Michigan team medals at national hunter education challenge

Michigan Junior Leadslingers Team member Adam Cohoon competes in the Wildlife Identification competition. It was Adam’s first year at the national competition. (Photo by Paula Piatt )

Mansfield, Pa. — A soggy week in northcentral Pennsylvania didn’t dampen the spirit or the competitiveness of a determined Michigan Youth Hunter Education Challenge team, as it brought home a bronze medal from the Keystone State.

The Senior Leadslingers finished third overall in the Safety Trail event.

“I certainly couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of kids to compete with,” said Michigan coach Regina Baker. “They are hard-working kids and dedicated. Even with the weather being so bad, it didn’t stop them from doing what we came to do. They showed their strength by bringing home a medal for Michigan.”

The senior Safety Trail team included: Kylie  Hoffman, Nate Greenfeild, Gage Catlin, Kenny LeDuc and Zack LeDuc. Other members of the senior team were Ian Dwyer, Hope Dwyer, Connor Baughman and Emily Rupphert.

Baker said two of the team members – Ian Dwyer and Zack LeDuc – have made their final trip to nationals as they will be aging out this year. “Ian has been with me for five years and Zack four years. They will be greatly missed,” she said.

Traveling junior team members included Audrie Hoffman, Luke Greenfeild, Adam Cohoon, Adrianne Cohoon and Collin Baughman.

In addition to Baker, four volunteers made the drive from Michigan to help with the week – Peggy Ruby, Brandy Hyde, Ben Cohoon and Renee Dwyer.

The biggest challenge of the week may have been the weather, which included a trough of rain and thunderstorms that brought almost 5.5 inches of rain to the area. Flooding of nearby Mill Creek forced the cancellation of the Shotgun and Archery competitions, while the .22 Rifle, Muzzleloader and Wildlife Identification venues had to be relocated. Competition was extended into Thursday evening to allow competitors to get through the remaining six events.

The competition alternates each year between Raton, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. This year, Mansfield was host to 274 junior and senior participants. Kylie Hoffman, of Mason, was the top Michigan finisher in 64th place. A local Pennsylvanian, Colton Pierce, finished on top with a combined score of 1,422, 35 points ahead of the next competitor.

The annual challenge, sponsored by the NRA, is open to youth (up to age 18) in Hunter Education Challenge teams from around the country.

Kids compete in eight events, which are divided into “responsibility” and “shooting” categories. The hunter responsibility exam test knowledge of hunter safety, ethics and laws; through the Hunter Safety Trail, students are tested in their knowledge of safe hunting practices in various hunting situations; On the orienteering course, participants must navigate using a map and compass; and a wildlife identification test puts 30 specimens in front of the students in a timed event.

As shooters, the students must show proficiency in .22 rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and archery.

This year’s national event drew 17 junior teams from 10 states; in the senior division, 25 teams represented 12 states. Once again, the competition was held at Mansfield University’s Mill Cove Environmental Center. Teams and their coaches stayed on the university campus during the week.

In the team event, Michigan’s Junior Leadslingers finished in 16th place. The senior team, the Senior Leadslingers, finished 17th.

Individually, 14 juniors and seniors from Michigan participated in the event. Kylie Hoffman was the top senior for the Wolverine staters; Adrienne Cohoon, of Mason, was the top junior, finishing 203 overall.

Coaches, too, were invited to try their hand at the competition. Baker, of Mason, Michigan, finished 340 on the aggregate scoring sheet.

Earlier this year, the UP Regional Challenge was held at the Chippewa County Shooting Association in Sault Ste. Marie. Medalists there included: Audrie Hoffman, first place, .22 rifle; Kylie Hoffman with three bronze medals and Luke Greenfield took home four medals.

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