Hannah Persell shoots like a girl. And that’s just fine. After all, the Trenton, Missouri senior is a four-time place holder in the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships.
“Many people may just think you’re shooting, what’s so hard about that?” Persell said. “But just like anything, there are many technicalities that go into the sport.”
Persell’s intense love for the outdoors stems from her mother, who has worked for Missouri State Parks since 1994. Persell also shares her father’s passion for hunting. As soon as she could walk, Persell would be up in the tree stand to hunt with her parents. Her favorite Christmas presents at age 7: a deer rifle, a bow, and a treestand. It didn’t’ take long for Persell to learn how to shoot. She killed her first deer at the age of 8.
Once of age, Persell was determined to try out for the compound archery team in the fall, but hit some bumps in the road … breaking her arm just a few months before archery tryouts, without enough time to recover. Not being able to shoot archery Persell broadened her horizons, and successfully made the Hunting and Outdoors Skills team, attending the National 4-H shooting Sports Championships for the first time in 2014.
“At the time breaking my arm, it seemed like the end of the world, however looking back now it was the start of my true passion for shooting sports,” Persell said. “This was a complete turning point for me … that summer at nationals was one of the best experiences that I had ever had.”
She ended up taking second place overall individual and first place overall team that year in the Hunting and Outdoors Skills discipline. Persell believes her true drive in shooting sports has come from her own personal goal to make a new state team each year to return to the National Championships. To make a state team after attending nationals, you can never return in the same discipline. In order for Persell to continue going to nationals, she had to try out some new shots. And Persell made her targets.
The 17-year-old was on the 2015 Small Bore Rifle fifth place overall team, the 2016 Muzzleloader first place overall team, and the 2017 Recurve Archery first place every day and overall team.
“After being part of a state team four years in a row, I would say my teammates have always provided me with the rest of my drive and pushed me to do better,” Persell said. “Just like any sports team, of course you want to perform well individually, but at the end of the day you want your team to do just as well, never wanting to let them down.”
Her biggest challenge though has been finding time to practice. An active member in both 4-H and FFA, she often attends many camps and leadership trainings throughout the summer. But the 4-H Club President and FFA 2017 Chapter 1st Vice President says by being involved in those organizations, it has made her a much more well-rounded agvocate.
“Without 4-H, I probably would have never began competing in shooting sports,” Persell said. “Not only has 4-H helped me to grow my talent, it has also gave me many opportunities to share my experiences and teach others to appreciate the sport.”
Last summer, Persell was selected to attend the National 4-H Shooting Sports Leadership Institute to be trained as a National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador. Besides serving at the state and national level as an ambassador, she helps out at county shooting sports practices, giving suggestions and words of encouragement.
As far as FFA goes, Persell said the organization has built on the foundation 4-H has given her.
“Many only relate agriculture to both 4-H and FFA, and look past all of the opportunities that the two organizations provide,” Persell said. “These organizations have built me into the person I am today teaching me life lessons, improving my public speaking and communication skills, allowing me to network with people and industry leaders across the nation, and most of all allowing me to learn who I am, and giving me a strong background preparing me to pursue a career in the future.”
Persell, who has never lived on a farm, hopes to pursue either an ag business, ag communications, or ag education leadership degree. While she is not completely decided on a major, she knows she wants to serve as an advocate for the agricultural industry.
“Due to being involved in shooting sports, and having a love for both the outdoors and agriculture, I believe that I have a very unique opportunity as an advocate … many people, even those in 4-H and FFA don’t know about these additional opportunities as showing livestock is something very popular in the two organizations,” Persell said. “I believe that talking from the perspective of one that has only shown horses (for a short period of time) I can send a different message as the organizations mean so much more than showing to me.”
That open-minded attitude has also helped Persell excel in the sport.
“Shooting sports really is a mental game, and the first step to being successful is to have the right attitude. Throughout the years, I have met many people and coaches through the sport, and from each coach you will learn something new, as every person shoots just a little different,” Persell said. “My secret has been to listen to each person along the way absorbing their information, testing it, and seeing what works best for me.”
Not every suggestion helps, but by taking the time to try something new, Persell has become a jack of many trades.
“My major piece of advice to any young person is to just try it, but like any sport, you can’t expect to master it in the first shot,” Persell said. “Shooting sports takes practice, but is a lot of fun, and I truly believe you are always going to shoot your best while you are having fun and enjoying yourself rather than focusing to the point where you are stressing yourself out.”
Persell it’s also important for young shooters to remember you go through competitions one shot at a time.
“Once you make a shot you can’t take it back, so you just make the next one better,” Persell said.
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