Davie youth hunting skills team wins state title

Published 10:08 am Monday, February 5, 2024

Tom Cowden Youth Shooting Sports hosted the 2024 North Carolina 4-H Hunting Skills Tournament on Jan. 27, the fourth year the Davie group has hosted.

This eighth year of the tournament had the biggest turnout since pre-Covid. Participants representing counties and 4H clubs across the state – from as far east as Pitt and as far west as Madison counties. This year also featured a partnership with NRA YHEC (Youth Hunter Education Challenge) and was a “Local YHEC Event as well as 4-H.

The kids competed in six hunting related challenges including 3D Archery where they shot from an elevated stand, a blind and from the ground at life-size 3D Targets.

In rifle competition, participants shot .22 rifles at life-size paper targets of small game animals at distances out to 75 yards.

For the shotgun challenge, they shot 5-Stand using multiple traps set up to throw targets that represent upland birds, waterfowl and rabbits.

They also had a Wildlife ID Challenge using skulls, hides, wings etc. from game and fur bearing animals found in NC.

On a Hunting Knowledge and Skills trail, they were required to use a compass, estimate distance and answer questions about deer, turkey, small game, waterfowl, predator and varmint hunting in NC and a Hunter Decision Making Challenge where they were shown pictures of hunting scenes and had to decide quickly whether they should “Shoot” or “Don’t Shoot” and if it was Don’t Shoot” they had to explain why based on game laws, safety or ethics.

The rain held off until the awards, and the temperature wasn’t bad for January, the highest in several years.

“The kids did great, I think a good time was had by all and sportsmanship was at its best as it typically is with 4-H kids and parents,” said Nelson Cowden.

There were two divisions, Juniors (ages 8-13) and Seniors (ages 14-18).

In the Junior Division, the top team was the Henderson County “Skillet Likkers” with Connor Smith, Sadie Eatmon, Zane Capps and Isaac Wilkie. The Randolph “Snipers” finished second, with Blake Hinshaw, Elijah Kidd, Eli Garner and Nate Price. The Bronze Medal Team was The Davie. “Junior Hunters” with Peter Redelsheimer, Brendon Myers and Colton Lockard.

The Junior Individual Medalists (HOAs) were: Clay Justice with Gold, Isaac Wilkie with Silver, both from Henderson County. Elijah Kidd from Randolph finished third. Clay Justice had the second highest overall score for either division. He also had the top shotgun score and tied for the top archery score for the da.

In the Senior Division, The Davie “Senior Hunters” took top honors with members Riley Barnes, Brantlee Evans, Reece Long and Maddox Nifong. The Randolph =“Sharpshooters” finished second with Riley Clapp, Carissa Gaines and JJ Foland. Third place was Pitt County with Elijah Green, Declan Mullen and Gabe Stiles.

All three Senior HOA medalists were from the Davie County 4-H Shooting Sports Club, with Reece Long winning gold, Brook Lockard, silver and Maddox Nifong with the bronze. Reece had a overall score of 553 points out of a possible 600, one of the top scores over the past eight years. He also had a perfect score of 10/10 in 3D Archery as well as wildlife ID and Hunter Decision Making as did Brook Lockard. Brook also had the top Rifle score with 14/15, which is as high of a rifle score of any Davie participant in eight years.

“It was a great turnout,” Cowden said. “The kids had a lot of fun and made new friends and memories that will last a lifetime. We’re very proud of our kids from Davie County 4-H. Every Davie kid that competed placed. We have never had all of our kids medal and it’s been since 2021 since we won gold in this tournament. I don’t think we ever won both the team and individual gold.

“This is the best overall performance we have had in NC 4-H Hunting Skills to date. The North Carolina 4-H Hunting Skills Team that will compete in the National Championships in Nebraska this coming June will be selected from the top finishers in this contest. Another added bonus, we had five kids compete as Seniors for the first time at a state level tournament, so those 5 will receive a 4-H Embroidered Letter.