When it comes to introducing children to hunting, the NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) is an excellent place to start, and now is the time to start making plans for 2020 as the program is gearing up for its peak season.
The YHEC is committed to building the next generation of hunters, offering a variety of options—including simulated hunting situations, live-fire drills and more—for children under 18 to learn hunting, marksmanship and firearm safety. But the YHEC goes beyond hunting, as participants can learn about wildlife identification, map reading, compass navigation and more.
Since its inception in 1985, the YHEC has registered more than 1.2 million youngsters in its programs. Like everything, it has evolved over time, with the latest change coming last year with a push for regional events in lieu of one national championship.
YHEC Manager Montgomery Embrey explained the change as a way to improve accessibility to the program. Before, the nationals would be a week-long event in one location; now, multiple shorter-term regionals give people choices that require less of a money and time investment. This year, three such regionals will be offered as multi-day events in July and August in the host locations of Breesport, N.Y.; Bentonville, Ark.; and Hyrum, Utah.
YHEC events are classified as local, state or regional, with the local and state get-togethers providing the opportunity for youngsters to hone their skills and practice for the regionals. Local events serve as basic introductions to the skills; moving up to state-level gatherings requires participants to have completed a hunter-education course. The NRA helps with that, too, offering a free online hunter-education class.
The YHEC has a cadre of hosts across the nation already, of course, but people or organizations that meet a few criteria and would like to join the cause are welcome to apply.
The YHEC website offers the most up-to-date listing of events, but don’t worry if you don’t see one in your locality or state right now. February and March are the months when most program offerings get listed as the high season for when the courses occur is April through September.