Youth Hunting

A DNR official supervises as a youth practices shooting. [Courtesy Department of Wildlife Resources]

This weekend, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will host the annual Youth Hunter Education Challenge at the North Springs Shooting Range in Price, Utah. The competition is for Utah girls and boys ages 6 -18 who have completed a DWR hunter education course and is designed to help kids improve their hunting, marksmanship and safety skills. Winners may go on to compete in a regional competition in either New York or Arkansas.

“Most years it’s all youth, but we’ve opened it up to allowing adults to shoot in it too this year,” added Levi Basset, shooting sports coordinator for the DWR, who is organizing the event.

The challenge comprises eight events, beginning with a written exam on Friday afternoon right after registration.

“It’s very similar to the hunter education course test,” Basset said, noting that the challenge exam focuses more on hunter ethics than the hunter education test. This weekend’s exam also includes questions on things like wilderness survival, gun safety and wildlife identification. Participants can prepare by studying ”The Hunter’s Guide,” a publication from the National Rifle Association.

After the exams are completed, which must be done by 3 p.m., there will be an opening ceremony and organizers will conduct two or three more events, depending on time. One of the shooting events is the .22 rifle challenge, in which participants have five shots at each of six stations at a range of distances and using a variety of shooting positions. The targets will be animal silhouettes. There are also shotgun, muzzleloader, and archery shooting events.

At 6:30 on Friday, the events will be wrapped up for the day and participants can enjoy a provided dinner, games, and vendor booths. Participants are advised to bring food for lunches during the day; the shooting range has shaded picnic areas.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, the challenge will recommence with a flag ceremony and competitors will finish the rest of the events. Aside from the written exam and shooting events, there are challenges that test orienteering, wildlife identification, and safety skills.

The weekend will end with an awards ceremony on Saturday, where there will also be food provided. Ribbons and medals will be awarded for individual events, and the overall top finishers will receive prize baskets with items like bags for bows, binoculars, scopes, and sporting goods store gift cards.

The hunter education course is offered through the DWR and can be taken at any time—there are hybrid online/in-person versions of the course offered throughout the state. Basset said most kids can finish the course in about a week. The course is a prerequisite to compete in the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, but if kids have not completed the course and are interested in the event, Basset said anyone is welcome to come check it out and ask for instruction if needed, though they won’t be eligible to win prizes without the hunter education course completion.

The DWR will have equipment to loan to participants that don’t have their own; Basset acknowledged that the several types of weapons used in the challenge can add up to a high cost, and sometimes families accumulate the items over a number of years.

The competition has been an annual event for over 30 years.

“I competed in this growing up,” said Basset, remembering that he especially enjoyed the wildlife identification challenge. “Probably because I was fairly good at it,” he acknowledged.

Last year’s challenge was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic; this year, Basset said, there are about 35 participants signed up, with space to accommodate more. In past years, the event has had up to about 150 participants.

“I just love the competitive aspect of it,” said Basset. “It’s fun to take a passion and make it a little bit of a challenge and a competition.”

Info:

What: Youth Hunter Education Challenge

When: Friday, June 18 & Saturday, June 19

Where: North Springs Shooting Range (5245 S. 8000 West Price, Utah)

Cost: $40 per participant

Info: Levi Basset, levibasset@utah.gov or 385-260-5850