4-H'ers compete in outdoor skills

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Brooke Walker, 16, of Webster Parish, examines animal pelts during a wildlife ID test. The test was part of the outdoor skills competition held during the Louisiana 4-H North Regional shooting sports contest at the Long Range Gun Club near Frierson. More than 900 4-H youth competed at the event with qualifiers advancing to the state finals held April 20-24 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. (Photo by Craig Gautreaux)

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Dakota Puckett, 16, of Webster Parish, takes aim during the bow competition of the outdoor skills challenge held during the Louisiana 4-H North Regional shooting sports contest at the Long Range Gun Club near Frierson. The five components of the outdoor skills challenge were a wildlife ID test, shooting a bow, shotgun and rifle, and an orienteering test. (Photo by Craig Gautreaux)

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Jonathan Barker, 10, of Union Parish, takes aim at clay targets thrown by Eric Spencer, a parent volunteer from LaSalle Parish. Barker was one of more than 900 4-H youth competing at the Louisiana 4-H North Regional shooting sports contest held at the Long Range Gun Club near Frierson. Competitors were attempting to qualify for the state shoot that will be held April 20-24 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. (Photo by Craig Gautreaux)

(03/31/16) FRIERSON, La. – Arrows flew, clay targets were busted; and written tests were taken—all part of the 4-H North Louisiana region outdoor skills competition held March 23-26.

The event, held at the Long Range Gun Club, had more than 900 4-H’ers participate. The number of participants shows how popular the program has become for Louisiana youth, according to David Boldt, LSU AgCenter 4-H shooting sports coordinator.

“We’re probably at about 5,000 to 6,000 kids that are involved with it. As far as competition, which is coming to the two regionals, we are close to 2,000,” Boldt said.

One of the big draws of the 4-H outdoor skills program is it is an activity involving the entire family. “As you can see if you walked around, they have tents set up. They’re cooking. It’s really family oriented. You’ll see all family members come out, and they will do it all day,” Boldt said.

Benny Bell, an agricultural education teacher at Ebarb High School in Sabine Parish, sees the program as an opportunity for students who are not involved in traditional extra-curricular activities such as football, softball or track.

“I pick kids that don’t compete in other sports. It’s an outlet for them that they might not have otherwise,” Bell said.

Just like traditional sports, Bell said the students practice at least once a week. Bell has had six students advance to the national finals held annually in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Both Bell and Boldt emphasized that safety is paramount.

“All of the kids competing here have to go through hunter education to get their card in order to participate in shooting sports. Safety is our No. 1 priority. We want the kids to have fun, but we want to be safe,” Boldt said.

The competition lasted four days, and Boldt said putting on an event this large could not be accomplished without a large contingent of volunteers, many of them parents.

Carla Jinks, a parent volunteer from Bienville Parish, was taking vacation time to help coach members competing from her parish.

“We give such an investment into the other children in our school and our parish, and we want to see them do well and support them. So, we take our vacation day to come out and be with them,” she said.

Nan Arthur, an AgCenter4-H agent in Sabine Parish, was playing the role of both volunteer and parent. Her son, Conner, was competing in the outdoor skills program and the modified trap shooting contest.

She said the program has taught her son responsibility.

“He is responsible for getting all of the equipment he will need over the entire competition together and packing it. It also teaches sportsmanship and being disciplined,” Arthur said.

Conner normally practices shooting his bow or shotgun every day, and the Sabine Parish team typically has organized practices twice a week, she said.

Arthur said there are about 12 parent volunteers in Sabine Parish. The volunteers provide adult supervision at competitions and practice.

Some of 4-H’ers competed in an outdoor skills competition that included a wildlife ID test, shooting a bow, rifle and shotgun, and an orienteering component.

Stone Adair, 13, of Sabine Parish, prefers shooting a bow.

“It takes a lot more practice. When you hit it, it makes it feel like you accomplished something,” Adair said.

On the first day of competition, participants had to deal with a steady 15-mph wind with gusts approaching 25 mph. The wind made hitting the targets challenging.

“It’s more difficult on a windy day like today, and it can be real nerve-wracking. I was really nervous at first,” said Savannah Hood, 18, a shooter from Bienville Parish.

Hood said she was OK with her performance, given the conditions, but she enjoys the competition.

“You get to spend the day with everybody that loves to do the same thing as you, and you get to have fun with your friends,” she said.

Individuals who qualified for the state finals will compete April 20-24 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

5/11/2016 3:16:33 PM
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