Randy LaBauve | 4/10/2017 2:11:47 PM
(04/10/17) ZWOLLE, La. – Youth from throughout north Louisiana recently participated in 4-H Survivor Camp at North Toledo Bend State Park. Campers learned outdoor survival skills while working together as parish teams to complete tasks and compete in spirited contests.
“We’re trying to give the kids a sense of belonging and this camp is designed to develop trust and to help them work on their communication skills,” said Donny Moon, LSU AgCenter agent in Winn Parish.
Fishing the banks of the photogenic Toledo Bend reservoir was a very popular activity. Although 4-H’er Bailey Willis had never been to a camp before, she caught the most fish in the competition.
“We found a ‘honey hole’ where all the fish were,” said Willis, a sophomore from Morehouse Parish. “It took 15 minutes, and they really started biting.”
“They learned to find certain places where the bream were bedding up,” said Moon. “They learned to identify them and find out what bait worked best.”
The campers also learned how to build campsites to match certain crisis scenarios. They took part in outdoor cooking, food safety, first aid, boat building, canoeing and fire building.
“If you know how to make fire, then you won’t die from hypothermia,” said Reed Dees, a seventh-grader from Desoto Parish. “You might be able to live through the night and have a chance for survival.”
The campers safely cooked hamburgers on the grill, made fried apple pies and baked pineapple upside down cakes in Dutch ovens.
“My favorite activity would definitely be the cook-offs,” said Sarah Hammonds, a sophomore from Bossier Parish. “I absolutely love doing them.”
“Our team smothered the inside of a burger with garlic, sautéed onions and cheddar cheese,” Dees said. “Then we put another patty on top of it and grilled it so there was food inside and out.”
“We’ve even done emergency meals you can do in the wild if you don’t have many resources,” said Alicia Lacour, a junior from DeSoto Parish. “It makes me a lot more confident if we did get in those situations.”
Because phone reception was almost nonexistent, the 70 campers from 10 parishes were better able to focus on more traditional technology like compasses and maps and on the scenery itself.
“I do love my phone, but when you see the open water like this, it’s just prettier out here in person instead of a picture on a screen,” said Jacoby Fuller, a ninth-grader from Caddo Parish.
The three-day Survivor Camp for seventh- to 12th-graders is somewhat less regimented than other camps, Moon said. Participants have ample free time to get in additional hiking, fishing and socializing with friends.
“We’ve been doing this camp for over 10 years, and we want the kids to be able to be kids,” Moon said. “We want them to have fun but to learn something.”
“It’s fun,” Fuller said. “I like meeting new people. I like fishing, and I like being outdoors.”
Canoeists push toward the shore during a training run at the 2017 4-H Survivor Camp at North Toledo Bend State Park in March. Pictured from left are Logan Childress from Claiborne Parish and Reed Dees from Desoto Parish. Natchitoches Parish won the event. Morehouse Parish placed second and Winn Parish was third. Photo by Randy LaBauve/LSU AgCenter
4-H campers enjoy fishing during the 2017 4-H Survivor Camp at North Toledo Bend State Park at the end of March. 4-H’ers are, from left, Leigh-Anne Cook, Drake Whitney, Natalie McAlpin, Lissy Smith and Aaron Drury. Morehouse Parish team members won the fishing tournament. Photo by Randy LaBauve/LSU AgCenter
The team from West Carroll Parish grills gourmet burgers during the hamburger cookery contest, which was part of the 2017 4-H Survivor Camp at North Toledo Bend State Park in March. From left, are Aaron Drury, Allison Copeland, Natalie McAlpin and Drake Whitney. Caddo Parish won the contest. DeSoto Parish was second, and West Carroll placed third. Photo by Randy LaBauve/LSU AgCenter