Youth Safari Shoot, Central Oregon



A very brisk day greeted us as we drove through the badlands of Central Oregon.  On our way to the COSSA (Central Oregon Sport Shooting Association) Range, for the Youth Safari Challenge.  We’ve gone every year save one. The boys really look forward to it.


Part of the fun now, is the instant friend re-union with our Central Oregon Christian Home Educator crowd. (COCHE). There were about 145 participants, girls mixed in with boys, dads with their families, and a few brave moms.


Gary gives us the HOO RAH opening, directions, prayer, shout out to the Veterans and Active Military, and the amazing list of sponsors to be thankful to as well. Mark gives us the Safety Speech, the boys really look up to Gary and Mark!


First Stop?  Hell Town. Seriously.  A Pellet Gun Shooting Gallery to Kill Zombies.  Yep. P1000796


COSSA has about 20 shooting bays, each one decorated with structures fitting to the style of shooting.  Some more elaborate than others. Many other people were using the grange on this day, it was really full and pulsing with excitement! (Hell Town Below)





Each stop is full of instruction, safety and encouragement. After these years at the range, many of the volunteers have become mentors to the boys, men they can look up too, and the ladies as well.


Fred Meyer donated enough food for 350 participants.  The food was AMAZING! BBQ – Wow. The food is fantastic every year! Thank you Fred Meyer!



This stop is our only point value event this year, it is a timed shoot, five at a target close and one to the right further away. Jon made all 6 shots, but he shot at the wrong target at the end.  I’d have liked to see how he would have done if he had paid attention!  They really stress this point – if you do not follow instructions at competitions, you’d be disqualified. It is all about fun and learning on this event, so no DQ’s, but the kids do learn the importance. +5 points to his score hurt!

One of Jon’s favorite cowboys.




Why do we drive way out towards Milican into the badlands?  Without experiencing it, it is hard to explain.  So many volunteers, well trained with years of experience, freely giving into the life of the boys.  Even in the photo above, taking the time, one on one, to demonstrate the proper and best way to load a pellet into an airsoft weapon. Each moment on the range is a learning experience. Stories are given of their competitions. Encouragement to perform at your best, to take the sport to the next level, to be aware of those around you, to respect the range and each other.  Amazing.


Almost every family has a dad present, some have both parents. Watching the dads walk around hand in hand with their sons –priceless.


Jon played around on the BB course that they had set up for the littles. The volunteer mentions – “The big challenge is to hit the red box on top of the target.”  “Oh!” Jon exclaims – and then ya hear ping ping ping ping while the box spins back and forth. He’s pretty spot on with a BB Gun.


Archery was the biggest challenge for Jon. Which is strange, because he is pretty good at it at home.  He only made one of his six arrows hit the intended target.


Horse Ridge in the landscape.  We lived just a couple of miles from this area. So beautiful!


Central Oregon has some beautiful parking lots for sure!  A great big thank you to Gary and Merrilee Lewis for hosting, gathering, arranging, planning, etc etc etc!

A post from Gary from 2010 –

Youth Safari Challenge held in Bend

More than 75 youngsters turn out for the shooting event

By Gary Lewis 

As far as anyone can tell, the word safari is rooted in Swahili. It means “the journey.” It is also, I am told, taken from the Persian word “sefaret,” for embassy. Picture a caravan of camels laden with gifts for a far country and you get the idea.

As anyone knows, those first 18 years of life are a journey.

Five years ago, my wife, Merrilee, returned from a Safari Club-sponsored Adventure Wilderness Leadership School in Jackson Hole, Wyo., with an idea.

We held our fifth Youth Safari Challenge in the desert east of Bend on Saturday. Two-hundred people gathered at the Central Oregon Shooting Sports Association Range. A few, like Jonathan and Nathan Wright, from Lincoln City, traveled across the mountains to shoot safari-style targets and learn survival skills.

Kids ages 5 to 10 were issued Small Game Licenses and older children, ages 11 to 19, were handed Big Game Licenses. Events were geared to each age group — the 22 Rimfire Varmint Shoot and BB Gun Warthog were reserved for the youngest and least experienced, while older kids tried Wingshooting, Cowboy Lever Action Rifle and Archery Antelope.

Leon Pantenburg taught Fire-Making to keep kids interested while their peers were on the firing line. With flammables and sparks, he was never without an audience.

Out on the shotgun range, Jeff DuPont, of Youth Outdoor Adventures in Grass Valley, ran the wingshooting stage where the clay pigeons climbed straight away, like guinea fowl flushed in the mopane scrub.

Station 5 was the most difficult event this year. Here, under the tutelage of the Horse Ridge Pistoleros — Mojave Mick, the Commodore, Slow Lee and Pecos Bill — a youngster learned the safe operation of a lever-action or pump-action rifle chambered for 45 Long Colt. Then, with six rounds in the tube, the young cowboy or cowgirl stepped up to meet the black-hatted, fearsome Pooney Bill and pound him with five rounds to his headgear, gloves and boots, then shoot the steel buffalo at 40 yards out.

Twelve-year-old Kid Bailey ran the course in 8.32 seconds for top score, while Josiah Alexander and Connor Briggs finished second and third.

Door prizes were laden on all participants. Gifts included binoculars, BB guns, air rifles, bows and arrows, pocket knives, videos, hats and books. Outdoor Chef Kurt and his wife Anita cooked hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries for over 200 kids, parents and volunteers.

The Challenge is an annual presentation of the High Desert Safari Club in cooperation with COSSA, Bend Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

Back in town, Xboxes and iPods, the Internet and the Wii, traveling soccer tournaments and incoming texts compete for a kid’s attention. Out on the range, the only electronic device that mattered was the timer in Pecos Bill’s hand. Seventy-five kids, and not one of them could be seen with a cell phone under callused thumbs.

From BB guns to big bore cowboy rifles and fire rings, it was a journey in fine motor skills, focus and single-minded concentration.

Down on the ground with a diminutive rifle, faced off against a paper ground squirrel, the grit under the elbows and the wind made it real. Now was the time to focus, to pay attention to fundamentals, to apply a shooter’s control to the task at hand — disciplines that serve a person well in later life.

Gary Lewis is the host of “High Desert Outdoorsman” and author of “John Nosler — Going Ballistic,” “Black Bear Hunting,” “Hunting Oregon” and other titles. Contact Lewis at

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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2 Responses to Youth Safari Shoot, Central Oregon

  1. Angie! I hope you can let us know ahead of time about this next year, because I know that at least Kelsi would LOVE to be a part of something like this! She loves going hunting with Dad and has shot a deer before. This would be so much fun for our whole family to attend. Please let me know of this event, if you remember next year!


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