Nationals, here comes Nick 6/21/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2013

Nick Hudson takes aim at a paper target 50 yards ahead of his muzzleloader. Watching is his 4-H shooting sports coach, Brad Parsley. Nick is headed for the 4-H National Shooting Sports Invitational in Grand Island, Nebraska next week. The Panolian photo by Rita Howell

Nationals, here comes Nick

By Rita Howell

Nick Hudson’s sharp eye and steady hand have earned him a spot in the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational next week in Nebraska.

The South Panola High School junior, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, has been spending six or eight hours a week honing his skill with a muzzleloader. He qualified for the national competition last summer when he placed first in the state 4-H shooting sports muzzleloader competition.

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On Saturday Nick, 16, his parents, Doug and Christy Hudson, and brother Dalton, 12, will leave for Grand Island, Neb., where young shooting champs from all over the country will converge for contests in nine disciplines June 23-28.

He is the first Panola participant to advance to the national level in 4-H shooting sports.
“Nick’s local muzzleloading coach, Mr. Brad Parsley, and I were not surprised when he placed first at the State Shooting Sports Competition in July of 2012,” Ginger Rodgers, Panola 4-H Youth Agent said.  “Nick is not only a great shot, but he is a great kid very deserving of this trip to represent our county and state.”

Parsley, a retiree who divides his time between his Memphis home and his Panola County farm, volunteers as a mentor to Panola 4-H shooting sports participants, coaching archery, shotgun and pistols as well as muzzleloaders.

For many years Parsley has participated in shooting competitions with a variety of firearms. In 1981 he was a member of the U.S. International Team, participating in the world matches in England. At the time he was shooting an 1858 musket and was ranked 19th in the world in that category.

This weekend, as his protege is competing with a muzzleloader in Nebraska, Parsley will be participating in the Tennessee Senior Olympics in the archery competition, where he set a state record last year.

Nick’s muzzleloader belongs to Parsley, who had it custom made in 1982.

It’s a low-tech, primitive firearm. No scope, no ready-made bullets. The striking stock is “tiger” maple, so named because of the horizontal stripes across the smooth, honey-colored wood.
As he practices on an outdoor range in a clearing at Parsley’s farm off Highway 35 North, Nick goes through a disciplined routine. A small bench holds his supplies, which have been set out from a plastic box marked “stuff.” Taking his clean gun, he first measures and pours real black gunpowder down the barrel. Then he places a lead marble-sized ball in a small fabric patch and stuffs it inside the barrel, using a long metal rod.

He sets a small brass percussion cap in place. The gun is ready.

The young shooter collects his thoughts, raises the muzzleloader, cocks the hammer, aims at the paper target 50 yards away,  releases half a breath, and touches the feather-light trigger, sending the little lead ball streaking toward the target in a puff of smoke.

More times than not, Nick hits the bullseye or the paper squirrel’s head or the bottle’s neck.
“He should do very well,” his coach said of the national competition.

Secret weapon

Nick is following the advice of his coach in using a special component each time he loads the gun. The patch he uses to encase the projectile is made of old-fashioned pillow ticking, the heavy cotton striped fabric used to cover pillows. A specially ordered lubricant is applied to a strip of the ticking ahead of time. When he prepares to shoot, he lightly sprays the fabric strip with a mist of water. He carefully places the lead ball inside the end of the strip, places it in the end of the barrel,  then cuts the fabric so each patch is custom fit before it is rammed down the barrel to sit on top of the propellent.

The result, according to Parsley, is that the interior of the gun barrel stays cleaner and the muzzleloader fires more accurately as the patch collects debris on its way out…hopefully to the center of the bullseye.

4-H shooting sports program

Thirty-nine youngsters are enrolled in the Panola 4-H shooting sports program, according to Ginger Rodgers. There are 10 certified volunteer instructors.

“It’s just really such an honor to be a part of watching youth development in action,” Rodger said.  “Our goal through all of our 4-H programs is youth development and we feel like we achieve this through our local 4-H shooting sports program.

“All of our efforts would not be possible without the help of our local volunteers who have become certified instructors and donated a large portion of their time in teaching our youth gun safety and providing regular meetings for them to develop, practice, and improve upon their skills.”

She noted that the local group had raised funds to help send the Hudsons to the national competition next week.

Anyone who would like to know more about the shooting sports program can call Rodgers at 563-6260.