GREAT FALLS — Montana teenagers interested in archery, hunting and the outdoors have an opportunity to attend one of the prestigious Raised at Full Draw camps next month near Augusta.
Raised at Full Draw, or RAFD, will be held July 18-21 on the Cobb Ranch near Augusta for campers age 12-17. The camp is an idea that began in 2002.
“Camp actually started about 17 years ago, kind of as a dream of a bunch of volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, but four years ago we switched our focus and moved in and David Holder and Karin Holder started a new 503(c) called Raised at Full Draw,” explained LaDonna Maxwell, a family nurse practitioner at Missouri River Healthcare in Great Falls and one of the founding organizers of the first camp.
The Holders, former Great Falls residents that now reside in Iowa, are the founders of Raised Hunting, a TV series that currently airs on the Discovery Channel. The series has won numerous honors and awards, including Best Video Production for an outdoor series.
They, along with Maxwell, enjoy sharing their passion for hunting and the outdoors with youth at the RAFD camps.
“We do have an archery focus. Kids learn about bow hunter’s safety and they come out with their national bow hunter’s safety certification. I teach wilderness medicine, so we teach kids how to, if they’re hunting with grandma or grandpa and one of them gets sick, how to pull them out, how to splint their own fractures,” said Maxwell. “We teach survival, so how to build shelters, how to do tree-stand safety. Two years ago we implemented a new program where we take the older kids who have been to camp or have a lot of leadership experience, we break those kids off and do a leadership thing now.”
“The thing that’s most rewarding about camp to me is, we had a little girl who was super, super shy, wasn’t involved in any activities at school. The first year at camp she kind of isolated herself away, but the second year of camp her mom came up to me and says, ‘You’re not going to believe this. She ran for student council,’” Maxwell continued. “Just getting her to where she interacted with other kids and wasn’t so focused on social media completely changed what she does. That’s what makes that so rewarding to me. It’s the most rewarding thing I do all year, and I’ve done it for 17 years.”
Maxwell’s goal is to “open a camp in all 50 states” and she’s off to a good start. Raised at Full Draw youth camps are currently offered in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin, plus a women’s R.I.S.E. (Reach, Inspire, Support, Empower) camp in Iowa.
The RAFD camp near Augusta will cover a variety of topics, from spot-and-stalk techniques to tracking game after a shot and much more. Despite the archery focus, experience isn’t required.
“Kids who have never even shot a bow before, we’ve had come back and win the archery tournament that we do on Sundays. The favorite thing for all the kids is probably the balloon shoot, the water shoot that we do on Saturday night. It’s fun,” said Maxwell. “Everyone uses the same type of bow, kids bring their own bows. If they don’t have their own bow, we have bows for all of the kids that we outfit for them so everyone gets a chance to shoot. They just have a blast. We have a blast.”
Campers and parents interested in learning more about the camp are encouraged to visit the Raised at Full Draw website by clicking here. Maxwell says as the camp continues to grow, the need for staff does the same.
“Always looking for more volunteers. I need volunteers to be archery instructors, I need volunteers to help with the day-to-day setup — cooking, cleaning, all of it,” she said. “We’re kind of back in the wilderness area where we cook all the food, prepare all the food. It’s a chore.”
“We also need donors,” she continued. “Donors to donate money, maybe sponsor kids to camp that can’t afford to come to camp. Always looking for donations to buy bows, arrows, equipment to be able to help us expand into other states. So donations is a huge part of that right now.”
To register for the Raised at Full Draw bowhunting camp near Augusta, please follow the instructions on the RAFD website here.