Think you can follow animal tracks while on the hunt? These kids at NRA's YHEC competition can!

NRAHuntersrights.org correspondent Justin McDaniel was in Pennsylvania this year for the 2012 Youth Hunter Education Challenge. Here's his report on the Wildlife Identification stage of the competition:

NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge participant identifying wildlife during the competition Mansfield, Pennsylvania - Identifying a gray squirrel, raccoon or Canada goose sounds pretty easy, right?

Most hunters—and even non-hunters—know what these animals look like.

But what if you were given 30 specimens and asked to identify them all by just their skulls, pelts, wings or tracks? Sounds a bit more difficult, doesn’t it?

That’s exactly what the participants at NRA’s International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) are asked to do in the Wildlife Identification event.

More on Wildlife Identification at NRA's YHEC competition ...

Youth Hunter Education Challenge tests safety skills in Pennsylvania

NRAHunterRights.org correspondent Justin McDaniel focuses in on the Hunter Safety NRA Hunter Safety Trail director Jennifer Morgan at YHEC challenge in Pennsylvania Trail during the International Youth Hunter Education Challenge:

Mansfield, Pennsylvania - Studying hunter safety in a classroom is one thing. But attempting to apply it in the field is a different animal altogether. On the Hunter Safety Trail at NRA’s International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC), participants navigate a 300-point course filed with real-life safety scenarios commonly encountered by hunters in the field.

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When Justin McDaniel headed up north for the 2012 International Youth Hunter Education Challenge in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, he got a taste of what the competitors would face as they took on their rivals. Here's a quick look:

The NRA's 27th annual International Youth Hunter Education Challenge took place at Mansfield University and Mill Cove Environmental Center in Mansfield, Pa. More than 300 youth hunters from 13 states, plus their families and coaches, arrived for the event — which is the largest and most comprehensive youth hunter skills competition of its kind in the country.

YHEC events are held at the local and state levels throughout the year, with the International YHEC serving as the program's capstone event.

The participants hit the range throughout the week with an awards ceremony occurring last Friday morning. Events included light rifle, muzzleloader, shotgun, archery, wildlife identification, map and compass orienteering, hunter safety trail and a hunter responsibility exam, which the competitors took Monday evening.

There's more from NRA's Justin McDaniel ... our man on the ground at the 2012 International Youth Hunter Education Challenge in Mansfield, Pennsylvania:

When you ask folks what makes NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) program so special, the answer is always the same: the people.

And one man in particular, Pennsylvania’s Charlie Fox, represents all that is good about YHEC. Charlie is one of two people (fellow Keystone Stater Bill Bower is the other) who have attended every single International YHEC event since the program’s inception in 1985.

“I’ve hung around this long because the kids are an absolute pleasure to be with,” Charlie said.

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NRA's Justin McDaniel from Hunting Communications was at the 2012 Youth Hunter Education Challenge  last week and sent us this update on the action:

Mansfield, Pennsylvania - Being a crack shot with a rifle is perhaps the quintessential characteristic of a good hunter.

Legend has it that frontiersman Davy Crockett was given only one bullet a day by his father to go hunting. If his aim was true, he and his family ate that day. If he missed, they went hungry.

While hunters today are unlikely to go to bed hungry if they miss, marksmanship ability remains one of the most enduring marks of a good hunter.

The rifle event at NRA’s International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) puts youngsters’ rifle skills to the ultimate test on a 30-shot, six-station course designed to simulate hunting-type shots. The shots are fired at spinner targets at ranges varying from 10 to 75 yards. Participants use .22s with either open sights or scopes, but they are not given the range to their target, and they are told what type of shooting position is permissible for each station.

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Youth Hunter Education Challenge competitor in the archery challenge

Are you under the age of 18 and absolutely love hunting? Well, have you competed in a regional, state, or provincial Youth Hunter Education Challenge this past year?

If so, then this is your chance to compete in the NRA's International Youth Hunter Education Challenge coming up at the end of July. Registration deadline is July 1, 2012! So don't delay ... there are only two and a half weeks to get in on the action.

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For this weekend's image rewind, we go back to the time when NRA Program Coordinator Moe Aguilar traveled up to Vermont for the state's first Youth Hunter Education Challenge in twenty years. That weekend brought more than forty youngsters through events such as Rifle, Shotgun, Archery, Orienteering, Trapping Demonstration, how to operate a GPS, and Tree Stand Safety.

Click here to read and see more about the adventure.

The CHIEF homeschool group held their first YHEC in Junction City, Kansas.

The NRA YHEC Mid-America Expansion Project is off to a great start in 2012 with more and more Youth Hunter Education Challenge events taking place across the Midwest. Thanks to YHEC Program Coordinator Susan Hill for the following report and photo from another first-time YHEC event, this time in Kansas.

On March 30, 2012, the CHIEF homeschool group conducted their first annual Youth Hunter Education Challenge event at the Tall Grass Hunting Lodge in Junction City, Kansas. Event Directors Justin and LaNae Jackson, along with their 10 children, organized the event and gathered volunteer support. There were 64 participants and 40 volunteers in attendance.

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Attention junior shooters! Could you use up to $5,000? Maybe you're saving for college for looking to buy a new rifle. If you're doing great things in school, in your community, and on the range, then you could win some of the $10,000 that's up for grabs through the Brownell's/NRA Outstanding Achievement Youth Award. First place wins $5,000, second place takes home $3,000 and third place will recieve $2,000. Check out all of the details below to see if you qualify to apply for the award.

Nathan Switzer 2010 OAYA winner Nathan Switzer competes in the 2009 National Junior Air Gun Championship at Camp Perry.
Fairfax, Virginia – The National Rifle Association is now accepting applications for the Brownell’s/NRA Outstanding Achievement Youth Award. Chosen for their accomplishments in the community, the classroom and the shooting sports, three exceptional young people from across the United States will receive a total of $10,000 courtesy of Brownell’s.

“The Outstanding Achievement Youth Award recognizes young people who exemplify excellence in not only the shooting sports, but other areas of their lives,” said Larry Quandahl, Manager of NRA’s Youth Programs Department. “Dedication to academics and community are important facets to becoming a well-rounded shooter.”

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