By Siri Fossil Jack Creek Preserve Foundation

ENNIS – The Jack Creek Preserve was bustling with an unprecedented five youth camps this summer.

They were Jack Creek Youth Camp, the Montana Outdoor Science School from Bozeman, the Good Thymes Camp from Madison Valley, Big Sky Archery Day Camp, and the Gallatin County Big Sky Youth Empowerment Project.

The eighth annual Jack Creek Youth Camp hosted 56 kids, ages 12 – 18. Forty percent of the campers came from the Madison and Gallatin counties, but kids also came from Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia.

As usual, archery was a hit.

“[My daughter Emmie] liked archery so much that we got her set up with a nice compound bow and enrolled her in a hunter safety course,” said Katie Belleisle. Emmie is planning to hunt with her father this September.

This year’s beginning archery first place award went to Ben Manion; the two intermediate archery award winners were Emily Schaufler and Dugan Runkel; the advanced archery award went to Ricky Poppe.

New this year at the youth camp, local volunteer George Beimel taught astronomy, showing campers constellations at night.

Volunteer Sandy Bourgeois, who teaches outdoor photography, tells her students to try and be “one with nature.” For Bourgeois, a camp highlight was seeing a student chase a butterfly for 20 minutes. Finally, when the student sat down, the butterfly landed within camera range, and the student got the shot.

The photo competition this year had three categories. Jordyn McKay won ‘Best Focal Point’ with an image of red berries, Riley Harwood won ‘Best Composition’, with a photo of a waterfall, and Patrick White won the ‘WOW! picture’, having captured a photo of a bird and its babies in a nest.

The Montana Outdoor Science School brought 13 middle school children for two nights to the preserve to practice archery and learn about wildlife, habitat and hunting ethics.

The Good Thymes Camp, now in its second year, brought 40 elementary school students from Madison Valley to the preserve. These campers learned about soils, plants, insects and water.

The Big Sky Introduction to Archery Day Camp brought 25 students to the preserve. Fourteen of the children were from Big Sky, and the rest were visitors or part-time residents. Some kids came from as far away as Washington D.C., California, and Connecticut.

The Big Sky Youth Empowerment Project, a Gallatin County program that provides outdoor-based character development opportunities for local at-risk youth, spent a day at the preserve helping prepare for the Youth Camp. They set up picnic tables, mowed the archery range, cleaned up trails, and learned archery skills.