A hunter since age 8, 12-year-old Miguel Millan was one of 16 kids attending a weeklong Christian Outdoor Alliance camp in June at the Mobley Ranch near College Station, Texas. His days at the camp started early as he sat for hours in a hunting blind with a guide and camp counselor.
Miguel decided to hunt a wild pig as part of his camp experience at Mobley Ranch. Their intelligence and nocturnal nature make pigs the most challenging animal to hunt there, guide Andrew Garay said.
Safety is a major focus for the Christian Outdoor Alliance, so campers are not allowed to hunt until they’ve passed a state certification test. Counselors like Andrew Garay, left, handle and load the rifles, providing supervision and instruction throughout the hunt.
Miguel shot a pig shortly after nightfall on one of his last days at camp. He had missed a few hours earlier and was about to quit for the night when this animal wandered into the clearing in front of his blind. Garay called the kill “sweet redemption.”
After bringing the dead pig back to camp, Garay skins it as Miguel and two fellow campers, from left, Cristian Salinas and Tristan Hardin, look on. The kids take home some of the meat they harvest; some of it is kept to feed future camps. Miguel said he planned to have the pig’s skull mounted as a trophy.
From left, counselors Jarrett Hall, left, and Clint Parkhill discuss the next day’s hunting plans with Michael Marbach, the Christian Outdoor Alliance’s founder and executive director.
Campers celebrate a week of successful hunting at one of the Mobley Ranch’s swimming pools.
Counselor Jarrett Hall plays air guitar with camper Cody Lindholm. Hall is a college student and started working at the Christian Outdoor Alliance in 2014. He plays in a Christian rock band and hopes to make a career in Christian music.
One of the campers received an encouraging note from his mother during “mail call.”
Campers and counselors share meals in the Mobley Ranch hunting lodge.
Much of the hunting is done early in the morning and in the evening. Campers spend the hottest hours of the day swimming and playing in the pool.
Once every camper had killed a pig, ram or deer, the counselors took them to hunt small game. Drew West poses outside the lodge with two rabbits he shot.
Counselors use a whiteboard to plan each day’s hunt and to keep track of the campers who have killed an animal during the week.
Camper Drew West sights in his rifle with help from counselor Andrew Garay.
Camper Michael Canterbury and counselor Jarrett Hall walk during a morning deer hunt on one of the last days at the camp.
Canterbury rests his eyes as he and Hall wait for several hours in a hunting blind. The 13-year-old said that he has been hunting since he was 7 and that he first fired a gun when he was 5.
After nearly a week of hunting, Canterbury killed a sika doe. Shooting the sika and other species not native to Texas is not limited to traditional hunting seasons.
Canterbury was a returning Christian Outdoor Alliance camper this year. “It’s really exciting, getting to shoot your animal and skin it and then later on hopefully getting to eat it,” he said.
Hunting is a major part of life beginning during early childhood for many Texans. Christian Outdoor Alliance summer camps provide kids with a faith-based experience that includes the opportunity to hunt animals on private exotic game ranches. I photographed this story and produced an accompanying video during the summer of 2014 as part of a fellowship with the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative's Gun Wars project.