Trenton Lawrence crouched low to the ground, resting his elbow on his knee.
The 12-year-old held a .22-caliber single-shot rifle across his chest, squinting in concentration as a steady rain fell around him.
His first shot hit one of the orange metal targets on the grass in front of him. A few seconds later, his next round hit the same target.
Trenton had never shot a rifle until that moment.
He and his friend Matt Beron, also 12, had plenty of target practice with an Airsoft gun, but when they approached Division of Wildlife Officer Jon Wangnild on Saturday at the annual “Cast ‘n Blast” event in Axial Basin, they were both wide-eyed with excitement.
After a brief tutorial on safety and a few pointers, each of the boys took aim.
“You’re a dead-eye,” Wangnild exclaimed. “You guys have had a lot of practice with those Airsoft guns, I guess.”
After they had each hit several targets, there were shouts of “Yeah” and high-fives, an indication that the event had been a success for Trenton and Matt.
The annual event, sponsored by the DOW along with other partnering agencies, is an opportunity to introduce children and families to outdoor sports like shooting and fishing, DOW officer Mike Bauman said.
“It’s a good exposure for the kids,” Bauman said. “This year, we expanded it to families because outdoor sports should be family-oriented. It’s a chance for them to have fun, and maybe the kids will enjoy the outdoor sports.”
The Safari Club International and Northwest Colorado Outfitters Chapter also supported the free event.
Despite rain and cool weather, 15 families attended.
“This is fun,” Trenton said. “You get to learn how to shoot and fish. We’re going to do the shotguns next.”
A mile down the road from the shooting range, the weather made the “cast” aspect of “Cast ‘n Blast” a success.
Children and adults alike were pulling rainbow trout from the Perch Pond left and right.
Justin Olsen, a DOW district wildlife manager, said the fish tend to feed in the rain.
“Rain knocks the bugs into the water,” Olsen said. “We couldn’t have timed this better. Usually at these events, you get one fish all day.”
The DOW stocked the pond with 800 fish before the event, giving them time to adapt to their new environment and build up an appetite for the worms that would be cast their way.
Six-year-old Sydney Boyd, of Rifle, traveled to the event with her brother, sister, parents and neighbors.
Just after 1 p.m., she felt a tug on her line, and yelled for her mother, Tracy.
Shrieking and giggling, she ran from the bank and watched as her mother reeled in the trout.
“I ran because I was scared,” she said.
But soon, she was holding her line as the fish flopped in the cool air.
Tracy said the family would be eating rainbow trout for dinner. Sydney had other ideas.
“I want to take it home as a pet,” she said.
For Tracy, the event was ideal for a family just getting started in outdoor activities.
“My kids haven’t been around shooting a lot,” she said. “Me and my husband are just starting to get into it. They loved it today; they were like, ‘Sweet.’
“This is a great program, and a great opportunity.”