Varsity On Target
  DONATE NOW! Friends of Scouting: Invest in Character and Leadership
Varsity On Target

Varsity On Target
Share this event

Operation On-Target
“Catch the Vision!”
July 15, 2017

On-Target is a Varsity activity where 14 to 18 year old boys (Varsity Scout Teams), travel to mountain peaks to signal other teams on distant peaks.  Signal mirrors, ham radio, FRS radio, and cell phones are used for communication.  The activity is often referred to as “Peak to Peak”. 


To Register for On-Target email the following Information to Terry Turner at, or call 208-520-1814.

Put “On-Target” in the subject line.

  1. Team Number and District
  2. Coach and Captians Name
  3. Coach Contact Number
  4. On-Peak Contact Number
  5. Ham Call Sign
  6. Peak Name
  7. Peak Elevation
  8. Latitude : Longitude of your peak
  9. Preferred On-peak Contact (Indicate all that you will be using)
    1. Cell Phone
    2. Ham Radio
    3. FRS Radio

Teams prepare by learning how to build and aim signal mirrors, practicing orienteering and map reading skills, and learning about communication.  Teams can use mountains, high buildings, open spaces, or other strategically selected locations for their signaling and communication locations. 

Plan a campout near your selected peak. Have a mountain top ceremony tailored just for your team.  Your ceremony can be around a campfire on Friday night, or after the mirror signaling on Saturday.  This may be the most rewarding experience of your On-Target activity. 

Take pictures, count successful contacts, and tell your story.  Compile your information and submit it to the Council On-Target Coordinator. An archive of you experiences will be posted for all to view.  Don’t be left out!

The Amateur Radio Community (Ham radio operators) has always been a part of On-Target. Find a Ham in your unit or community and invite them to participate with your group. At a minimum we would like all teams to have a handheld FRS radio.

See how many different Varsity Teams you can contact.  Radio (phone) communications and mirror flashing starts promptly at 11:00 a.m. and lasts until 1:00 p.m.

Questions?  Contact: Terry Turner at: or 208-520-1814




This year we are working the Operation On-Target Program using a single wide area coverage communication hub.  Please take the time to read and understand the information on the Council On-Target website so your Team can get all the benefits of this program.  Please feel free to contact your local regional chairman or a council coordinator if you need additional help.


  • Reserve your peak (there can be more than one team per peak.  However, you have a better chance of seeing mirror flashes if you are spread out).
  • Register at  If you do not have an internet connection, get one of your boys to register.  Still no connections—go to one of the Scout Service Centers and register.


  • File a trip permit.
  • Have two-deep leadership.
  • Use the On-Target checklist
  • Tell someone at home where your will be and how to find you.
  • Plan to have a reflection or ceremony on the activity.
  • Pre-plan: Make Mirrors (both big and small), study maps, learn about ham radios.


Make mirrors and learn how to use them.  Use the On-Target program pamphlet available at the Scout Service Centers, there is a lot of good information included.  Find someone who has made mirrors in the past to help.  

Using hand held radios to communicate makes the activity much more fun, and helps you locate other teams much easier.  You can use your team number for a call sign to help others fine and talk with you.  All teams can join in on the conversations and watch for your flashes. Using radios adds a lot of excitement to the activity.  You can choose from FRS or Ham radios.  Having both is the best option, but as a minimum we would like all teams to have an FRS capable radio.

In the past we had great success using FRS (Family Radio Service) radios. These small handheld ½ watt radios have good coverage in local areas, easily talking 20 to 30 miles when calling from Peak to Peak (line of site).  These small radios are inexpensive, and many families have them.  You should have little difficulty locating one in your unit that you can borrow.  We will use channel 1 as the primary channel with channel 7 as a backup.  Sub-channel 0 for both channels. Bring a spare radio if you can get more than one.

Ham radio adds greater range and a higher level of reliability.  You will need to recruit a ham operator, or get a ham license to use these radios. By using ham radios, you can listen and participate in the expanded activities on the linked repeater system and talk with net controllers in the Salt Lake Area. Local communications is also improved with ham radio. Ham radio also offers local repeaters, which will allow participants to talk from the northern end of the council to the southern end. These repeaters are much higher powered than small handheld radios and add a lot of flexibility. 

Recruit an Amateur (Ham) Radio Operator from your unit or community to go with you (offer them good camp food, which always helps).  Need to find a Ham in your community?  Type this address into your web browser, when it comes up select “Amateur” and you will be at a search page.  Enter your city, Idaho, or a zip code and it will bring up all the licensed amateur radio operators in your city or zip code.  Maybe you’ll see someone you know.  You can have this person teach the team about ham radios. 

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) uses FRS channels and also has expanded channels.  GMRS radios can be higher powered than FRS radios.  These radios require an easy to get FCC license, but can be used with On-Target in place of an FRS radio. 

Cell phones are a last resort for voice communications.  While they will work from many locations, they are the least reliable method of communications.  Cell phones provide point to point communications, and you must know the number of the other person you are trying to contact.  In addition, each year wind has been a problem, and cell phones seem to be the most difficult to use successfully in the wind.

Be safe and remember you are going to the top of a mountain.  The weather can change quickly, so be prepared.  Know the regulations for the land you will be on.  Be environmentally sound, remember the outdoor code.

Get the Team excited about the activity.  Get them involved in the planning.  Have several On-Target related activities leading up the event.  Make it a game, keep score, submit your stats to the On-Target Committee.


Refer to the On-Target guide for a ceremony, or make your own; there are many variations.  You can have the parents of the boys write them a letter.  Then, give the letters to the boys while on the mountain top.  You can have the boys write to themselves to be opened next year.  You can use a time capsule.  (Remember, do not leave it on the mountain, bring it back and put it in a safe place until next year).  Use a letter from the chartered organization talking about goals. 


The best way to have success is to talk to other groups.  Find out where they will be.  This will be more difficult when done from on top of the mountain.  With a little preplanning you can improve your success.  Invite another Team and encourage them to go to a mountain top where you can see each other.  

Use the council web site to get the most current information (  A list of where registered Teams will be located will be on the website a few days prior to the event.  If you know where someone from your area is going to be located, keep in touch with them.     




This information is based on a YouTube video put together by Bob Church and Wayne Lines from the Grand Canyon Council Operation On-Target web site (  Many thanks to Bob and Wayne.

This type of "red bullseye" retroreflective aimer was invented in late World War II, and used by the US Military from that point until 1949, when it was replaced by the mesh retroreflective aimer. The French Air Force still uses the red bullseye to this day.  Here's a photo of the US Military mirror, ca. 1946:

To get started, select your mirrors and size as desired. Thinner tile mirrors are lighter and easier to pack, but provide less glass for the retroreflective fireball effect, and break easier.  To counter this thinner glass effect, you can use a smaller diameter sighting hole.  Thicker mirrors are stronger, but heavier, and allow a larger sighting hole for the same fireball area effect.    

Plate glass mirrors are preferred; most thin plastic mirrors are too flexible to be useful, thick plastic mirrors may be OK.  Small mirrors (3”x3”) are a good size to learn on, and can easily be carried in a backpack.  For On-Target flashing 12”x12” to 24”x24” are good sizes.  The 24”x24” mirror is bulky, but does a super job on long distance flashing.  If you cut your own glass mirrors, be sure to sand the sharp edges.

To create the aiming hole, the protective coatings on the back of the mirror must be removed.  This can be done by scratching off the hard outer coating with a nail, or other hard object, and use an eraser to remove the silver coat, exposing the glass (coating on some mirrors come off easily, others can be very hard).  The coating can be removed from anywhere on the back of the mirror.  On larger mirrors it may be more convenient to locate the sighting hole in a corner.  For example, the following picture shows a 2 ft x2 ft mirror that has three sighting holes, the traditional sighting system as discussed in the Varsity On-Target program booklet (available from your local council office supply store), and two retroreflective sights with different size viewing holes.  

Clean off a spot about the size of a dime to a quarter.  Clean glass until clear, being careful not to scratch the glass surface.  Bob and Wayne recommend using a Dremel with a cup shaped wire brush.  Care must be taken not to burn or scratch the glass, but this is a much faster method especially on very hard coatings, and it makes the right size hole. Use a wet paper towel to keep the buffing area wet, and you will minimize the scratching and burning of the glass and get better results. If using a Dremel be sure to wear safety glasses, the Dremel brushes throws off small wires as you clean the surface coatings off.

Retroreflective tape (creates the red bullseye or fireball) can be purchased from many locations.  Harbor Freight carries a package of “Red & White Reflective Strips” that works well.  Use the red tape side only, the white tape side is too harsh to use as an aimer and may hurt your eyes unless shaded (See Bob and Wayne’s Video).

Cut the red reflective tape into 1”x 1” squares.  Punch a hole in the center of the square reflective tape and scotch tape it to the back of the mirror covering the cleaned off location, with the punched hole somewhere near the center.  A more professional look can be achieved by removing the reflective tape backing and sticking the adhesive side to the adhesive side of an oversized square of vinyl tape.  Do this prior to punching the view hole, then put it on the back of the mirror, as illustrated below.

The hole size in the reflective tape is not critical, smaller holes around 1/8” work well, and provide a lot of area for the “Fireball”. Larger holes (paper punch sizes) also work well, but limit the area of the “Fireball”, but are easier to see through.  Experiment with different sizes to see what you like best.  A leather punch works well for smaller size holes and provides a variety of sizes. 

How to aim your new “Fireball” signal mirror:

Find the reflection of light from your mirror and aim that light at your hand. Move the mirror while looking through the hole in the tape until you see a “fireball” (the red reflected dot from the tape). Now with the fireball in view, move the mirror, keeping the fireball somewhat centered in your view. When you can see your target and the fireball is on your target, you will be “On Target” and the reflection from your mirror will be shining directly where your fireball is positioned. 

The following picture was taken through the sighting hole, showing the fireball as you will see it.  Once you’ve found the fireball, you will not have any difficulty moving the mirror to get the fireball onto your target.  You will notice that at some places your fireball will disappear.  This is due to the sighting hole size.  The fireball essentially disappears behind the sighting hole.  This fireball dead zone can be reduced with smaller sized sighting holes, i.e. the 1/8” hole will have a smaller dead zone than a 1/4” paper punch hole.  However, it doesn’t really matter where the fireball is in the sighting window, placing the fireball on your target will put the flash on the target.

What do you do with the left over white reflective strips?  You can use them for practice targets.  Place the strips 50 to 100 yards away, and when the light from your mirror hits them they will return a brilliant flash indicating you’ve hit the target; a great way to practice with your Varsity Team.   Old license plates from your car or truck also make excellent practice targets, they too produce a bright luminous when hit by the reflected light from your mirror. 

Past Peaks are shown below.  Go to the current calendar page to see Registered Peaks for 2017. Get there from the Council home page, follow the links to the council calendar, look on the third week in July.

2014 Registered Peaks

Team District Coach Contact

Contact Phone

On-Peak Contact Ham Call Peak Elevation

N Lat

deg min

W Long

deg min

930 N Caribou Cortney Jones Rob Johnson 208-360-9494 208-360-9494   Ryan (Relay Ridge) 8850 43 42.41 111 20.67
328 Tendoy Bruce Winegar - Landon Taylor Bruce Winegar 208-241-7129 208-241-7129   Scout Mtn 8663 42 40.61 112 20.73
446 ? James Ball James Ball 208-860-8424 208-860-8424   N Menan Butte 5592 43 47.46 111 58.28
  Council Terry Turner - Mike Mckellar Terry Turner 208-520-1814


FRS ch 1 or 7

Ham Radio 146.520 146.940 146.800


KK7Q Minor Ridge West of Garnes 8219
43 39.828
111 23.506
373 Eagle Rock

Sid Withers

Unit Commissioner

Sid Withers 208-360-2865


Ham Radio

KG7JXQ Bonneville 9240 42 45.78 112 08.45
54 Yellowstone Paul Jeppson Paul Jeppson 208-313-2400


Ham Radio

KG7DWT Relay Ridge (N End) 8502 43 43.878 111 21.919

2015 Registered Peaks

Team District Coach Contact OnPeak Cell or Freq Ham Call Peak Elevation N Lat W Long

N Caribou


Terry Turner Same


FRS CH 1, 7

Ham Radio Primary146.52 146.80 146.82 146.85 146.88

KK7Q Sawtell 9871 N44° 33.694' W111° 26.719' 
714 N Caribou Drew Beasley Cameron Rusch (Captian)


FRS CH 1, 7

  Ryans Peak (Relay Ridge) 8852 N43° 42.41' W111° 20.67'
930 N Caribou   Rob Johnson


FRS CH 1, 7

  Freds Mountain 9738 N43° 47.467' W110° 56.15'
23 Centennial Damon Anderson Rob Jagielski (Asst Coach)


FRS CH 1, 7

  Table Rock 11000 N43° 44.734' W110° 50.848'
120 N Caribou David Smith  


FRS CH 1,7

  Two Top 8710 N44° 37.324' W111° 15.563'

Additional Information from Regional Site

Contact E-mail










© Copyright 2016 Grand Teton Council - Boy Scouts of America. All Rights Reserved. Sitemap