NRA is the largest pro-hunting organization in the world, and one the most effective ways NRA helps promote and protect hunting is through the NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC).
Founded in 1985 as an advanced hunter education program, YHEC is the only youth hunting skills competition of its kind in the country. Outside of conventional hunter safety classes, no program has reached more young hunters than YHEC over the past 27 years. More than one million participants have taken part in YHEC events since the program’s inception.
While YHEC events are held at the local and state levels nationwide, the culmination of the program is the International YHEC held each summer. The 2012 event will take place next week, July 22-27, in North Central Pennsylvania at Mansfield University and the Mill Cove Environmental Center.
This year marks the eighth time Mansfield, Pa., has hosted the International YHEC. The event alternates each year between Mansfield and the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, N.M. In a continuing effort to improve the event, this year’s attendees will be treated to new pavilions at the Mill Cove site and new air conditioned dorm and dining facilities on the Mansfield University campus.
The event is expected to attract several hundred youth hunters from more than a dozen states, as well as their coaches and families.
“What makes YHEC so special is the quality of the young people, coaches and volunteers that make up the program,” said Bill Poole, Director of NRA’s Education and Training Division. “These young hunters—with a lot of help from their families and coaches—spend countless hours learning how to become skilled shots and ethical, responsible sportsmen and women. It’s rewarding to see them all come together for a week of fun and camaraderie.”
Often referred to as NRA’s “graduate” program in hunter education, YHEC builds on the knowledge young hunters receive in basic hunter education and helps them hone their hunting and shooting skills. YHEC also teaches kids about sportsmanship, responsibility and ethics—and instills in them a deeper appreciation for wildlife and the outdoors.
In fact, it is not uncommon for YHEC participants to later pursue careers as biologists, game wardens and educators. One former participant is even an outdoor television personality.
“I truly credit YHEC to my birth in this industry,” said Allen Treadwell, a YHEC alumni and 2004 U.S. Olympic shooting team alternate who today appears on a number of hunting television programs and videos, including Winchester Whitetail Revolution, Bass Pro Shops 100% Real Hunting, and Hunter’s Specialties’ Primetime Bucks. “Had it not been for the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, this opportunity would not exist, either on the Olympic side of the game or being able to make my living in the outdoors.”
YHEC is comprised of eight events that test each participant’s marksmanship abilities, woodsmanship and safety knowledge. Four of the events are shooting related, with participants competing in shotgun, muzzleloader, rifle, and archery challenges.
All of the shooting events simulate actual hunting conditions as closely as possible. Only conventional sporting arms are used, and the participants shoot at life-size game or NRA-approved action targets.
The remaining four events, known as responsibility challenges, include map and compass orienteering, a written test called the Hunter Responsibility Exam, a wildlife identification course, and the Hunter Safety Trail, where the young hunters must use their judgment during simulated hunting scenarios.
Participants earn points in each event and compete for both individual and team awards in two age categories: senior (ages 15-18) and junior (ages 14 and under). For each event, a maximum score of 300 points is possible for an individual and 1,500 points for a five-person team. When the scores for all eight events are combined, an individual can score a maximum of 2,400 points overall and a team can score 12,000 points.
Additional side events are held for fun, including the Flu-Flu Arrow Shoot, Cherokee Run, and the annual tug-of-war.
The first-place individuals in the senior and junior categories each win a whitetail deer hunt at Gsell’s Whitetail Refuge in Fayetteville, Pa. Other prizes for top-finishing individuals and teams include muzzleloaders, bows, arrows, ammunition and firearm accessories.
The International YHEC is open to all young hunters who have successfully completed a North American hunter education course and participated in their local or state YHEC program, regardless of their finish at the local level.
In 2011, NRA conducted 80 total YHEC events in 32 states, numbers that have been bolstered by MidwayUSA’s generous support of the NRA YHEC Mid-America Expansion Project, which is striving to increase YHEC participation in the Midwest states.
For more information on the YHEC program, please contact NRA’s Hunter Services Department at (703) 267-1524 or visit www.nrayhec.org.
You can follow live coverage of the 2012 NRA International YHEC at www.NRAhuntersrights.org or www.NRAblog.com.