More than 300 youth from 20 schools across Oklahoma competed Nov. 20 in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s first ever Scholastic Shooting Sports Program State Shoot.
While the event’s top shooter was Hunter Burkett of Durant High School, the real winners may be students from all over the state who will soon be participating in the shooting sports in their own schools.
High school and college shooting sports programs are growing in popularity across the country, due in part to the recent success of USA Olympic shotgun programs.
Burkett and others who competed in the State Shoot are getting involved through the Wildlife Department’s new Scholastic Shooting Sports Program.
Aimed at introducing youth to firearms safety and competitive shotgun shooting, the Scholastic Shooting Sports Program was piloted this year with schools that are involved in other Wildlife Department education programs. The State Shoot, held at the Shawnee Twin Lakes Trap Club, served as the culminating event for the programs first year.
“The state shoot was a successful ending to a successful first year of this great program,” said Damon Springer, coordinator for the Department’s Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP), the Department’s popular educational shooting program that implements the scholastic program in schools.
Students compete in a trap-shooting contest where they are presented 25 single clay targets launched from in front of the shooters. Shooters are ranked according to how many targets they break. Top shooters were awarded with trophies, and top school teams also earned endowments for their schools’ shooting sports programs along with trophies.
Since its inception in 1995, the Department has used STEP to provide tens of thousands of Oklahomans with the chance to learn and be involved with the shooting sports through extracurricular events like the annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo and other workshops. Now, the program aims to take its Scholastic Shooting Sports Program to even more students through its classroom curriculum.
“We’re excited to get even more schools and students involved in shooting sports through our program,” Springer said. “It’s fun to shoot a shotgun. The youth love it. They are learning to safely handle a firearm and are learning a sport that just about any kid can excel at, regardless of their athletic ability.”
Through the Scholastic Shooting Sports Program, the Wildlife Department provides schools with equipment kits that consist of a target thrower, gun safe, clay targets and hearing and eye protection. The equipment is funded in part by the Department and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI), a group dedicated to sportsmen and conservation. During the summer of 2013, the Department also received a donation of $739,000 in support of the program from the Brenda Potterfield Trust, which is being used to help fund a Scholastic Shooting Trust from which participating schools can use interest accrued to purchase supplies and pay range fees for operating their shooting programs. The trust is owned by the Midway USA Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating the shooting sports. Each school that attended the State Shoot earned $2,500 in endowments for their school’s trust. The top five high school teams earned additional endowments for their schools, including $5,000 for first place, $4,000 for second place, $3,000 for third place, $2,000 for fourth place and $1,000 for fifth place.
According to Springer, the Department has trained 30 schools this year and plans to add 20 more schools next year. Long term plans include growing the program to
155 participating schools by 2016.
Educators interested in bringing the Scholastic Shooting Sports Program to their schools should start by getting involved in the Wildlife Department’s suite of other outdoor education programs, which include Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools, Fishing in the Schools, Hunter Education, Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing. For more information, contact Springer at (405) 317-6316 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“By getting students involved in these programs, we can build a growing interest in the outdoors and conservation among our youth,” Springer said. “From there, we hope students will take interest in getting a hunting or fishing license and becoming conservationists.”
The results from the first Scholastic Shooting Sports Program State Shoot are as follows:
Top Shooting High School Boys
1st – Hunter Burkett, Durant (above, right)
2nd – Noah Edwards, Calumet (not pictured)
3rd – Nevin Lawson, Altus (above, left)
Top Shooting High School Girls
1st – Abby Abernathy, Altus (above, center)
2nd – Karissa Fent, Chandler (above, left)
3rd – Sierra Arsenault, Altus (above, right)
Top Shooting Junior High Boys
1st – Couch, Bryce, Beggs (above, right)
2nd – Stone Breathard, Wister (above, left)
3rd – Chase Louthan, Seiling (not pictured)
Top Shooting Junior High Girls
1st – Bryttnie Turner, Locust Grove (above, center)
2nd – Jasmine Martinez, Altus (above, left)
3rd – Audra Cunningham, Locust Grove (above, right)
Top High School Teams
1st – Altus
2nd – Durant
3rd – Depew
4th – Locust Grove
5th – Seiling
Top Junior High Teams
1st- Locust Grove
2nd – Seiling
3rd – Wister
4th – Beggs
Logo courtesy Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation