During the recent Big Muddy Duck Hunt in Bigelow, Mo., youth hunters were given exposure to the sport, including the group seen here, from left to right, Doug Heck (guide), Tim Leader and Liz Leader (adult companions), Kneale Heck (safety coach), Levi and Dakota Leader (youth participants).

Successful waterfowl hunting requires the skill sets of precision and practice that require exposure to the sport and the willingness of veteran hunters to come along side new ones. A community of sportsmen in Holt County did not overlook this tradition during the recent youth waterfowl hunting season.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), along with private donations from local outdoorsmen, hosted a free hunting clinic for youths guided by some of Missouri’s most experienced waterfowl hunters.

The second annual Big Muddy Duck Hunt took place Oct. 19 at The Sportsman’s Lodge in Bigelow, Mo., an event open to outdoorsmen between 10 and 15 years old. The day-long hunting clinic began with five instruction stations designed to demonstrate hunting strategies at the lodge and ended with the youth taking aim at the waterfowl on surrounding private duck club property.

Each participant was not only provided with the necessary outdoor gear but were joined in the duck blind by a waterfowl guide, safety coach or adult guest.

There were 30 youth selected for the hunt, including children of military servicemen and women from the 139th Air Lift Wing of the Missouri Air National Guard based in St. Joseph.

“We appreciate the opportunity to serve military families in the 139th Airlift Wing who selflessly serve us each day,” said Holt County conservation agent Jade Wright.

Conducive weather conditions for hunting aided the youths in harvesting duck species, including Wood Ducks, Northern Pintails and Blue-Winged Teal. Officials recorded a total of 62 ducks harvested during the one day.

The opening of youth waterfowl hunting season couldn’t come soon enough for brothers Isaac Dudeck, 10, and Joel Dudeck, 13, of Holt County, who anxiously awaited for their first chance to harvest ducks during the hunt.

“This was my first time hunting, and I got one,” Joel Dudeck said. “I felt excited because there were only 6 minutes left in the hunt before we had to stop when I shot the bird.”

The Big Muddy Duck Hunt was not only created to enhance waterfowl hunting in Northwest Missouri through introducing youth to the sport but also by retaining those who already enjoy the sport.

Brother and sister Trevor Meyer, 12, and Emma Meyer, 14, from Buchanan County took part in this duck hunt for the second year.

“It was exciting because I shot a male wood duck and my brother shot a female wood duck but they flew far out into the water so we had to send the dog out to find them,” Emma Meyer said.

The volunteer guides hope the hunting experiences provided to the youth will encourage them to hunt in the future.

To facilitate other hunts, each youth participant received a care package valued at approximately $150 at the end of the clinic with items including a duck blind bag and duck call.

The care packages were made possible by funds donated from friends of waterfowl enthusiast Shawn Eldredge in his memory. Eldredge was known for his passion of recruiting young hunters into the sport while offering guided duck and geese hunts.

“This hunt is truly a community effort whether you are talking about the people who made substantial financial contributions, duck blind donors, or those who donated their time as instructors, guides and safety coaches,” said Wright. “Everyone played an equal part in making this a worthwhile event to impact the future of waterfowl hunting in Northwest Missouri.”

Businesses or individuals interested in providing funds for next year’s event can make a tax deductible donation designated for the Big Muddy Duck Hunt to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation online at http://www.mochf.org/content/home.php.

Those interested in placing a youth on the list for next year’s hunting clinic can contact Holt County Conservation Agent Jade Wright at (660) 853-0699.

Margaret Slayton can be reached

at npsports@newspressnow.com.

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