3 fall-rific (and 1 not-so-great) uses for pumpkins at Scout meetings and events

Ah, pumpkins. Has there ever been a more fruitful fruit?

Pumpkins offer a cornucopia of uses, most of which make great meeting or campout activities for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers.

Carve them, paint them, roast them, eat them or spice them. Just don’t fling them through the air.

Perfect for fall, here are some pumpkin-related ideas for packs, troops, teams, posts, ships and crews. I’m also using the occasion to remind you of one pumpkin-related activity you shouldn’t try at a Scouting event because it can be dangerous. It’s pumpkin chunking.

Here are three pumpkin do’s and one pumpkin don’t.

Do carve pumpkins

Ready to carve the perfect pumpkin? Boys’ Life has you covered with these tips from “Farmer Mike, World-Class Pumpkin Carver.” You can also watch this BL video below.

Want more inspiration? Check out these Cub Scouting-themed decorations.

Do roast pumpkin seeds

What to do with all those pumpkin innards you remove when carving? Roast the seeds, of course.

Try this recipe and watch those pumpkin seeds disappear faster than you can spell Halloween.

Do make some pumpkin spice pancakes

Anyone can make pumpkin pie.

Scouts make pumpkin spice pancakes, using this recipe from Scouting Wire.

Don’t try pumpkin chunking

Pumpkin chunking — sometimes shortened to pumpkin chunkin’ — doesn’t really meet the BSA’s mission of maintaining a safe space for participants.

It’s not part of any BSA program, and it can be unsafe. The catapult can misfire, causing these 20-pound spheres to fly straight into the air — or even backwards. Not good.

Moreover, the pumpkin itself doesn’t fit the BSA’s definition of appropriate ammunition.

Scroll to page 100 of the Shooting Sports Manual for the official reference. The page is part of the chapter covering slingshots, catapults and alternative types of shooting sports.

Here’s the relevant section, “ammunition.” I added the bold.

When using a catapult or other shooting device, use a soft object no larger than the opening of a small juice can. The use of pumpkins is not approved.

Many councils use catapults at council events, and that’s fine. But the objects catapulted should be soft and small — like a tennis ball or racquetball.

That means let’s save the pumpkins for other fun — and delicious — uses.

41 Comments

  1. Umm, don’t tell my council that pumpkin chunking is not allowed–they’ve been doing it for years.

    It’s a big part of their annual Cub Haunted Weekend. On the flyer for this year’s event, it’s the first bullet point on the list of activities.

    And it’s a council-run event at the council-owned camp, so this isn’t some unit “going rogue”. They’ve been doing it for at least the last 8-10 years.

  2. And we wonder why Scouts leave? (Or don’t join in the first place?) Punkin chunkin is probably safer than mountain biking, canoeing, or kayaking, but for some reason the BSA doesn’t ban those things.

    • Oh, and it’s a GREAT way to teach Scouts knots and lashings. Tell a Scout to make a useful camp gadget with lashings and he looks at you like you are crazy, but tell him to lash together a trebuchet so he can launch a pumpkin and he will work at it for hours making sure he gets every last lashing just right so he can chunk his punkin as far as possible.

    • With any activity, it depends on the safety of the devices and the people around. There is risk in everything, and pumpkin chunkin’ (as rarely as it’s done!) probably should be on the low end of the totem pole…I don’t think that many Scouters do it. If you had seen how many broken bones there were at Jamboree from the BMX & Skatepark alone…the number of injuries from pumpkin chunkin are probably miniscule.

      But regardless of what we think, we have to go by BSA: Be safe and follow the rules…(at least we’re not in the GIrl Scouts – their rules are even more strict!)

    • No we don’t wonder. Don’t forget tomahawk throwing.

      Side note. They leave because their parents are not as involved in the program as we are. They don’t realize the true value of scouting.

      • Oh, I think they do. For the $33 registration fee plus the cost of a uniform per person eight friends could buy a decent saw and scrap spars and joining materials, find a good open field, and loft whatever projectiles the choose.

        Great youth will scout, with or without BSA.

      • So how do we encourage the boys to stay long enough that the parents get to realize the true value? Overly restrictive safety rules that cause both parents and boys to just roll their eyes and figure they can have more fun outside of Scouting are not helping.

    • Red Green is kinda the Canadian equivalent to Tim “Tool Time” Taylor. Wacky and over-the-top ways of doing the things. SO MUCH FUN. But we should probably leave that on the small screen.

      (That being said, back in the day we actually fired a real canon with real canon balls at a camp. But we took EXTREME measures to maintain safety. It’s hard to do that at camporee-type events where people are everywhere.)

  3. “Here’s the relevant section, “ammunition.” I added the bold.

    When using a catapult or other shooting device, use a soft object no larger than the opening of a small juice can. The use of pumpkins is not approved.

    Many councils use catapults at council events, and that’s fine. But the objects catapulted should be soft and small — like a tennis ball or racquetball.”

    Show me a small juice can of which the opening is the size of a tennis ball.

    I think you might be referring to a 55 gallon drum of apple juice concentrate imported from China.

    Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, those cans are small.

  4. For what it’s worth, Pumpkin Chunkin does scale up to unsafe levels. There have been serious injuries as a result of compressed air cannons failing.

    Also, there’s a very important distinction between a Trebuchet and a Catapult (specifically with respect to the way energy is stored and released.)

    That said, the rules as written seem to say it’s okay to use a catapult to launch a tennis ball two miles, but not okay to build use a trebuchet to launch a pumpkin 50 feet.

    All of these devices can be dangerous. I’ve never seen an event (Scouts or otherwise) that didn’t use strong safety rules (which include accounting for misfires that travel backward) such as a well defined range with safety perimeters, safety equipment, safe participant distances, and trained RSOs.

    This appears to be a recent modification, because some years back we scoured the safety rules and concluded we were good: the pumpkin statement was not present and we found many councils that were doing pumpkin chunkin. One of the most awesome camporees ever. We used all of the rules noted above. We did not allow catapults because of their risk of failure while being put under tension. We did not allow compressed air cannons. Only trebuchets were allowed, from lashed to 2×4 construction.

    • Trebs are less likely to fail in a way that the device construction flies apart in a dangerous way, but the sling rigging absolutely has the potential to put the projectile other than where desired if it is not correct or fails. As long as spectators and crew are to the sides they are pretty darn safe though.

  5. With all scouting, the question should not be “if we can do this”, it should be “how can we do this”. There is a big on-line novelty retailer that sells 1 dozen jack-o-lantern inflatable beach balls for $12. You can buy orange tennis balls. Surely, when safety is a concern, one can find a safe substitute for real pumpkins and still have pumpkin themed catapult events.

    • We have two problems. One is leaders working every angle around the rules. Which then teaches the scouts the wrong thing. The other problem is people trying to stop the first with endless nitpicking. The beach ball would violate the rules because they specify the projectile can’t be larger than what fits in a small voice can.

  6. According to BSA rules on campfires, nothing should be burned that is not natural to prevent potential toxic fumes.

    The US flag is usually nylon, and cotton flags are dyed with synthetic colorants.

  7. So sad this has been buried in the Shooting Sports manual (which EVERY leader owns, right?) instead of listing it in the list of unauthorized activities in the Guide to Safe Scouting. After all, laser tag is listed there, as well as other gun restrictions, so this shouldn’t have been regulated to just a “shooting” issue.

    • No, it’s not sad. What’s sad is the fact that either councils don’t know the rules, National does not know what councils are doing, or it’s so vague that ANY interpretation is correct or incorrect.

    • The Shooting Sports manual also states that units cannot use large bore cannons.

      Yet it doesn’t define large bore.

    • Who owns any of these Guides/Manuals? Find the latest revision online. That being said, who looks past the Guide to Safe Scouting when there is a list of “shooting” restrictions, laser tag and the like. Only a few of us that think about shooting sports or waterfront activities. In the print or online versions, there should be links or instructions to review other documents. In the electronic version, there is no reason not to include the reference.

  8. The BSA should defer everyone interested in Pumpkin Chunkin and tossing water balloons to the official BSA Cowboy Action shooting program where the BSA officially provides entry level active shooter training for any public situation.

  9. No risk –> no challenge –> no fun –> no Scouts. 🙁
    { if you do something right, it should be safe for all involved, but entirely free of any possible risk. }

  10. The articles that I found about pumpkin chucking injuries involved failed air cannons, not trebuchets.
    I suspect legal teams are acting out of an abundance of caution.

    • A trebuchet can indeed hurt someone, there are moving parts that move quickly and with great force. However, the only stored energy in a trebuchet is potential energy (a falling weight). In a floating arm trebuchet, the weights fall straight down (nothing swinging out in front or behind the body except the sling.)

      A good set of safety rules including safety pins, personal safety equipment (eyewear and helmets), safe distances (pulling pins and trigger using ropes) can be defined, and have been defined by various groups.

      Please BSA, tell us how to do this properly instead of reducing it to a Cub Scout activity (throwing tennis balls with a 10 pound weight PVC trebuchet … you can find the plans online.)

      • Griz, one way to trebuchet is to replace the weights with a long bull rope through a pulley anchored where the weights would normally drop. This was the mechanism we were taught in the pioneering area of the ’82 national jamboree. The rope has to be pulled by a patrol of scouts to work the moving parts from a safe distance.

        We used water balloons at the time. I felt very fortunate that when I was in the area, the King of Sweden stopped by, and we could demonstrate it for him.

        I guess the nice thing about using gourds is that they are biodegradable.

  11. I just saw an article about a local Den that painted pumpkins and donated them to the pediatric wing of a nearby hospital, for the kids who can’t be at home for Halloween.

    I love this idea. Not sure how feasible it is for a den to coordinate this kind of thing at this point in the season, but I’ll be putting this on my to-do list for our Den next year for sure.

  12. Yet another wussification of Scouting. To the commenter who said “at least we’re not in the GIrl Scouts” I would say that as of today we might as well be.

  13. Building a 10 lb trebuchet + decorating and chucking baby foam pumpkins they sell at hobby lobby sounds like our october pack meeting activity. Thanks for the ideas fellas.

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