LEWISTOWN- Alex Pierce has been working hard to meet the challenge he earned the right to take on. He is now down to his final practices - in the U.S. Southwest.
The Lewistown youth will represent Pennsylvania at the Youth Hunter Education Challenge Monday through Friday in Raton, New Mexico, as part of the 10-member Pennsylvania Junior YHEC team. He competes in the 12- to14-year-old age group.
YHEC gives young hunters a chance to participate in a simulated hunting competition, an activity sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Alex Pierce will compete at the international YHEC competition in New Mexico this week. See more Mifflin County 4-H Shooting Sports photos on Page D6.
Although not a 4-H program, many Mifflin County 4-H Shooting Sports Club members participate in YHEC, according to Jen Fleck, 4-H educator with Mifflin County Cooperative Extension. She explained that YHEC participants have to train a little differently from 4-H, using different targets, for example.
Pierce placed first in muzzleloader, second in archery and third in .22 rimfire during state YHEC competition June 16 at Scotia Range in State College, thus earning the right to go to nationals.
Pierce comes by his interest in shooting sports naturally. His grandfather, Dan Pierce, founded Dan Pierce Outdoor Shop, which is located in Lewistown, in 1976. His father, Scott Pierce. is now proprietor of the business.
The son of Scott and Cynthia Pierce, of Lewistown, Alex said he enjoys "outside stuff'' most - things like hunting, fishing, riding bicycle and running traplines each winter as a furtaker.
He started hunting at age 8 under the mentoring program with his father. His hunting prowess has allowed him to bag several deer, with bow, muzzleloader and rifle. He also has harvested ducks, small game and pheasant, and bagged his second turkey this year.
He's not into other sports too much, although he wrestled in school for four years in the past, he said.
Pierce, who will be 15 in August is an eighth grade student at Lewistown Junior High School. His brother, Ben, who is 12, also participates in 4-H shooting sports and is in his first year with YHEC.
Pierce said his favorite firearm is a .22 rifle, which he started shooting about the age of "4 or 5.''
He's been in the 4-H shooting sports club since age 8, shooting air rifle and archery, the only categories open to young 4-Hers. At 12 he added rifle, muzzleloader and shotgun. He has earned a slew of ribbons with "all kinds of firearms" in Mifflin County 4-H competition, including lots of blues and reds.
Pierce said he was "sort of surprised'' to qualify for nationals, but he takes the competition seriously.
In preparation for the national event, Porch practiced .22, archery, and shotgun three days a week on the rifle range at the Mifflin County Sportsmen's Club, where he and his family are members. He trains on the shotgun course at the Blue Rock Sportsmen's Club, where the Pierces also hold a family membership, as well. Both Mifflin County Sportsmen's Club and Blue Rock donate their facilties for 4-H shooting sports use.
Pierce also immersed himself in studying wildlife identification and hunter education responsibilities as well as orienteering (mapping, with compass points to follow), in preparation for nationals.
He admits to being "a little scared'' but is excited about the opportunity. His father accompanied him to New Mexico on Friday for the competition.
The state YHEC competition entails six events- archery, muzzleloader, .22, shotgun, animal identification and general knowledge. National competition includes all of these plus orienteering and safety trail.
He will receive scores in both individual and team competition.
Following in grandfather's and father's footsteps, Pierce spends time at Dan Pierce Outdoor Shop, helping out wherever he is needed, just as his father did as a boy.
The entire Pierce family enjoys shooting as a sport, including his mother, a nurse, who said she shoots for fun.
"You see so much negative stuff about guns. With things like YHEC, people see this is a sport the whole family can enjoy, including mom and the children,'' Cynthia Pierce noted.
Pierce is the fifth young man from Mifflin County to take on national YHEC competition, following in the footsteps of Chad Setzler, Chris Setzler, Justin Porch and Ian Copenhaver.
In addition to Pierce's national-qualifying showing at the state YHEC competition June 16, Mifflin County's Rylan White placed third in archery, and a team including Pierce, White, Brendan Gibson, Steven Gibson and Felicia Porch placed second in muzzleloader and third in archery.
Also participating from Mifflin County were Travis Rothrock, Alex Larson, Rachel Kohler, Chase Hopple, Lance Hostetler, Jed Dietz, Jakob Porch, Colton Peachey, Caleb Wright and Chris Alters. All are members of the Mifflin County 4-H Shooting Sports Club.
Joe Porch Jr. was the team's coach. He and Justin Porch coached the group.