Three Junior Canadian Rangers from North Vancouver Island competed in the annual Junior Ranger national marksmanship championship.
Junior Rangers Braedon van Gorkom, 17, of Port McNeill, and Ezra Braun, 17, and Austin Miner, 16, both from Port Hardy, didn’t win any medals but competed well against the best Junior Ranger shooters from across Canada and bring home some remarkable memories from an exciting trip.
They competed with Junior Rangers from seven provinces and all three northern territories.
The Junior Rangers are a culturally appropriate Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the North. All the contestants came from small communities, including three from the tiny Inuvialuit community of Sachs Harbour in the High Arctic which has a population of just over 100.
A total of 63 Junior Rangers competed in the annual event which was held in the Lincoln and Welland Regiment armoury in St.Catharines. They shot with Daisy air rifles on a 10-metre range at a variety of targets, including paper, clay, falling plates, and one contest that employed digital targets.
“I’ve enjoyed the shooting and I like shooting because it teaches discipline and things like hand and eye co-ordination,” said Junior Ranger van Gorkom. “But it’s been really cool meeting people from all over Canada. It’s been interesting. When you talk with them every province and territory seems to have its own feel and culture. It’s been a lot of fun competing against them and talking with them.”
He does not hunt unlike most of the contestants who use regular firearms to harvest wildlife and prefer shooting with them compared to the Daisy air rifle used in the competition. But the Daisy air rifle is a useful tool that can be used to teach firearms safety and can be fired safely indoors, said Captain John McNeil, the army officer in charge of the competition. “The principles of marksmanship are the same whether it’s a Daisy air rifle, a .22 (calibre), or a larger calibre. The more you can shoot the better and more comfortable you feel shooting. We stress safety.”
The annual contest is held in different parts of Canada and St. Catharines was selected this year because of its proximity to Niagara Falls. “Seeing the Falls and being so close to the United States, which they can see, has been an exhilarating experience for the (Junior Rangers),” Captain McNeil said. “They are ecstatic about being able to go to a movie theatre, a restaurant, and the attractions on the Clilfton Street Hill.”
Junior Ranger Gorkom had never seen the Falls before but he was impressed when he saw them. “They are amazing,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say at the moment. But I am very glad to be here.”
The championship had a surprise winner, Junior Ranger Eden Dulac who, at 12, was the youngest of the competitors.
She beat her brother, Joshua, the second highest scorer, who, at 18, was one of the oldest shooters. They travelled the furthest to get to the contest. Their home in Haines Junction, Yukon, is 4,250 kilometres from St. Catharines.
– Submitted by Sergeant Peter Moon, public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden