LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (news release) — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has canceled the upcoming season of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program due to concerns stemming from the current coronavirus status in the United States. All regional shoots, as well as the 2020 AYSSP State Championship, have been canceled.
Grant Tomlin, assistant chief of shooting sports programs for the AGFC, says the call was hard to make but follows the best practices set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Governor Asa Hutchinson to suspend any activity where 10 or more people gather for the foreseeable future.
“The last thing we want to do is cancel these events, but the health of our coaches, participants and their families is our top priority,” Tomlin said. “We’ve always prided ourselves in placing safety above all else in the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, and this decision is no different.”
Nearly 6,000 students participate in AYSSP tournaments each year, learning proper firearms handling skills as well as an increased appreciation for the shooting sports. This would have been the 15th season of the program, which has been a part of the lives of more than 70,000 youths and their coaches during its establishment.
In a letter addressed to students and coaches, Tomlin expressed his most sincere apologies and hope for next year:
“We will get through this difficult time and AYSSP will be back next year. To those seniors who have lost their final season, we are sorry. We know that you are missing out on so much of your senior year experience and our hearts go out to you. We hope you have enjoyed your time in AYSSP and we wish you the best in your future, whatever path you choose…To our younger shooters, we look forward to seeing you next year. We hope you use this time to keep practicing and improving your skills.”
Although AYSSP is canceled, students still are encouraged to enjoy Arkansas’s outdoors. Fishing is largely unaffected by the current situation, and the youth hunt for turkey season is April 11-12. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound even in the absence of AYSSP.