Article From Frederick News Post 06/23/2013 Page F2 by Dan Neuland.
I believe that most sportsmen would agree that the opportunities for young people to learn how to hunt have diminished dramatically over the past several decades. In the past, fathers would mentor their children by taking them squirrel and rabbit hunting on Saturday mornings in preparation for deer season when the youngsters were old enough to hunt big game.
Family-owned farms were once plentiful in Maryland and today, many have been replaced by housing developments and soccer fields. All hunters are faced with far less accessible land and gaining permission to hunt private land is not as easily gotten as in the past. All this makes it more difficult for a parent or grandparent to teach a young boy or girl how to hunt.
This is where the value of hunter education programs and the Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) really shine. The YHEC program began in 1985 and was known at that time as the North American Hunter Education Championship.
The basic purpose of YHEC is to bridge the gap between the basic hunter education courses and more advanced hunting. Because of its advanced nature, YHEC requires that participants must first successfully complete a Maryland hunter education course.
The 2013 Maryland YHEC event was held at the Potomac Fish and Game Club in Williamsport June 15 -16. The Frederick Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) offers a youth program that prepares young people for this annual event under the wing of Ben Kelkye, the Youth Program Director.
A total of 48 seniors (ages 15 -18) and 40 juniors (age 14 and under) participated in this year’s event. Participants face four shooting events and four “responsibility” tests.
Each event is worth a total of 300 points. The four shooting events include the Hunting Archery Challenge, Hunting Muzzleloader Challenge, Light Hunting Rifle Challenge and Hunting Shotgun Challenge. Each event is geared towards the use of standard hunting gear and all targets simulate real game as much as possible. The four responsibility tests include the Hunter Responsibility Exam, Hunter Safety Trail Challenge, Hunting Orienteering Skills Challenge and the Hunting Wildlife Identification Challenge. These activities involve more thinking than shooting skills and they require plenty of study and classroom time to master.
Teams are made up of 5 members in the same age division. Outdoor clubs, conservation organizations, and 4-H programs from across the state sponsor teams each year. Individuals can participate and compete for the individual awards without belonging to any particular team. The Frederick IWLA had 16 participants representing Frederick County at the event. They were teamed by ages into one senior team and two junior teams, with one alternate participating as an individual.
The Frederick Senior team members — Gabrielle Freese, Joey Gallo, Justin McAfee, Lucas Howell and Josiah Freese — took third place in the senior team division with a total team score of 7,709.
Josiah Freese led his team in scoring and placed second overall in the senior division with an individual score of 1,722. The senior team was coached by Mark Freese was awarded the coveted Maryland YHEC Coach of the Year Award, as selected by the YHEC board of directors at the event. Coach Freese was very deserving of the award as he invests a lot of hard work and time by teaching orienteering skills and wildlife identification to the entire youth program at IWLA.
I was honored to coach the Frederick Junior 1 team members – Nathaniel Neuland, PJ Hinch, Dayna Valek, Cameron Moneypenny and Spencer Becker. They took first place honors for the highest scoring team in the junior division for the second consecutive year with a total team score of 7,621.
Outstanding individual scores were recorded for Spencer Becker (1,566), Nathaniel Neuland (1,556), and Dayna Valek (1,482) who placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively in the overall standings.
The Frederick Junior 2 team members – Thomas Salamon, Elizabeth Gillis, Aidan Willoughby, Joel Freese, and Savanah Vance — placed a very respectable fourth in the overall competition with a total team score of 5,391. Coach Paul Hinch should be very proud of his young team’s performance at their first competition.
Howard Mumma Jr., a member of Potomac Fish and Game club, donated two hunting muzzleloaders in memory of his father.
Mumma is a member of the regional Mossy Oak Pro staff who often works with the Keystone Sporting Goods archery staff in Hagerstown. The firearms were awarded to the highest scoring individual junior and senior at the event. “I hope to see this event held at the Potomac Fish and Game Club every year and give young hunters the opportunity to have a good time and build some great memories, as I had growing up with my father,” said Mumma.
I cannot speak highly enough of the quality of the YHEC program in general and the wonderful experience that is provided at the annual competition. As a veteran hunter education instructor, I can see the development of the young hunters that goes far beyond what they learn in the basic hunter education classes. The YHEC program provides opportunities and incentives for young hunters to develop their marksmanship and hunting skills to become more competent marksmen and better, safer hunters.
Even if they do not win an award at the YHEC event, the time that they spend practicing for one makes them better prepared for the opening day of hunting season. For more information about the Maryland YHEC program log onto: http://www.marylandyhec.org/ For more information about the Frederick IWLA youth program log onto: http://www.frederickiwla.org/Youth.html