Three weeks until America's largest gathering of youth hunters kicks off in Pennsylvania
Mansfield, Pennsylvania - In less than three weeks, kids from all over the United States will gather on the quad of Mansfield University for the 2014 International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC). A true test of a young man or woman's outdoor skills, YHEC is often the first outdoor experience for hundreds of kids every year. But this competition, the International YHEC, is reserved for the best.
"Approximately 50,000 youths go through our local, state, and provencal programs every year," explained Bob Davis, national manager of NRA's recreational programs.
"Winners of those competitions come out to International YHEC to battle for the title. A few titles to be exact."
A six-day event, the Youth Hunter Education Challenge begins when teams arrive. Initially divided by states, participants are divided again into Senior (15-18) and Junior (14 & under) categories. From there it's only a question of when to take on the challenges.
"A lot of kids come in with a routine, a way to approach the event. For them it's a matter of following a pattern. Others simply tackle whatever event is open."
Events fall into two separate categories; shooting and responsibility.
Shooting events are rifle, shotgun, muzzleloading, and archery.
"Muzzleloading can be interesting," Davis said with a chuckle. "Not everyone has experience in that field. We make sure that everyone is safe and comfortable before getting on the firing line. Once you do that, no matter what, odds are you'll have a surprise or two."
Responsibility consist of wildlife identification, hunter responsibility exam, hunter safety trail, and orienteering.
"You really shouldn't be out there if you can't pass those exams. We're talking about basic skills. What you need to know to keep you and everyone out there safe."
An event or two a day and a winner shall emerge. Titles for Overall, Senior, Junior, Team and more are bestowed upon those who found their stride. For most it will be a new experience.
That's because last year's winner, Hunter Efrid of North Carolina, finished his YHEC career with a fourth consecutive title. His departure leaves a great deal of room for the boys and girls from Georgia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and beyond to make a run for the crown.
It's going to be an interesting six days.
Find out more about the NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge at yhec.nra.org