How to get started in the Florida Youth Hunter Education Challenge
Who is Eligible:
Eligibility - All participants must be graduates of a state hunter safety course. The Junior Division consists of ages up to 14 years old. The Senior Division includes ages 15 through 18. Division eligibility is determined by the participant's age on August 1st annually. Participants may compete as individuals or as part of a team of five members.
Coaches/Adult Sponsors - All coaches or adult sponsors must be at least 18 years of age and sponsor one team of five, or up to four individuals.
All participants will need three firearms; a .22 rimfire hunting-type rifle, a repeating shotgun, a muzzleloader and a hunting type bow. Equipment may be the participants own, or may be borrowed from relatives, gun club, or other source (check with the program administrators, equipment may be available). Obviously, the best results will be from equipment owned by the shooter with the proper fit. The following is a list of the various challenges with the necessary or appropriate equipment for each:
.22 Hunting Rifle: Any .22 long rifle is appropriate, although a single shot action is not recommended. The rifle cannot weigh more than 8 pounds, and trigger pull must be a minimum of 2 pounds. The rifle may have a scope with magnification not greater than 9x. Variable power scopes may be used. Targets are animal targets, placed at about 25, 50, and 75 yards. Each target is 10 shots in 7 minutes. Participants will provide their own ammunition for both regional and state events.
Shotgun: A 12-gauge shotgun is recommended although a 16 or 20 gauge may be used. Any action capable of two shots is acceptable. The most common actions would include the over and under double barrel, semi-automatic and pump. Many shots in this sporting clays type competition involve "report" doubles where the second target is released on the report of the first shot. It is important that the shotgun fit the shooter. Choke tubes or settings cannot be changed during competition. Florida Youth Hunter Education Challenge (FLYHEC) provides ammunition ONLY for the state event, not for regional competition.
Archery: Almost all competitors use a compound type bow. It is highly recommended that the shooter be fitted to correct bow measurements of draw length and weight of pull. Pull weights of at least 35 lbs. are recommended to reduce rainbow trajectories. Hunting type sights, pins or crosshairs, are allowed. Check the National YHEC Rule Book for current archery equipment requirements. Fingers or mechanical releases are allowed. All shooting is done on 3-D animal targets at ranges from 5 to 40 yards.
Muzzleloader: Percussion or flintlock muzzleloading rifles may be used. The most common calibers are .45 and .50, with .54 caliber the maximum. Only single patched round ball or pure lead slug (no sabots or powerbelts, see current rules ) is permitted with a maximum charge of black powder (or approved equivalent) of 60 grains weight. 209 shotgun primers are permissible.
Orienteering: The necessary item for this event is a good quality land navigation compass with the ability to sight through some type of sight alignment system. Inexpensive compasses do not have enough sighting accuracy. Recommended types include the Silva Ranger and the Brunton Professional Model 8040 (either about $20 - $35). Loaner compasses are provided at the state event. Competition includes direction and distance finding, range estimation, map reading, plotting direction and interpreting USGS topographic maps, and general knowledge of maps and symbols.
Hunter Safety Trail: No specific equipment is needed other than an outdoor area to practice crossing obstacles or shoot/don't shoot situations with a hunting firearm. Preparation for this challenge should include a careful review of the current Florida Hunter Safety student manual, including the 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety, safe firearm carries, and zones of fire. Competition may include ethical, legal, and safety situations along a walk-through trail.
Animal Identification: No specific equipment is needed. Any publications showing identification characteristics of North American wildlife is helpful. Mounted animals on exhibit are very useful. Local trappers, taxidermists, outdoor educators, or wildlife biologists would also be a great source of information. Participants will identify wildlife from fur, feather, skull, track, mounts, antler, horn, scat and other sign.
Hunter Responsibility Exam: Competition consist of a 50 question written test on hunter preparedness and responsibilities including wildlife management, outdoor ethics, survival, first-aid, firearm and archery equipment knowledge, and other pertinent information hunters should know. The exam questions are taken from the current Florida Hunter Safety Student Manual and the current Florida Hunting Regulations pamphlet.
Practices: Practice for the annual FLYHEC Regional Championships may take place year round. The 2017 State Championship is scheduled to take place on May 6th at the Ocala Conservation Center.
Expenses: The major expense for this program is obviously the equipment and supplies needed by each competitor. Ammunition costs may be kept as low as possible by watching for sales on .22 ammo or using reloaded shotgun ammo.
Facilities: The best arrangement would be to have available a local gun club range for .22 rifle and shotgun practices. Archery can be practiced with less space, even at an indoor range, if available. The four non-shooting events can be studied indoors, although the Hunter Safety Trail and Orienteering should be done outdoors on occasion to practice correct techniques in real life situations. Rural participants probably will not have difficulty finding safe places to practice .22, shotgun and muzzleloading safely. Urban area participants may have to schedule time on FWC public ranges.