Scouting is on the rise.
Scouts BSA, formerly known as Boy Scouts of America, is making a comeback and this year’s annual Winter Camp at Camp Attakapas in Trout featured over 100 campers enjoying the great outdoors while earning merit badges over four days.
“Troops arrived Friday night (Nov. 17) and the camp started Saturday morning (Nov. 18),” according to Camp Director Vinson Mouser of Bunkie. “We’ll end Tuesday night (Nov. 21) with our closing ceremonies.”
Mouser has been the camp director for many years and was heartbroken when the number of participants in scouting dropped during the Covid pandemic.
“I’ve been here 12 years and have experienced this camp in its heyday when we’d have 350 campers along with another 100 or so adults,” he said. “But I believe we are on the bottom curve and are coming back up.”
The annual Louisiana Purchase Council’s Winter Camp is held the first weekend of the Thanksgiving holiday at Camp Attakapas. The camp features 150 acres and has access to a 15-acre lake for boating activities and fishing.
Facilities include a 200-capacity dining hall, chapel, enhanced shooting ranges, the Steve Ayers training center, trading post and warehouse facility, shower/bath houses in the campsites and the Adirondacks for overnight camping.
“We love coming here but we really love the scouting program in general,” Mauser said. “I started scouting when I was seven years old, earned my Eagle Scout, and now, at 53, I’ve been in scouting for all but five years of my life since I was seven. I think it’s one of the best programs for boys and girls.”
Each day of camp is meticulously planned to keep the scouts busy while at the same time earning merit badges to improve their ranks.
“This year, we have seven troops along with three Cub Scout troops earlier, and they have a chance to earn four to five merit badges during our merit badge sessions during the morning and afternoon,” he said.
Each day begins with Reveille at 7 a.m. followed by the Flag Ceremony – the raising of the flag in the center of the camp. On Monday, Jena’s Troop 14 had the honor of leading the flag ceremony.
Following breakfast, the morning was filled with merit badge sessions and after lunch, more merit badge sessions. Each day held special events and games, including a Polar Bear Plunge where scouts had the opportunity to dive into the cold lake water.
The camp has always had shooting sports as part of its program, however this year, a new sport was added to the delight of all campers.
“This year, Range Director Otis Riley (from Jena), went and got certified in tomahawk and knife throwing and so we were able to offer that to the scouts as well,” Mouser said. “I’m pretty sure it was a big hit.”
Another highlight at the camp this year was a field trip for campers wanting to earn their Crime Prevention and Fingerprinting Merit Badges. Nine scouts from Rapides and Grant parishes traveled to the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office in Jena where Deputy Jenny Parker and Jailer Danny Laffoon taught the merit badge courses.
In addition, the scouts were treated to bonus sessions where they met with LaSalle Sheriff Scott Franklin who spoke on his duties as Sheriff, Detective Brant King who shared his knowledge on drug trends affecting youth and 28th Judicial District Judge J. Christopher Peters who invited the scouts into his court and educated them on the judicial process.
The scouts also were taken on a tour of the LPSO Jail and new 911 Dispatch Center.
Each night allowed the scouts to participate in special campfire programs, worship services and night-oriented games.
“There is nothing like our campfires,” the director said. “Singing songs and other activities that really provide motivation for everyone. I love it!”
For Mouser, seeing the growth in the young scouts is what it is all about.
“Having been here 12 years, I’ve seen some of these guys come in as 11-year-olds who are now out in the field getting jobs in engineering, fire and rescue and so much more and what is great about it, they were all introduced to their careers through scouting and our merit badges,” he said. “Now, some of those same guys come back and teach merit badge sessions for us.”
The director noted that scouts stay out of politics but the moral values that scouting teaches directly impact the world including the political landscape.
“Scouting has a good foundation and it teaches them to be civic minded,” Mouser concluded. “After all, our scout law is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent and we do that in this program and we teach that through this program. Sometimes they’re learning it when they don’t even know they’re learning it.”
During Tuesday night’s final campfire, special awards were given, including special shooting sport awards, campsite awards and the best overall troop at the camp award.
For more information on Scouts BSA, visit www.scouting. org. To find a Cub Scout or Scout Troop to join scouting, visit www.beascout.scouting.org.