The shooting sports, hunting, and the entire outdoor lifestyle are near and dear to many of us. It’s up to us to pass down our knowledge and passion to the next generation in order to keep our country's grand traditions alive. NRA's Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) is a prime example of how these outdoor skills can be developed and applied.
YHEC provides a fun environment for kids 18 and under to improve their hunting, marksmanship and safety skills. Through its simulated hunting situations, live fire exercises, educational and responsibility events, YHEC helps build upon skills learned in basic hunter education courses and encourages safer, lifelong hunting habits. Wondering what makes YHEC so much fun? Check out these five reasons below!
1. Time To Be Outdoors
Forget the classroom. When youth attend a state or local YHEC, they will experience a fun, unique and interactive hunter education event that goes far beyond the lessons taught in basic hunter certification courses. Better yet, it’s all outdoors! Most YHEC events feature four live-fire shooting events and four responsibility events designed to simulate real-life hunting situations. The archery, shotgun, muzzleloader and .22 rifle shooting events cover all the firearm bases so youth can further develop and improve their marksmanship and firearm safety skills. The hunter responsibility exam, hunter safety trail, orienteering and wildlife identification events are both interactive and educational. They allow youth to learn through hands-on safety lessons rather than lectures in a classroom. YHEC participants will have to blaze a trail with only a map and compass, distinguish between wildlife species based on real animal parts and prove they can make responsible safety decisions that every hunter must face while in a simulated hunting environment.
2. Something For The Entire Family
Family plays a key role in a young hunter’s development and it is important to the YHEC program that parents and family members get involved. Ninety-one percent of YHEC participants were introduced to hunting by a parent and as a result, family members can contribute in a variety of ways. At YHEC events across the country, parents serve as coaches for individuals and teams or as volunteers to handle registrations, manage logistics, track scores, etc. Multiple siblings can participate as most YHEC events are open to ages 18 and under and all are designed to be spectator friendly so family members can provide encouragement and show support for their child during the event. Because of the inclusive nature of the program, entire families can benefit from the shared experience of a YHEC event.
3. NRA Approved
Any person with the right venue, volunteers and passion for hunting can start a YHEC. The NRA does not charge anything to host an event and provides a great deal of support in an effort to grow state and local YHEC programs across the country. NRA provides a variety of materials at no cost to the event including t-shirts, bags, life-size paper targets, scorebooks, bumper stickers, certificates of participation, orange safety tape and more. Insurance and marketing support (including email blasts, posters and brochures) are also made available. Additionally, YHEC provides grant opportunities through The NRA Foundation and has a subsidy program set up for official state events in which $10 is given for every participant to help cover some of the costs associated with hosting.
4. High Level Competition
Since 1985, NRA has hosted the YHEC National Championship, inviting individuals and teams from state and local YHEC programs from all over the country to compete in all eight shooting and responsibility events over the course of four days. This is the highest level of the YHEC program and successful individuals and teams can earn great prizes and awards based on their performances. NYHEC is more than a competition, it is a gathering place for the nationwide YHEC family. Special activities like the nightly swap meet, flu-flu arrow competition and the turkey shoot are fun for the whole family and help foster comradery and long-lasting friendships. Many teams travel thousands of miles and come back to NYHEC year after year. In 2017, over 300 youth participated in the NYHEC in Raton, New Mexico, and we expect another great turnout at the next NYHEC in Mansfield, Pennsylvania in July of 2018.
5. Paving The Way For The Future
The future of hunting and firearm ownership is constantly under threat. To make sure hunting traditions of this country are preserved for future generations, young people need to be exposed to hunting and shooting in the right environment. YHEC is a perfect program to introduce kids to hunting in a fun and positive way. It also keeps them involved in hunting year-round and maintains their interest in outdoor activities. According to a recent survey, over 79 percent of YHEC participants have purchased a hunting license in their home state and 23.6 percent have one in another state. Since 1985, this program has educated and provided opportunities to over 1.25 million adolescents. Growing and supporting the YHEC program will only help to create more advocates for hunting, conservation and firearm ownership.
For more information about NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge, including where to find a local/state event and how to host your own YHEC, visit yhec.nra.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (800) 492-4868.