Young hunters from across the region shot their first bird of the season at private duck clubs during the sixth-annual Big Muddy Duck Hunt held in Mound City, Missouri, last Saturday.
There were twenty-three hunters between the ages of 11 and 15 that attended the free event in Holt County during the youth duck hunting season.
Missouri Department of Conservation agents Jade Wright and Anthony Maupin started the clinic with the goal of introducing the sport to young people. The event is also open to youth that do not live in Missouri.
Maupin said local duck clubs in the county also support the clinic by donating funds, providing hunting blinds and serving as guides.
"Since we're on private duck club property, we're able to get the youth to the blind without getting wet or getting muddy," Maupin said. "We don't have to provide waders for every hunter and they're usually able to stay in the blind without getting wet."
He said there were youth that attended the hunt that have parents from the 139th Airlift Wing at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
During the clinic, the youth were educated on duck hunting by attending five stations that were designed to teach how to safely and effectively harvest the birds.
The stations included duck calling, duck identification, waterfowl hunting regulations, waterfowl habitat management and preparing waterfowl as food. In addition, there were beginning and intermediate shooting skills stations that allowed the youth to learn how to safely and confidently use a firearm.
The youth were then able to hunt birds at duck clubs in the county. There were 18 birds bagged on Saturday.
"Our main goal is hunter recruitment and retention," Maupin said. "If we can start to make a really good impression about waterfowl hunting at a young age, we hope this fires them up to become involved. We also give youth a lot of hunting gear so the next time they want to go duck hunting, they already have some of the gear and they don't have to make many purchases to get started."
The clinic is supported by public donations and local volunteers.
"There's a lot of history here," Maupin said. "Holt County has been known for its waterfowl hunting for a long time and a lot of generations have passed through here. It's a big deal to a lot of these people to keep the traditions going."
Friends Treyton Plummer, 15, and Gage Johnson 11, from Nodaway County, attended the clinic for the first time this year.
Plummer said his favorite station was learning duck calls.
"I mainly go duck hunting with buddies so I like the friendships and the stories," Plummer said. "There's so much fun you can have out in a duck blind."
Johnson said this is his first time duck hunting.
"I liked seeing the duck decoy station and seeing the set-up," Johnson said.
At the end of the clinic, each participant is given waterfowl hunting gear to use during future hunts.
Maupin said the Big Muddy Duck Hunt Association is also in the process of collecting around $2,000 to purchase a mobile trailer to place the clinic equipment inside that can be moved across the state.
He said Flyway Technologies donated one of their waterfowl firearms to gather funds through a raffle. Bill Hutting from Flyway Technologies is a longtime waterfowl hunter in Holt County and began selling the new gun line last year.
The company offers a firearm specifically designed for duck hunters and for goose hunters. They also offer a choke for both.
In addition, Flyway Technologies has a Pro Staff Team composed of individuals who hunt throughout the year across the country.
The duck hunt is also supported each year by Ground Round in St. Joseph and Dick's Sporting Goods in St. Joseph.