MOIESE - With a well-measured flick of the wrist, 10-year-old Andy Guthrie let the tomahawk fly.
In less time than it takes to blink, the small ax cartwheeled a neat arc until it stopped with a heavy thunk in the bull's-eye of a distant log target.
"Yes!" said the slight, freckled-face boy, raising his hands to the sky with amazement.
Whistles and applause from his Scout troop greeted his effort, raising the bar for the other boys as they stepped forward to match his effort.
"This is so cool," Guthrie said on Saturday, as he and nearly 400 western Montana Boy Scouts gathered on the banks of the Flathead River for their annual spring Mission Mountain Rendezvous.
"I love everything about being a Scout - the camping, the fishing - what I just did," Guthrie confided.
The Faust Ranch staged the event, which brought in 29 Scout troops from the Flathead, Missoula and Bitterroot districts Friday evening, where they camped under towering pines along the water.
They came to learn about the ways of fur trappers and frontiersmen by members of the Black Powder Organization and the Mountain Men Society.
"It's fun to see what it's like to be a mountain man," said Robb Hays, a 13-year-old Scout from Darby. Although he likes to play basketball and watch television, Hays said he thinks he would have done well in the early 1800s.
"You'd probably think something else was fun - like hunting, setting traps and sitting around a campfire telling stories," he said.
After learning how to make lead shot and how to shoot black-powder guns, dry meat, pack horses and live in tepees, tomahawk ace Guthrie said: "If I could ever go back in time I'd take something - probably a book - to tell me a little more than everybody else knows, like a book about the 1840s so I'd know what to expect."
Being prepared isn't the only thing Scouts think about, said a trio from Stevensville. "A Boy Scout must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent," said Arick Reese, Jared Kiess and Wes Dockins.
"Being clean and cheerful are the hardest," Reese added. "If there was greedy - that would be the easiest."
The rendezvous ended with a troopwide competition called the Colter Run, in honor of explorer John Colter's remarkable escape from a band of Piegan warriors he and another explorer angered in 1805. Each troop picked a Scout to enter the race designed to challenge their outdoors skills.
The course: run a quarter-mile along the river bank, wade across the river to a nearby island, and once there, shoot a target, throw a tomahawk on target, throw a spear, set a trap and make a fire.
"It sounds hard, but it will really take these guys less than 30 minutes," said Jim Pettit, a Scout unit commissioner with the Silvertip Boy Scout District from the Flathead area.
Scout Wes Dockins got tagged as his troop's competitor.
"My plan? Run as fast as I can and hope I can make it through the whole thing," he said.
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