Right now, I am desperately looking for interesting things to do and keep myself occupied while I study to become a teacher or get a gig as a digital journalist in Jacksonville.
So, I recently signed up to be an adult volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America. Why? Well, I get to do two of things I love. Camp, hike outdoors and spend my time with children.
Last week, I even trained to be a BB gun (where BB stands for ball-bearing) and archery range master. A rangemaster is a trained adult who oversees child participants at a shooting or archery range. The training session was held by the St John’s River in the 80-acres large, lush green campus of the St John’s River Base at Camp Echockotee. The camping site, which is owned by the Boy Scouts of America, is equipped with a BB gun and archery range, a swimming pool and a rock climbing wall. It is on the banks of the St John’s River, giving the visitors access to a waterfront with aquatic sports like sailing, canoeing, kayaking and motor boating.
Check out this view of the river side
Who were the participants?
We were a group of adult volunteers from various packs across North Florida, training to guide cub scouts, at large overnight camping events like the cuboree. Our trainers, Carrie Kurtz and David Mound from the Boy Scouts of America, North Florida Council were excellent teachers. They made the session very informative, and even added lots of humor, keeping us attentive through the five-hour long theory and practical training. We were told how both, archery and BB gun shooting, need lots of safety instructions and cannot be undertaken without adult supervision.
Here’s a summary of some of the important things we learnt:
BB GUN TRAINING
A ball bearing gun is one of those rifles we used to shoot balloons with at the local fair.
Here’s a photo of the rifles used. The blue one is used only for demonstration
The gun is however dangerous and can cause blindness if the ball bearings hurt your eyes. Therefore, the number one safety rule is to wear googles that cover your eyes on all sides before you enter the range area. There were some goggles made available to us thankfully but the trainers suggested we get our own since the ones handed out are sometimes scratched due to multiple uses by boy scouts.
Here’s me with my protective eye gear.
The main rules to takeaway from the training:
Three ALWAYS rules to follow:
ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. And the only safe direction is towards the target or into the ground.
ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready for use.
We were also told strictly not to reuse the BBs or even use ones that had fallen on the ground while trying to fill the gun.
It was very interesting to learn how to place the target sheet and send it towards the target area from the firing area without stepping onto the shooting area. We used a kind of pulley system to do that.
We were demonstrated common mistakes and safety violations on the range and asked to indentify them. For example, a shooter aiming the gun towards a person while he is distracted talking to a friend. In such cases, the rangemaster has to shout ‘ceasefire’ and everyone is expected to stop in their positions and place their guns to the floor.
Next up was archery training. This was the first time I was using a bow. I was first given a compound bow but my weak arms just couldn’t stretech it so I was then demoted to a simple, traditional bow. I quite enjoyed using it.
Here’s a photo of the compound bow I just could not use. Also note the positioning on the red marked line which is the shooting line. Archers straddle the shooting line with one foot on each side.
We were also given socks to wear on our arms as arm guards to protect bruises that may occur while releasing the arrow from the bow.
The arrows that we used were made of fibreglass and cost about $2.50 and so were told to be careful with them and not lose any. Wooden arrows are more cost-effective but tend to break faster as compared to these.
We used PVC pipes (pictured above) as quivers to store them.
I liked the use of socks and PVC pipes. Both are inexpensive alternatives to use.
I took some time to learn how to nock the arrows in the bow and aim but it was worth it.
The rangemaster’s instructions at the archery range are a little different from the BB range. In the archery range, the rangemaster uses whistle blows to give instructions.
2 whistle blasts indicates: Get Bow
1 whistle blast indicates: Shoot
3 whistle blasts indicate: Retrieve Arrows
5 or more whistle blasts indicate: Emergency. A ceasefire where everyone has to stop and place the bows back to the rack and arrows in the quiver.
Some of the safety rules we learnt:
Always keep your arrows pointed down or toward the target.
Only release an arrow when you can see its full clear path to the target.
Shoot only at the target in front of you.
Keep the arrows in the quiver until everyone is on or behind the shooting line and the rangemaster has indicated that you may begin shooting.
Here’s a photo of my first targets. Good eh?
I think I enjoyed archery more than using the BB gun.
After completing training, I was awarded this by the North Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America’s Shooting Sports Committee! So happy to be a qualified cub scout rangemaster for BB and Archery!