By Lars Dalseide | August 1 2012 13:23

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.

Charlie is the event director for the Muzzleloader Challenge at the International YHEC, an event that tests the kids’ knowledge of and proficiency with blackpowder firearms. Using any flintlock, percussion cap or 209 primer-type muzzleloading rifle (.54 caliber or smaller), participants fire a total of 15 shots at metal knock-down targets. Five shots are fired at each of three distances: short, medium and long range.

“Because we try to simulate hunting conditions, we don’t tell them the exact distance,” said Charlie, who noted that each shot is worth 10 points for a total possible score of 150.

The balance of the scoring for the event is determined by a 150-point examination consisting of 30 true/false questions relating to the safe use and maintenance of muzzleloading firearms.

Every member of Charlie’s volunteer crew—who call themselves the “Blackpowder Gang”—has a minimum of 10 years of experience at YHEC. Many of those volunteers have been associated with the program for 20 years or more. Charlie says he and his fellow volunteers are so committed to the program because of the quality of the kids they are able to mentor.

“When the day is finished, more than 300 competitors will have fired more than 22,000 shots,” he said. “I have not heard one bad word. I have not heard anyone be disrespectful. These are the finest, best trained young people in the country when it comes to the shooting sports. I don’t know how you can say it any better than that.”

NRA’s YHEC program is made possible by generous contributions for companies like MidwayUSA. To learn more about the YHEC program or to get involved, visit


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