NRA's Arkansas Youth Hunter Education Challenge championships come down to rabbits and safety trail
We've been following the progress of Benton County's 4-H team at the 2013 Arkansas State YHEC Championships. With his final report on the action, here is Benton County Coach Stuart Sage.
Little Rock, Arkansas
- The final days of Arkansas' NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge State Championships started with Wildlife Identification (humbling to most) and ended on the range. While I'd like to say that all teams did well, the truth, as everyone who has ever been on the range knows, is that some did better than others. That truth became even truer when we arrived at the sporting clays.
This is what the kids were really looking forward to shooting. That was before we realized it was the toughest setup in years.
With six positions with five shots each, the beginning was simple enough. A left shoulder shot running parallel and away, pairs crossing on the low side, combinations coming right at you. Then came station four. The rascally rabbits. This station ate a lot of lunches.
Stationed off to the right, the rabbits moved in true pairs as they bounced twice before disappearing into the tall grass. Though most shooters started strong, their hearts were broken at station four.
Moving from clays to the Safety Trail, competitors encountered hunter safety stations along the way. Volunteers presented real life scenarios and the hunters had to come up with the solution. There's a deer at the top of a hill, a pheasant flying over your head, etc... Raise your gun for a good shoot and drop it for a no-shoot.
Shooters were also stopped at times for inspection. Do you have your license on you? Are you wearing orange? Did you remember to bring band aids, fire starter kits or other items one requires on the trail.
The thing to remember is that the Safety Trail is so much more. It teaches skills that not only test hunting knowledge, but also guages the preparation that goes into every hunt. From the gear to the mind to the heart. The average person doesn't understand everything that hunters go through and contribute to the community. What we're building here are great conservationists.
As they wrap up the trail, I'm struck by the true spirit of the kids here at the competition. These kids are real teams. School teams that are part of the athletic system at the school. Unfortunately, they don't get the attention the more recognizable sports (football, basketball, baseball, etc... ) kids do. Especially since their big season take place in the summer. While the rest of their friends are enjoying summer, these kids are practicing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through mid-July.
Back to the action.
Finally we reached the .22 venue where I'm happy to report that all of our kids finished strong. With three stages of 25, 50 and 75 yards, our gang finished with 22 knockdowns. In faction, two of our juniors (Jackson Gower and Nate Sage) tied for first on our team. Alas, it was not enough.
While my guys and girls didn't finish with a first place trophy, we are overwhelmingly proud of their performance. Each exemplifying all we could ever hope for in the image of a young, responsible hunter. We tip our hats to the Event and Overall winners, and warn them to look out. We'll be in 2014. Bigger, stronger and ready to take home the big trophy.
Congratulations to all.
- JR Wildlife ID - Cleburne County "Team Realtree"
- SR Wildlife ID - Union County Team 1
- JR Archery 3D - Hempstead City "Bone Collectors "
- SR Archery 3D - Union County Team 1
- Sportsmanship Award - Emily Brown Sebastian City
- JR Compass/Orienteering - Cleburne City "team realtree"
- SR Compass/Orienteering - Union City Team 1
- JR Muzzleloader - Benton City Team 1
- SR Muzzleloader - Benton City Team 2
- JR Hunter Safety Trail - Hempstead City "Bone Collectors"
- SR Hunter Safety Trail - Benton City Team 2
- JR 22 Event - Benton City Team 1
- SR 22 Event - Benton City Team 1
- JR Sporting Clays - Hempstead City "Bone Collectors"
- SR Sporting Clays - Hempstead City "Swamp Donkeys"
- JR Hunter Responsibility Exam - Benton City Team 1
- SR Hunter Reapon Exam - Benton City Team 1
- #1 Overall JR Team - Hempstead City "Bone Collectors"
- #1 Overall SR Team - Benton City Team 1