By LYDIA BERGLAR
The 4-H S.A.F.E. Shotgun Team is hosting a Bull’s Eye Challenge on Feb. 18 to help raise funds for the program. The event will be held at the Dade County Agriculture Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For $5.00, anyone can sponsor a BB match.
BB matches will be between members of the team and the team’s coaches, local law enforcement officers, or local game wardens. The sponsor selects the two opponents.
Laura Beth Cunnigham, Dade County 4-H educator, noted that more students have joined the team than ever before. “We held steady at nine students or less for a long time,” she said. “This year, they allowed sixth graders to shoot, and we advertised at the middle school. I had an overwhelming number of kids who wanted to join.”
The co-ed team includes grades sixth through twelfth. Cunningham added that while they usually struggle to find girls interested in the team, this year’s team has more girls than ever before. Four out of the 24 students on the team are female.
Cunningham is one of the coaches for the team, all of whom are state-trained and certified. She said, “Three of our current coaches were on the team when they were younger. A lot of the kids in high school now say they want to come back and be a coach.”
Because ammunition and clays are used up during every practice and match, the program is costly. “It’s just as expensive as travel soccer and other sports like that,” said Cunningham. “At practice, each kid is using one box of shotgun shells. One order of clays costs $800, and that doesn’t last us the full season.”
Students pay a registration fee, but Cunnigham wishes the fee wasn’t so high. She noted that when students go to the state tournament, they must pay an additional fee. “We as a county try to supply the ammo for the competition. That’s why we fundraise, to pay for the competition supplies.”
The team attends the district qualifying match (usually held in April). Those who qualify can attend the state competition in May.
Competitors are split into Junior Shooters (sixth through eighth grade) and Senior Shooters (ninth through twelfth grade). Cunningham explained, “At the district qualifying match, they shoot 25 clays, and they must hit a certain amount depending on their age to qualify for state.”
The Bull’s Eye Challenge will also include a silent auction. Cunningham is thankful for the local businesses who have supported the team with donations to the auction, saying, “It’s always amazing how this county comes out to support [different groups]. We appreciate our local community businesses.”