As our sons boarded the plane headed to the NRA Whittington Adventure Camp with their best friend in tow, I first said a silent prayer that they would arrive safely, then could not help but smile and think, “Lord help the counselors.”
I had already shipped their camp bags ahead of them, with everything nice and neatly packed in zip lock bags. This way they could stay organized…..I’m still wondering why I wasted my time!
When they got home from camp and we were unpacking their gear, stuffed everywhere, I noticed how good the “dirty” clothes in the duffle bag smelled. As I started pulling things out, I found a 16 GB iPod, good binoculars and just about everything else, covered in shaving cream. Who knows what happened to all those zip lock bags! It was then I realized, given the quantity of shaving cream, this was not just a leaky can. Obviously there had been some good old fashioned camp mischief to go along with some pretty extraordinary camp experiences.
As I wrote in the first part of “Passing the Baton,” the NRA Whittington Adventure Camp is absolutely one of the finest and most comprehensive outdoor programs involving all of the shooting disciplines. Located just outside
The camp holds two summer sessions, limited to 48 campers per session, each lasting 12 days.
A typical camp day is to “rise and shine” at 5:40 am, straighten the cabins, and pack their gear for the day. After the early morning flag raising ceremony and reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, breakfast is served. At around 7:45 am, the campers split into their groups, assorted by age, and head to their shooting discipline for the day.
Campers spend two days learning the finer points of each shooting discipline. They start with small gauges or calibers and work their way up to the “big guns.” Along the way they also learn knot tying, orienteering and trapping skills.
From 5:00 until dinner at 6:00 they have free time. After dinner each evening, they attend either hunter safety or survival skills classes. Every other night the evening ends with a campfire. The days are full of fun learning!!
The camp culminates with a three-day simulated big game hunt where they apply what they have learned over the preceding eight days. They set up tents, camp out, prepare their own meals and “hunt.” They have to make judgments about whether a shot is a safe one, an ethical one, a legal or an “in season” target, and then grade themselves on their actions. The counselors then score them on their choices.
Ask my kids what they liked best and Paulie will say, “Everything! The muzzleloading was a lot of fun but cleaning the rifle was difficult. The compound bow was fun too. Getting up at 5:30 am each day wasn’t.” When you ask Carrington what the best part of camp was his response is twofold, “shooting the Barret .50 cal rifle on the 1000-yard range was awesome and the cabin wars.” You know the ones that involve toilet paper, shaving cream and water balloons just for starters.
Okay, now for the amazing part: all this for $950 per camper. According to Camp Director Bill Perkins, “the $950 simply covers the out-of-pocket expenses for the campers and staff. The affordability of this program for the campers is only made possible thru the participation of industry giants like Glock that make generous cash donations to the camp every year. Other manufacturers like ATK/Federal, Ruger, Savage, Leupold, Trijicon, Benchmade, Buck, Montana Canvas and many others contribute all of the products that we need. This year they fired 124,000 rounds of ammunition.” Again: the tuition $950, the experience, priceless!
Obviously the shooting industry knows a value when they see one. Contributing to the Adventure Camp and helping to introduce young people to shooting makes good business sense. After all, they are the future of the sport.
We chose to send our boys for the experience of learning about all the different shooting sports. What they came home with was a very thorough education in hunter and gun safety, gun etiquette, outdoor survival skills, coupled with meeting kids from all over the country. They came home with a renewed sense of self reliance and independence.
When I asked Bill what brought other children to camp, I thought his response was very interesting. He said that often times it is the grandparents who send their grandchildren to camp. They do so because they “feel that children today are not being offered the outdoor opportunities that they had when they were young. They feel that the Adventure Camp program will give them exposure to the shooting sports they would not otherwise get to experience at home.”
Perkins also stated that “participants like Friends of the NRA and other shooting organizations such as “The Shootist” have sponsored many campers who would otherwise be unable to attend without the scholarship aid they provide.” If you are a member of a shooting organization, maybe sponsoring a camper would be a worthy outreach project for your group to consider.
My only problem with this camp? There are not enough young women attending! This year there were four girls in the first session and a record high of six in the second session. The Adventure Camp would love to see the numbers even at 50/50 participation. If you know any young women who would enjoy this outdoor experience I encourage you to look into the NRA Whittington Adventure Camp. It is an amazing experience and the camp facilities render the term “roughing it” obsolete!
For more information about the NRA Whittington Adventure Camp please see www.nrawc.org and go the Adventure Camp tab.