RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s more than hitting a bull’s eye. For students participating in the annual Youth Hunter Safety Tournaments, sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, competition goes beyond achievements on the firing range.Scores are based on hunter skills and capability in orienteering, as well as target shooting, whether in archery, rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader. Success depends on decision-making abilities, outdoor knowledge and a keen aim.
Nine district-level tournaments will be held across the state in March, with hundreds of middle school and high school students taking part.
Winning teams will advance to a state tournament on April 22. A national invitational competition takes place in July.
“The goal of the tournaments is creating safety awareness through the competition,” said Capt. Chris Huebner of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Huebner is the hunting and boating safety coordinator for the commission, which includes the Hunter Education program.
“It takes discipline to shoot well,” said Travis Casper of Rocky Mount, a Hunter Education Specialist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “It’s great experience. Unlike football, baseball or sports that take some degree of athletic ability, shooting is something almost anyone can do.”
“We have seen a steady increase in participation with the tournaments across the state,” said Darrin Ball, a Hunter Education Specialist based in Horse Shoe. “We have actually doubled participation in this district in the past couple of years.”
Several tournaments consistently welcome more than 100 competitors and a few hundred spectators each year. A few tournaments are starting to edge toward 1,000 in overall attendance.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission launched the tournaments more than 25 years ago as a way to promote hunter education and firearms safety. Participants learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and develop skills and confidence.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Hunter Education program promotes the safe handling of firearms and archery equipment for everyone. Hunter education has been taught in North Carolina since 1960, and is a requirement for novice hunters to obtain a hunting license.
2006 District Tournament Schedule
* District 1 (north coastal) – March 25, Eastern 4-H Environmental Center, Columbia
* District 2 (mid-coastal) – March 23, Kinston Police Range, Kinston
* District 3 (east Piedmont) – March 11, Camp Tuscarora, near Bentonville
* District 4 (south coastal) – March 16, Coharie Shooting Range, near Clinton
* District 5 (central Piedmont) – March 25, Alamance Wildlife Club, Graham
* District 6 (west Piedmont) – March 18, Rowan County Wildlife Association, Salisbury
* District 7 (north mountain) – March 18, Camp Harrison at Herring Ridge, Boomer
* District 8 (central mountain) March 18, Catawba Valley Wildlife Club, Vale
* District 9 (west mountain) – March 18, Polk County Gun Club, Columbus
The state tournament will be held April 22, at 4-H Camp Millstone in Richmond County, near Ellerbe.
The national tournament, the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, will be held July 24-28 at Mill Cove Environmental Area, Mansfield University in Pennsylvania.
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