BOUNTIFUL -- Before lunch the fourth-graders at Holbrook Elementary caught rainbow trout, hunted for bear, deer and turkey with bow and arrows and learned to start a fire without matches.
Students at the elementary school in Bountiful weren't surviving a field trip gone awry, but learning the ways of the mountain man.
"Part of our social studies curriculum in fourth grade is understanding Utah history," said fourth-grade teacher Kelly Shorts. "Part of that is the mountain man. Even though they were only here for about 20 years, they were a big reason why Utah was mapped and settled."
As part of the school's annual Mountain Man Rendezvous, students spent the entire day Wednesday doing the same activities mountain men did to survive in the uncharted Utah wilderness.
"It sounds really fun, but really hard," said fourth-grader Hailey Hansen. "I learned how to make a fire and catch a fish. I love it. If you ever got stranded or wanted to be a mountain man then you would have good experience."
In one of the large teepees that decorated the school grounds for the day, a bearded man in deerskin pants tells an exaggerated tale of his adventure as a mountain man. Surrounded by pelts of deer, foxes and beavers, all eyes are on storyteller Kirk Davis as he tells the students how he got a whole winter's meat with one bullet.
"I got them enthralled, I think," Davis said. "They don't quite believe it, but they love it."
It was Davis's son, Andrew who started the tradition of the rendezvous at the school 19 years ago.
"My son, when he was in the fourth grade had the idea to do this," said Davis. "We did it every year, clear into high school. Then when he was 18 he died of a heart condition."
To honor his memory, the event has been dedicated as the Andrew Davis Mountain Man Rendezvous. Andrew's family continues to help with the event every year.
"I get kids in their 20's who say, "You're that mountain man. It was the best day I ever had at school,'" Davis said. "It's a memorable day for the kids and we enjoy doing it for them."
In addition to the teepees, bear, deer and wild turkey add to the wilderness feel of the school's lawn. The students got a chance to try their archery skills on the models.
"It's fun to hit the bear," said fourth-grader Ty Metcalf. "(Mountain men) would shoot things for food. Surviving would be hard."
Unlike the archery hunting, the fish the students caught could really be made into a meal.
Chants of "just grab it" could be heard around the large metal tank filled with rainbow trout the students were catching with their hands.
"Oh, it's slimy," said fourth-grader Jaxson Connell a fish slipped from his grasp.
After each fish was caught, they were gutted and bagged by volunteer parent, Allen Hammer, to be taken home.
"I bet close to 50 percent will go home and at least try it," he said. "The whole idea with the rendezvous is teach them how mountain men used to live. They didn't have fishing poles so they had to catch them with their hands. I just love watching them try to catch the fish. They have a great time."
In other areas students decorated leather patches and the smell of campfire and smoke floated in the air.
"I teach them how to start a fire with flint and steel because matches were not invented yet; they think it's pretty cool," said Grant Davis, who is Andrew Davis's uncle. "They are amazed how fast it goes. They don't think hitting a piece of metal with a rock is going to start a fire. I've had kids in the past ask me if I breathe fire."
The educators involved said this activity helps bring the lessons alive for the students.
"It helps them step back in time a little bit," Shorts said. "If you were to come to Utah in the late 1800's you couldn't just go to the grocery store to get your supplies. You had to learn to make them yourself. This gives them a taste of that. They think it's really neat to be outside getting their hands dirty. Anytime you can give the kids a personal experience it sticks with them much longer."
Although many of the students agreed it was fun to have the adventures of a mountain man for a day, most wouldn't like to make it a career.
"I like sleeping in a comfy bed," said fourth-grader Easton Alsop.
The event is organized each year by the PTA and about 50 parent volunteers.
"Some of them originated with having children here, but they have such a sense of service in their hearts they come back year after year," said Daryl Denhalter, Holbrook Elementary principal. "Some of the people participating here have touched the lives of literally thousands of students with this activity. It is incredible."