Youth Hunter Education is a Priority in Upton

Friday, August 07, 2020

Main News Photo

What: 13th Annual Wyoming State Youth Hunter Education Challenge

When: August 22 (Check-In at 7:00am & events begin at 7:30am)

Where: Upton Gun Club

Who: Youth age 18 and under

Registration: There is a $10 entry fee and all participants must bring a copy of their Hunter Education Class card. Register online, download the registration form or contact Rick Rothleutner, YHEC Director at rrrothleutner@yahoo.com or 307- 281-9980 or Katie Simpson, Hunter Education Coordinator at katie.simpson@wyo.gov  or 307-777-4542.

Hunting in Wyoming is well-known as a large draw for recreational enthusiasts, many of whom begin hunting as a youth. Learning to hunt safely is important to continuing the pursuit over the course of a lifetime. For Rick Rothleutner, President of the Upton Gun Club, the 13th Annual Wyoming State Youth Hunter Education Challenge is one way to gain the proper hunting techniques. It requires a large number of adults interested in volunteering their time to successfully help the future hunters.

“Last year, we had four young adults who participated in the Challenge as youth, come back to volunteer,” he said. “That tells me this is working.”

The Challenge is a half-day of various events designed to test and teach youth under the age of 18. Typically held in June each year, the Challenge was postponed to August due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We typically have about 50 kids each year and we are almost to that again this year,” Rothleutner said. “While we do not have any this year yet, we usually get kids from the surrounding states of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota to participate as well.”

Challenge Specifics

Youth are split into two divisions for the Challenge: 14 years of age and under for a Junior Division and 15 to 18 years of age for a Senior Division. The Challenge involves eight different events, with a mix of hunter responsibility and shooting emphasis.

Four Responsibility Events promote proper hunter skills, etiquette and safety. A Hunter Responsibility Exam, used as a tiebreaker, includes a written examination of multiple choice, true-or-false and fill-in-the-blank questions of content taken from the Wyoming Hunter Education manual or online course, Wyoming Hunting Regulations and other sources. The Hunter Safety Trail Challenge requires youth walk through a 10 station pre-determined trail designed to simulate actual hunting conditions like hunter game situations, target identification, safe gun handling afield and a simulated license. A 30-station walkthrough course defines the Hunting Wildlife Identification Challenge, which tests participants on their ability to identify wildlife by observing animal tracks, mounted animals and reading and identifying wildlife signs from 1 to 50 yards. The Hunting Orienteering Skills Challenge tests participants' ability to take bearings with a compass and reading maps.

Four Shooting Events begin with a Hunting Shotgun Challenge, where youth move through a multiple station hunter clay course designed to simulate hunting conditions. Permitted shotguns include 12-, 20-, 28- and .410-gauge. A Light Hunting Rifle Challenge allows participants to shoot standard .22 caliber rifles at life size paper, knock down or silhouette game targets varying in distances from 15 to 75 yards. The Hunting Muzzleloader Challenge tests participants ability to shoot at life size game animal targets varying in distance from 20 to 50 yards with flintlock or percussion musket cap or 209- primer type Muzzleloading rifles. The Hunting Archery Challenge requires youth to use a hunting type compound, recurve or longbow to shoot at life size game or 3-D game targets varying in distance from 10 to 40 yards. In addition, there is an optional event called the Cherokee Challenge, where the youth, adults and other family members can try different outdoor skills like throwing axes, shooting a slingshot or throwing a spear. 

Volunteers and Donations

Each event is scored, with the top three scores in each division receiving a prize, such as a guided elk or pheasant hunt, gun or other packages. Every participant will receive some sort of prize, such as binoculars, knives or rangefinders. All prizes are donated.

“We are 100% reliant on donations and volunteers,” said Rothleutner. “We typically get more than 50 volunteers to help with the event and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is a huge supporter of our event. 

Upton businesses and individuals are eager to assist, said Rothleutner, because they know the area's youth and want to help out the local community.

“They love the area, recognize we put on a good event and want to keep it going,” he said.

The area the Upton Gun Club sits in is perfect for the event, said Rothleutner. It borders the Burlington Reservoir, allowing the event to hold the shooting events on the rifle and pistol range on one side, and the responsibility events on the other. Located in the junipers and sagebrush of the “Black Hills of Wyoming,'' there are plenty of wildlife, hunting and other outdoors opportunities. Trout fishing can be found nearby and the Upton Golf course is close. 

More than a fun event

Rothleutner said the Upton Gun Club can host about 80 individuals at one time, so if it ever gets to that point, they may have to think about extending the Challenge to a two-day event. But the importance of the Challenge lies beyond numbers or even just a fun event testing youth abilities, he said.

“This is about retaining youth in hunting and helping them develop their abilities in a lifelong pursuit,” he said.

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