Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Volunteers Add New Twist to Indiana SAFE Event

Volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Indiana Chapter supervise at the shooting range during the chapter’s 3rd annual SAFE Challenge event, held at the Craig Family Camp last September.

One sure-fire way to keep people coming to an event is to change it up a bit, and that’s exactly what RMEF’s Indiana Chapter did for its 3rd annual SAFE Challenge event, held at the Craig Family Camp on Saturday, September 7. 

About 150 individuals, including 70 youths and their families, and 30 volunteers (20 from the Indiana Chapter) attended. Participants included 22 girls and 48 boys ages 7-17 from various social backgrounds. 

We began the day by registering the participants and assigning them to either the “new” or the “advanced” group, based on age, firearm experience and whether the participant had previously attended a SAFE Challenge event. Indiana Chapter chair Joseph Toy then welcomed everyone and provided a brief summary of how the day would go. Afterward, we split the kids up into their separate groups, with the “new” group attending the wildlife conservation and management class taught by conservation officer Travis Campbell from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the “advanced” group attending the firearm safety class taught by Mark Dillon, Indiana certified firearm instructor. 

After enjoying a grilled hamburger and hot dog lunch provided by the volunteers, we reassembled the groups for afternoon classes. The participants in the “new” group headed to the firearm safety class, while the “advanced” group participated in the brand new Advanced Hunting Course. 

The Advanced Hunting Course started off with the participants firing practice shots with the BB guns they would carry on the ½-mile-long course through the woods. The course featured 38 targets at 10 shooting stations, each of which was manned by at least one qualified adult volunteer who scored the shooters on hits and gun safety. Each station had different amounts of life-sized targets, which included balloon, knock-down and moving targets. Other targets had hunter orange on them. If participants shot at those targets, they lost five points. 

Each BB gun was preloaded with 50 BBs, and participants could shoot at any target as many times as they wanted. But if they ran out of BBs prematurely, they would receive a score of zero on the targets that they did not complete. Volunteers collected the scorecards when a participant completed the course. Scoring went as follows: 

Balloon Moving Targets: 10 points
Knock Down Targets: 5 points
Standing Balloon Targets: 5 points
Gun Safety: 1-5 points

Meanwhile, when the “new” group finished firearm safety class, they headed down to the firing range in groups of 10, where they received one-on-one, hands-on firearm instruction with .22 rifles. Participants shot five rounds at a practice target before moving to the five scoring targets with three shots each. At the end of the day, everyone enjoyed dinner at the dining hall before gathering at the front of the lodge for the award ceremony. Toy spoke about the day’s events and thanked all of the participants and volunteers for their hard work and commitment. Each participant received a certificate of completion, and we awarded trophies for “Best Average” in the “new” group and “Best Shooter” in the “advanced” group. Every participant also received a raffle ticket for a chance to win an RMEF hat at the end of the event. 

Thanks to everyone who helped make our 2013 SAFE Challenge event a great success. With the introduction of the new Advanced Hunting Course, we could provide quite a variety of learning opportunities for each of the participants. We can’t wait for this year!

Jim Craig
Indiana Chapter 

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