12th Annual Range Day June 21, 2011
History of the Indiana Conservation Officer’s Youth Camp
The original camp was held in 1997 at Camp Atturbury and hosted 77 campers and advertisement was by word of mouth only. Due to an increased interest in the camp a new location was chosen for the camp in 1998, Bear Creek Scout Camp outside of Connersville, Indiana. In April of 1998 Indiana Conservation Officer F/Sgt. Karl E. Kelly was killed during a training accident while saving fellow officers from a low head dam. The decision was made to name the camp after F/Sgt. Kelly due to his commitment to teaching and for saving his fellow officer’s lives at the cost of his own. The camp was held at Bear Creek for the next two years and 120 kids attended both years. In 2001 the camp was moved to Ross Camp outside of Lafayette, Indiana and has remained at that location. Each year the number of campers is kept close to 120 to allow for a better experience for each camper.
Requirements to be a camper:
The camp is open to any boy or girl that has completed the fifth or sixth grade in the preceding school year. Camp fee is $300 per camper and includes all meals, lodging and equipment for camp. Scholarships may be created by interested groups or individuals and they may select the child or donations may be sent to the Indiana Conservation Officers Organization to assist a camper in attending. The Indiana Conservation Officers Organization will not select a child to receive a scholarship by any outside group unless directed to. Applications are released each year after January first at ICOO.com or through Indiana Conservation Officer District Offices.
The camp is ran by Indiana Conservation Officers and staffed by volunteers. The 120 kids are divided into four groups: Otters, Bobcats, Falcons, and Eagles. Each group is led by four young adults who attend Vincennes University in Vincennes, Indiana. Originally the councilors were students of the Conservation Law Enforcement Program, however in recent years it has been expanded to other majors. The students must apply for the position, be interviewed by a group of Conservation Officers and give up at least seven days of their summer to attend the camp. Each group of four councilors is advised by a Conservation Officer.
All instructors for the camp are volunteers from various sections of the Indiana Outdoor Education sections including hunter education instructors, boater education instructors, wildlife education instructors and 4-H Shooting Sports instructors. Each camper has the opportunity to camp for 7 days and 6 nights in an outfitter’s tent, camp for a night in a dome tent in the primitive camp, sample wild game cooked and smoked over an open fire, rock climb, scuba dive, ride air boats, go fishing, take a canoe trip, ride wave runners, earn both the Indiana Boater Education and Hunter Education certifications, learn to use a compass and watch K9 demonstrations. The first two days of the camp are spent learning the Indiana Hunter Education program. The third day, Tuesday, marks the most popular day of the camp, Range Day.
Range Day 2011:
The day started with a breakfast of sausage and gravy, hash browns and fruit at 0700. After breakfast the ranges were set up by the volunteers for each firearm discipline and made ready for the arrival of the campers at 0830. Prior to range day each instructor is allowed to choose a primary interest and secondary interest from the following disciplines they would like to instruct: rifle, pistol, shotgun, muzzleloader, muzzleloading shotgun, archery and lastly tomahawk throwing. At 0830 the ranges opened and temps were already in the 80’s with high humidity.
My location again this year was the rifle range. Each group of campers rotates through all the shooting stations. Every camper receives one on one or at the most one on two instruction due to the great volunteer turn out we have every year. The range included three tables with three positions for rifles and three tables with three to four positions for handguns. Each camper is allowed to shoot the following .22LR firearms; Ruger 10/22, CZ 423, Henry single shot, Marlin single shot, Henry lever action, Marlin lever action, S&W K frame 10 shot 22, Thompson Center 22 pistol, Ruger Mark III and Taurus revolvers. Each group is allowed 2 hours to shoot each discipline and allowed unlimited ammo use. Rifles and pistols are shot on reactive targets to allow the camper instant feedback on their accuracy and proper application of the fundamentals they are taught on the first two days. A majority of the campers are first time shooters or have limited experience, so either sandbags or rests are used at each position. We are proud to announce that by the time most shooters leave the line, the orange painted center of most targets are bare metal. Even with temperatures approaching mid to high 90’s, the campers kept their heads in the game and kept it safe. This year the 108 campers sent 21,100 rounds of 22 LR down range in one eight hour day with no firearm related injuries. Weather held this year until after the ranges were tore down, but did move in late canceling some of the camper’s events in the primitive camp. It was a disappointment to miss out on goose kabobs, smoked chucker and deer burgers.
As you would guess some of the rifles and pistols started to have issues due to the high round count and high temperatures. The main malfunction on the rifle line was the Ruger 10/22 bolt releases failing to release the bolt. All the rifles have the stock bolt release and require all but a third hand to release. Extended mag releases and improved bolt releases have been purchased for the rifles. The Henry lever actions began suffering from failure to fires as the day went on. The firing pins were failing to strike the round, which we believe was due to buildup of residue in the firing pin channel or weakening hammer springs. I never witnessed a single malfunction with any bolt action. The .22 pistols seem to suffer magazine malfunctions this year which some attributed to carbon buildup on the followers. Ammo misfires were limited to 1-5 fail to fires per 50 round boxes with Remington, Federal and Winchester standard velocity ammunition. Prior to the first round down range, another instructor and I gave all the firearms a dose of original Slip 2000. At the end of the day all the actions were still slick. One added point, some of the rifles and pistols are reaching 3-7 years on the firing line at the camp and holding up.
If you know a child that is interested, applications are released each year around January first at ICOO.com or through the Indiana Conservation Officer District Offices. I was surprised to find out they only had 108 campers attended this year as the camp typically has a lengthy waiting list and fills with in a month of the applications becoming available. I was advised one issue this year was advertising the camp. If this camp seems like an event your child or someone you know would like to attend, pass on the information. One additional note is a noticeable increase in female campers this year. We need to share our sport and the outdoors with everyone and help them succeed at getting outdoors.
News Footage from this year’s camp: