It hasn’t taken long for the Rim Country Deadshots to establish themselves as a formidable group.
Gila County’s first-ever 4-H archery club started in 2011. In just its second year, the Deadshots brought home more titles than any other organization at the 2012 Arizona State 4-H Shoot.
And with 16 qualifiers for Sunday’s season-ending state tournament at the Southeast Regional Park Shooting Range in Tucson, the club hopes it will continue to excel.
“We’re trying to do as well as last year,” said Dr. Drew Justice, one of the club’s four coaches. “We’re trying to repeat from last year.”
Despite its short existence, the club has already produced a qualifier for the 4-H National Shooting Match. Caleb Burket managed to qualify as a senior, winning a state championship last November. He competed in the nationals in June.
He’ll try to qualify again. Only those state champions in the senior division for 15-18-year-olds qualify for next summer’s 4-H National Shooting Match.
Burket is one of four returning state champions for the Rim Country Deadshots. The others are Dylan Justice, Karson Ross and Chandler Ross.
Other state qualifiers for the Deadshots are: Colton Justice, Madeline Goldman, Wade Parton, Amanda Amaya, Zak Ulmer, Tristan Brandenburg, Preston Stephens, Isaiah Hayhurst, Kelton Bachtell, Ryland Sexton, Devin Speer and Kelsey Speer.
Dr. Justice said the club’s shooters set the bar high last season. “That was a big milestone for our program having a national qualifier and we’re hoping to qualify a couple of more this year,” he said.
The club’s other coaches are Garrett Goldman, Mike Burket and Ken Crump.
The state shoot is the fourth and final event of the season for the club. They opened the season at the Mountain High Games at Payson Events Center in June. They returned toe the Payson Events Center for the Northern Gila County Fair in September and also competed in the Southern Gila County Fair in Globe in September.
Those ages 9 to18 are eligible to compete on the club. Those ages 9 to11 compete in the sub-juniors division, those ages 12 to 14 in the juniors division and those ages 15 to18 in the seniors division.
Each of those divisions include archers using both compound and traditional bows. The traditional shooters are broken into two categories — long bows and re-curve bows.
More than half of those on the Rim Country club qualified for state. “We started with 30 and 16 have qualified to go to state,” Dr. Justice said.