NRA Holds Annual Youth Hunter Education Challenge

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NRA's 22nd annual International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) will be held July 23-27 at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, N.M. More than 400 young hunters, plus several hundred parents, volunteers and coaches, are expected to attend the event, which marks the pinnacle of the most advanced youth hunter education program in North America.

"As the largest pro-hunting organization in the world, NRA is committed not only to introducing young people to hunting, but to retaining their interest in the sport,"” said NRA President John Sigler. "YHEC accomplishes both goals. The kids who go to Whittington and participate in this program will become safer, more skillful hunters, and they will have an experience they will remember the rest of their lives."

Often referred to as NRA's "graduate" program in hunter education, YHEC is comprised of eight events that test marksmanship skills and hunting knowledge. Participants rotate through four shooting events that test their skills with shotguns, muzzleloaders, 22-caliber rifles and archery equipment. Other events include a map and compass course, a written hunter responsibility examination, a wildlife identification test and an event known as Hunter Safety Trail, which requires youngsters to make decisions based on hunting scenarios typically encountered in the field.

Participants in the International YHEC compete for prizes in two age classifications, senior (age 15-18) and junior (age 14 and under), plus two categories, individual and team. For each event, the highest possible individual score is 300; for a five-member team, 1,500. Overall, an individual can score a maximum of 2,400 points in all eight events, with the highest possible team score being 12,000.

But the value of YHEC extends beyond prizes and points. It is a family-oriented event that builds character and reinforces life-lessons just as much as it does safety and accuracy.

"It's so satisfying to work with the kids and watch them develop their skills," said Coralie Carrier, New Mexico's State YHEC Coordinator. "We work with the same kids year after year, so you get to see them grow. There is no better group of young people in the world than our YHEC kids. They’re all so polite, knowledgeable, fun and hard-working."

Each year, approximately 50,000 youths take part in YHEC events at the state or provincial level throughout the United States and Canada. The annual International event is open to all youngsters who have completed a hunter education course and participated in their state or provincial YHEC program, regardless of their finish at the local level.

Since its inception in 1985, YHEC has helped more than 1.2 million sportsmen and women become the safest, most ethical and most competent hunters they can be. The program is widely praised for advancing the skill levels of young hunters.

For more information on the YHEC program or how to get involved, contact the NRA Hunter Services Department at (703) 267-1503 or log on to http://www.nrahq.org/hunting/youthed.asp.