Once again, Troop 451 returned to Worth Ranch (The Big Adventure) Boy Scout Camp this weekend to enjoy the outdoors and participate in some shooting sports activity, arriving a little after 9:00 PM Friday. Pitching a tent in the cold dark is always a bit of a challenge but every Scout and Scouter was equal to the challenge. After a quick ‘cracker barrel’ of cheese, crackers (of course - It’s a cracker barrel), and Li’l Smokies sausages in BBQ sauce, everyone hunkered down for a chilly night. While not the coldest it’s been recently, the overnight temperatures dropped into the mid-20s. With the correct equipment, that isn’t a problem but getting up and leaving the warm cocoon of one’s sleeping bag is a bit of a struggle, especially at 6:00 AM. After a hearty breakfast, we headed to the range to try our hands at shotgun.
The morning started about 8:30 with a briefing covering basic firearms safety, the range rules, and a review of the basics of shotgun shooting. As per BSA policy, we had two adult members of the troop who are certified as Range Safety Officers and Instructors. The shotgun range at Worth Ranch can accommodate 4 shooters at a time and the camp provided us with two standard and two youth-sized 20-gauge pump shotguns. The other 20-or-so participants waited quietly, well back of the firing line while the first four had their turns. We had an experienced adult at each station to handle ammunition and help our Scouts.
Our young men conducted themselves in exemplary fashion. Everyone was very patient and orderly while we worked out a technical problem with the clays thrower and very attentive to the Range Master and Range Safety Officer. The rules were followed with gratifying exactitude and not once did we have even a minor safety concern. The Scouts Wore their eye and ear protection at all times while on the range, asked permission to enter the range, and immediately responded properly to each command. Throughout the day this pattern continued and the boy’s diligence contributed to our great weekend.
Shotgun shooting was finished up by noon, followed by a lesson in cleaning the shotguns that included practical experience. This was followed by thorough hand washing. We then returned to our campsite, ‘Houston’ for lunch. After lunch, many of the Scouts wanted to explore the camp or do other things. Eight Scouts and four adults headed for the rifle range to enjoy the relatively balmy afternoon.
At Worth Ranch, the rifle and shotgun ranges are back-to-back, with the rifle range backed by a large hill and the shotgun by a bit of a drop-off. The range is a standard 50-foot field and the targets are standard bulls eye on paper (many boys will be showing off their prowess Sunday evening with these as evidence). While we took advantage of the rifle range, another troop enjoyed the shotgun range. As the rifle range has eight stations, each Scout was able to get a lot of time improving their skills with the camp’s peep-sighted, bolt-action .22 rifles and with 4 adults, help was available for anyone who needed it. On this range, the shooters fire from a seated position using an adjustable rest. The cartridges are distributed in wooden holders of five or ten rounds, rather than the one-at-a-time method used on the shotgun range. After each shooter has fired his rounds, a cease-fire is called, the boys set down their rifles and step away from the shooting stations, the rifles are confirmed to be empty and the RSO has control of the firing line while the shooters retrieve their targets and pin-up new ones. Judging from these targets, several of our Scouts are clearly experienced marksmen while others made significant strides to becoming so in the course of the afternoon.
Rifle shooting was followed as a matter of course by rifle cleaning, policing the brass, and replacing all equipment into proper storage. Then it was back to ‘Houston’ for dinner. The adults were treated to a delicious, gourmet dinner of Dutch oven-roasted chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella, pesto, and red peppers, accompanied by sautéed broccoli and sautéed squash and onions. For desert, a Dutch oven was employed to bake brownies (yum!).
With the setting of the sun, temperatures returned to their semi-arctic levels of the night before. After cleaning up the dinner dishes, several Scouts attended a delightful campfire. What the evening’s program lacked in preparation was more than compensated for by the sheer enthusiasm of the performers and audience. The setting was spectacular as well. After leaving camp and heading up a short rise, from the crest of the low ridge the campfire’s blaze was readily apparent. Set between two sheer rock faces, the fire ring is large enough to contain a fire that can warm the entire little canyon.
Our Scouts rose to the challenge and by the time the audience was in place, the night’s chill was noticeably abated. The program consisted of several scary stories, which were particularly eerie in that setting, with the firelight setting shadows dancing across the rock faces. The Scouts then performed a few old-favorite skits as well as a couple of campfire songs. By then, although it was still going strong, the fire was not the blaze that once it had been and it was time to call it a night. The campfire crew, after carefully dousing and burying the fire and ensuring it was entirely quenched, joined the audience in returning to their tents for an early bed time. The night was quickly quiet save for the mournful soundtrack provided by the local coyotes. In that setting, it seemed just a perfect touch.
As per Troop policy, most of the patrols present cooked a hot breakfast early on Sunday morning. Despite the unwelcome chill, tents were struck, gear stowed, and campsites policed by about 8:00 AM. Then it was back on the road to home.