a "well kept" appearance, with a tidy little clubhouse, and out-buildings. As I scanned the grounds, there were areas set up for long-distance shooters, clay pigeons, pistol, and archery - all with a camping area within walking distance. Entering the clubhouse, we encountered a warm welcome, smiling faces, and a hot home-cooked breakfast. After signing in and meeting a few people, we took our gear down to the firing line and picked a spot for our shooting mats. Following breakfast, we were introduced to the Appleseed staff and given a short briefing on the facility and range rules.

At approximately 9:30 am, our instruction started in earnest. Round after round was sent downrange between very well presented material on various shooting positions and the proper use of a sling in each of them. Proper sight alignment, sight picture, position, form, and adjustments thereof were illustrated and modeled by IIT's (Instructors In Training) or "Orange Hats" under the supervision of the Shoot Boss or "Red Hat". It was a fast-paced instruction with our own rifles - whatever we brought. I chose to put my AR-15 through its paces, and my daughter used a 10/22 we borrowed for the occasion.

At lunch time, we not only enjoyed the company of quite a few firearms enthusiasts eager to improve their rifle skills, but got some oral history as well. Each meal included a recitation of some historically accurate details from our nation's founding and those individuals who played important (although sometimes obscure) roles in that critical time period. Back to the range for more instruction, more oral history, more information to absorb. The end of the first day seemed to come much too early. Surely it couldn't be time for the evening meal already! Fine food was served up with more oral history, and good conversation. Many people went home, but some of us stayed and camped. Great fellowship followed at the evening campfire.

Morning came early, and the firing line beckoned. A brief reminder of range safety rules and we again found ourselves on the line sending rounds down-range. The anticipation was palpable as we worked our way to the "Qualification" time. Some quick refreshers on certain points from the previous day's instruction and a few warm-up targets brought us to our first "AQT" (Army Qualification Test)! Then our second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. - standing, standing to sitting, standing to prone, prone, like a rifleman's workout. All the while my 11 year-old daughter stood by my side, with great determination, using all the skills she had learned the day before. A few additional tips and an exercise in teamwork - all punctuated by fine meals and more oral history, brought our Appleseed adventure to a close. The information and skills taught at an Appleseed event are both valuable and enjoyable. And though I did not shoot a Rifleman's score my first time out, I look forward to my next opportunity to try!

The April 17-18 Appleseed shoots that took place around the country had an additional significance. April 18th-19th, 1775, was the date of Paul Revere's famous ride, along with the subsequent battles at Concord and Lexington. The seed of our great nation's sovereignty had been carried around in the hearts and
minds of many, and on that date in history, was finally planted. In celebration of this important date, over 2,500 riflemen fired a 13-round volley simultaneously, at Appleseeds across the nation. In excess of 32,500 rounds were sent down range from a combined firing line over 3 miles long - a salute to those brave men and women who sacrificed all they knew for a future they would never
see, and a country they would never know. I wonder how many will join in that salute next year.

Appleseed was founded in 2006, and holds events all across the nation. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people have had the "Appleseed Experience" to date. There are 10 different ranges in Ohio alone where someone can find their own Appleseed Experience. I want to thank all the instructors and volunteers...DryFire, Goldfish, Lyberty, Nurse Ratchet, RPD, Rimfire, Ishy, Green Light, George, Red Nek Engineer (if I forgot anyone I'm sorry) who helped make our time at the Athens Appleseed a thoroughly enjoyable experience. My daughter is ready to go any time - and I can't wait to visit my newly found friends again.

For more information on the Appleseed Project visit: http://appleseedinfo.org/
and don't forget to sign up for their newsletter.

Aaron Kirkingburg is a NRA Certified Instructor (CCW, PPITH, RSO), a NRA Life Member, and a Buckeye Firearms Assoc. Minuteman.

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