Montzís Blake Morris beat out more than 100 competitors from across the state to win first place in the shotgun event at the Youth Hunter Education Challenge State Competition, which was held at Camp Grant Walker.
The YHEC state competition consists of eight events, including shooting a .22-caliber rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and bow. Non-shooting events are compass and orienteering skills, the safety trail, wildlife identification and a hunter safety exam.
Morris, 14, has been taking part in the competition for the last four years. His score in all eight events gave him a fourth-place finish overall.
"My grandpaís friend is an instructor and they know how much I like to hunt so they got me involved," Morris said. "Iím really good at the shotgun event, so thatís my favorite."
The YHEC competitions are difficult because of the vast array of skills the participants must have. Shooters use scoped rifles to fire at metal silhouette targets at ranges of 25, 50, and 75 yards from standing, sitting and prone positions. The muzzleloader event is similar, but with bigger targets because the muzzleloader rifles are not scoped. The shotgun course is a sporting clays competition, and the archery course features three-dimensional targets at ranges of 5 to 40 yards.
The safety trail consists of shoot/donít shoot scenarios based on safety, ethics and knowledge of Louisiana hunting regulations. Compass and-orienteering challenges a participantís knowledge of how to use a compass and topographic map. They also use their knowledge for in-the-field navigation.
Participants must also identify animals, birds and reptiles using skulls, hides, full mounts and other clues. The hunter safety exam, which consists of hundreds of questions, tests knowledge of shooting, hunting and safety.
Morris practices once a week for the competition with a team of 15.†
"I like everything about the competition, from studying to shooting and practicing with friends every week," Morris said. "Itís a great experience."
Morris is also a member of several other organizations, including the National Sporting Clays Association. As part of the NSCA, Morris and his family travel throughout the state and into Texas to take part in tournaments. Morris has already competed in six tourneys this year.
In October he will travel to San Antonio to compete in the NSCA National Championship.
"In the NSCA, you are grouped according to how well you shoot, not your age," Morris said. "Some of the people Iím paired with are 50 or 60-years-old."
But that doesnít bother Morris. In fact, he said the experience of the older competitors is making him a better shooter.
"They really help me and every time I go they teach me something new," he said.
|Blake Morris, 14, won first place in the Youth Hunter Education Challenge shotgun competition. Morris has been taking part in the competition for the last four years.|