Now in its 33rd year, the NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) is a fabulous program that takes the knowledge and training learned by youth ages eight to 18 years in their basic Hunter Education class to a whole new level.
Four shooting events provide the youth participants with opportunities to develop and test their marksmanship skills. Light Rifle utilizes small silhouette targets out to 75 yards, Hunting Muzzleloader has slightly larger knock down targets to 75 yards, the shotgun event uses a 5 Stand format with 30 targets, and the archery challenge features the popular 3D format with very realistic scenarios in the field.
To continue the “education challenge,” four other events focus on responsibility. Orienteering is the most technically difficult; participants must find a given point in the field using only a distance and bearing. The Safety Trail is a situational awareness trial that assesses ethics and safe field practices. Wildlife I.D. tests young hunters’ ability to identify various animals using examples of fur, feathers, scat and antlers.
A comprehensive written test rounds out the YHEC educational experience. Despite the time and study required to complete YHEC, the program provides a fun and engaging way for these youth to learn and develop their hunting skills. Have you even seen a teenager study a book, on their own, during the summer? These kids do!
It takes a great deal of time and commitment to prepare young people to participate in their State and National YHEC events. Utah YHEC, a 501(c)(3) organization, was started by parents and coaches in Utah to promote YHEC throughout our great state. Our mission is to recruit and train interested young people and provide the necessary training and equipment for coaches and parents of YHEC participants.
“The objective is to help the kids that participate in the state of Utah YHEC tournament to have an opportunity to go to the National event,” wrote Paul White, Director of Utah YHEC. “The more involved in YHEC that kids are, the more likely they are to turn into lifetime hunters as well as to support NRA programs. We simply want to get kids hooked on hunting and everything The NRA Foundation stands for.”
One of the biggest challenges facing parents and coaches is funding a youth shooter. Having to provide a bow, shotgun, muzzleloader and rifle for each participant can be overwhelming—and many families have two or three kids at practice. Think about it: two rounds of 5 Stand shotgun practice each week at six dollars a box for ammunition, plus range fee, arrows, .22 cartridges by the case, muzzleloader powder and bullets. You can see how quickly the monetary commitment adds up.
We attend a State challenge early in the year and then those who qualify are eligible to participate in the National Youth Hunter Education Challenge Event held in July at the incredible NRA Whittington Center near Raton, N.M. Teams and individuals from all over the country meet and try their skills against their new friends. Registration fees for this event run about $700 per shooter.
That’s where Friends of NRA came to our rescue. We applied for and received our first NRA Foundation grant early in 2017. The grant of merchandise and funding totaling more than $9,500 was designed and given to provide relief in two key areas. The largest portion was applied to the registrations of 10 of our top shooters and two coaches to attend the National event. Receiving a “scholarship” was just the ticket to get parents as excited and committed to attend as their kids. The remainder of the grant went to help us with another dilemma we face: finding the best firearms to fit young shooters’ hands. The three rimfire .22 rifles, three muzzleloaders and three youth compact 20 gauge shotguns provided by the grant became invaluable tools to our youth shooters’ experiences and success.
“These kids would not have been able to compete in this competition without the help The NRA Foundation provided to help pay for their registration fees,” White shared. “These kids will remember this experience for the rest of their lives and will forever be supporters. Words can't express our appreciation. Thank you for helping protect our future by giving kids opportunities to experience the shooting sports in the great outdoors!”
YHEC provides an opportunity for some of the finest young people in our country to improve their skills and knowledge. They are the future of our sport and our freedoms.
Support youth shooting sports programs like YHEC in your area and apply for an NRA Foundation grant. Attend a Friends of NRA event in your area to help fund these grants. Find an event HERE!