By Maria Milligan
Sep 04, 2015

Turn Your Scouts into Mountain Men with a Fall Rendezvous

For the past several years, Labor Day weekend has found me in Wyoming for the Fort Bridger Mountain Man Rendezvous. I’ve been fascinated by mountain men ever since learning about the vital role they played in Utah’s history as a fourth grader. Now, my husband and I and anyone else we can convince to come along spend a couple days a year dressed like pioneers and learning about fur trapping, black powder rifles, Native American lore, and making tools by hand.

Scout RendezvousSince Scouts are often modern mountain men, it only makes sense to take your Scouts to a mountain man rendezvous. It’s a great activity to wrap up a summer season of camping and high adventure, or, if you choose a spring rendezvous, it’s a great way to get your youth excited about outdoor skills. It can also be an inexpensive activity, since most of these events let people in free if they are dressed in period clothing (dust off those pioneer trek clothes or find a local woodsman with drop sleeve shirts and trousers to spare).

Here are some tips for using a mountain man rendezvous to teach your Varsity Scouts the patrol method and have lots of fun in the process.

For Varsity Scouts, the Special Programs and Events Field of Emphasis  offers team members great activities for advancement, high adventure, and achievement. However, these activities are even more important in development of the team, or as Baden- Powell called it, the Patrol Method. Of all the things we do in Scouting, nothing gets to the Aims and Methods of Scouting better than the Patrol Methods.

Scout Rendezvous 2For LDS  Varsity Scouts, most teams are too small for for this to work well so taking part in events and special programs at the stake, district, council, or national levels is vital to bring the “Patrol Method” to life for this age group. A special program or event will nearly always involve more than one team. From backcountry high adventure to college scholarships, the events and programs of Scouting can enrich the Varsity experience for everyone on the team, while building your LDS Teacher’s quorum brotherhood

The special programs and events program manager is responsible for helping team members take full advantage of opportunities outside of a team’s local activities. The manager seeks out information about what is available in the district, the council, and at Scouting’s national level, and encourages team leaders and members to make the most of them.


One longstanding favorite of 14-15 year old boys is the Rendezvous. In the 1800s, a rendezvous was a gathering of mountain men who camped in one place and passed the time with contests, tall tales, and sharing of information. Today, some districts and councils organize a rendezvous for Varsity Scout teams. Activities may include traditional skills such as flint knapping, tracking, and firing black powder rifles.

The Frontiersman of Yesteryear

Scout Rendezvous 4Today it’s hard to imagine life in North America 200 years ago. Most Americans lived along the eastern seaboard and a few hardy souls had pushed “West” to the river town of St. Louis, Missouri. The California Gold Rush, the Oregon Trail migration and Mormon Exodus all started to change that. Preceding them westward, in the early 19th century, hardy trappers known as mountain men carved out a harsh existence in the far western United States.

Making a study of their lives can make for a great month or more of team program. Mountain man adventures in the wilderness have fascinated scholars, which means the internet is loaded with ideas Varsity Scouts romance about in the outdoors. Trapping, fishing, hunting, and cooking over an open fire without utensils all provide memorable outdoor adventure that you can replicate at your rendezvous.

Varsity Scout Program Features II gives some great ideas for putting on your own rendezvous:

A Modern Rendezvous

The adventure and tradition of that “frontier holiday,” can be re-created for your ultimate adventure. There you will have the opportunity to display your pioneer clothes, crafts, and shooting skills, and study the ways and lifestyles of the original mountain men.


First, select a wilderness site where you can set up a rifle range and have ample space for various types of competition. If you make canoes, you will also need a lake. Use your pioneering skills to make primitive shelters or a tepee.


Mountain men had to search for game and local plants for food. That may not be possible for you, but you should try to bring foods similar to those in their diet. Prepare them in the same primitive manner, over fires and using Dutch ovens.

Scout Rendezvous 3Contests and Games
Traditionally, mountain men enjoyed contests and demonstrations of feats of skill at the spring rendezvous. Typical contests might include flint and steel fire making, rope climbing, log sawing, and bow and drill fire making­. A few contests and games are described below.

Rope Climb

For this event, you can use a knotted rope hung from a tree, hung over a barricade, or tied around a rock on a hill. Recognition can be given either for completion of the climb or for the fastest climb.

Kabour Toss

The traditional kabour was a 12-foot log, 1 foot in diameter. This is a competitive event to see who can throw the log the longest distance. Scores based on distances will be marked on each individual’s score card. A scaled-down log should be used.

Log Sawing

Pair off into teams. Use a two-person saw and a log at least 12 inches in diameter. Be sure the log rests on braces several feet off the ground. You will need a stopwatch.

Foot Races

A variety of foot races can be run. Your team can organize races from 100 yards to several miles. The early frontiersman had to be in good physical condition to avoid bears (short sprints) and Indians (running many miles over varied terrain). You may want to combine a short sprint and a longer run.

Wrestling Matches

Schedule wrestling matches at your rendezvous. You can choose Indian arm wrestling or college-style wrestling.


For archery competitions, both target and field archery are authentic frontier activities.

Marksmanship Competitions

The frontiersmen used many props to prove their shooting ability. Extinguishing the flame of a candle was a popular method. Wedging the head of an ax into a lead rifle ball and halving the lead ball by shooting the head of the ax was another. They also drove nails into boards by shooting the heads of the nails with their shots. Your Varsity Scout team, however, should use a standard target. Be sure that everyone in the competition has been trained to use muzzle-loading firearms and that you use standard Boy Scouts of America rifle-range procedures.

Knife and Hawk Throwing

In this event, the winner has the highest number of sticks in the target from three throws from each: knives and hawks. Any tie-breaking throw-off will be held after everyone has had a first chance to throw in the competition.

Everything you need to get a rendezvous set up can be found in Varsity Scout Program Features II.

Maria Milligan

Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA. Images from the Ozark Trails Council’s KS-MO Fur Company Rendezvous.

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2 thoughts on “Turn Your Scouts into Mountain Men with a Fall Rendezvous

  1. AvatarJake

    Hey guys!

    My name is Jake Andersen. I’m a big fan of your blog, and am an Eagle Scout myself. I really respect what you’re doing with your blog!

    This past summer I started a camping hammock company called Hobo Hammocks. We donate a meal to the homeless with every hammock we sell. I’ve sold to a lot of scouts and scoutmasters who really love our hammocks!

    I am writing because I have a video that teaches how to tie a really awesome camping knot. I use it for hanging my hammock, but it has a lot of other uses, too. I thought it might be something your readers would enjoy

    I’d love to get your thoughts on the knot/video. Can I send it your way?



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