The end of an era for South Cariboo youth came in late 2012, with the folding of the C-Nile Sharp Shooters Club.
The youth outdoor club, which had up to 26 members at times, was founded in 2000 by Mike Case of 100 Mile House, and held its weekly meetings in the Youth Training Centre on Horse Lake Road. Young people from 10 years old to late teens were taught outdoors survival skills, carving and woodworking, how to fish, shoot a rifle and hunt game among many other valuable skills.
When Case turned 71 this year, he decided it was time to retire, and when nobody stepped up to fill his shoes, the popular club ceased to operate.
“It was a big job (running the club), but I enjoyed doing it. The club made an impact on the kids. They learned lots of skills and lifelong lessons.”
Case, who volunteered his time to plan and lead club activities, says it was of importance to area youth because of their country environment.
“If they ever got lost, they would know how to follow the sun, read a compass, know that moss grows on the north side of a tree and they could survive.”
Prior to forming the club, Case was the shooting instructor for the cadets at the local 2887 RMR RCACC. When restrictions to their shooting program were imposed, he started the Sharp Shooters club and his program grew from there, including the addition of an assistant leader.
It cost members $15 a year to join and that also gave them membership with the Lone Butte Fish & Wildlife Association (LBFWA), which covered their insurance fees.
The group used the LBFWA shooting range on occasion to shoot clay pigeons and also practised their marksmanship at an indoor shooting range at the Horse Lake Training Centre. There, they had the opportunity to shoot rifles from 22 calibre to 357 magnum, and hand guns.
There were survival weekends where they would camp in the bush, making shelters to sleep in and they learned hands-on about outdoors survival.
Among the most memorable trips was when they were helicoptered out to a secluded site near 93 Mile. With packs on their backs and compasses in hand, they made their way back to the training centre as a group, straight through the bush.
Over the years, there were fishing derbies, snowshoe adventures, archery lessons and an annual duck hunt and campout at 111 Mile.
Case, who has a great interest in First Nations crafts and skills, says he sought out people who came and shared their knowledge with club members at some of the weekly meetings.
Traditional drum-making was among the many things they learned and it’s a craft Case especially took an interest in.
He has made several, from hand drums to large ones that rest on the floor or ground.
Case has learned how to craft them from the ground up, taught by local Métis craftsperson Paul Street. Using animal hides donated by hunters, he scrapes, cleans and then soaks them to loosen the hair before scraping them off for a clean finish.
Hides are then stretched on a wooden rack and left to dry before pieces are cut for drum covers and lacing material. Case likens the stiff, dried hides to pieces of plywood which need sturdy implements to cut them.
Each drum frame is constructed from bevelled pieces of cedar, joined together with biscuits (flat wood pieces) to form a ring.
The hide components are then soaked in water to make them pliable and then the cover is stretched over the drum ring and intricately laced onto it. The finishing touch is an application of bear grease.
He says every hide is different and gives each drum a unique sound. Case says he has sold his drums to First Nations people and says each buyer carefully tests the sound before purchasing.
Street has become a good friend to Case who says he is always inspired by Street’s stories of native culture and days gone by. Case says his love of drum-making is fuelled by the stories.
“Native history interests me very much. I respect and admire what the people were able to do with what they had. I enjoy making something from nothing too.”
Drum-making was a staple activity for the club and one of the many projects they undertook in a year.
“The kids were never bored. They did a lot of things they otherwise never would had done,” Case says, adding he will miss being involved with the youth and the club activities.