Outdoor Summer Camp
Summertime is a great time to train future outdoorsman and women. The outdoors is full of life, fun, and critters. This is a perfect time to introduce new sports to the fold. Fishing Derbys serve the same role for future fishermen.
Start by having the “rookie” Outdoorsmen take a hunter safety course. This will get them started. Once they understand the rules and limits, they can start to master the skills. Find a public area, park, or your local hunting spot. Explore the area and figure out where you can teach different activities or stations. The “OUTDOOR TREKKER TRAIL” could be a day, a weekend activity or involve camping.
Make sure that you plan for the Trekkers to have FUN!!! This means snacks, drinks, hats, and goodies. Theme your refreshments with hunting themes. Maybe the red Bug Juice is labeled “Buck Blood.” Malty Ball chocolate candy could be deer droppings. Gummy worms can be something nasty. Now you get the idea. Carry a backpack or create “caches” where the goodies can be discovered.
The second most important consideration is SAFETY! Make sure that you cover all the safety bases. Have a first aid kit, identify local dangers like poisonous plants, insects, or snakes. Have some communication and an emergency plan in mind. Generally, if you are prepared for these emergencies, they rarely happen. Accommodate all students.
Build your stations around Outdoor Trekking Skills. Here are some suggestions:
Building a blind
Most hunting accidents happen from an elevated tree stand. Placing and using these stands requires training and practice. This station will demonstrate various stands. Secure roofing safety lines for the Rookies. Use climbers, hangers, and ladder stands. Ground blinds can be a part of this station. Have kids build a camouflage hunting or wildlife observation blind. Rookies climb all the time, so learning safety skills aloft are for more than hunting.
Deer tracks, rubs, bed, hair, scat, and scrapes all tell a story. Instruct future deer hunters about each of these. Once they understand their meaning, they can learn where, what, and how to hunt. Reading sign teaches where wildlife has been. Learning local plants and geology are also interesting. Remember not every student likes every “thing.” Some may not choose to hunt. Create an Outdoor Buffet that they can sample and choose their favorites.
Create a blood trail. You can use real blood from a butcher or make a water-based paint substitute. The real blood could be used to demonstrate how to use Hydrogen Peroxide to identify real blood. Hunting is a “Blood Sport” and blood tells the hunter where the deer was hit, how it is traveling, and if the wound is fatal. Once you know these facts, you can plan the recovery tracking. Hair, bone chips, and tracks can also be used to make the trail more realistic. Hunting a blood trail is addictive and an important skill that hunters must be taught and learn.
Pulling triggers, releasing arrows, and hitting the mark are of great interest and importance to hunters, regardless of whether they are using archery, rifles, air rifles, shotguns, or cameras. You could spend an entire day just on shooting skills, safety, practice, and competition. Each target should display vitals and kill shot locations if your program focuses on hunting. Wear florescent orange and eye/ ear protection when shooting. Using range finders is also a good idea.
A fine edge on a good blade is an art. Teaching Rookies how to properly use a knife or axe is vital. Safety is once again paramount. Let the Rookies use Fish Filet Gloves initially for protection. Making a walking stick or shooting stick could be a task.
Outdoor cooking is about food. Don’t kill it if you don’t grill it. Serve up a stew, jerky, or steak tidbits that the Rookies help to prepare. If they like to eat it, they will want to hunt it. Maybe teach some Camp Cook Skills! Dutch oven cooking is great fun and desserts must be part of the meal.
Not being seen, heard, and smelled are important deer hunting skills. Rookies can develop their own camo, de-scent or cover scent, and move quietly. Have a game or competition to evaluate these new skills. This is a HUGE challenge for a Middle schooler but welcomed by parents.
Outdoorsmen may need to spend the night afield. Teach fire building, shelter making, purifying water, avoiding hypothermia, etc. Confidence afield makes for a more comfortable outdoor trekker. Consider working with GPS systems or a compass. Teach what to do if you become lost, injured, or need help. Not every outdoor space has cell phone service. Using or making maps is also a fun activity.
How to quietly move through the outdoors needs to be taught. Proper footwear, paths, stealth, and motion are all important. Set up a stalk challenge where Rookies try to put the “Sneak” on you.
Once the deer is down, the fish is caught, what do you do next? This takes guts and rubber gloves. State agencies will supply roadkill critters for practice. You may also be able to get some fish, deer or beef to butcher and prepare. Let Rookies clean their meals. Only one way to learn this skill. Nothing goes to waste.
Tuning a pair of binoculars, wearing and using them are skills you can teach. 10-42’s work well. Challenge the Rookies to locate distant marked objects at varied distances. Demonstrate cleaning, using, and storage.
Learn to talk to the animals using grunts, bleats, bugles, and rattling. Critters hear well, and Rookies need to learn how to listen; this can be a fun and noisy session. Birds make sounds that also can be learned. Sounds of the night are especially fun. Peepers, cicadas, owls, and other nocturnal critters are spooky and exciting.
While the Rookies are trekking to different stations, have a 20-item scavenger list: a few rocks, leaves, some trash, pictures etc. This will teach them continual observation skills. Plant some goodies like sheds, snacks, prizes, and gear.
Depending upon your outdoor areas and strategies, you can come up with many more themes. Attention span is an issue with kids. More than 20-30 minutes a station is pressing your luck. Six to ten activities make a full day. Have snack time or travel time to the next station included.
If you have herds of “Trekkers”, divide them into groups. Use critter names like Predators, Wolves, Raptors, or names that have a related theme. Make some bandannas, hats, t-shirts, or flags for each clan. This art activity could involve using ink for fish prints, animal tracks, or other fun styles. Having a chant, cheer, or signal are also fun.
Hands on and physical activities are important. Learning must be interactive. Make sure that the Rookies are asking a lot of questions and engaged. You can’t “learn kids;” you need to “create a situation where kids choose to learn”! The key to remember is that if learning is not fun, you are doing it wrong.
Instructors need to think like a Rookie fisherman, outdoorsman, or hunter. There are also many other outdoor activities that can be addressed, like biking, water sports, hiking, birdwatching, etc. Choice will be determined by the Mentor talent on hand. What types of things and activities would keep you interested? Invite, invest, and share ownership! This is a perfect time to involve all your deer hunting friends and camp buddies. Each has a specialty that they would love to share. Pick, plan, and choose based on your knowledge of your friends. Other parents can tag along for support and safety.
Hunting clubs, game farms, and shooting ranges make great sponsors. These future “Trekkers” will already know where to go for more contact. “Sportsmen’s Trails” lead to future membership and business. Years ago, I worked with the Gunpowder Game Farm in Baltimore County, Maryland. They were generous hosts for Hunter safety, school groups, and outdoor education. Each year they hosted our Environmental Science Schools Week-long Outdoor Camp. 450 middle school students and parents enjoyed camping and outdoor adventures, fishing, hunting, and environmental training. The state and local fish and wildlife agencies were wonderful helpers at many of the stations. Because the students earned this opportunity, we never had any problems. The lessons learned at these events last a lifetime!
Planning, preparing, and presenting an “Outdoor Sportsmen’s Trail” is hard work. Find mentors and educators that have the skills and training. The biggest investment is time. You are training a proper Outdoorsmen or woman for the next generation. The payback is HUGE!!!
The BEST hunters, fishermen, and outdoor sportsmen are not the ones that secretively fill a tag or always catch a fish. The BEST outdoorsmen are the ones that can teach others the skills needed to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors. Graduate from the Outdoor Summer School now!
Blaze an Outdoor Trail soon!