The 2016 NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) National Championship is less than a month away, and the top youth hunters across the country are gearing up to bring their A-game as they contend to be named best of the best.
The competition will be fierce, as the hunters participating in the YHEC National Championship represent the best youth hunters in their states, and have experience under their belts. However, with focus, dedication and training, earning top honors at the national championship is within your grasp.
If you have a solid regimen that works for you, follow it, and keep training. If you need some direction, start with these five training tips to prepare you for your quest for hunting greatness:
1) Three Keys to Shooting: During the shooting portion of the YHEC National Championship, remember the three fundamentals of successful target shooting:
Sight Picture: Practice using your firearm’s sights, and remember to always focus on the front sight. You can only focus on one part of the sight picture at a time, and the rear sight is too close to focus on. Conversely, if you focus on the target, you won’t be able to see the front sight clearly. When focusing on the front sight, it becomes much easier to maintain correctly aligned sights.
Breath Control: There is no one absolutely correct way to construct your breathing and shooting methods, but the most important thing to remember is to take a few deep breaths to relax and clear your thoughts. This is where shooting fundamentals are essential. You can either exhale fully, or about halfway before squeezing the trigger. Alternately, you can inhale, shoot, and then exhale. Find what works for you, and practice it BEFORE you arrive at YHEC!
Trigger Control: Trigger control is the act of moving the trigger and firing the gun without altering or disturbing aim. Always increase pressure smoothly, move the trigger straight to the rear, and maintain contact with the trigger as the gun fires, then allow the trigger to reset for the following shot.
2) Prepare Your Body: Mastering the art of navigating through potentially rough terrain with little more than a map and compass is an essential part of being a skilled outdoorsman, and is a critical component of the YHEC National Championship. Learning how to use your tools effectively is undoubtedly a huge part of succeeding in the competition and in the field, but preparing your body physically is equally as important to being a successful orienteer. While training for YHEC, try to build in a physical fitness regimen that includes aerobic workouts, strength training, and flexibility. Consider running or jogging, if possible in environments similar to where you’ll be competing for YHEC. You can use free weights, machines or other objects – safety first! – to help you build strength, and always remember to stretch properly following any workout you do, as this helps your body’s flexibility and decreases the risk of injury from workouts or competing. Having a degree of physical fitness will pay dividends in other YHEC challenges, including shooting events, where a lower resting heart rate and better strength can provide competitive advantages, as well.
3)Know The Rules: The key to earning a championship in any competition is to “play the game the right way,” and that means understanding the rules and regulations that govern the YHEC National Championship. While all hunters in the national competition have participated at some level of the program before, they may not have competed in all eight events, and knowing the regulations before beginning will help hunters stay on the path to success. In addition to the competition rules, the Rules and Regulations include the Code of Conduct, important safety rules, scoring criteria, and other information important to manage the competition fairly. All competitors should have a copy of the guide.
4)Study Your Materials: Whether you’re preparing for the orienteering challenge, mastering hunter safety and ethics, or brushing up on animal tracks for the wildlife identification event, studying relevant information well before the YHEC National Championship will help you significantly in the heat of competition. It’s especially important to get valuable studying in ahead of the competition, because when it comes time to participate in the event, books, reference guides, cell phones, cameras, and other electronic equipment is prohibited! The YHEC Rules and Regulations detail what you can and cannot use in each event, as well as listing approved resources to study before the competition.
5)Safety First, Safety Always: More important than any championship, award, prized game, or anything else, is the value of safety. Familiarize yourself with the YHEC safety rules, which are available in the Rules and Regulations guide, and abide by them at all times! If you notice another competitor, or even a staff member or volunteer doing something unsafe, speak up! Safety is everybody’s responsibility. You represent the best youth hunters in the country, and set the example for others who aspire to be as good as you are, so being a safe role model is the best first lesson to teach others.
These are only a handful of things to consider when preparing yourself for the thrill of the YHEC National Championship, scheduled for July 24-29, 2016 at the Mill Cove Environmental Center in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. Remember to continue training in ways that have helped you be successful so far, and encourage friends who may be interested to consider participating in a YHEC local or state event to get started.
Still haven’t registered for the YHEC National Championship? There’s still time, but you need to act fast! Registration and payment is due July 1. Don’t miss your opportunity to be named best of the best and register before it’s too late!