By Lars Dalseide | August 24 2012 10:48

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

“The point of the Wildlife Identification challenge is to get the kids excited about wildlife, learning more about wildlife, and build their appreciation for it,” said Travis Casper, Wildlife Identification event director at the International YHEC and hunter education coordinator for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “There is reference material for them to study, and it can be anything from there. We’ll show them tracks, pelts, skulls, head mounts, full-body mounts—anything that could be used to identify the species.”

And this is no multiple-choice test. Participants must come up with the name of each species on their own.

That’s why the Wildlife Identification event, perhaps more than any other event in the competition, requires participants to do their homework ahead of time.

Having been involved with the YHEC program for 10 years, both nationally and in North Carolina, Casper has seen firsthand how the time spent getting ready for YHEC is helping kids to become better, safer, more dedicated hunters.

‘YHEC—in North Carolina we call our state event the North Carolina Youth Hunter Education Skills Tournament—gives kids a structured event for them to learn how to hunt and shoot the right way,” he said. “It’s so important to get kids involved in hunting early on because they’re going to be tomorrow’s stewards. This program is setting kids on the path to continue the hunting heritage.”

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

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