868 in Action
OLD BEN SCOUT RESERVATION
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Troop 868 had planned to visit Old Ben Scout Reservation near Jasper, Indiana to do some bicycling and work on the Cycling Merit Badge ... before we learned that the weekend we had picked happened to coincide with a "shooting sports weekend" being conducted by the Buffalo Trace Council that owns and operates the camp. The folks from Buffalo Trace invited us to come and participate in their program. Since opportunities for Boy Scouts to do Archery and work on the Rifle Shooting and/or Shotgun Shooting merit badges are rare outside of summer resident camp, our guys jumped at the chance and our weekend program plans were quickly revised.
Old Ben turned out to be smaller than most Scout Reservations, but was very clean and well-maintained. Being small, everything is fairly close together. The camp has a single, large circular access road with administration buildings, parade field, and the summer camp dining hall all located in the center of the ring; troop campsites and program areas (such as aquatics, handicraft, and shooting sports) are located around the outside of the ring. Each campsite or program area is separated from adjoining areas by forest, and set far enough back from the road to provide privacy. Everything is naturally connected by the gravel service road and all campsites are about equally distant from the parade field and dining hall.
The camp was built on land reclaimed from strip mining and the forest, though abundant, is mostly new growth; huge hardwood trees are rare, but few of our scouts noticed this until we pointed it out ... to most boys, trees are trees!
The camp latrines were in excellent shape along with all the other camp buildings and facilities that we saw. The shooting sports ranges were the best designed and maintained of any we've seen at any Boy Scout camp ... absolutely top notch. It was too cool in March to even consider swimming, but the lake was crystal clear and the swimming dock and bath house both looked brand new. From the standpoint of facilities, the Buffalo Trace Council appears to have invested significantly in this camp.
Since the camp was nearly a 3-hour drive from Shepherdsville, it was about 9:30 PM and well past dark when we arrived at the camp on Friday night. A Campmaster greeted us and escorted us to our assigned campsite for the weekend. We felt very welcomed.
The shooting sports program kicked off right on schedule at 8 AM Saturday morning. At least two certified range officers/instructors were on hand for each of the three ranges (archery, rifle, and shotgun). Scouts purchased tickets for ammunition from a cashier then waited in line at the rifle or shotgun ranges; there was not charge to for archery. To keep the lines moving, each shooter was allowed a reasonable number of arrows/shots in any one turn. While the initial wait was a bit long, lines became shorter as the day wore on and many scouts opted to head back to their campsites to pursue other interests. This was also the case with many of our scouts.
The ranges closed about an hour for lunch then reopened for several more hours during the afternoon. For boys who wanted to shoot, there was certainly plenty of opportunity and the costs were very reasonable. Everyone in our group got to shoot as much as they wanted.
Unfortunately, a cold front moved in Friday night and Saturday turned out to be about 15 degrees cooler than expected ... temperatures were in the mid-40s rather than the low 60's. Rather than stand in line at the ranges, many of our guys chose more active activities such as exploring the camp or preparing a large bonfire for a Saturday night campfire.
The campsite was large and we were sharing it with a local troop from Evansville. We invited them to hold a joint campfire with us but their SPL said they didn't like doing skits and declined. Later that afternoon, while walking around the camp, our scoutmaster met a group of scoutmasters from a different Indiana troop at the camp waterfront. They invited us to come to their campsite for a campfire program followed by a game of Capture the Flag, and our boys accepted their invitation. We had a good time and, thankfully, no one got hurt. One scout did lose a pair of glasses, but luckily we found them undamaged in the field on Sunday morning.
We conducted a troop church service at the waterfront on Sunday morning before packing up and preparing to head home. We rolled back into Shepherdsville right on time. The only real disappointment of the weekend was that no one brought a camera, so we don't have any photographs from this particular troop outing.