GLIDE — Lila Ferguson of Glide is right on target.
She is headed for New Mexico to compete in a week-long national shooting and knowledge competition hosted by the National Rifle Association. And it’s her second trip to nationals.
The 16-year-old Umpqua Valley Christian School junior will test her shooting skills and hunting knowledge against the top boys and girls from across the nation when she competes starting Monday in Raton, New Mexico, in the 2017 Youth Hunter Education Challenge.
The competition includes four shooting events and four knowledge events. All team members compete in all categories.
Last year, Ferguson and the rest of the Oregon junior team won first places in archery, 22-rifle shooting, and orienteering. They got second place in muzzleloaders, and third place in responsibility exam. That led to a second-place finish overall and they brought home a load of trophies.
They not only have to be able to shoot, but they have to do a little studying, too.
“The hunter responsibility exam is all about safety, animals, and survival and really encompasses it all,” Ferguson said.
She’s been doing a lot of shooting with the rifles and the archery to hone her skills and get ready for the national competition. It takes a lot of practice, she said.
“Everyday I’ve been shooting my .22 and shooting archery, and I’ve been putting in a lot of time preparing. We even go out and shoot muzzleloaders, and I’ve been shooting shotguns at the range,” she said.
Ferguson qualified for the Oregon team at the state competition in Redmond where the top five earn a trip to nationals. She finished in third place.
She says she’s a little more comfortable this time being familiar with how it is run.
“The first year, I was just kind of thrown into it, and now I’ll be a little more at ease, but it’s still very exciting to have this honor,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson’s father, Tom Edwards, says it’s a big honor to qualify for the nationals.
“It’s a significant honor,” Edwards said. “And she’s been competing in junior olympics and trap and skeet competitions just for practice.”
The Oregon NRA’s YHEC program picks a five-member senior youth team for ages 15-18 and a five-member junior team from ages 11-15.
Ferguson started in the program about three years ago, and the Youth Hunter Education Challenge has been a great fit for her.
“Firearms are prominent in this area and I just started having an interest in it, I tried it out and everyone was very welcoming, and I loved it from the very beginning,” she said.
This is the 32nd year of the YHEC program, and about 35 states will have teams in the national competition.
She really likes the team concept of the competition.
“There’s nothing like all of us working together and supporting each other, and it’s just a great feeling,” Ferguson said.
Opening ceremonies are Sunday and the events will start on Monday in Raton, which is in the northeast corner of New Mexico near the Oklahoma panhandle. The events go all week with the awards ceremonies on Friday evening.
“This program is just really invaluable because it gives me hands on firearms training and it helps me practice safety. It’s a really great program,” she said.