NRA’s 23rd annual International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) will be held July 28-August 1 at the Mill Cove Environmental Area and Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pa.
Outside of conventional hunter safety classes taught nationally, YHEC is perhaps the largest and longest-running youth hunter education program in the country. About 50,000 youngsters a year take part in YHEC events held at state, local, regional or provincial levels. Up to 400 young hunters, plus parents, coaches and volunteers, typically participate in the annual international event.
“In a time when the entire hunting community is concerned about declining participation, YHEC is one very clear bright spot on the horizon of hunting’s future,” said Bill Poole, NRA’s Director of Education and Training. “Through YHEC, kids become more skillful, more successful sportsmen. Ultimately, YHEC produces good ambassadors for hunting.”
Often referred to as a “graduate” hunter education program, YHEC builds on the skills learned in basic hunter education, especially with more emphasis on actual firearms handling. YHEC is comprised of eight events that test marksmanship skills and hunting knowledge: Shotgun, Muzzleloader, .22 Rifle, Archery, Orienteering, Wildlife Identification, a written Hunter Responsibility Exam, and Hunter Safety Trail, in which youngsters make decisions based on hunting situations typically encountered in the field.
All of the shooting events simulate actual hunting conditions as closely as possible. Only conventional sporting arms are allowed, and life-size game or NRA-approved action targets are used. 3-D targets are used in the Archery event.
Participants in the International YHEC compete for both team and individual prizes in two age classifications, senior (15-18) and junior (14 and under). For each event, the highest possible score is 300; for a five-member team, 1,500. The annual international event is open to all youngsters who have completed a hunter education course and participated in their state or provincial YHEC, regardless of where they finished.
Since its inception in 1985, YHEC has reached more than 1.2 million participants, and the program continues to grow. YHECs currently exist in 33 states and Canadian provinces. Nebraska had a YHEC program for the first time this year, and Wyoming adopted YHEC after trying a similar program. If your club is interested in finding or starting a YHEC in your area, call 703-267-1503 or visit www.nrahq.org/hunting/youthed.asp.
A great deal of YHEC’s success is due to the generous, longstanding support from the program’s sponsors. Most recently, Cabela’s became a new sponsor by joining NRA’s Add-A-Buck program, which gives Cabela’s customers the opportunity to add a dollar, or multiples of whole dollars, to their purchases, with those funds earmarked to benefit YHEC. Visit http://www.nrahq.org/hunting/youthed.asp to see a complete list of sponsors.