Standing in a shelter set up in a clearing in the woods, Brandon Huskey shoves the ramrod down the barrel of his muzzleloader, removes it and awaits the signal to step to the firing line. When it’s given, he steps forward and takes aim at a bull’s-eye 50 yards away.
Huskey is participating in the 4-H Shooting Sports National Match, which is being held in Columbia this year for the first time. He said he has participated in shooting sports for the past nine years while a member of the Sturgeon Goalseekers 4-H Club.
“I’ve always been real interested in archery.” said Huskey, a 2004 graduate of Sturgeon High School. This year, he decided to enter the muzzleloader competition. “I had to pick something different because they wouldn’t let me come to the national match in the same event twice.”
He said the muzzleloader is dirtier than other firearms. Weather also affects the muzzleloader’s shot differently than other firearms.
The yellow caution tape surrounding event sites drives home the emphasis on safety. There are 102 coaches and chaperones for the 358 preregistered participants, an almost 1-to-3 ratio of supervisors to 4-H members.
Shooting sports is one of the safest 4-H competitions, Huskey said. “With cattle or horses, they could get stepped on. In the years they’ve had the contest I don’t think they’ve had an accident.”
Gerry Snapp, coordinator for Missouri 4-H shooting sports, said the national match is relatively new, although shooting sports have been offered in Missouri for about 25 years. This year is the third for the national match, which was held in New Mexico last year and will change venues every two years.
Wednesday was the first day of competition, which ends today. Snapp said that over a three-day competition, the team with the highest score wins the category overall. There are nine categories: air rifle, air pistol, compound archery, recurve archery, muzzle loading, shotgun, small-bore rifle, small-bore pistol and hunting skills.
Snapp said that while all the contests involve shooting, hunting skills also includes tests on abilities such as game identification.
Each state can have one team of four in each category. “It’s possible to have 36 kids total from one state in competition,” Snapp said. “Each state is invited, and there are 21 states participating here with at least one person.”
The national match will conclude at 7:30 this evening with a final awards ceremony at the Boone County Fairgrounds.