Locals to compete at YHEC nationals
By Joshua Dillen
Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickok would be proud of five local teenage gunslingers.
The 2013 NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) will be held at the NRA’s Wittington Center in Raton, N.M., July 21-26. Four of the 10 participants representing Oregon are from Baker County.
Brian Staebler-Siewell and Nicholas Vowell, both 17, are on the senior team. Sarah Spaugh, 17, is first alternate for the Senior team and competing as an individual. Ben Spaugh, 15, is on the junior team. Braden Staebler-Siewell,15, is second alternate for the senior team and competing as an individual.
Vowell is an Olympic caliber shooter and was actually offered a spot on the international shooting team for the United States. He has his own reasons for not accepting the position.
“I decided not to do that because it requires shooting six days a week. I don’t want to do it as a job. I want to do it for fun,” Vowell said.
He has been shooting most of his life and has competed nationally with YHEC on five occasions. He plans on going to college and becoming a police officer.
Eldon “Buck” Buckner of Baker City is the director for YHEC in Oregon. He helped to organize and coach the first team from the state in 2000.
“It’s a really advanced hunter education program for young people,” he said. “It involves quite a bit of work.”
Buckner has been an instructor for the Baker County Sheriff’s Office. A competitive shooter since age 14, he has been a pistol instructor since 1951. Buckner has won several shooting competitions and has a strong passion for teaching what he knows. Buckner is particularly proud of Sarah Spaugh.
“She is a good shot and one intelligent, smart cookie,” he said.
Buckner said on two occasions over the years Oregon has had an all-girls YHEC team.
“I’m a firm believer in women and girls learning to handle guns and learn about conservation and hunting in a safe manner,” he said.
Brian Staebler-Siewell likes that YHEC teaches young shooters how to be safe, and he loves the competition.
“I like the shotgun the most because the targets are moving,” he said.
Glenda Staebler, a math instructor at Baker High School and Buckner’s assistant shooting coach, is very impressed at how safe the teenage shooters are at the national events she has attended with the Oregon YHEC team.
“I have never seen an accident when hundreds of kids with loaded guns are standing around,” she said.
There are four shooting events and four responsibility events at the competition.
Shooting events are archery with moving 3-D targets, muzzleloader that includes a written component, shotgun and light hunting rifle.
The responsibility events include a responsibility exam, a safety trail challenge, an orienteering skills challenge and a wildlife identification challenge.
Staebler said the safety trail challenge is one of the more difficult challenges. Wildlife identification is no piece of cake either. Shooters are given a piece of something that came from an animal.
“It could be a patch of fur, a skull, a mount, scat, a wing or even just a feather to identify.”
Sarah Spaugh likes those challenges.
“My favorite part is the wildlife identification,” she said. “I like the orienteering, which is map and compass skills.”
Other Oregon team members include Josiah Ogg and David Leavitt of Springfield, Chris Leavitt and Karinda and Kayla Pieren of Redmond, and Janae and Braden Graves of Mitchell.