What applies to great high school athletics evidently applies to the great outdoors.
The Scott County Outdoor Team (SCOT) won 19 combined awards at the Virginia Hunter Education Championships held at Holiday Lake 4-H Camp in Appomattox.
The Southwest Virginia youngsters — who faced the longest drive of any of the competing teams — made a strong impression.
“An archery range officer said the SCOT team was the most courteous and respectful team they had seen,” said Jason Honaker, the Scott County conservation police officer and coach of the county’s squad. “An outdoor skills range officer commented that (our kids) had not only improved greatly since last year, they had surpassed most of the other teams with their level of skill.”
The championships, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, are held in May each year. The event consists of competition in five disciplines: archery, rifle, shotgun, outdoor skills/hunter ethics and hunter responsibility/wildlife identification. Participants range in age from 10 to 19 and are divided into junior and senior divisions.
All team members must have completed a Virginia-certified hunter safety course in order to participate. The Scott County team meets regularly for practice sessions at Wilderness Road Shooting and Conservation Club near Wadlow Gap.
The SCOT junior team finished first overall after winning in outdoor skills and archery and taking seconds in shotgun and rifle. The SCOT senior team finished second overall, collecting firsts in archery and shotgun and placing second in outdoor skills.
Individually, Hunter Hammonds had a terrific showing for SCOT in the junior division, winning the archery competition en route to a first-overall finish. Colby Graham won the rifle competition and teammate Peyton Horton won in shotgun.
Hammonds’ victory marked the second year in a row the 14-year-old Gate City Middle School student won in archery.
“I was excited enough about winning the archery. Winning the overall on top of that was just great,” said Hammonds, who knew well the young bowhunter who would challenge him most at the archery range. “Michael Jennings was the one I was worried about. He’s on our team. When he told me his score, I gave a sigh of relief.”
Jennings finished third overall in the individual standings.
In the senior division, Casey Legg won the archery competition while Brian Hass took first in the outdoor skills competition.
Hass, an 18-year-old student at Gate City High School, is the first Scott County competitor to win the outdoor skills test, which includes classic orienteering.
“They taught us how to use map and compass from the start when we came out for the team. We have really good coaches,” said Hass, who admitted that his favorite competition was actually archery.
The Scott County program was founded by former game warden John Puckett, who is now sheriff of Scott County.