Clark Youth Shooting Camp: Passing on the Heritage
At this point I had a pretty feasible plan, so I went and rounded up the kids to fill the 20 slots. As I am sure you can imagine it didn’t take long! When I would speak to the dads about it I was often asked if they could leave the boy at home and come themselves! I received only one “no” and that was because the young man had a job that wouldn’t allow it.
Despite having awesome sponsors, rounding up all the resources was no simple task. Particularly with the finance department (my lovely wife) looking over my shoulder. Based on the weather we had this spring, finding ground to use as a suitable 600-800 yard range was more challenging than expected, despite being on the prairie. Even though I started putting this together just before Christmas, mid-May found me scrambling to be ready for the second week of June camp. I must admit that I think I was more excited than the boys were, though many fathers and boys tried to tell me otherwise.
The week prior to camp starting was comprised of 8 – 10 hours days filling sand bags, printing out drops charts, building target frames, cutting out field targets and finalizing classes. Bill Makkens and Brian Anderson of Oak Tree Lodge came through with flying colors by providing the real estate for the range. Setting up and verifying the range out of a large pasture with knee high grass was challenging to say the least. But thank goodness for the last minute when it all came together. The night before camp was due to start my wife told me, “You better have your stuff together or we will never hear the end of it”. I fully understand the devil is in the details and that Murphy is alive and well. But felt I had all my bases covered.
Day 1: We began at the local American Legion Hall with classes on safety, range conduct, weapons familiarization and sight adjustments. We did practical exercises in the prone shooting position; dry firing with bipod and buttsock (tube sock filled with rice). Just prior to heading to the range I gave a class on weapons cleaning and had the kids clean their rifles. I just saw it as one more safety check to ensure we didn’t have something packed in a barrel. Then we packed up and headed to the range where we began by shooting scoped .22 rifles at steel plates at 50 yards. After several coats of white spray paint and about 100 rounds per kid, most of the boys where banging out inch sized groups and lots of bragging rights. We then moved on to the 25 yard zero with their hunting rifles, which went surprisingly well. I have learned that classroom time is boring to kids no matter what the subject. At least until I started into the minutes of angle and mil subjects. But most importantly, all that kids really want to do is shoot. I had been a little worried that the kids might not enjoy the course or the long days, so I was quite happy that evening to receive a half dozen phone calls from parents telling me that the kids had a blast.
Day 2: We began with external ballistics and wind doping classes and continued on the range with zeroing and data development from 100-300 yards. Winds were 15 – 22 mph that begun at 12 o’clock and shifted to 4 o’clock. So the kids certainly got a crash course in shooting in South Dakota winds. I had planned to make it to 400 yards but we just didn’t make it that far.
Day 3: We started at 200 and reconfirming our zeros then moved to 300 yards confirming data and doing grouping drills. Winds again were gusting to 28 mph so we spent extra time here. Oak Tree Lodge put on a huge spread for lunch. This included a tour of countless full mounts of waterfowl from both North and South America, sheep, elk, bear, deer, moose, antelope and other assorted critters complete with stories from the “old timer” who had harvested them. Oak Tree Lodge also has world class dogs so no tour would have been complete without a “dog show” culminating in all the boys working with the animals. After dinner and a show we finally reached 400 yards and began getting our initial data. This is where things got quite challenging for kids using Kentucky windage versus dialing in their range. Some kids were making pretty good wind calls at this point. We finished shooting about 3:30 and headed back to the classroom. With around 100 rounds through each gun we finished out day with some well needed weapons maintenance.