Youth Hunter Education Challenge

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

Dan Ibrahim recalled all he had learned about deer hunting as he stared at the antlered buck standing in clear view nearly 50 yards away.

Big deer. Uphill line of fire. Road in the background.

Shoot, or don't shoot?

The deer remained motionless as the teenager from Republic considered his options. After several nervous seconds of thought, Ibrahim made up his mind. He scrawled "don't shoot" on the test sheet attached to the clipboard he held.

In the past week, Ibrahim had learned it's not safe to shoot toward a road. The deer in this setting was fake, but the hunting scenario it depicted involved a real choice Ibrahim might face on a future deer hunt. With a visual image to go along with a safety tip, he was more likely to do the right thing when he spotted a real deer while holding a firearm instead of a pencil.

This deer hunting exercise, part of the "hunter responsibility trail," was one of many activities Ibrahim and 10 other youths participated in during the week-long, Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) camp at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Training Center near Bois D'Arc.

Sponsored by the National Rifle Association, this nationwide program isn't like most hunter education classes. YHEC, which holds events in the United States and Canada, defines itself as an advanced program in outdoor skills and hunter safety training for individuals age 18 and under. YHEC events are open only to individuals who have completed hunter safety training at the state or provincial level.

Since the program began in 1985, more than 1 million people have participated in YHEC events. Many of the lessons YHEC participants receive is in the form of hands-on education. It's learning by doing. Or, as in the case of the hunter responsibility trail, it's actually seeing the do's and don'ts of hunting instead of learning them from a book. It's virtual reality hunter ed!

"The hunter education program is the first phase of becoming a hunter," said Rick Flint, Dalton Training Center supervisor and one of the organizers of the local event. "It does not make a complete hunter, but prepares the student for the experience phase of becoming a hunter. YHEC provides an opportunity for hunter education graduates to gain experience by applying what they learned in the classroom to actual field experience."

YHEC uses a varied curriculum of

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