After introducing the staff in last week’s blog, the campers showed up on Sunday the 24th, to officially start the 72nd season of Michigan OutofDoors Youth Camp. We had 59 overnight campers (out of 60 spots) and we had 15 campers join us on Monday for our Day Camp program.

The programs we offered this week aside from Day Camp included Conservation Connection, Fishing camp and Wetland Wonders. Our themes have 20 campers in each group and each group is doing a separate activity during programming times each day.  This means we have four programs going on at once in different parts of the property.  So while the Conservation Connection kids went on a hike through the Waterloo Rec Area looking for snakes and salamanders, the Fishing Camp kids were down by the lake, trying their hand to catch fish with lures they built themselves.   The day campers were exploring the tall grass looking for insects and learning about the micro world of nature, and the Wetland Wonders program was down on the range shooting archery.

Throughout this week and all of our weeks, each camper will spend one of their days learning about wilderness survival and a day on the range. The wilderness survival program includes fire starting, shelter building and orienteering/land navigation.  We also do a lesson on wild edibles and the plants that are on our camp property.  This lesson highlights things that could be safe to eat like wild strawberries, raspberries, mulberries and white pine needles. As well as things, the campers should watch out for like chokecherries and poison ivy.

Down on the range as part of the hunter education program, all of our campers will shoot archery and .22 caliber rifles.  Each child spends 4-5 hours down on the range learning the safe and responsible handling of firearms and archery equipment.  Our staff is helping them build a foundation of target shooting that they can continue when they return home or if they decide to pick it up as a hobby later on in life.

This week when our campers were not swimming in the lake or hiking through the woods they were also spending time going over the Michigan Hunter Education curriculum.  We had 27 students working through the class this week and they took their test on Thursday.  The ones who passed will hopefully join the ranks of hunters in the woods and out in the field later this fall.  For campers who already have taken hunter safety, they were learning about Leave No Trace ethical camping principles and a third program to highlight prevention of invasive species.

For our campers, it has been a busy week.  They had a couple warm days and a day or so that was wet from thunderstorms.  However, through it all, they were laughing, smiling, and becoming conservationists. I know I speak for the staff when I say we are glad to have our first week of the season in the books and are looking forward to the next four down at Cedar Lake!

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