Shooting has been a lifelong passion for 12-year-old Hayden Michalk, who became fascinated with the sport as a 5-year-old sitting with his parents in duck blinds.
This week, at a statewide shotgun shooting competition in San Antonio, he’s competing against other children who share the same passion.
“It’s one of my favorite things because I love shooting guns,” Hayden said. “I want to feel the experience of shooting clays.”
This year is Hayden’s third to compete in the 2019 Texas 4-H Shooting Sports State Games but his first in the intermediate division. Thirteen of this year’s almost 800 competitors, including Hayden, are from Victoria.
Shelly Olguin, leader of the Victoria County 4-H Shotgun Club, is with them in San Antonio. She said this annual event is the culmination of the year-round work they put into the sport.
“For state, the kids who are in it for the competition – they want to compete,” Olguin said.
Events at the state competition this week take place between Tuesday and Saturday across six categories: sporting clays, whiz-bang, trap, skeet, modified trap and international skeet. Hayden’s mother, Meghan Villarreal, 38, said her son will compete in all categories but that his favorites are sport clays, skeet and modified trap.
Hayden also competes in football and baseball. Although he’s also tried his hand at rifle shooting, he said he feels different and less connected to the gun than when he shoots with a shotgun.
“Shooting shotgun is different because with rifle you have to squat and get on your knees and belly – there’s so many things you have to practice,” Hayden said.
For some, such as 17-year-old Will Lau, competing can have high-dollar stakes. At the 2018 San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo, he and two other Victoria County 4-H members won $10,000 scholarships for team trap shooting. Will doesn’t know yet which school he will attend after graduating next year, but, even if it doesn’t offer shooting, he said he’ll find a way to keep practicing with his gun.
Olguin said she became involved with the local chapter of 4-H, a national network of youth mentoring and development organizations, after enrolling her two sons in the program at ages 10 and 12. They were both members of the shotgun club, and her younger son, who is now 17, has a year left to shoot with them. Next year, he’ll be a senior in high school.
She said she loves leading the 4-H Shotgun Club because of its strong community bond.
“It’s one big family,” Olguin said. “It’s not just, ‘My kids shoot with my family, and your kids shoot with your family.’”
Even after her son leaves home, Olguin said she and her husband will continue to support the 4-H club’s shooters.
“It does become such a part of you,” Olguin said.