By Ben Gruber
Here in central Wisconsin, the outdoors lifestyle is always close. Locally, as well as throughout the Midwest region, our outdoor heritage runs deep.
I grew up in southwest Wisconsin in the hills of the Wisconsin River Valley. I spent my childhood outside hunting, fishing, trapping, and generally thinking I was the second coming of Daniel Boone. I spent a few years living and exploring the Chippewa River Valley area of west-central Wisconsin and now call Auburndale home.
My wife, our 2 ½-year-old daughter, and I live on a small farm. We do have one TV in the house, but it rarely gets turned on. Instead, we spend the majority of our time outdoors.
I am the vice president of an outdoors youth mentoring group called Kids And Mentors Outdoors, or KAMO. KAMO is dedicated to getting children outdoors and ensuring our outdoor heritage continues for generations to come.
I intend to share a weekly column with you that will highlight local and regional opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Sometimes this will be sharing stories of my own adventures. Other times I will share upcoming outings and events that have open participation. If you have or know of outdoor events that you would like to share with me, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my greatest goals is to share easily accessible opportunities that can be enjoyed on a limited budget and can include the whole family. I will cover everything from hunting and fishing, how to utilize what you harvest, as well as activities that do not include a harvest. Canoe trips, bike rides, photography, hiking, and geocaching — if it includes enjoying nature, I want to share it with you.
To kick off the column this week, I am going to highlight a Learn to Hunt event that takes place in our backyard at the Mead Wildlife Area. This is a first-class educational hunt open to anyone who has not hunted waterfowl in Wisconsin before and is at least age 10. I have been a part of this hunt for a few years, and I am proud to say it is one of the best programs in the state. There is a clinic on Sept. 10 that will include waterfowl biology, wing shooting training, calling and decoy instruction, and canoe and water safety from local waterfowl hunters and DNR staff.
The following Saturday, Sept. 17, participants will have the opportunity to hunt with an experienced mentor followed by a lunch that usually includes a tasty buffet of waterfowl and other game. The lunch will take place at the Mead Wildlife Area headquarters and includes many exciting stories of first-hunt experiences.
If you are interested in learning about waterfowl hunting, this is a fantastic opportunity. It is difficult to explain the unmatched beauty of being in the marsh prior to daybreak and experiencing the world come alive as the sun breaks the horizon and melts the fog off, hearing the whistle of the wind over duck wings as they pass overhead and splash down into your decoys.
I have also been busy preparing for archery season with daily practice in the backyard. I try to shoot 40 arrows a day in anticipation of an October trip that will take me to the Missouri River in Montana with a mule deer, antelope, and cow elk tag.
My daughter got her first bow this spring, and it is a joy to practice together. She is being indoctrinated with a passion for the outdoors at an early age, and it does not require much prompting from me. She is happy to be outside and doing what Mom and Dad do.