This challenge was a bit different.

It was doing a sporting clay shoot with the Troy Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC).

Shooting with Brianna Rathbun and Caitlyn Hoffmann I quickly figured out how difficult it can be.

Rathbun and Hoffmann make it look so easy, but it’s really not. They could hit one target after another. I was just hoping to try and hit even one.

Part of why they make it look so easy is because of how good Troy is.

The TJS Slingshots team took second at states with 1862 points, just 31 behind the winning team. The TJS Leadheads finished sixth overall.

The Slingshots won the rifle competition by a wide margin, with the other Troy team finishing as runner-up in the event.

In the junior competition Jesse Rowe of Troy won at 558 points overall and Hunter Kulago was fifth, with Scott Root one spot back. Kulago won the rifle competition and the exam and he was second in wildlife, and Rowe was second in the rifle, while Alexander Wilcox was second in muzzle.

Rathbun won the rifle competition for seniors with Ethan Wilcox second and Canyin Harwick third. Rathbun was third in wildlife and fifth overall.

For both Hoffmann and Rathbun this is something they have been doing for a while, with Rathbun starting in 2012 and Hoffmann about five years ago.

“I started because my cousins went through the program and my brother was in it,” Rathbun said.

And, Rathbun being in it got Hoffmann involved.

“I started because we became friends,” she said.

For Rathbun a lot of her family has been involved, with her dad involved as well as her.

“My uncle was a part of it, then he (her dad) became part of it when my brother joined, so pretty much when I started,” Rathbun said.

Everyone being involved is part of what Hoffmann loves about the club.

“It’s really a big family,” she said. “Kids wise and adult wise. Anyone would pretty much do anything for anyone. When I started I borrowed a lot of stuff to get started, because it’s expensive to get started.

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It kind of helps figure out what you like, what you don’t like so you don’t waste a whole lot of money.”

Both Rathbun and Hoffmann are realizing how much things can cost and how much their parents have helped them over the years.

“I didn’t realize how much it was because I was so young, my parents paid for a lot of it,” Rathbun said. “Now that I’m getting older, I’m contributing. It’s a lot, the shells are expensive, it’s not just the guns.”

“I’m on my third shotgun,” Hoffmann said. “I had two shotguns before I found the one I liked. I am very thankful for my parents for that. I don’t tell them enough. It’s a big investment, but it’s worth it.”

With school, and both girls play sports, there is some balancing to do school, sports and YHEC, but it’s worth it to them.

“It’s very hard,” Rathbun said. “This year I ended up not playing softball because of it. I had to choose which one I liked better.”

“It’s difficult, it’s time management,” Hoffmann said. “It’s a different time than a lot of things are. Sometimes games overlap. They are good at working with you, if you miss a practice they will have another practice to make it up.”

There are some later nights, but it’s all something the people in the club are used to.

“Practices get done at eight, sometimes 8:30, it can be a lot of late nights, you miss dinner sometimes,” Hoffmann said.

But, a lot of parents are there, so that time with family is spent at the Troy Sportsman’s Club.

“A lot of parents are part of it too, all of them help out, a lot of them coach,” Rathbun said.

“We have a couple parents who run our concession stand, I guess you’d call it, so they make sure everyone has food,” Hoffmann said. “Even if your parents aren’t here, you basically have another set of parents, or multiple sets of parents.”

And, everyone in the club is really close, and so a lot of the time with friends is spent at practice.

“A lot of the people we are friends with are here to so it’s not like we are missing out on a lot on that end,” Rathbun said.

“We aren’t missing out on friend time, because we get that while we are here,” Hoffmann said. “We are here to shoot, but we are also here to have fun, and we do.”

And that fun includes some trips.

“New Mexico is a blast,” Rathbun said. “When we are going to New Mexico we will see families a lot of times along the way without planning it at someplace like Gander Mountain. You also make friends out there in the competition. I have a few friends from Louisiana and it’s pretty cool.”

And, the team spends time competing and then time after the competition.

“We spend all day together and then we spend all night together at the hotel,” Hoffmann said. “We choose to spend that time together, so it’s a lot of fun.”

While both started at a fairly young age, there are even younger kids on the team now.

“It’s my favorite part, I love seeing the younger ones coming up,” Hoffmann said “I wasn’t quite that young when I started, but when I started I knew nothing, absolutely nothing.

“I wish I would have started sooner, I didn’t know about it. I wish I could have been a part of it all the way through, I’m glad some people are getting that chance.”

“You kind of take them under your wing,” Rathbun said.

Next year will be odd for both as they will be aging out of the program and heading off to college.

“I don’t know what I’ll do, I’ll probably come back and coach as much as I can,” Rathbun said.

“It will be weird, but I do plan to come back and do something, I don’t know what, but probably something,” Hoffmann added.

And, both hope to keep on shooting.

“I am going to have to figure out a way to bring my bow down there,” Rathbun said.

“The college I’m going to actually has a sporting clay club, so I’m not going to miss too much, there will be some down there, I’ll get to be a part of it,” Hoffmann said.

YHEC is a program that prides itself on passing of values on for generations that follow and teaching skills that will serve participants in adult life. It is about sharing of knowledge, understanding and respect for wildlife.

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