This year's YHEC question was: "What Values Have You Learned From Bowhunting?" Here are the most common values listed and some examples of how they apply to bowhunting -- and life.
- Patience. This was by far the most common value cited. One good example comes from James Kerr, Swartz, Louisiana, 15: "I have gained much patience through bowhunting. I used to be the kind of person that wanted everything to happen on my time schedule. Through bowhunting, I have come to realize that almost nothing happens on my time scheduleâ€¦" How many of the rest of us can say the same thing?
- Perseverance. Kyle Johnson, Bridgton, New Jersey, 17, wrote: "Bowhunting has also taught me to persevere. It took me five years to arrow my first deer. During that time, it would have been easy to sleep in late or give up altogether. Finally reaching a goal through dedication and perseverance makes it all the more satisfying." After persevering during those first five years, Kyle killed two bucks, a 9-pointer and 8-pointer, this past season. Indeed, perseverance pays big!
And not just in the field. Matthew O'Neill, Pennsylvania, 13, wrote: "Perseverance is a lot like patience, because I didn't have it before I ever went bowhuntingâ€¦ Perseverance has now led me to straight A's." Hey, parents, when your kids want to go bowhunting, remember this.
- Humility. We all know about this one, and Eli Matzkiw, Belfast, Tennessee, 14, articulates the message clearly: "Like it or not, humility comes to every bowhunter. Walking home from your disappointing hunt, you know that your brother will be there to tease you. You'll just have to sit there and take it because, just last week, you gave your brother a hard time about the 10-point that he missed.
- Respect. Many young writers told how bowhunting has taught them respect for all wildlife, landowners, laws, and other hunters. Matthew Hettinga, Utica, Ohio, 15, wrote: "â€¦the woods is a place where I have individual freedom to exercise respectâ€¦. I have experienced having my hunt ruined by careless hunters, and would never want to inflict this frustration on others." Amen, Matthew, amen.
- Spiritual insight. Julia Bower, Cumberland, Maryland, 14, wrote: "Most importantly, though, each adventure in the woods deepens my appreciation for God and his creation.
Enjoying the changing splendor of autumn in contrast with the stark white winter, I know God as the source of all beauty. From a treestand, I see God as the source of all life, every need, and peace."
- The value of money. Mitchell Phillips, New Hampton, Iowa, 15 -- this year's grand prize winner -- wrote: "Finally, the bow was mine. Since I paid for it, I respected it and took good care of it. I think differently about money now. I could buy 11 candy bars or another doe tag. Which would you buy?" Matthew's logic is impeccable.
- Focus. Caleb Garzanelli, Seneca, Illinois, 12, wrote: "A few years ago, my team played four games in one day. It was hot and I was exhausted but I focused on the prize and my pitching was a key in helping my team pull through and win second place in the tournament. I couldn't have done that without focusing. I have called archery and bowhunting my focus teacherâ€¦"
- Hard work. Alex Hanson, Hudsonville, Michigan, 13, wrote: "One of my favorite values is hard work pays off. If I get good grades I get to skip school and go hunting with my dad and his hunting partner. Two years on the honor roll, I can't wait to go." Another example of infallible logicâ€¦
- Pride. Kody Harkins, Dahlonega, Georgia, 16, wrote: "The greatest value I've learned from bowhunting is P.R.I.D.Eâ€¦" He then explains: P stands for patience, R for respect, I for sharpened instincts, D for determination, and E for ethics. With one acronym, Kody has summed up the overall value of bowhunting.
- Building relationships. Teddy Benge, Carbondale, Colorado, 15, wrote: "The perfect bowhunting mentor is kind, understanding, helpful, patient, and ethical. My father represents the perfect model of these important morals and ethics to me and has deeply ingrained the love of the hunt in my brain. I am profoundly grateful for the way my father has raised me and for the experiences he has given me."
Colton Hock, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, 12, put an exclamation point on that theme with this: "What has the greatest impact on me, however, is being able to bowhunt with my father and grandfathersâ€¦ Spending quality time bowhunting with my dad, Priceless!"
- Safety. Luke Nissen, Audubon, Iowa, 17, wrote: "When I was 14, my parents agreed to let me bowhunt if I wore my safety harness at all times, if I carried a cell phone, and if I drew detailed maps of my hunting locations. Since I readily agreed to these terms, I was allowed to bowhunt on my own. Bowhunting has helped me mature earlier than the average teenager, and it has taught me great responsibility."
- Confidence. Jonathon Looney, New Castle, Virginia, 14, wrote: "Another value I have learned from bowhunting is confidence. Confidence is a trait I did not have until I started bowhuntingâ€¦ The more I do it and get it right, the more I believe I can do it again."
- Responsibility. Jacob Nisley, Meadville, Pennsylvania, 15, wrote: "The last value that bowhunting has taught me is responsibilityâ€¦ There are often times when the decision to shoot or not to shoot rests solely on my shoulders, and I think that learning to be responsible in the woods is the first step to being a responsible person."