North Carolina youth won three first- and one second-place awards during the recent Youth Hunter Education Challenge held in Raton, New Mexico.

The event is a week-long series of shooting competitions with .22-caliber rifles, muzzleloaders, shotguns and archery. There also are non-shooting components including orienteering, wildlife identification, written exams and hunter-safety trail tests.

"There has to be a dedication and commitment from the youth, as well as the parents, coaches and community to compete at this level," North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's Travis Casper said. "Once there, you are in the spotlight and there is a realization that you are representing all of North Carolina. The North Carolina Hunter Education Program is proud of their accomplishments and sportsmanship."

Nearly 350 competitors, coaches and parents attended the event in New Mexico. Annually, some 50,000 young people take part in youth hunter safety skills events across the United States and Canada.

North Carolina youth making the winners' podium were:

Senior Individual Overall Winners (and scores)
1. Hunter Efird, N.C. (1845)
2. Colton Horn, N.C. (1827)
3. Dustin Harrold, OR (1817)

Junior Team Overall Winners
1. Oregon Junior Team (8264)
2. N.C. Park Ridge Sharpshooters (7925)
3. LA Bayou Bandits Junior Gold (7597)

Senior Team Overall Winners
1. N.C. Forbush HS Senior Red (8761)
2. N.C. Gray Stone Marksmen (8562)
3. Oregon Senior Team (8497)

Coach Individual Overall Winners
1. Eric Efird, N.C. (1418)
2. Heath Efird, N.C. (1326)
3. Lawrence Meyer, AR (1318)

North Carolina teams compete in Youth Hunter Safety Skills Tournaments, a component of the Hunter Education Program, in senior (high school) and junior (middle and elementary schools) divisional levels. A daylong competition is held on a nine-district and statewide basis, with overall team and overall individual awards based on aggregate scores in all events.

For more information on free hunter-education courses, the Home From The Hunt safety campaign or youth programs offered by the NCWRC, call 919.707.0031 or go to the NCWRC's hunter education section.