Georgia Holds First Annual Hunter Ed Skills Challenge

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Youth interested in the outdoors can test their knowledge, demonstrate their skills, and register to win a muzzleloader at the state's first annual Hunter Education Skills Challenge event Jan. 17 in Walton County.

Open to all hunter education-certified youth, 18 years of age and younger, the challenge aims to test participants' abilities in six outdoor components: archery, air rifle, a safety trail challenge, orienteering, wildlife identification and a responsibility exam.

This is the first statewide event for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division’s new Hunter Education Skills Challenge program.

The event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sat., Jan. 17 at the division’s dove field in Walton County, just adjacent to the Wildlife Resources Conservation Center, located at 2065 U.S. Highway 278, SE in Social Circle.

"The program itself is similar to a 'graduate studies' course for hunter education students," explains Jennifer Pittman, Wildlife Resources Division's shooting sports coordinator. "Each component of the program simulates realistic conditions in an effort to reinforce and test a young hunter's skills."

Because this is the first annual statewide event, interested youth from across the state are invited, and no challenger is required to have participated in a prior local event.

Participants receive scores for each component with a maximum total score of 500. The competition includes two age divisions – Junior (ages 14 and younger) and Senior (ages 15-18). Unlike this year's statewide challenge event, youth interested in participating in future statewide challenge events must first qualify as one of the top ten scoring participants at a local competition (per age division).

The January state challenge kicks off a series of local challenges to be held throughout the state in 2009. Upcoming events will be highlighted on the division's Web site, www.georgiawildlife.com, under the "Education" tab. Also visit the Web site for practice tests and program information or call (770) 918-6416.