Youngsters compete in Youth Hunter Challenge

Among the high school sports champions crowned annually – football, swimming, wrestling, track and field, etc – probably none embody the Cowboy State spirit more than the hunting skills champions crowned June 9 in Upton.
After winning the junior division last year, Nate Pillen of Newcastle was back on the winner’s stand again in his first year in the 15 to 18 year old senior division. Tanner Little of Sheridan bested the junior division competition for the junior division title.
The championships are officially called the National Rifle Association’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge. The fifth annual event was again hosted by the Upton Gun Club.
The competitors displayed their prowess in archery, .22 rifle and muzzle loading marksmanship, trap shooting, archery, wildlife identification, hunter responsibility, and evaluating the safety and ethics of hunting encounters.
“It was just a great experience with a lot of fun events,” Tanner said. “I especially thought the shotgun shooting was lots of fun.”
The challenge is conducted with the assistance of hunter education instructors and other volunteers from as far away as Cody and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
“The challenge has many volunteers and sponsors but the bottom line is there would be no challenge without the Upton Gun Club members and particularly event chairman Rick Rothleutner,” said Game and Fish Hunter Education Coordinator Jim Dawson. “These are the folks who took the initiative to get it started in 2008 and have kept it going every year since. They put in countless hours in organization and preparation and make improvements for the benefit of the kids every year.”
In 2010, the Upton Gun Club opened the competition up to South Dakota young hunters due to the state’s close proximity to Upton. Junior division winner was Gabe Syhre of Brookings and Luke Norris of Watertown took home the senior honors.
All youngsters received a commemorative t-shirt for their participation and some hunting accessories. The winners also received jackets embroidered with the event and their name.
The prizes were possible thanks to the contributions of many sponsors including the Upton Gun Club, Weston County Sportsman Club, Inyan Kara Bowhunters, Wyoming Friends of the NRA, Upton Hardware, Cliff and Julie Abbott, B-4 Automotive, Shults Family of Pine Bluffs, Becky and Brady Morris, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Kissack Water & Oil Services, B&B Roustabout, Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, Scheel’s Outdoor Store of Rapid City, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Huckins Beatleworks, Brent and K.D. Thompson, Double A Outfitters, T&T Guns and Ammo , Wyoming Weapon Collectors, Casper Skeet,Trap and Sporting Clays Club, Pheasants on Kara Creek, Bruce and Teri Schwindt, Lowham Walsh Engineering, and Browning.
All young Wyoming and South Dakota hunters are invited to participate in next year’s challenge. It will be held again at the beautiful Upton Gun Club, where the various ranges are nestled into the Black Hill’s sagebrush and ponderosa pine. The June 2013 date will be announced soon.
In accordance with NRA rules, youngsters need to provide a copy of their hunter education card and pay a $10 entry fee. For more information about the challenge, contact the Game and Fish at (307) 777-4538 or Rick Rothleutner at (307) 281-9980.
And just by competing this year, each young hunter – no matter how they scored — earned the privilege to represent Wyoming at the NRA’s international challenge July 22-27 in Mansfield, Pa. In the last four years, four Wyoming young hunters have represented at the international event. The trip is expensive, though, costing $725 registration, lodging and meals, plus travel expenses. So the Upton Gun Club has established a scholarship fund. Anyone wishing to help with Wyoming representation at the international can contribute to: Wyoming State YHEC, Box 291, Upton 82730.