Almost 350 competitors attended the 2015 International Youth Hunter Education Challenge, which is now in its 30th year of supporting kids in hunting and other outdoor pursuits.
Over four days of competition held at the Whittington Center in New Mexico, several hundred children aged 18 years and under took part in a range of events, employing rifles, shotguns, bows and muzzle-loading firearms to improve their skills in hunting and outdoor safety.
Last year, almost 80 percent of those who participated in the event held hunting licenses in their home state, indicating the success of the program in getting kids outdoors, safely and responsibly.
Events were also held in orienteering, wildlife identification and hunter responsibility – all important skills for a young hunter to learn.
For many of these young shooters, hunting is a family affair. Preston McKee was introduced to hunting, and to the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, nine years ago, and since then he has pursued many species of deer, antelope and bird.
When asked what his favourite hunting experience was, he replied: “When I was hunting my second deer, I took with a rifle, my mom was hunting too. We finally spotted a deer and I was quicker than my mom!”
Another competitor, Hunter Fulmer, answered the same question by relating a story about his first turkey hunt.
After a frustrating few hours spent waiting behind a blind in a cornfield, Hunter was about to give up. His dad encouraged him to stay a little longer, and sure enough, a turkey came into the field and made a beeline for their decoys.
Such experiences are important lessons in patience and dedication.
None of the youngsters interviewed indicated that there was anything that they wished their family had told them prior to becoming involved in hunting.
This appears to be because these kids have been involved in their parents’ outdoor pursuits from a young age, and have had the opportunity to learn the safety skills and ethics of hunting through observation and first-hand experience out in the field.
All photos via NRA Family.