Many parents attempt to raise responsible, self-sufficient and independent children. Hank and I are no different. We do our best to raise our Little Gal (LG) to be an outstanding citizen. If you have followed LG’s and my adventures for any length of time, you know Hank and I use hunting, fishing and shooting, among other things, to teach her these traits. We also feel it is important to involve her in group and individual activities. One of which is the Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC).
What is YHEC?
YHEC is a comprehensive youth hunting program created by the National Rifle Association (NRA). It is designed to teach young hunters outdoor skills and safety. LG joined YHEC when she was 12. Other young ladies, or young men, can join at any age as long as they have completed a state, or provincial, hunter-safety training program.
YHEC members will participate individually and as a team in 8 skill areas, teaching them to become experts in all methods of take and all types of game. Youth will shoot rifles, shotgun, muzzleloaders, 3-D archery; they also learn to identify wildlife from around the world, participate in orienteering, survival and hunter-safety exercises.
YHEC was established in 1985, and has reached more than one million young sportsmen and women, to date. Programs are hosted on state and provincial levels, and run by volunteer instructors.
LG uses her own equipment for competition. Don’t worry if you do not have access to the required gear, though. Due to the generous support of the Friends of NRA and other conservation organizations, most clubs offer rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, bows and ammunition available for use. Since LG brings her own equipment, she must have it inspected by the event staff at competitions and practices to ensure that it is in safe, working order. She uses club ammunition, but some of her teammates bring ammo. Ammo must meet NRA/YHEC guidelines.
Some clubs require registration fees or donations to cover the costs of ammunition and targets. In order to cover the expense of shooting, LG’s club solicits sponsorships, applies for grants and hosts multiple fund-raising events throughout the year. If you are going to get your child into YHEC, you will need to ask your club what will be required financially.
LG wanted to participate in YHEC to improve her hunting knowledge and shooting skills. She likes to learn everything she can about guns and how they work. She also enjoys competing with others to better herself and her team. I like the fact that she is becoming disciplined and is required to be responsible in order to be on the team. She is learning to identify with others and also becoming an individual, both are very important traits for young ladies.
The road to YHEC Nationals
LG participated in the 2012 regional YHEC competition. Since then, she has been training to improve her scores. She competed in indoor-archery tournaments last winter, winning first in her division. She has also been practicing for the 2013 regional YHEC competition that was held the beginning of June, and was required for her to qualify for the National YHEC competition.
LG and her team qualified in the junior division for the national competition. LG placed third in .22 rifle, third in muzzleloader and second in wildlife identification. On July 21-26, 2013, LG and her team will compete at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, N.M., against more than 300 young sportswomen and men from around the country. We are now training morning and night for the national YHEC competition. At our home range we either shoot either shotgun, .22 or muzzleloader for at least 1 hour each morning, and 3D archery for at least 1 hour in the evening. LG’s club meets 3 nights a week to practice. They bring all 3 guns and their bow to the range and practice for 2 hours.
As a parent, I recommend YHEC, or other shooting-sports events, for your child. It is amazing how competition increases a child’s desire to excel. All team members are dedicated to their teams and to one another. Parents can watch the competition, but are not allowed to provide coaching or instruction to the participants. A spectator can see them not only being safe and responsible, but also supportive of one another. Often times, I will hear them quietly encouraging one another. They display amazing sportsmanship and show respect for other teams
Other youth shooting-sport programs available include the following:
- 4-H Shooting Sports
- Scholastic Steel Challenge (SSC)
- USA Archery After School Program
- AIM – Youth Armature Trapshooting Association