Transitioning from regionals in San Angelo’s high plains to state in Nacogdoches’ piney woods, the Burnet High School FFA and 4-H wildlife teams took the landscape changes in stride and finished in the top 5 on Tuesday, April 20.
“It’s a big difference from San Angelo to the state contest,” said Burnet High School agri-science teacher Shane Wigington. “It’s a totally different type of environment, but the kids, they just went to work and did a great job.”
The Burnet 4-H team of Greyson Barnett, Helaina Weiss, and Jaxon Eason won the state championship with the three placing first, second, and third respectively in individual standings. This is Barnett’s third title.
The Burnet FFA wildlife team of Hayden Henry, Tyler Patterson, Caroline Wideman, and Axy Horner finished fifth overall. Henry was ninth individually.
The state of Texas has 184 FFA wildlife teams.
“Anytime you can finish in the top 10 for wildlife in this state, that’s a big accomplishment,” Wigington said.
Wildlife competition include sections on plant identification, biological facts, fish and game laws, safety, hands-on skills and techniques, and an evaluation/scenario. Team members need a broad range of knowledge and skills to compete.
Each section can be fairly complex. In plant identification, students not only must identify a wide variety of plants but also what animals eat them. Those plants change with the location of the contest. Plants found in the San Angelo area near host school Angelo State University are much different than those growing near Stephen F. Austin State University, which hosted the state event.
In fish and game laws, students answer questions on laws from the Texas Outdoor Annual, which outlines Texas hunting and fishing rules. In techniques, students might be asked to determine the age of a white-tailed deer by its jawbone.
The most challenging section, which combines all knowledge, is the rangeland scenario. Students are tasked with evaluating a piece of land, take into account the landowner’s goals, and come up with the best land management plan.
“It’s a pretty broad-based contest,” Wigington said about the whole competition. “It’s been a tough year with all the changes and things they’ve faced, but these kids have shown up to work each day, always doing what they need to do. I’m just so proud of them.”
Burnet FFA team members are all seniors. Barnett was the only senior on the 4-H squad; Weiss and Eason are freshmen. Barnett won a team state title his freshman year on the FFA team and a 4-H state title his sophomore year. The event was canceled his junior year due to COVID-19.
Wigington said Barnett wasn’t going to compete in wildlife this year but stepped in to help the two freshmen.
Under FFA rules, once a person is part of a state championship team, they can’t compete in that event again. Barnett moved to the 4-H squad his sophomore year. While they are two different divisions, Burnet 4-H team members are all Burnet High School students.
Having a 4-H team opens the wildlife contest up to more kids since the FFA squad only has four members.
“It’s always good when you have more kids interested in an event, and so it’s good they can compete as part of 4-H,” Wigington said.