Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

Its been a busy couple of weeks, between work and other activities.

Our crews are making their way through the vineyard removing fast-growing suckers, moving wires and tying canes. Strong, cool winds pushed their way across the area causing the wild oats and needle grass growing on our hillsides to start turning a light shade of brown, especially on south facing slopes.

A few nights last week we had a fire in the fireplace to take the chill off in the house. Like I mentioned in my last column, the weather can really fluctuate from day to day this time of year. The strong winds did keep the frost away during the night and early morning hours.

Two weeks ago I was scheduled to attend another California State 4-H Shooting Sports leader meeting in Winton near Merced. The threat of frost was low, so I felt comfortable in taking off on Friday afternoon for the four-hour drive. My plan was to leave at noon and beat the traffic, but I got held up and left around 2. The traffic around Fresno slowed me down a little but I was in Merced by 6:30 that evening.

The meeting began on Saturday morning at 9, covering topics from new California laws, shooting sports scholarships, National 4-H youth leadership programs and hunter education opportunities.

Leaders from up and down the state were able to share their programs and how they worked in their regions. We heard how certain legislators from the metropolitan areas continue to try to add more restrictive laws on buying ammunition. In July we will need a permit to buy shotgun shells, and I understand the California Department of Justice is still working on how to implement with current vendors.

One of the speakers talked about how he was trying to educate our legislators in Sacramento regarding the importance of 4-H shooting sports, emphasizing a philosophy of comprehensive education, lifelong recreation and healthful competition.

Our 4-H shooting projects offers kids an environment in which they can thrive, leading to positive development while ultimately leading to a successful transition into adulthood.

The 4-H Shooting Sports program is one of the safest, educational, recreational and competitive activities in which youth can be involved, we have to do everything we can to keep it in place.

During the meeting I was taken back to when I was growing up, and my grandfather Sam taught me how to shoot a single-shot .410 shotgun. It wasn’t long until we began shooting tin cans with a single-shot .22 rifle. I remember we’d ride our bikes down to Roesers Drugstore and buy a few boxes of .22 shells. There was no age limit back then and the shells were cheap.

Sometimes we would ride up to Los Olivos with my grandfather when he got the mail at the post office. We knew he would go over to Sides Hardware and buy some shells for us, because he wanted us to shoot the woodpeckers that were constantly drilling holes into the eaves of the adobe. The woodpeckers would hang out in the huge, old oak trees around the house looking for acorns. I don’t think we made a dent in their population, but we sure had a good time trying.

We learned that safety was always first when handling a firearm. I am proud to be part of a 4-H program that safely teaches kids, who may not have a grandfather or adult in their lives, to realize the positive life-long recreational opportunities shooting sports have to offer.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, and director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com

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