Boys to Men—One Week, an
Outdoors Life Style
Ken Penrod’s Summer Youth Camp
By Ken Penrod

The boys wet-wade several times each week for smallmouth bass to 18-inches long. we always
release our bass, after photos.

When was the last time that you, during a 5-7 day span, caught native brook trout and “hold-over” rainbows from a mountain stream just a few yards from your bedroom? How far would you travel to see world-class elk and very large black bear? Have you ever caught 18-inch smallmouth and an 18-inch largemouth bass on back-to-back casts? As day turns grey, the howl of a coyote sends a chill down your spine and camouflaged boys and men prepare for one of the most exciting moments in any hunter’s life. Black bear are commonplace in the region and to see a sow with three cubs, close up, is a treat beyond compare. “Mom” grunts commands and the little ones find trees to climb while wide eyed youngsters scramble for cameras and binoculars. Did anyone bother to teach you sonar; GPS; map-reading; first aid; photography; shot gun skills and fly-casting in one week? Few adult readers will nod in the affirmative—but I’m talking about young boy experiences.

I raised five sons and a few dozen that also called me “dad,” so, after my boys became parents and moved on with their lives—there was a void in my life that I needed to fill. The cool thing about the boys we raised was their friends. They flocked to our home because we did “cool” stuff, and those boys went fishing with us—or just hung out at our home. We always talked about fishing and hunting—and soon they grew up and had boys of their own.

I’ve been a full-time hunting and fishing guide since 1982, after a good-life in the construction industry, if that’s at all possible. My life-love has always been in the outdoors world so I formed a fishing guide service that became quite popular—and soon after that--we decided to teach our skills to boys by conducting a summer youth camp, from my lodge in northern Pennsylvania, for those between the ages of 12 and 18. What a great idea—now I can teach fishing to youngsters and get paid for it!

Camp Sycamore is 19-years old and I know that endeavor is the favorite decision I ever made, including the six books I wrote and the numerous awards that I received over the years. When a man is able to watch other boys become men, other than their siblings, the result is quite rewarding.

Our forum at Camp Sycamore is unlike any other. We will not sing songs around a campfire; we do not weave baskets; we don’t tell ghost stories and we have no time for TV cartoons. This is a camp for those well behaved youngsters that are infatuated with fishing and gun skills and safety. We only take six or eight each week, but we want the right-kind, so we interview each other prior to acceptance.

We spend at least one day on a nearby lake where the guys fish for bass aboard Ranger bass boats.

We are fishing or shooting every minute, from dawn to dark. The boys are tired at dark and they don’t need much urging to “hit the sack.” For example, on Wednesdays, we leave the cabin at 5:00 AM so that we can be on a nearby lake at dawn, fishing from Ranger or Express boats until high-noon. Back at the lodge, we have lunch and the boys fish for trout in a stream just 30-feet outside our front door.

After a “nap” which seldom happens, we go to the Sinnamahoning Sportsmen’s Club for shooting instruction at a first-class range where the boys shoot both rim-fire and center-fire rifles and pistols under the strict supervision of three adults including NRA certified shooting instructor Alan Mullis, and Ken, Mike Baden, Captain Dave Kerrigan, tournament angler Jim Spencer or other extremely experienced shooters. Gun safety is the key element and it matters not if some of them never hunt. After diner we go to a nearby river where the guys wade and cast Mizmo tubes for smallmouth bass until dark.

Our “camp” always has at least three adults present, all trained in first aid and GPS. Boys are never allowed to leave sight of the cabin and they may never handle a gun without supervision.

Of the many great things we do here, the coyote hunt, one evening every week, is the favorite although the shotgun training is a very close second--and we catch rattlesnakes quite often that are released unharmed. Not to worry mom—the younger boys must stay in the vehicles and there is no danger to the guys.

Ok—sounds boring so far but consider this: on the average we catch 30 eatable trout each week; a hundred or so smallmouth bass to 20-inches long and dozens of largemouth bass. Bass must be released but we try to get good photos of the boy’s catch. The average weekly wild game sightings are: 4-5 black bear; 3-5 rattlesnakes; 20-30 elk; hundreds of whitetail deer; several flocks of turkey; a porcupine or two and on occasion, a fisher.

I usually tell the mothers that their boys will gain weight during our sessions and I’m correct most times. Camp-moms prepare hot breakfasts, buffet style lunches and grand meals for dinner that will include steaks, BBQ chicken, lasagna; venison burgers and hot dogs. Each boy has his own bed and they have camp duties to perform every day.

World class elk are seen by camp attendees every week.

One of my favorite stories is about a chubby, talkative 12-year old that had never handled a gun before attending my camp. Fast forward seven years, all of which he returned to this camp--and that boy, turned adult, received a full scholarship to a major university because of his shooting skills.

Our sessions are conducted during the month of July, sometimes into August. If you are interested, contact Ken Penrod at 240-447-2206 or kenpenrod@comcast.net. For additional information, go to our website at www.penrodsguides.com and click on “Youth Camp.” We have several slots available so act quickly. There is nothing like this, anywhere, and it’s a week that your son will never forget. Some boys stay for two weeks. We are not discriminating against the girls but I just can’t mix them at this age. Do you know what makes a 12-year old boy act stupid? It’s a 12-year old girl.