SCI's Youth Safari Day

Benelli rep. Tom Bradley
The 14th annual Youth Safari Day started with a big bang-- literally. Kids gaped and awed at Benelli's shotgun rep. Tom Bradley, who wowed young spectators with his shotgun trick shooting. For a finale, Bradley shot at the ground, which exploded into flames and rising smoke. Parents and children cheered. 

Youth Safari Day is put on by the Orange County Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI). It is held every third Saturday of July at Mike Raahauge's Shooting Enterprises in Corona, Calif. and is "a day to offer kids events that they don't get to do in school," said committee member Sam Mills. 

Tom Bradley signing autographs for his young fans.
Mills has been on SCI's planning committee since the beginning. "It's a group effort," said Mills. Countless of volunteers, sponsors and donors from organizations like the NRA, Turner's Outdoorsman, Quail Unlimited, the Mule Deer Foundation, the Conklin Foundation, assorted SCI chapters, Wild Game Feed and Weatherby make this youth outreach program possible, which served 3,000 - 4,000 parents and children this year. 

Marcus Halderman with signed clay target

Youth Safari Day highlighted outdoor activities and seminars such as firearm safety, kayaking, falconry, rifle, pistol, black powder, shotgun shooting, BB guns, archery, fishing, retrieving dog shows, rock climbing, cowboy action shooting, shotgun trick shooting, duck/quail/turkey calling, paint ball games, and many more.

Sam Mills, who was the past president of the OC Chapter of SCI, told me that the numbers of spectators have risen over the last few years. "There are a lot of repeat visitors, but as kids get older, people recycle through." Mills proudly revealed that all workers at Youth Safari Day were volunteers. 

SCI-OC's Matt McCroskey manned his chapter's Mobile Sensory Safari van. The van was built 10 years ago. It was intended to allow the visually impaired to walk through and feel what a lion or a bear looks like. Since then, many animals have been added to the van. The van is so popular that it also makes appearances at schools and local Boy Scout events. 

The Mobile Sensory Safari is always a big hit at Youth Safari Day. Kids couldn't help but pet and hug the animals. 


A lady in the booth emphatically told the children that none of these animals are endangered, no matter what the media says. Youth Safari Day was a great event to educate young people about wildlife. 

Josh with "Hunter"

Walking to the other end of the fair, Starlight Kennels had their crowd pumping. I met Josh Cacciatori, who runs Starlight Kennel with his father Paul. This family business has been around for at least 35 years. They train mostly hunting dogs, but they also serve clients who simply want obedience training. Josh explained that when he and his trainers first "interview" a hunting dog, they look for the dog's "will to chase." After observation, the dogs move on to learning how to grab objects on command.

Yesterday, Starlight Kennels brought plenty of dogs who were willing. It's always a pleasure to watch these dogs at work. They just love what they do and aren't afraid to show it. 

Excited kids lined up to throw toys into the pound. The dogs were commanded to hold still until their young masters gave the "go!"

"Get it, girl! Get it!"

Happy dog! "Daisy" jumped into the water at least 10 times, and she couldn't get enough!

At the fishing pond, I ran into Darlene Garcia and her daughter Jessica Molano from San Bernardino. This was their second time at Youth Safari Day. Darlene first heard about the event from her boss at work and she now comes out with her daughter, mother and brothers. Darlene looked at her daughter Jessica and said with a smile, "She likes to fish."

The pond was stocked with many fish for the event, including catfish and talapia.

Another event, which excited even me, was the Cowboy Mounted Shooting event.
Laurel and Nicholas

While waiting for the show to start, many got to greet and pet the horses. 


Some were brave enough to ride.

Then it was time. The riders jogged up to the starting line. They let their horses rip, flying through patterns with a special pistol in hand. The object was to stay in pattern while shooting all the balloons.

Horses and riders are two of my favorite things photograph.

Most did phenomenally well, shooting all the balloons.
The Big Horn Mountain Men were also at Youth Safari Day, for the 7th year in a row. I met Marie Burns, who explained to me that her organization's mission is to "keep people interested in black powder shooting."

To the right is volunteer Barry Howell in period clothing, helping a young lady to shoot.
Vince greeting a young shooter

Next, I had the pleasure of meeting Vince Moreno, who was described by other volunteers as the "Yoda" of the NRA Members' Council of Riverside. He is the council's president, and has been volunteering at Youth Safari Day since the event's beginnings. Vince is a "fervent" political supporter of gun rights and has worked with many notable pro-gun government officials to help secure our 2nd Amendment freedoms.
Vince explained to me that his booth was divided into three categories. 5-7 year olds shot at the first table, the second was reserved for 7-12 and the third was for 12-17 and mothers. "Kids can shoot as many time as they want, so can ladies. Fathers are not allowed because we have to buy the ammo ourselves and we assume that the dads can go out and do this on their own. There's something for everyone. We're all volunteers here."

When the NRA of Riverside started volunteering at Youth Safari Day years ago, they started with few guns. Now, thanks to donations from manufacturers like Marlin Firearms, their booth now offers kids 30 firearms to shoot. 

Of course, every outdoor day has to have a rock climbing wall.
Mr. Pony approves. If you live in California, make sure you take your kids to Youth Safari Day next year. It's our strong belief that kids should have some element of the outdoors in their life. And it's best to start them young, before they get too into all the video games and TV. The outdoors teaches kids good character, discipline and respect for their own existence and others.