It’s true that the competition is keen in the Iowa Youth Hunter Education Challenge -- in archery, muzzleloading rifle, shotgun, small-bore rifle, wildlife identification, orienteering, hunter safety trail and a written exam. However, “it’s more of a learning exercise instead of a competitive event,” said Jim Pease, ISU Extension wildlife specialist and director of the challenge. And it is the learning that keeps kids -- and adult volunteers -- coming back, year after year.
Youth who are age 12 to 18 and have passed a hunter education course can participate in this annual challenge sponsored by ISU Extension and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and run by 40 to 50 volunteers. For each of the past 15 years, 80 to 100 Iowa youth have gathered at the Iowa 4-H Center for a weekend in June to participate in the event. The youth bring with them a desire to learn about the outdoors and share that knowledge with others.
They’re drawn to the real-life situations they encounter in the challenge. For example, the shooting events, all outdoors, simulate various hunting situations. The hunter safety trail event helps youth learn how to deal with public/private property situations like crossing a fence, finding a poacher and meeting a landlord to ask permission to hunt.
“Kids come back, often times, for many, many years,” Pease said. And after they’ve aged out of the program, “they come back as volunteers and coaches. They mentor other young hunters.”
To learn more about the Iowa Youth Hunter Education Challenge, contact Pease at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit the ISU Extension Wildlife Web site.