OldArchive / Sports
Rome Youth Claims Fourth Straight YHEC Senior Title
That's how old Devon Babcock was when his father, Blair, started teaching him to shoot a bow-and-arrow.
That early start at learning hunting skills has proven to be an advantage to Babcock, a 17-year-old incoming senior at Northeast Bradford High School.
Babcock recently won his fourth straight International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) championship.
Babcock was first in the hunter responsibility exam, orienteering and second in archery to claim the Senior championship against some of the best young outdoorsmen from the United States and Mexico.
A soft-spoken young man, Babcock continues what has become a family dynasty in the National Rifle Association-sponsored competition.
His brother, Garth, who is five years Devon's senior, was a three-time Pennsylvania and two-time International YHEC champion.
"A big advantage I had was having my brother participate for five years and practicing with him," Babcock said.
His father, who was always an avid hunter, started Devon early.
"I started shooting bow when I was three," he said. "Dad would drag me around saying ?Old enough to walk, old enough to shoot a bow.'"
This year, Babcock competed for the Valley YHEC, located at John Marko's farm on Rt. 187 south of Rome where he lives.
He previously competed for the YHEC out of the Sayre Sportsman's Club.
Of the 30-plus members of the club, 12 of them competed in the international competition that was held at Mansfield University on July 26-31.
Included in the number were the Senior and Junior teams from Valley YHEC and two individuals who were able to compete because the event was in Mansfield instead of New Mexico, another frequently used site for the international competition.
The Valley YHEC Senior team finished second in the hunter responsibility exam. The other members of the Senior team, coached by Blair Babcock, were DeForest Burgess, Ethan Chandler, Jarrod Chandler and Alex Tiffany.
The Junior team of Tyler Bowen, Travis Forrest, Tom Moon, Ethan Moss and Justin Staats and coached by Mark Chandler was first in the archery competition.
Moon was third in shotgun and Moss was third in archery. Conor Murphy, who went as an individual, as did Eric Cook, was second in the hunter responsibility exam.
Competitors are tested in eight events including wildlife identification, hunter responsibility, orienteering, hunter safety trail, shotgun, rifle, muzzleloader and archery.
Rain forced the cancellation of the hunter safety trail this year and the location of two events were moved to a different location because of the weather.
It may sound easy. You do a little studying and then have fun shooting, but Babcock will tell you that a competitor needs to put in a fair amount of time preparing for the competition.
"They give us a 300-page book. Last year, I went through it, read it word for word and highlighted it.
"Since we were going to New Mexico, I studied it all the way there.
"This year, I didn't have to study as much," he added.
He estimated that he spent maybe 15-20 hours studying this year. He did take advantage of breaks during the competition to bone up on his studies.
"When we got there, when everyone else was messing around, goofing off, I'd be studying my book."
It paid off as he won the hunter responsibility exam with a score of 285 out of a possible 300.
"I can have a bad day shooting," he said, "but if I know the stuff in the book, you can't have a bad day in that."
It should come as no surprise that his favorite competition is archery.
He really doesn't care for the wildlife identification exam.
"I'm terrible at it," he explained. "They don't just put a full mount there and ask you what it is. They put a feather, a tooth or a clump of fur.
"The winner had 210 out of 300. When the winner is getting basically a failing grade, it's pretty hard."
He must be doing something right with his record of success.
He started competing in 1999 as an 11-year-old.
In the ensuing years, he was a four-time state Junior champion, a second-place finisher in the Senior competition in 2003 and a state champion this year.
In International competition, he was third and second in Junior competition in 1999 and 2000, respectively. He has won the last four overall championships.
Besides winning medals and a plaque, Babcock also won a Winchester X150 muzzleloader, a Hoyt Ultra Sport bow, Easton arrows, a Schrade knife and a trophy whitetail hunt at Gsell's Whitetail Refuge in Fayetteville, PA.
Last December, Babcock bagged an 11-point buck during his hunt at Gsell's.
Besides his family, including his mother, Joan, who benefits from a full freezer of game killed by the men in the house, Devon receives a great deal of help from a number of individuals.
Tim and Stacy Hart of Lake View Archery in Spring Lake have made him a staff shooter and helped with his archery equipment. Ed Carrington is his gunsmith. He also singled out Charlie Davis, commander of the Towanda American Legion, who is "a lot of help," according to Babcock.
Other people and groups who have aided Devon through the years are Duane Hafer, Patti's Gunsmithing Services and the late Joe Leonard.
An expert afield, Devon's also no slouch in the classroom.
He has awards from the United States Achievement Academy, American Character and Citizenship, National Leadership and Service, All-American Scholar, National Spanish Award and an International Foreign Language Award.
He has been named to "Who's Who Among American High School Students" and is a member of the Spanish Honor Society. He also received the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award.
At Northeast Bradford, he is vice-president of the National Honor Society.
He plans on going to college, probably to study engineering, but he hasn't decided where.
"I don't want to go to a big city," he said. "I'd like to go somewhere that has an archery or shooting team."