For 20 years, archers on target for Camp Mack
nThe Bowhunters Festival, organized by clubs in Elizabethtown and Middletown, has played a large part in raising funds for many improvements at the popular camp. The festival drew 850 archers this year. BY P.J. REILLY, Staff Writer
A tiny cloud of dust curled around the feet of John Sapp Jr. as he shuffled them into position shoulder-width apart.
The Dover, Del., resident drew back his compound bow, took careful aim, then released an arrow that struck a foam 3-D deer target perfectly behind the shoulder, 25 yards away.
Sapp's dad, John Sr., next stepped up to the line in the woods at the J. Edward Mack Scout Reservation in Elizabeth Township on Sunday. He released an arrow that slapped his son's as it struck the target in nearly the exact same spot.
"Hey, watch my arrow," John Jr. said, smiling.
That's the kind of interaction that members of Big Chiques Archery Club in Elizabethtown and Big Buck Archery Club in Middletown had in mind when they teamed up with the Boy Scouts of America two decades ago to launch the Pennsylvania Spring 3-D Bowhunters Festival.
"It's a fun weekend -- it's a family event," said Ken Long, president of the Big Buck club. "We're even seeing more and more kids and women ...
"It's a nice event for anyone who wants to be out."
Some 850 archers from as far away as Kansas showed up at Camp Mack over the weekend to celebrate the festival's 20th anniversary.
They got an up-close look at 20 years' worth of improvements to the Pennsylvania Dutch Council Boy Scouts of America's 1,000-acre property, completed in large part thanks to the annual pilgrimage of bow-benders.
"This is a charity event that benefits the Boy Scouts here at the camp," Long said. "It brings in a lot of money for them."
Camp Mack Ranger Gary Guare, who is a member of Big Chiques Archery Club, said the festival has raised "on average about $2,000 (annually) over 20 years.
"We've had some really good years, where we've raised $5,000 to $6,000. And it all stays here for the Scouts in Lancaster and Lebanon counties."
That money has been used to build new pavilions, improve the Scouts' camping sites, provide stone for the network of roads and parking lots and to buy boats, which the Scouts use on the camp's lake.
"The list goes on and on," Guare said.
Tim Wahl and his 11-year-old son, Christopher, both of Denver, were at the festival Sunday.
Christopher was shooting while his father offered instruction.
"I like this because it's kind of the first big shoot in the spring," Wahl said. "So many times, people put away their bows after hunting season, and they don't pick them up until the next season. This is good for keeping the skills sharp."
What draws so many archers from across Pennsylvania and beyond, Long said, is the fact that they can shoot more than 100 three-dimensional targets made to look like deer, bears, turkeys, mountain goats, elk and several other animals.
And those targets are set up on five different courses spread across much of Camp Mack's acreage.
"You could shoot all day and never shoot the same target twice," Long said.
A festival favorite is the Hammer Course.
"Oh man, people love the Hammer Course," Long said. "They'll go up and shoot a dozen arrows and come back for more."
The Hammer Course features ridiculous shots, such as one requiring the archer to send an arrow through an 8-foot length of PVC pipe before it can strike the target.
Fail to hit the opening of the pipe and your arrow will bury into the wooden support, or it will glance off and sail into the woods, where it will likely be lost.
There also were several stations that required archers to shoot arrows through holes in steel plates to hit the targets.
Those who hit the plates watched their $5 to $15 arrows shatter into pieces.
"I had eight arrows when I started the course," said Will Wheatley, of Lebanon, as he headed down the Hammer Course trail back toward the shoot headquarters.
"I lost every one of them before I got halfway through."