By Kerrin Brinkman | December 31 2011 13:34

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.

Just a few days after the 2011 YHEC came to a close and the young hunters headed home, some of the nation's top 3-gunners descended upon the Whittington Center for the JP Enterprises Rocky Mountain 3-Gun Championship. Over three days, the shooters ran through nine stages, each one presenting new challenges. Stage 4 was strictly shotgun, and Stage 1 had competitors running with their rifles.

Daniel Horner wins in Limited Scope Class at Rocky Mountain 3-Gun I caught up with Bianchi Cup Champions Bruce Piatt on Stage 3 and Julie Golob on Stage 2 after running into our friends from Team Sierra Bullets on Stage 5. It was purely pistol on Stage 6, followed by Stage 7 which put shooters in "The Bowl". My favorite was Stage 8, which begged the question, "Why did the 3-gunner cross the road?" and on Stage 9 I caught 3-Gun Nation's cameras rolling to capture the action.

It was a great two weeks out in the desert of Northern New Mexico this summer, helping these two events land on my list of Honorable Mentions for 2011.

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