Competition: It’s part of what makes for a good time with the fam. And the Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) is no different. As a first-time attendee of the contest, I quickly realized that it's the family nature of the Challenge that makes this event even more exciting. This year, at the 2017 national YHEC event at the NRA Whittington Center, young hunters, shooters and their families proved this axiom once again.
YHEC is a competition in which youth shooters, archers and hunters from across the country gather to display their prowess in scenarios designed to simulate various activities that may or may not occur afield while on a hunt. YHEC is also a competition intended to educate participants and encourage them to build upon their personal outdoor skillsets through the use of eight different scored events, first at the local/state level, and then at the national level, which was held this year in Raton, New Mexico at the NRA Whittington Center.
Fifteen states competed, and several teams from multiple states were comprised of various families. Utah was represented by no fewer than four sets of siblings, one to a team. This included the White family (pictured above), which comprises both the state’s senior overall champ, Kade White, and the junior state champion, Davis White. To top it off, their dad, Paul White, was one of the coaches for Utah. Maryland was also represented with a few siblings on their teams. Jesse and Daphne Harmon, Mason and Hunter Keister, and Johnathan and Chris Wolfe all represented Maryland; all of them were not only vying for the top spot at the national competition, but also to see who would come out as number one in their respective families. Wyoming also had a pair of siblings on their team. Tevon White and Trevon White were in hot competition by the time I left the NRA Whittington Center.
But that’s not to say that the entire contest is all about winning (but come on, who can say it doesn’t feel good to beat out your brother or sister in a sport you’re both passionate about?). In reality, YHEC often brings families closer together. Paul White, one of Utah’s coaches, explained that the contest is a great time to connect with his kids. They began practicing for Utah’s YHEC competition in January, shooting 1,500 rounds of .22LR ammo, 400 shotgun rounds, between 70 and 80 muzzleloader shots and 15 to 20 arrows per person. With three of them competing, and another son in the ranks to join, that’s not cheap. Paul said it’s all worth it, as it provides some great one-on-one time with each of his children. For the White family, their hunting and competing lifestyle extends throughout the year. By the time the state competition ended in April, they were prepping for the national competition at the end of July, followed by the archery hunting season to come in August, not to mention the family hunts—which Dad counts as “practice”—through the end of the year.
Not only is family interaction a regular aspect that makes up the basis for several teams, but families come from across the country to support their children as they compete. A competitor representing Florida, and their family, for example, used the trip to YHEC as a destination for their summer vacation. Considering that the Whittington Center’s literature describes the Center as being in the “middle of ‘everywhere,’”—it’s within a 10-hour drive of Phoenix, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; Sturgis, South Dakota; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Denver, Colorado—there is no shortage of family-oriented events in the surrounding areas, which makes it a perfect centrally located destination for anyone venturing into the Southwest for a getaway.
So how did all of these young competitors wind up doing? Although anyone who has made it to the national competition is already a winner, the skilled and determined competitors who took home the 2017 accolades are listed here. If you're interested in exploring YHEC opportunities for your own family, click here!