Santa Claus returns

                              Photographed by Curtis Waidley.

A shooting sports camp named after Chris Kringle himself wasn’t one of the expected outcomes of the Ute Park Fire, but Santa Claus is now up and running.

Some of the first crews at the camp were greeted by a Christmas tree adorned with shotgun shells and clay pigeons on June 19. The Santa Claus canyon is home to a staff camp that had previously been downgraded to a trail camp in the mid-1990s. When Harlan, the old shooting camp, was caught in last summer’s fire Philmont made the push to refurbish Santa Claus and breathe new life into its shooting sports program.

This summer, Santa Claus is outfitted with 14 campsites, a refurbished staff cabin, a reloading cabin and a shooting range. The furnishing of the new camp, however, wasn’t a solo project. A number of firearm companies donated shot, powder, shotguns and even a new reloading cabin to Philmont. 

The reloading cabin is the main attraction at Santa Claus. Participants are able to take spent shotgun shells and refill them with powder, wad and shot, making them usable again. Reusing shells helps Philmont save money to put back into programs and teach Scouts the inner workings of firearms.


                                                                           Photographed by Curtis Waidley.

Once participants make their shells they head down to the firing range for skeet shooting. Experienced instructors teach Scouts the basics of shotgun shooting and let them shoot using the shells they made.

“Even if you’ve never shot before, and you might be scared to, give it a shot.” Program Counselor Josh Zitko said. “You might find that you enjoy it. Philmont is a place to try new things.”

In addition to the regular shooting sports program, the staff of Santa Claus have a surprise planned for campers: a full Santa costume on order. Soon, the Camp Director of Santa Claus will become Father Christmas himself. 

After two decades of waiting, Santa Claus has finally rejoined the ranks of staffed camps. Now crews can come prepared to learn, shoot and deck the halls at one of Philmont’s newest camps.

Picture of Mark Cordeiro

Mark Cordeiro

Mark Cordeiro is a second-year Philmont staffer out of Edmond, Oklahoma. He’s currently a senior at the University of Oklahoma studying professional writing. Mark spent several summers of his youth at the PTC’s youth programs and went on his first trek in 2014.