“This achievement marks the first time a team from Georgia 4-H has ever placed in the top three overall at the national competition and the first time Georgia 4-H has had the honor of having the top ranked shooter in the nation,” said officials associated with Bartow 4-H in a press release.
The Bartow SAFE Team finished second at the national competition, scoring less than one point behind the first-place winners.
Payne, who practices approximately 12 hours a week, said shooting and competition have taught him valuable lessons.
“Shooting is not only fun but the competitions have taught me that everyone counts. I am depending on my team and they are depending on me to make stuff work. Sometimes I don’t feel like practicing but I do it anyway because I don’t want to let my team down when it really counts,” Payne said.
Competition has also boosted Payne’s self-confidence. In May, he won the youth division at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s Eastern Games, scoring 599 out of 600. At this event, he competed against participants up to age 21 and many of whom were trained in the military. Also, he took the top honor at a CMP competition in Ohio during 2013. “It feels awesome to know you beat a lot of people and that all that hard work really did pay off,” he said.
Only one CMP event remains and Payne hopes to win it. He will travel to Arizona in October and compete in the Western CMP Games.
After completing nearly all the available competitions using his Remington Model 5 .22-caliber rifle, he has begun the transition to an air rifle. Payne hopes to win state and national levels competitions in the new category. Ultimately, he hopes to participate in the Junior Olympics and Olympics.
Gun safety and training can begin at 9 years old with the Bartow County 4-H BB Team. Payne and his father, Doug Payne, teach the class twice a week to fifth- through eighth-graders. The focus is to train students in proper gun safety and shooting techniques.
“I believe it is good for younger kids to learn gun safety. It could prevent them from being in an accident someday. If they know the rules, they will usually respect them,” Payne said.
Allison Perkins, Bartow County 4-H agent, said, “Our shooting program is educational and has a safety component. Guns are a part of our society and it is good for those who have interest in them to be educated properly. Our coaches are a great resource for the kids. Usually the students who show interest in this program have families that participate often in outdoor activities or hunting, so this is an excellent resource for them.”
Not all 4-H programs offer sport shooting. Students from Cobb and Polk counties who are interested in the program have petitioned the state 4-H governing body and received permission to relocate to Bartow so they could take part. Forty students make up the Bartow SAFE Team, which is comprised of the BB Team, Modified Trap and .22 Rimfire.
“Students are given the opportunity to develop their skills over time in our programs. Sam is a perfect example of this. His skills have grown as he has gained a wealth of knowledge from our coaches, who are a valuable resource,” Perkins said.