Scouts learn survival skills and how to cook outdoors

Isaiah Odell of North Platte ties down some of the roof members on a survival shelter that he and other Troop 293 scouts worked on at a recent camp.

One of the fun things I get to do is work with youngsters who have an interest in the outdoors, and recently it was Cub Scout Pack 293 in North Platte. A day had been planned for the scouts to work on some skills leading to merit badges and to have some fun. Whispering Cedars Camp at Lake Maloney was the site for this field day.

“We have a very active, huge pack. It is at its peak of greatness,” said Kay McCuskey, a den leader for Pack 293. “They’re bursting at the seams with excitement and enthusiasm, and love going on field trips and learning about all different kinds of things in different ways. I’ve heard many Eagle Scouts talk about how they think of and use things they’ve learned in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts throughout their lives.”

“I grew up as a Girl Scout. I think scouting teaches responsibility, builds character and provides a lot of activities for the scouts to learn,” added Assistant Den Leader Amanda Odell. “Kay is a neighbor and friend. Our boys are in scouting together and that’s how I got involved.”

“For our family, we don’t have a lot of outdoors experience. We’ve always been more into sports,” scout parent Delecia Matta said. “Scouting lets my son, Desmond, just be himself and explore and enjoy the outdoors. He can spread his wings and have fun.”

My day with the scouts began right after lunch when we worked on some basic knot tying. The skills the scouts picked up during this exercise were immediately put to use building a simple survival shelter.

The scouts had an opportunity to hear about various designs of survival shelters and how to build them. The scouts then had to decide what they wanted to build. They could use any design they wanted to build and could only use what they could find around camp.

A couple of the boys explored an area that had the remains of a “fort” built by scouts of years past. This proved to be a good choice. Although the “fort” was in disrepair, all the basic materials needed to construct a survival shelter were there. After looking over the situation, the scouts were divided into two groups.

The younger scouts were assigned to a part of the fort that presented a basic frame for a shelter. Their task was to add to the structure to make a shelter they could sleep in overnight. As part of the training before this exercise, we had talked about a debris hut. A debris hut is a structure that is covered with whatever you can find, mostly leaf litter.

The scouts found a tarp and covered the basic structure. They piled leaves and twigs on top of the tarp to create a layer of insulation. Some large limbs were laid in place to hold the leaves in place and to keep the wind from lifting up the tarp and scattering all their work. The boys did very well. I have to admit, I have spent the night in a lot worse places!

The older boys used an old log fence as their starting point. This created the basic frame of what became a simple lean-to structure. The scouts salvaged other limbs, about 10 feet in length and 4-5 inches in diameter, laid in a row, so each limb touched the previous limb until a roof was formed. The sides of the structure were covered with smaller limbs and sticks.

The roof was covered with some plastic the boys had scrounged up. The last step was to cover the entire structure with leaf debris like the other structure. The finished lean-to had a main opening of roughly 6-feet-wide and about 4-feet-tall. The length of the limbs used to create the roof made a space about 8-feet deep to sleep in. The boys then discussed building some shorter walls at the opening and digging a small fire pit.

It was a fine survival structure and one that could provide shelter from wind and rain for an extended period. The fire pit at the entrance could provide warmth and radiant heat would be reflected off the walls and roof to help warm the internal part of the structure.

“That was a really cool learning experience,” said 9-year-old Isaiah Odell, one of the older scouts in this group. “I want to do more stuff like this, but I think we could have done better.”

The scouts did great. In the right location, I could move into that shelter for a week of hunting camp and be just fine.

The day ended with a Dutch oven dinner of deep dish tortilla pie and fried churros. The scouts got some hands-on experience with cooking over an open fire. They did great and I don’t think anyone was hungry.

“I liked putting the tortillas on the layers in the pot and I liked rolling the batter into ‘snakes’ for the churros,” Desmond Mata said.

“I liked doing the cookout too,” added Isaiah Odell. “It refreshes my brain on how hard it is to cook.”

All things considered, it was a great day afield.

Merger squabble

According to outdoor industry news service that I subscribe to, Bass Pro Shops has filed a suit against two former Cabela’s employees who started outdoor stores of their own following its 2017 acquisition of its former rival. The suits allege that both operators are in breach of non-compete agreements and are using stolen, proprietary information.

In U.S. District Court of Delaware documents, Bass Pro Shops has filed suit against NexGen Outfitters, a Sidney-based outdoor retailer that acquired four acres of a local industrial park to build a facility on in June.

NexGen is led by four former Cabela’s employees: Ryan Wellman, Trent Santero, Mike Riddle and Jeremy Nesbitt. Their roles varied from merchandising management to business development, and inventory planning.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. District Court of Delaware, a separate suit from Bass Pro Shops is targeting Matthew and Molly Highby, of Highby Outdoors. Both are former managers of Cabela’s. Matthew is the son of Dennis Highby, who served as Cabela’s president from 2003 to 2009 and served on the company’s board before its acquisition in 2017.

Both suits are seeking damages and the return of severance pay and profits from stock they received from Cabela’s. Both suits allege that individuals violated an 18-month non-compete clause upon leaving the company.

Neither NexGen Outdoors or Highby Outdoors appears to be fully operational as of this time. NexGen set a goal of facility completion as June 1, 2019; while the Highby Outdoors website is listed as under construction.

We will have to wait and see what transpires here.