NRA youth with 2 ducks from a mentored hunt in Pintail Point, MDMaryland Youth with four ducks from Mentored Hunt
This time last year, NRAblog brought you Moe Aguilar's report on Pintail Point's Mentored Youth Hunt. Here it is again as one of our new features — the weekend story rewind:

The Maryland DNR Mentored Junior Hunter Day on February 20 at the River Plantation in Queenstown, Maryland was a big success.

All the youngsters made it through the instructional safety clinic in plenty of time to enjoy the sporting clays course. After the warm up, it was time to take aim at some mallard ducks.

The parents and the Maryland DNR staff was just as excited as the young hunters as they took their first shots. The biggest excitement was seeing the youngsters hit their first clays or mallards. One young hunter was so excited after hitting his first duck that he walked to his father, safely handed him the gun, and jumped up and down with his hands in the air.


Hunter Efird and Reed Koozer participated in the Champion's Hunt at Gsell's Whitetail Refuge

2011 IYHEC Junior Grand Champion Reed Koozer
2011 IYHEC Junior Grand Champion Reed Koozer with his trophy buck at Gsell's Whitetail Refuge. Reed won this Award Hunt for his first place finish at IYHEC this summer.
Each year, the two Grand Champions of the NRA International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (IYHEC) win more than just bragging rights.

In addition to their first place finishes and amazing prizes, the Junior and Senior IYHEC Champion get to participate in the Award Hunt at Gsell's Whitetail Refuge in Pennsylvania.

This year, those two winners were Junior Grand Champion Reed Koozer of Oregon and Senior Grand Champion Hunter Efird of North Carolina. Hunter (pictured after the jump) is no stranger to Gsell's; he was the 2010 IYHEC Junior Champion and attended last year's Award Hunt.

These young men proved their skills while on the Award Hunt in December, bagging themselves impressive bucks.In July, Reed and Hunter will return to the field to defend their titles when they compete in the 2012 International YHEC in Mansfield, Pennsylvania.

Congratulations, Hunter and Reed, and thanks to our friends at Gsell's Whitetail Refuge for their continued support of the YHEC program.


The NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge Mid-America Expansion Project, sponsored by MidwayUSA, was a huge success in 2011, with many new YHEC events cropping up across the Midwest. Here's another report from NRA YHEC Field Coordinator Susan Hill from a first-time event in Lead Hill, Arkansas:

The group from Lead Hill, Arkansas YHEC Event
Our October 28th YHEC event was held in Lead Hill, Arkansas on the 84-acre private farm of Johnny and Michelle Burleson, who also led the event. 40 participants and 46 volunteers/parents from the HEAT home school group were in attendance. A Wildlife Officer with the Arkansas Game & Fish Department also came to the event to talk with the children about wildlife, hunting, and safety issues.

The participants completed four events including Archery, Rifle, Hunter Safety Trail, and Wildlife Identification. The Burlesons plan to have many more YHEC events and are working towards another in March of this year.


NRA thanks to Blaser and MidwayUSA In addition to the National Firearms Museum's dazzling display of guns, NRA's booth at Safari Club International's Convention in Vegas holds a message of thanks. Two actually. One to MidwayUSA and another to Blaser.

MidwayUSA (suppliers of Just About Everything℠ for Shooting, Reloading, Gunsmithing and Hunting) supports a number of NRA programs and events. Everything from the Bianchi Cup to the Youth Hunter Education Challenge to the Friends of NRA tv show.

Hunting rifle heavyweight Blaser donated 100 R93 rifles to the Friends of NRA program last year. That donation alone helped raise a considerable amount of funds for the Friends and all their good work.

And what better place to say thanks than SCI.

Our series of reports from NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) Program Coordinator Susan Hill continues this week with a look at an event for homeschoolers in Oklahoma. Despite heavy rains, the group enjoyed their first YHEC event and look forward to holding another one this year. Thanks for the report and photos, Susan!  

A young hunter and a volunteer show off a target during the Rifle event The Altus, Oklahoma YHEC event was held on October 8th, 2011 at the home of one of the families from the Altus CHESO homeschool group. Their 80-acre farm was a great place to set up the Hunter Safety Trail and ranges for both Rifle and Archery. Rachael Bender served as the Coordinator for the event and recruited 18 volunteers and 30 participants.

Carey Pribil and Lindell Newman with the Oklahoma State YHEC program volunteered to help and drove more than three hours to bring a trailer of YHEC equipment to the event. Greg Sexton, a Game Warden from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation came to the event and helped run the Hunter Safety Trail.


A young YHEC participant aims his gun during the Shotgun Event We’ve got another report and photos from Susan Hill, our Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) Program Coordinator. Susan has been hard at work this year helping groups in the Midwest start local YHEC events as part of the NRA YHEC Mid-America Expansion Project, sponsored by Midway USA.

Many states in the Midwest saw first time YHEC events being held, including Missouri. Here are Susan’s report and photos from an event in Warrensburg.

Our September 24 YHEC event was held at the University of Central Missouri Shooting Range in Warrensburg, Missouri. It was attended by 10 participants from the Johnson County Shooting Sports Club, led by Jeannie McClymond.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has helped develop the range, which is staffed by University employee Mike Busekrus. Mike made sure the range was in full operation with the assistance of graduate student Darren Doherty.

The Old Drum 1374 Detachment Marine Corps League from Warrensburg provided seven volunteers to help run the Shotgun Event. Other events held included Archery, Hunter Safety Trail, and Wildlife Identification.

Mike is planning a Spring Outdoor Youth Camp to be held at the range and will include YHEC as part of the camp.


Here is another report and photos from Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) Program Coordinator Susan Hill on another successful YHEC event held this fall as part of the YHEC Mid-America Expansion Project, sponsored by our Little girl learns the shoot bow and arrow at the Apple Creek YHEC event friends at Midway USA. This YHEC, held in Missouri, offered the Archery, Shotgun, and Wildlife Identification events to the over 40 participants, making this a very successful first-time event. Here's what Susan had to say about the Apple Creek YHEC event:

The Apple Creek Youth Hunter Education Challenge was held September 10, 2011 in Fruitland, Missouri at the Apple Creek Shooting Range. Apple Creek is a Missouri Department of Conservation range, but is staffed privately by the Apple Creek Gun Club. Grant Gillard is the President of the club and he, along with Vice President Alice Ireland, worked to run the Shotgun event. Grant and Alice were very instrumental in putting on this extremely successful event.

Greg and Alison Staggs were great Event Coordinators and made sure that they had a large group of volunteers from the Lynwood Baptist Homeschoolers group available to help run the event. There were 44 participants with 14 volunteers and Greg and Alison are working toward increasing their numbers for their 2012 YHEC events at Apple Creek. More

Heading out west to the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico is always one of the highlights of my year, so for my "honorable mentions" for top stories of 2011, I decided to go with two seperate events that took place this summer amidst the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

I've already used the winners of the 2011 NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) as my #3 story of the year, but there's one part of YHEC that everyone looks forward to - especially the participants. Although the bulk of the competition at YHEC takes place on the range or in the woods, it's the annual Tug of War that really gets the competitive juices flowing.

This year, I was able to capture it on film and watch as the teams were narrowed down to the final two team in each category. In the end, the Junior Team from Forbush, North Carolina, the ladies from New Mexico, and the Hempstead Swamp Donkeys Senior Team won their brackets, respectively, earning them Cabela's gift cards, a pretty awesome trophy, and bragging rights for the next year.


Junior YHEC Champ Reed Koozer on NRAblog Each summer, I look forward to attending the NRA International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I get to spend time with the participants and their families. This summer, we found ourselves back at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico for the 2011 YHEC. Hundreds of young hunters and their families traveled from all across the country to compete in a series of eight events designed to test hunting skills and knowledge. While I am always impressed by the abilities of our YHEC participants, each year I am blown away by their dedication, commitment, sportsmanship, and their desire to preserve the sport of hunting.

It's no wonder why these young people are so incredible - talk to any of the parents and coaches that accompany them and you'll see the same dedication and positive attitudes in the adults who help these young hunters become skilled hunters and exceptional leaders. This year, participants from North Carolina, Oregon, and Louisiana dominated the leaderboard, taking home top honors in both the Individual and Team categories in the Junior and Senior age groups.

I choked up several times during the awards ceremony - not because of the excitement on the winners' faces, but because of the pride shown by the parents and coaches. Tears of joy streamed down their faces as they watched their children accept the awards they had worked so hard to acheive. Photographing them proved difficult as I could barely see through my own tears.

2011 YHEC winner Hunter Efird hugs his father In the fours years I've been to YHEC, I've been able to watch these kids grow and mature as people and as hunters, seeing their skills develop year after year. Because of this, seeing the winners from 2011 accept their awards was moving for me because of all of the hard work they and their parents, coaches, and communities put in each year. It's something that I've discussed with the families from Louisiana, Oregon, and particularly the Efird family from North Carolina. 

In 2010, Hunter Efird from North Carolina was the top Junior individual, and in 2011 I was able to watch him win again in the Senior category. One of my favorite photos that I've taken in my career is that of Hunter and his father embracing following his win in Raton this summer. As I interviewed Hunter and the other winners and coaches, it was apparent that everyone wanted to acknowledge that hard work and practice pay off, and that it takes a group of people to come up with a win.

If that's the truth, then everyone who participated at YHEC this year was a winner, because if anyone knows the meaning of dedication and hard work, it's the people in our YHEC family.  


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