Photo Credit: 
All photos by Andrew W. Griffin

 

COOKSON — Despite summer’s final attempts to bake the eastern Oklahoma hills one last time, 300 or so Boy Scouts of America from across the state converged last weekend on the Diamond H Scout Ranch in Cherokee County. 

Composed of thousands of acres in the Cookson Hills near Tahlequah, Diamond H is also a working cattle ranch which is used by the Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts, based in Oklahoma City. It is also where the council holds its annual Top Shot shooting weekend where Boy Scouts (which now includes girls) learn to handle guns of all sorts, from .22 rifles, black powder rifles, pellet rifles, and shotguns along with wrist-rocket slingshots, throwing knives, tomahawks, and archery. 

Two different range areas were set up on the east and west side of a wide-open hilltop, which has fewer trees than down in the valley where Terrapin Creek flows. But water was scarce, as the staff told the scouts, and water rationing was the order of the day due to little rainfall in recent months. This was evident on nearby Lake Tenkiller, where the lake levels had clearly dropped.

Among the BSA troops on hand for Top Shot was Troop 4008, which meets each week at St. Ann’s Catholic Church. They are known in Comanche County as being a very active troop, between fundraisers and service projects as the Scouts work their way toward earning an Eagle badge.

Assistant Scoutmasters Darin Pederson, Darren Hurst and David Dezell all have sons in Troop 4008, and they were all in agreement, in speaking with The Chronicle, that Top Shot was an excellent event for the scouts to attend. While Top Shot is normally held in February, it was cancelled due to a winter storm and rescheduled for late September. 

“Every boy that joins Scouts has the ability to do (Top Shot),” Darin Pederson said. “This was my third one I’ve attended, and I know we are going back in February.”

Pederson said his son Luke thoroughly enjoyed shooting the guns.

Sun and sons

Yes, it was a hot weekend. But the camaraderie was evident as fathers and sons (and a few daughters as well) hiked the property, handled firearms, and understood that having firearms is a right for Americans. Learning how to properly handle them is key, which Top Shot instills in the weekend program.

Among those in Troop 4008 making the most of the Top Shot opportunities included Scouts Rogelio Oregon Sr., Michael Bendernagel, Patrick Bailey, Fisher Perry, Otis Deutsch, Paul Dezell, Sam Lindsey, Rogelio Oregon, Jr., Weston Hurst and Luke Pederson. All of them participated in the shooting sports and were clearly having a great time.

“I think it’s a great event,” David Dezell said. “I had never been before.”

Dezell said he volunteered at the black powder rifle range and learned a lot himself. 

“Most of the boys had never shot black powder before,” Dezell said, noting that the Diamond H staff and other volunteers made sure the Scouts understood safety, including ear and eye protection and proper range etiquette.

“I thought it was great to let the boys have their experience,” added Dezell.

Darren Hurst attended with his son Weston. He said he helped at the range where pistols were used to shoot at a target.

“Kudos to the staff who let us come and use the ranch,” Darren Hurst said. “It was an awesome event and an awesome place.”

Weston Hurst, after Top Shot, told The Chronicle, “My favorite part was shotguns. I also did tomahawks and knives, but I wasn’t as good at that.”

Weston’s proud father added, “I was impressed with how well-organized the staff was and that the equipment was all well-maintained.”

All the members of Troop 4008 that we spoke to noted what an active and fun troop they have and getting to go to campouts like Top Shot add to the excitement and education Scouts pursue. Although they did not engage in mountain biking, watersports, hiking trips or fishing in the lake, those options are available as well. 

“Our troop does something once a month, camping or something,” noted Darin Pederson.

For more information on Elgin’s Troop 4008, go to scoutlander.com.