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4-H, FWC and the NRA Partner Together for YHEC

Merrick aligns his rifle sights at YHEC at the Ocala Youth Camp. Photo by R. Dailey.

In Florida 4-H Shooting Sports, we support five disciplines or areas of study to youth ages 8 to 18. Those include archery, rifle, shotgun, muzzleloading rifles, and hunting. The Hunting discipline utilizes all the shooting sports. In addition, we teach wildlife identification, safe and ethical ways to hunt, land navigation and many other areas. Youth are challenged to become “experts” in as many of the areas as possible. They are encouraged by volunteer coaches who provide a safe, fun environment.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages the NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC). YHEC provides a fun environment for kids 18 and under to improve their hunting, marksmanship and safety skills. Through its simulated hunting situations, live fire exercises, educational and responsibility events, YHEC helps build upon skills learned in basic hunter education courses and encourages safer, lifelong hunting habits.

Traditionally both programs have run separately, but as the 4-H / FWC partnership grew, we mutually decided that both organizations could benefit by working together.  So that is what we did!  Throughout the year, FWC staff provided classes and activities for the youth at the Tenoroc Public Shooting Range and FWC Ocala Youth Conservation Center.  Florida 4-H clubs opened their meetings to provide practice with 3-D archery, navigation, and fire starting.  This year four 4-H clubs participated from Brevard, Marion, Okeechobee and Polk counties, and as the program grows, we hope to see many more join in.

A young 4-H archer scores his arrows on a 3-D elk target. Photo by R. Dailey.

On April 27, 2019, at the FWC Ocala Youth Conservation Center kids gathered from all over the state to participate in this year’s state challenge.  There were kids buzzing around everywhere, rotating from station to station.

Participants were elated with their success, while still recognizing areas in which they needed practice; such as when an arrow didn’t hit the mark or there was a tricky coyote skull to identify. All the kids enjoyed showing off what they’d learned in the months prior. Most importantly, they left with a sense of achievement, and a few more friends.

Positive youth development, teaching life skills, building a sense of belonging and mastery of skills are some of 4-H’s goals.  Not to mention, having fun at the same time.  Together at this event, 4-H, FWC, and the NRA accomplished this.  We can’t wait until next year!

More Information:  If you would like to add the Hunting or Muzzleloading discipline to your Florida 4-H Shooting Sports program, contact Gus Koerner in Brevard County.  Volunteer, faculty or staff, I can assist you. Email gkoerner@ufl.edu or call 321-633-1702, Ext. 52320.

Related: The 4-H Hunting Discipline Is More Than Just Hunting!

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