Prescott Bird Busters qualify two youth teams for nationals this summer

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>Lewis Aul, Colton Underwood, Austin Reynolds and Luke Poteat are members of the Prescott Bird Busters' Intermediate Advanced skeet shooting squad.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>Lewis Aul, Colton Underwood, Austin Reynolds and Luke Poteat are members of the Prescott Bird Busters' Intermediate Advanced skeet shooting squad.

PRESCOTT VALLEY - For the first time in its history, the Prescott Bird Busters' youth trap, skeet and sporting clays program recently qualified two of its shotgun target-shooting teams for nationals later this summer.

The Bird Busters' five-member Intermediate Advanced state championship trap squad and its three-member Varsity club will travel to the 2013 Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) National Team Championships July 15-20 in Sparta, Ill.

Lewis Aul, 13, of Mile High Middle School; Luke Poteat, 13, of Bradshaw Mountain M.S.; Austin Reynolds, 14, of BMMS; Colton Underwood, 14, a home-schooled student; and Jakob Woods, 14, of Acorn Montessori School comprise the Intermediate Advanced team.

Down in Tucson this past April, the group won the state championship in trap shooting and now hopes to vie for a national title in that category.

Poteat, who's been shooting competitively for only about a year, said his team defeated several other squads at state. The day of the competition, each team fired eight rounds of 25 shells (200 total). The team with the highest hit percentage on the clays wins.

"We've gotten to be better friends, and closer, and be able to know each other's strengths and weaknesses (as the season went on)," Poteat said of his team. "That way we can help each other on a moment's notice."

Reynolds said that at nationals his team must be prepared for the hot and humid weather of Illinois by staying hydrated on the course.

Underwood, who got his start in the shooting sports in Show Low, agreed. But he also knows that the competition will be even stiffer than the course conditions.

"We're competing against the best squads in all the other 47 states (that shoot in scholastic clays)," he said. "We just have to keep practicing and hope for the best."

Meanwhile, Joe Witty, 15, of Bradshaw Mountain High; Jack Davis, 17, of Mingus Mountain Academy; and Emily Williams, 16, of Prescott High form the Varsity squad that also placed high at state and will shoot in the skeet and sporting clays at nationals.

Witty got involved in the shooting sports five years ago in Prescott during a hunter's education class sponsored by the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

He's been shooting with his team for the past two years.

"We've become more competitive, and we've trained harder," he said. "All of us train every day. We all work out. We all go shoot at different times of the day. We're trying to get in as much practice as we can to get ready and go to a different place that not everybody's been before."

Prescott Bird Busters head coach Brian Witty, Joe's father, said the youth development program, based at Prescott Trap & Skeet Club, uses the shotgun sports to instill discipline, safety, teamwork, ethics and self-confidence, among other values.

Team members range from 9 years old to the 12th grade and hail from the quad-cities region.

"It's a great sport - it's not something like football where you kind of play and you're done," Poteat said. "You can take it with you your whole life. It's a lot of fun."

The Bird Busters' volunteer coaches are certified by the Arizona Game & Fish Department through a National Rifle Association accreditation program and a background check. They organize club activities and practices, which teach team members how to safely operate a firearm as well as the basic rules and fundamentals of the shooting disciplines.

Youth clay target shooting season in Arizona runs from Oct. 1 through May 1. Teams that win at the state championships toward the end of the season become eligible to compete at nationals.

Four of the Bird Busters' coaches expect to accompany the Intermediate Advanced and Varsity teams in Illinois.

In support of the Bird Busters' trip to Illinois, Brian Witty said Sturm, Ruger & Co.'s Prescott manufacturing plant has donated one of its 10/22 Takedown rifles for a fundraising raffle.

Raffle tickets are available for adults aged 21 and older to buy for $10 each, or six for $50. The winning ticket will be drawn on June 21 during the team's spaghetti dinner fundraiser and auction that starts at 6 p.m. at Lifepointe Church, 10100 E. Highway 69.

Only 250 tickets are available for the gun drawing. The winner must comply with all state and federal gun laws, and he or she must be legally able to own the firearm.

Although there are other fundraisers and items to be raffled off, each shooter must generate at least $1,700 to attend nationals.

Those who would like to make a donation to Prescott Bird Busters/Prescott Trap & Skeet Club, a nonprofit organization, call Witty at 928-420-2991 or email him at bawitty1@yahoo.com.