An early morning on the marsh
Training new hunters on KAMO’s Youth Waterfowl Hunt
By Ben Gruber
As I write, it is opening weekend of the northern zone duck season. With highs nearing 90 and lows in the upper 60s, I have opted to stay away from the insanity that is opening weekend on the marsh. I did get out last weekend though with two local Kids and Mentors Outdoors (KAMO) participants for the Youth Waterfowl Hunt.
Wednesday afternoon found me and my little buddy Addy at a local quarry that we use for wing shooting training. We set up patterning boards and a clay target thrower, and once Auburndale High School let out for the day, Dylan and Breanna arrived for their lesson in shooting at flying birds with a shotgun.
Always a challenge to learn, these two 15-year-old freshmen did a fantastic job of picking it up. I was impressed at both of them. They showed a willingness to learn and did not get frustrated.
With my 3-year-old daughter and Breanna’s younger brother taking turns “throwing” the clay birds — pressing a button on the electronic thrower — we shot up a few boxes of shells, and I felt confident enough in their abilities to make plans to head for the local marsh. They were not fazed a bit when I told them I would be picking them up at 4 a.m. I am not sure if their mothers were as excited about it.
Saturday morning came, and by 4:45 a.m. I had Dylan; Breanna; and another KAMO mentor, Marlon Marks from Junction City, in my truck. We met my good friend and founder of KAMO, Mark Walters, at a marsh in the Meadow Valley Wildlife Area south of Babcock. We loaded canoes with guns, stools, and decoys and then had a short paddle of 200 yards to some cattails, where we hid our canoes.
We quickly made a game plan with our two shooters, placed our decoys, and got ourselves hidden as best as we could. Daylight came soon after, and the wood ducks did not disappoint.
As always happens with new duck hunters, the first few groups of ducks came and went without a shot being fired as they found out just how fast the action happens in the marsh. They got it figured out though, and Dylan made a perfect shot on a passing wood duck, killing his first duck with his very first shot. It was a drake woodie, arguably the prettiest duck there is. Mark’s golden retriever pup made her very first retrieve on Dylan’s very first duck, and Mark was as proud as Dylan was.
In the end Dylan and Breanna had many opportunities, and we finished the day with the one drake wood duck in hand. Plus, we were blessed to see a pair of whooping cranes as well as mallards, wood ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes throughout the morning.
We cleaned up our gear, headed back for the landing, and later stopped at a café in Babcock for breakfast and to relive the hunt. Breanna and Dylan both eagerly agreed that they would get out of bed at 3:30 a.m. to do it again.
At Dylan’s house I showed them how to clean their harvest, and I believe that Dylan was cooking duck before we left his driveway.
All in all it was a very successful excursion with both children having a safe hunt and wanting to do it again. KAMO’s motto is “Tradition Forward,” and I feel like we lived it this weekend.
We are always looking for KAMO mentors. If you think you might be interested in learning more, contact us at [email protected]
Ben Gruber can be reached at [email protected]