Upton Kids Win Inaugural NRA Sponsored Youth Hunter Challenge

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Upton Kids Win Inaugural NRA Sponsored Youth Hunter ChallengeUPTON – For 2008, you can call J.R. Grieves and Caleb Thompson the reigning champs of Wyoming hunting.

It’s not because the Upton young men – age 14 and 16 – tagged 400-point elk and got their picture in a national outdoor magazine.

Rather, J.R. and Caleb displayed that outdoor expertise by besting other young hunters in trap shooting, .22 marksmanship, wildlife identification and other hunting/outdoor skills at Wyoming’s first annual National Rifle Association sanctioned Youth Hunter Education Challenge June 28 at the Upton Gun Club.

Caleb won the 15-18 age group and the competition was bested by J.R. in the 14 and under group. By participating in the state event, all the Wyoming competitors qualified to participate in the NRA hosted international competition in Mansfield, Penn. July 28 – Aug. 1.

Hosted by the Upton Gun Club with the assistance of local hunter education instructors and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the competition also included a hunter responsibility exam, hunter safety trail challenge and archery and muzzleloader marksmanship.

Since 2000, the Game and Fish had been conducting a modified version of the youth hunter challenge each September at the annual Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo in Casper. This year with the help of all involved, the event was expanded to meet NRA criteria and held earlier so participants could attend the NRA international competition if they desired. The NRA has been hosting the international YHEC every year since 1985.

A fortunate coincidence for the inaugural event is a two-time winner of Missouri’s NRA YHEC, Brady Morris, working with the director of the Upton Gun Club. Morris, who came to the Cowboy State to study wildlife management at the University of Wyoming and now works for an environmental consulting firm in Gillette, provided expert planning counsel and helped conduct the event. Morris also placed second at the NRA’s international YHEC.

All participants of the Wyoming YHEC received a prize for their hunting dedication. The winners also received Carharrt 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 Chapter of the Friends of the National Rifle Association, T&T Guns and Ammo of Gillette, Glenrock Components, Sportsmen’s Warehouse, Crook County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Upton Hardware and the Weston County Gazette.

All young Wyoming hunters are invited to participate in next year’s YHEC. It will again be held at the beautiful grounds of the Upton Gun Club, where the various ranges are nestled into the Black Hill’s setting of sagebrush, boulders and ponderosa pine. The date for the 2009 event has not been decided, but it could be as early as April when many other states conduct their YHEC. To participate, youngsters just need to present their hunter education card and pay a $10 entry fee. The Game and Fish and Upton Gun Club will announce details of the 2009 YHEC when available and prospective young hunters are welcome to call (307) 777-4538 for more information.