By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
Regional National Rifle Association Youth Hunter Education Challenge champion.
That title sounds pretty good to Austin McKnight of Baker City. Especially since a year ago hed never even heard of the competition.
Ive always liked to shoot, McKnight said recently, savoring his overall win at the event earlier this month at the La Grande Rifle and Pistol Club.
I would have done (the competition) last year, but I didnt know about it. Craig Berryman told me about it.
McKnight and Berryman both are recent Baker High School graduates. Berryman finished third at La Grande.
Both young men qualified for the Oregon state competition June 22-24 at the Emerald Empire Gun Club at Eugene.
There the top four competitors in both senior and junior divisions will win an expenses-paid trip to the national finals July 30-Aug. 3 at Raton, N.M.
McKnight said the competition is open to boys and girls age 10 to 19 who have passed the Oregon Hunter Safety course. McKnight competed in the senior division, ages 15-19. The junior division is for youngsters ages 10-14.
At La Grande, McKnight totaled 1,985 points out of a possible 2,300. He received a purebred black Labrador puppy for his title.
I call it Roscoe. It already retrieves good, McKnight said. Its a really good dog.
Sadly, he said, he wont be able to keep the dog.
Ill be going to college at the University of Fairbanks in Alaska, and my parents wont be able to take care of it while Im there.
McKnight, who plans to study wildlife biology in college, already has placed an advertisement seeking a home for the pup.
The regional competition consisted of eight events archery, shotgun, .22-caliber rifle, muzzleloader, wildlife identification, hunter safety, hunter education, and map and compass.
McKnight described what was expected, and how he scored, in each category.
o Scored 205 of 300 points. Shoot from 10 to 40 yards at lifesize wildlife targets. Competitors compete in simulated hunting conditions.
o Scored 215 of 300. Conditions similar to the archery station; also similar to some skeet shoots.
This station can be difficult, McKnight said. Sometimes you get double birds.
o Scored 290 of 300. First, the competitors shoot off-hand in a standing position from 30 yards at a squirrel target. Then, from 50 yards in any position except prone, at a rabbit target. The final shoot is from 75 yards in any position at a rock chuck.
Each shooter gets 10 shots at each station.
o Scored 250 of 300. Set up similar to the archery station. Each shooter gets 12 shots at three stations (four shots at each station).
The first is at a lifesize deer target from 75 yards. Shooter must hit the target in a vital zone.
The second is from 40 yards on special post rests at havolinas.
The third is at a coyote target from 25 yards shooting off-hand.
o Scored 290 of 300. Forty-question test, identifying wild-life from mounted examples and photographs. Sometimes the question includes a section whether the animal is legal to hunt in Oregon.
o Scored 250 of 300. Competitors walk a trail. Contest officials quiz them along the way on various safety situations that may occur in the field.
o Scored 185 of 200. This was the first test of the competition, a full written test similar to the tests given during the hunter education course.
Map and compass
o Scored 300 of 300. Competitors are given a landmark and asked to take various readings with the compass to map out a given situation. The readings already have been set by officials. Contestants must come within 2 degrees of the actual reading to score well.
McKnight said he has always enjoyed trap shooting.
But, Id never shot from the higher quality stations like they had, he said.
I thought the .22 competition was way too easy. The guidelines were too lenient.
McKnight said the wildlife identification judge was impressed with one of his answers on that test, when he used the scientific name for the animal.
He asked me how I knew the scientific name, because not many competitors do, McKnight said. I learned a lot of them in Mr. (Randy) Newmans wildlife management class my sophomore year in high school.
McKnight said he has always liked to shoot and has hunted geese, quail, turkey, chukar, deer, elk and coyotes.
Ive archery hunted deer for three years, and got two deer. And, Ive rifle hunted deer one year, and got my deer, he said.
I love to coyote hunt, to call them in. Ive killed about 13.
McKnight said the muzzleloader competition was the newest for him.
Richard Gorts, a YHEC instructor, helped me before the competition, he said. I had never shot much before this event.
The regional victory was the not the first title for McKnight.
This past year he placed first in the junior division at the Sparta Shoot archery competition near Sparta.
When hes not competing, McKnight said he likes to fish, especially fly fish.
He also finished two years on the BHS tennis team where he teamed with Brady Romtvedt in the boys doubles, enjoys skateboarding, reloading shells and singing with BHSs Company B.