Scouts Explore Department Lands
I watched 12 Boy Scouts with packs and uniforms slip into the woods and disappear from sight. Their assignment was to walk due south two miles using a compass and topographic map to guide them over terrain they had never seen before. Halfway through their hike, the Scouts would encounter a lake, turn east and then resume their southern bearing to the campsite. Adult leaders observed but offered no advice; the Scouts were on their own. I was confident this was a place where Scouts would do just fine because we had practiced orienteering skills many times at our weekly Monday night Scout meetings. Now was their chance to prove that they could use a compass and map to find their way.
Two hours later, at dusk, the first group of Scouts arrived at the campsite. They were excited about completing the hike and ready to start dinner. As the sun went down, there was no sign of the second group. I made my way along their route and found the six boys a short distance from the campsite. They were on course but had flushed a flock of roosting turkeys as they entered the woods. The Scouts had never heard the racket of startled wild turkeys leaving the roost tree. The clatter and noise of turkeys taking flight and crashing through the trees was so startling that the boys decided to stay put and wait for help.
Hiking with compass and map cross country without using trails or roads is a Second Class rank requirement. The Manito Lake Conservation Area, Moniteau County, was the perfect spot for an orienteering hike. This public area was nearby, had no roads, and the boundaries were well marked. It would be difficult to get lost.
As a Scout leader, I was confident the Scouts could practice their hiking and compass skills safely. There was a designated group camping spot where the adult leaders could meet the hikers. Later in the day, we worked on canoeing and rowing skills on the area's 90-acre lake. The next morning we all got up early to listen for turkeys gobbling and for a short nature hike around the perimeter of the lake to identify plants and animals.
On this one trip, the Boy Scouts worked on requirements for the orienteering, hiking, canoeing, rowing, backpacking and fishing merit badges, plus requirements for Second Class and First Class ranks. All of this occurred less