Smoky Hill, KDWPT cohost youth outdoor camp

Josh Tillison, son of Lt. Col. Mark Tillison, chief of maintenance, 134th Air Control Squadron, aims for animal-shaped targets while a volunteer from the Salina Bowmen Archery Club provides assistance at the youth outdoor camp hosted by Smoky Hill Weapons Range and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Aug. 26. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

By Master Sgt. Matt McCoy, 184th Public Affairs

The area surrounding the pond near the headquarters building at Smoky Hill Weapons Range bustled with activity Aug. 26 during an outdoor youth camp put on by the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism.

About 180 children and their families participated in the one-day camp, enjoying activities that included archery, fishing and shooting. A paintball booth and a hatchet throwing area were also available.

Volunteers from the Salina Bowmen Archery Club provided instruction at the archery range as children aimed at life-sized targets in the shape of animals.

“We’re trying to get kids outdoors and introduce them to some of these activities that a lot of them otherwise might not ever have a chance to do,” said Brian Serpan, wildlife bio technician, KDWPT.

Conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever and Quails Forever showed proper stance, grip and aiming techniques while shooting clay pigeons with shotguns at Smoky Hill Weapons Range during an outdoor youth camp, Aug. 26. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

Conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever and Quails Forever showed proper stance, grip and aiming techniques while shooting clay pigeons with shotguns. Shooting options also included black powder rifles.

“There aren’t a lot of kids that shoot black powder rifles,” said Serpan.

While most of the activities were only for children, fishing brought the kids and their parents together.

Smoky Hill personnel recently stocked the pond with nearly 300 pounds of fish. The large amount of hungry fish ensured a fun time for the young anglers.

The event was the first of its kind in the Salina region, and Smoky Hill proved to be a perfect location.

“This is the first time Smoky Hill has hosted this event,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jim Schlehuber, superintendent, Smoky Hill Weapons Range. “We actually work with the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism. They help patrol the range during hunting season. Last fall, they asked us if it was a possibility for us to do this, so we worked with the wing’s [judge advocate] to make it legal.”

Employees at the KDWPT scouted other locations, but none of them offered the landscape requirements to support the various activities.

“[At Smoky Hill], we’ve got the headquarters pond that we’re using for the hub of the wheel and everything else is spokes that are coming out from the middle,” said Serpan. “We’ve got some nice topography and some nice backdrops for shooting guns. I don’t think we could ask for anything better than this.”

The partnership between Smoky Hill Weapons Range and the KDWPT proved to be a winning combination for the two organizations and for the children.

“It’s just way more than we could’ve ever expected,” said Serpan.