Blast from the Past

Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC)

Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC). New Mexico Wildlife magazine Winter 2018 Vol61, Num1, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Imagine a world where everyone waves as they drive past each other, no music blaring, youth acknowledge others with a yes ma’am or no ma’am, people of all ages shake your hand and look you in the eye, kids cheer each other on as the competition gets fierce and families extended beyond the traditional boarders; everyone is family.

This probably draws up images of The Andy Griffith Show, dirt roads with dust getting kicked up and the show pausing as the audience laughs.

If you are like me, you are probably thinking those were the ‘good ole days’ (insert sigh here). They don’t exist anymore, but now, in 2019 . . . they do exist . . . at the New Mexico’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge.

The annual New Mexico Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) is held each year at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton. Over 180 youth descend on the center in June. Youth come from all corners of New Mexico and bring along coaches, siblings, parents, grandparents, family friends and anyone else that they can fit into a car, or two. Arriving Thursday, they prepare for two full days competing in skills and shooting events.

The event has been in New Mexico for many years when it was adapted from the National YHEC program created by the National Rifle Association.

New Mexico’s YHEC program consists of eight areas of competition:

1Wildlife identification challenge – Participants walk through a pre-designed course, in a natural setting, while identifying wildlife from across North America. Do you think this sounds easy? Try identifying a duck by just one wing or decide the difference between a white-tailed deer and mule deer using just the skull.


Orienteering skills challenge –Map and compass experts can test their skills on the courses designed to route you across the field using just a compass. Participants must first take a written test identifying their knowledge of a topographical map. No GPS units are allowed on the course.


Safety trail challenge – Participants walk through a predetermined course designed to simulate actual hunting conditions and situations. Scenarios can include firearms safety, shoot/don’t shoot situations, identifying game and distance to game, landowner relationships, regulations knowledge and other situations that a hunter may face in the field.


Responsibility exam – This 50-question test assesses the participants’ knowledge of hunting in New Mexico and could contain questions about current regulations, knowledge garnered in hunter education classes and information provided in the NRA Hunter’s Guide and Hunting Skills Handbook.


Archery – Participants compete in a 3-D target challenge. Targets vary in size, distance, shooting angle and other challenge that could be experienced while hunting.


Shotgun challenge – Designed to simulate different scenarios that a person may experience while hunting. Clay targets are thrown at many different angles that could include left and right crossing, strait up, incoming and outgoing, rabbit and straight up.


Light hunting rifle challenge (.22 caliber rifle) – Participants walk through a field course and encounter different challenges and be required to shoot from different positions.


Muzzleloading challenge – Participants shoot steel knockdown or swinging targets at distances of 20 to 75 yards with the challenge of shooting for standing, sitting and in some cases using supports such as shooting sticks.

Think about the last time you reminisced about the ‘good ole days,’ take hunter education and. and get involved with New Mexico’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge.


It is the mission of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to conserve, regulate, propagate and protect the wildlife and fish within the State of New Mexico, using a flexible management system that ensures sustainable use for public food supply, recreation and safety—and to provide for off-highway motor vehicle recreation that recognizes cultural, historic and resource values while ensuring public safety.