Competitive 4-H shooting sports participants from four counties arrived at the Eckert Shooting Sports Range on Saturday for the Delta County 4-H Invitational Shoot. 4-H'ers from Montrose, Mesa and Garfield counties joined local youth for the event.
There was competition in air pistol, shotgun/trap, archery, small bore rifle and muzzle loader.
The Delta County 4-H Shooting Sports program requires that participants shoot in two open competitions and in the county fair shoot if they want to qualify to compete at the state fair. Last weekend's event will qualify as one of those two open events.
Other county 4-H programs nearby also host competitive events. The Delta County 4-H Invitational also serves as a warmup event for the county fair competition scheduled for July 23, one of the first events of the annual fair. The Delta County Fair will take place Aug. 6-12.
The invitational shoot has become an annual event since the county government, 4-H programs and generous individuals cooperated to develop the youth shooting sports venue over a decade ago. Delta County's program has been fortunate to be one of the very few in the state to have its own range for practice and for hosting events,
The local shooting sports program has been in the national spotlight ever since the Eckert range became a reality and local 4-H members had the opportunity to use it for practice on a regular basis. For example, last week the Delta County program sent two more of its competitors to a national finals competition in archery.
The facility has been continually upgraded with electricity, a water tap provided by the Town of Orchard City, and with shooting sports enhancements including safety barriers and berms, fencing, designated spectator areas, individual range targeting, trap shooting range, and other improvements.
The county's 4-H shooting sports program is one of dozens of activities offered that focus on subjects from basic agriculture to high technology and computers. Shooting sports focuses first of all on safety. Participants experience a number of other learning experiences in the program including competency with firearms, self reliance, good decision making and maintaining a controlled posture in various situations.
Jackie Shea, Tri-River Area Extension agent for youth, said there are some 300 Delta County youth participating in the many program offerings of 4-H this year. She notes that 4-H remains a family focused program. Families participate in the activities together -- there are over 100 parent volunteers who help oversee the programs and youth projects. Some families build their annual vacations around activities at the county fair, she added.