The hooting of a Great-horned Owl echoes across the marsh as the last hunt of the night concludes. The whistles of Wood Ducks and loud quacks of hen Mallards announce the incoming flight of ducks. A sliver of orange emerges from the east, as the rising sun gives light to the coming hunt.
Seated in the blind along the tidal creek, the young hunters glance up at their adult mentor, eyes full of excitement and anticipation. The Black Lab, trusted retriever and companion, pricks his ears up and locks eyes on a distant flock of teal coursing across the horizon. A new day afield is about to begin, and the sky is full of promise. This is the waterfowling experience...
Every fall since 1996, young men and women gather at the Ashland Nature Center to participate in the Young Waterfowlers program. Waterfowling is a true American tradition that combines hunting with an appreciation of wetlands and their wildlife. Students study wildlife management, habitat enhancement, and conservation practices during a comprehensive introduction to the American waterfowling heritage.
Field identification of waterfowl, conservation ethics, safety skills, sportsmanship, boat and water safety prepare youth for the challenging pursuit of waterfowl. Helping to train retrieving dogs, learning to blow duck and goose calls, and crafting duck decoys is all part of the students' hands-on experience.
An optional hunt at the conclusion of the program, under the supervision of experienced guides, further reinforces the sound practices taught during the course. First-year students take part in a hunt at the legendary Bear Swamp in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Advanced students have the opportunity to duck hunt the tidal marsh at Corks Point Hunt Club in Smyrna or take part in a field hunt for Canada Geese.
Parent participation is encouraged but not required(no extra fee). Upon the completion of the 10-week course, participants have the opportunity to fulfill the state hunter safety education requirement and receive a certification card(required for ages 15 and up to hunt in Delaware).
For more information about the Young Waterfowlers program, please contact Derek Stoner at: Email
To view an animated photo show of the Young Waterfowlers program, click here
Young Waterfowlers Partners
The Delaware Nature Society
Brandywine Valley and Red Clay Valley Associations
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife's Hunter Education Program
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Federation
Corks Point Hunt Club
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