Improvements to the Greene County Range and Firearms Sports Complex are on the way, even as youths from throughout East Tennessee participated Friday in a regional skeet competition there.
The Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program event attracted 76 young men and women between the ages of 10 and 18 to the facility at 1435 Hal Henard Road.
The word “pull,” and the sharp reports of shotguns fired at orange clay discs by teams from SCTP Region 4 were heard in quick succession. Volunteers helped the first-ever such event held in Greene County run smoothly.
“We just started the competition here. There are 10 young ladies and 66 young men,” said Range Master Terry Cannon, retired Greeneville police chief.
Trophies were awarded to those with the highest scores. College scholarships are also available to competitors who exhibit top shooting skills, Cannon said.
“It helps with increasing interest in shooting sports and it (helps) get young people into hunting and learn gun safety,” Region 4 SCTP Director Stan Latham said.
Latham, of Knoxville, was impressed with the Greene County complex.
“This facility is great. They did a great job of fitting it out,” he said.
Latham is also coach of the Knoxville Warriors Shooting Team, one of the regional teams competing Friday.
Wyatt Freels, 17, is a team member. He enjoys the sport and all aspects of the competition.
“Really, just all the people you get to meet. That’s my favorite,” Freels said.
Ashlyn Forester, a member of the Kingsport-based East Tennessee Straight Shooters Team, hit 95 of 100 targets at Friday’s competition, taking home the “Senior/Varsity High Gun” girls’ trophy. Forester, 16, said her dad is building another trophy case at home for the many trophies she has won in tournaments like the one held Friday.
Forester has been shooting for eight years.
“I like everything about it,” she said. “The competition is always fun and we have a good bond between the teams.”
GREENE COUNTY TEAM
A Greene County-based team, the “Greene County Shooting Stars,” was organized in April. Members operated a fundraising concession stand at Friday’s event.
The team will accept new members beginning in September, Coach Robert Wilhoit said.
Jerry Strom, a volunteer and Greene County native who is retired from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, has worked for years in different capacities an an SCTP volunteer.
Strom is a vocal advocate of the “equal opportunity” sport.
“I want to say this about the program: It doesn’t matter about your physical condition. I have had 80-pound girls standing next to a 300-pound man and (the) girl beat him.”
Strom said places like the Greene County sports complex provide “a public range where people can be educated in their firearms and have a safe, aesthetic location.”
“I want responsible, educated citizens and here’s were they come to learn their craft,” Strom said. “This promotes camaraderie, it promotes respect.”
Strom made a motion with his arm like a pointed shotgun.
“You have the world’s greatest destructive force in your arms and I’m teaching you to use it responsibly,” he said. “I’m all about an educated public. That’s what this is all about.”
The sport breeds interest, Strom added.
“If I get a kid invested here, in a year, he’s not going to sell a gun like a used trombone,” he said. “This is how we teach people to handle their guns and handle them responsibly. It’s responsible citizenry we’re offering here.”
Mark McInturff, coach of the Unaka Shooters in Johnson City, agreed.
“It gets people involved in a program where they otherwise would never shoot,” he said. “It’s like a feeder program. You got people who know nothing about shooting and you educate them and it becomes a family sport.”
GRANT, RANGE IMPROVEMENTS
Event organizers want to get the word out about all the family oriented recreational activities available at the Greene County Range and Firearms Sports Complex.
Improvements were made at the skeet/trap area after a $1.3 million federal grant was secured in 2015 through the TWRA.
Another $600,000 grant to allow further enhancements has been approved, Strom said Friday.
The funds come “from a government excise tax on all new gun sales and ammunition sales” and administered by the TWRA, Strom said.
In 2019, the County Commission’s Gun Range Oversight Committee voted to seek the federal grant funding through the TWRA.
Cannon said the grant funds will be used to build an expanded shooting range, an area for three-dimensional archery targets and a “cowboy town,” an “Old West”-themed shooting course to be built on densely wooded land in the back of the sports complex property.
The sporting clays course will include a series of shooting stations for participants.
All new features will be open to the public, especially young people.
“Anybody can come out here and shoot,” Strom said. “We have special considerations for youth sports.”
The project should be complete in about 18 months, Cannon said.
For more information about the Greene County Shooting Stars, contact Wilhoit at 423-329-3473.