(l-r bottom row, Seiler Johnson, Tanner Johnson, James-Michael Cook, Colton Rader, Reed Wiser and Austin Witt l-r back row, Jr. Coach Tim Johnson, Ryan Jones, Matthew Brooks, Tyler Brigance, Robert Jones and Sr. Coach Gary Brigance)
Are you ready for the Challenge?
By Regina Slack-Rader
Each year over 16,000,000 men and women purchase a hunting license. In 1949, New York was the first state to pass a law requiring hunter safety training. Today, hunter's education is required in all fifty states and provinces. Each year, the states and provinces put on the Youth Hunter Education Challenge for the graduates of the hunter safety program to provide a greater knowledge of what was learned in the classroom and a to provide a more enhanced hands-on skills competition.
In Missouri, the YHEC contest is held in June at the United Sportsman's Club in Jefferson City. Participants range in age from eleven through eighteen years of age and compete individually and as teams. Everyone competes in eight disciplines.
They must shoot a .22 caliber rim fire hunting rifle at silhouettes, a repeating shotgun at sporting clays, a traditional type muzzleloader at swingers and a hunting type bow on a 3-D course.
Contestants also must be able to do an orienteering course which includes direction and distance finding, estimation of distance, map reading, plotting a course, interpreting a map and other general knowledge of maps and symbols.
Each participant must also walk a hunter safety trail. On this trail they will cross obstacles or be presented with a shoot/don't shoot situation. This competition presents the participants with many ethical, legal and safety situations.
Wildlife identification is another important part of this challenge. Contestants are asked to identify wildlife from fur, feather, skull, track, mounts, antler, horn, scat or other signs that wild animals may leave in an outdoors environment.
The final and most crucial component of the competition is the 50 question written test. This test includes questions from the Missouri Hunter Education Student Manual, the Missouri Wildlife Code Book and the Summary Code booklet.
A senior and a junior team from the Fair Grove area competed in the state competition on June 12-14th. In the senior division, The Missouri Sharp Shooters, led by Gary Brigance, consisted of Matthew Brooks (Fair Grove), Tyler Brigance (Fair Grove), Ryan Jones (Fair Grove), Robert Jones (Fair Grove) and Derek Wilson (Jefferson City) placed second with only 99 points separating them from the first place team. In the junior division, The Missouri Tack Drivers, led by Tim Johnson, consisted of Tanner Johnson (Fair Grove), James-Michael Cook (Fair Grove), Colton Rader (Buffalo), Austin Witt (Bois'd Arc), and Reed Wiser (Jefferson City) took top honors as the first place team. Tanner Johnson also won the Junior Division Overall Champion and James-Michael Cook won the award for having the Highest Combined Responsibility Events score. Seiler Johnson from Fair Grove competed as an individual at the competition also.
These area youth will be advancing to the International Youth Hunter Education Challenge in Raton, New Mexico. This event takes place July 27th through July 31st .
If you would like to learn more about the Youth Hunter Education Challenge competition you can find this information on the web at http://www.moyhec.com/ , contact a Missouri Department of Conservation Outdoor Education Center near you, or a local hunter education instructor.