Dakota Larimore-Lamb

Piatt County 4-H member Dakota Larimore-Lamb, above, competed in the shotgun competition at the 4-H National Shooting Sports Championship in June.

Dakota Larimore-Lamb represented Piatt County 4-H shooting sports at the 4-H National Championship held in Grand Island, Neb., in June.

Dokota, 18, has been a member of 4-H shooting sports since he was 8 and his decade of practice paid off when he placed fourth in the Illinois 4-H shooting finals and earned a place on the Illinois 4-H Shotgun team and trip to nationals.

The shotgun competitors from Illinois had their strongest showing in the trap field on the third day of the event. Illinois’ three-person team finished 13th out of 30 trap shotgun teams. Dakota finished 72nd in trap. “That speaks to the caliber of participants at this national contest,” said University of Illinois Extension 4-H Shooting Sports Specialist Curt Sinclair.

Dakota, his parents Tom Lamb and Paula McDermith, and aunt drove the 647 miles to Nebraska. There, he would compete against 4-H members from 36 states from June 23 to 28. On Sunday June 23, the Illinois team coach Bill Peterson showed them around and Monday they practiced on the course. Tuesday was the start of competition with sporting clays. On Wednesday, Dakota tried his hand at skeet, but Thursday was his favorite – trap shooting.

In competitive trap shooting, clay pigeon targets are launched away from the shooter. “You got to be really quick,” Dakota said. “You only have a few seconds to shoot.”

In practice and at the state level, Dakota was used to hitting the targets almost every time, but this course was humbling and he was frustrated. But Peterson confirmed that this range was one of the most difficult in the country and nationals were also an opportunity for learning. Other 4-H shooters and coaches gave him pointers about starting in different positions and know where to look for targets.

Dakota has been working with his coach Tom Bates since he starting in the shooting sports program at the age of 8. “He can tell you what you’re doing wrong because he’s done it before,” Dakota said.

At first, Dakota did archery and air rifle and he graduated to shotgun when he turned 10. From the start, Dakota’s father Tom Lamb said the 4-H shoot sports program has emphasized the fundamentals and safety, revisiting them at every practice.

“It’s one of the safest programs there is, they go over safety every day,” Lamb said.

Piatt County 4-H Shooting Sports practice at the Lake Fork Sportsman Club in Atwood twice a month. “Nobody’s out shot him there,” Lamb said.

As his own skills grew, Dakota also passed his knowledge on by giving pointers to younger 4-H members. Looking ahead, Dakota will continue shooting trap in his senior year on the Bement High School team. Last year, he qualified for the high school nationals in Michigan, but opted to go to the 4-H nationals instead. He hopes to qualify for nationals again in 2020.

When asked what he was going to miss about 4-H, Dakota grinned and had a simple answer. “Breaking targets.”