‘Take the shot you came to make’

35 teams, 360 youth compete in District 6 hunter safety skills tourney

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – more than 1,000 images
* A man down: Missing Jake O’Neill
* District 6 results (when available)
* Tournament official rules
2014 state tournament coverage

MILLSTONE — It was warming up, and seemed hotter than the forecasted high of 70 degrees while standing in the blazing sun on the firing range of the John F. Lentz Hunter Education Complex.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Faith Jarek, of Parkwood Middle School in Union County, fires off her 12-gauge shotgun on Saturday at the John F. Lentz Hunter Education Complex.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Faith Jarek, of Parkwood Middle School in Union County, fires off her 12-gauge shotgun on Saturday at the John F. Lentz Hunter Education Complex.

Kevin Funderburk, though, didn’t flinch. Not when one of his charges from Parkwood Middle School shooting team missed a clay. Not when it was hit, which was more often than not. He was there for them.

“The more kids we can have learn to use guns safely and responsibly, and learn to love the outdoors, the better off we’re gonna be,” Funderburk said while supervising his Union County sharpshooters.

Funderburk switched easily between marking hits or misses from his students on the shotgun range to answering a reporter’s questions. All in a day’s work — albeit unpaid. Funderburk was one of well more than three dozen volunteer coaches in shotgun, rifle, archery and orienteering to help guide some 360 members of 35 teams — 24 high school teams and 11 more middle school or elementary school-level teams — on Saturday at the District 6 Youth Hunter Education Skills Tournament at Millstone 4-H Center in Ellerbe. The 37th annual event was hosted by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The top three teams at each level from each of the nine district tournaments will qualify to compete at the state tournament on April 25, also at Millstone.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Volunteer Clyde Derr, left, helps score the shooting of archer Nic Brown of the South Stanly Middle School Sharpshooters.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Volunteer Clyde Derr, left, helps score the shooting of archer Nic Brown of the South Stanly Middle School Sharpshooters.

Each team of five shooters was allotted four shells at each of the five positions on the range. Twenty shots. It was an all-or-nothing proposition; 10 points for a hit, zero for a miss. Funderburk watched and kept track as Trent Williford, Mitchell Privette, Faith Jarek, Sean Summers and Elijah Funderburk took turns taking aim at blaze-orange clays.

“Pull,” each shooter exclaimed when ready to fire.

There is no money in it for team advisors. In fact, many said they usually shell for costs for ammunition, gun cleaner and other supplies out of their own pockets. Michael Nye, District 6 hunter safety education specialist, said District 6 includes a 10-county area — Mecklenburg, Rowan, Davidson, Cabarrus, Stanly, Montgomery, Moore, Union, Anson and Richmond.

“They do it for the love of it,” Nye said of the volunteer coaches, which include at least a range officer and safety officer per team. Most had additional volunteers, some of them parents of children on the team.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com South Stanly High School coaches and fans eagerly await individual team members' scores on the archery range.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
South Stanly High School coaches and fans eagerly await individual team members’ scores on the archery range.

For the second straight year, there was no team representing Richmond County.

Nye said that’s an area for improvement.

“We’re working on it,” she said. “Officer Sterling Welch is working on (getting a) rifle team. It’s just getting that foot in the door.

Sen. Tom McInnis happened by the statistics compilation center and noted that former Rockingham Principal Julian Carter once spearheaded the effort for Richmond County shooting teams. And they were good, he said. In December, Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman announced Carter’s promotion to executive director of human resources at the district’s central office.

Teams are organized within public and private schools, while home-schooled students and teams representing organizations such as 4-H or FFA also can compete so long as they otherwise meet eligibility criteria.

Archery

Doug Aman, a volunteer coach for the South Stanly Middle School Sharpshooters, gave last bits of advice as his shooters approached. Wildlife Resources Commissioner Officer W.H. Tarpley III for the safety briefing. Aman could go no further; he and his fellow coaches had to stay behind the yellow caution tape.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Montgomery Poules, of the South Stanley Middle School Sharpshooters, prepares to release his arrow.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Montgomery Poules, of the South Stanley Middle School Sharpshooters, prepares to release his arrow.

It was up to the shooters to preach, by bow and arrow, what each member of the team had learned in practice that began in September.

“Take your time,” Aman said. “Control your breathing. Follow through.”

Tarpley echoed Aman’s sentiments and added a few encouraging words of his own.

“This isn’t any different than practice,” Tarpley gently reminded. “Have fun. Take your time. Take the shot you came to make.”

As the walked to the first line — 10 yards out, then 15, 20 and 25 — volunteer range officer Clyde Derr offered final words of wisdom. Shooters had six minutes to fire five arrows from each distance. Don’t rush it.

“You have six minutes,” Derr said, “which is a looooong time.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Wildlife Resources Commissioner Officer W.H. Tarpley III goes over mandatory safety tips.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Wildlife Resources Commissioner Officer W.H. Tarpley III goes over mandatory safety tips.

After team members Montgomery Poules, Nic Brown, Alan Michael Hollis, Justin Byrd and Alexis Faulkner left the range, Aman was able to talk about the effort it took to travel to Millstone and what it takes to be successful.

“It’s repetition,” Aman said. “Kids are just like adults. Some of us are more susceptible to nerves. Some don’t let it affect ’em.”

Still others, he said, “fall apart.”

His team is young — several students graduated and now participate on the high school club.

“They shot like I expected ’em to,” Aman said. “We’re not strong this year.”

Orienteering

It’s too bad the members of the Central Academy for Technology and Arts (CATA) “A” team didn’t get points for efficiency. The standard for the three-leg orienteering competition seemed to be set by the South Stanly High School team, which finished moments earlier in about 10 minutes and 45 seconds.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Kannon Baker, of the Central Academy for Technology and Arts (CATA) "A" team, uses his compass to get his team's bearings.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Kannon Baker, of the Central Academy for Technology and Arts (CATA) “A” team, uses his compass to get his team’s bearings.

Union County’s CATA “A” members — Kannon Baker, Regan Rushing, Faron Laney, Nick Jarek and Matthew Thompson — were ready to go. Anxious, but confidently so. Finally, it was their turn. They marched to the first WRC officer along the single track trail, across the bridge and arrived at for the safety briefing. Then they were instructed to get their pacing between two wooden poles 25 yards. Baker made each team go a second time, then a third, before going any further. Knowing your stride over varying terrain would prove critical to success in this event.

The extra work paid off. The clock began when the Wildlife Resources Commission officer handed the team a compass and a worksheet of three clues. They had less than 12 minutes to figure out out — then be measured for precision — or be penalized five points for each minute over 12.

No cellphone. No digital device whatsoever. In fact, those weren’t even permitted on the other side of the bridge.

7:43. As in Baker called “time” only 7 minutes and 43 seconds into the exercise. Something must have gone wrong. Or every right.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com No cellphones or other digital devices were allowed on the orienteering course.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
No cellphones or other digital devices were allowed on the orienteering course.

“We don’t measure it in front of you,” said Wildlife Enforcement Officer Kyle W. Young, “but I’ll go ahead and tell you, you did a good job.”

In fact, Young and Rupert H. Medford, District 6 wildlife biologist, were prevented from measuring the distance between the team’s flag planted into the ground and the bearing point because CATA “A” team members were standing on it. They were only 2 feet, 10 inches off the mark.

 

Filed in: Education, Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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