MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
It’s six o’clock on a dark, foggy January Saturday morning.
While most children were sleeping in, several Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany young duck hunters, accompanied by their parents, gathered at the Game Warden’s office, Jan. 16, for the installation’s first of three annual Youth Duck Hunts.
Gunnery Sgt. David A. Kelley, assault amphibious vehicle technician, Marine Corps Systems Command, began the hunt with a safety brief by demonstrating proper weapon handling safety techniques, how to properly ride in a boat so it does not tip over and other duck hunting tips.
The duck hunters then drove to Indian Lake Wildlife Refuge, aboard the base, where they set out in their boats to pre-staged camouflage duck blinds before dawn to conceal their movements.
Darkness gave way to an early morning thick fog, which seemed to wrap the lake in a cocoon, making it even more challenging for both the amateur and seasoned duck hunter.
Kelley, who has been duck hunting for 31 years, said it is important to show his two sons how to properly duck hunt.
“It is very important to have my sons with me so they can learn proper conservation practices (and) they can have ducks to hunt with their grandchildren,” Kelley said. “I want them to learn how to properly harvest animals and call ducks in.”
The seasoned duck hunter is the enlisted representative for the installation’s Hunter Advisory Group and a conservation volunteer program member.
“Anytime you can take children (hunting), it’s always a successful hunt,” Kelley said. “It's not always about harvesting an animal.”
Although none of the young hunters harvested a duck or goose, they learned how to from their more experienced adult partners. Two Canada geese and two Wood ducks were harvested during the hunt.
Kelley’s two sons also participated in the Youth Duck Hunt.
Both gave their own perspective of what they thought was the best part of the hunt.
The oldest son said, “I like sitting out there and watching and seeing all the things I can shoot,” while the youngest son said, “My favorite part (of) the hunt is eating the ducks.”
1st Sgt. Marshall Gregg, company first sergeant, Headquarters Company East, Marine Corps Logistics Command, accompanied his daughter during the hunt.
“It's just me and her, no brothers, no sisters and mom, just me and her bonding and enjoying the great outdoors,” Gregg said. “I think it's important to get the youth out and let them experience wildlife and experience God's creation. If you (don’t) give them the opportunity to (hunt), then they will never have the opportunity to really choose whether they like it or not.”
Gregg said he enjoys sharing his hunting passion with his daughter.
Gregg’s daughter said her favorite part of the morning hunt was shooting and being with her dad.
“It's a good time to spend with your parents,” she said. “It's something you can do together.”
She said although it was early, “I got up, didn't want to but I did, and I'm glad because I don't regret it at all. We came out here and blasted some geese and ducks and had fun.”
Scott Dismuke, wildlife specialist, Environmental Branch, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany, said the duck hunt was open for active-duty service members’ children because Indian Lake can only support a very limited number of hunting opportunities.
“Duck hunting is a very active, fun sport, so it's a great way to get children engaged in hunting,” Dismuke said. “It's not an easy task to sit there and shoot a bird in flight.
“With the fog they had, the ducks were on top of them before they knew it so there is going to be a lower success rate in those conditions versus if it were blue skies,” he said.
Dismuke said duck hunting is not like deer hunting where the shooter has to sit still and be quiet.
“Duck hunting is a very social experience and that is why it makes a great opportunity to take children hunting,” he said. “Children, as well as adults, can talk and move but when they see those ducks coming in, that's when they have to be still so they don't have to draw attention to themselves.”
Overall, he considered the first duck hunt of the year a success.
“It's not so much of putting a gun in a youth’s hands to harvest an animal as it is for them to learn the basics of duck hunting,” Dismuke said. “They learned how to hunt ethically, when to shoot and not to shoot and they did it with their parents.
“It’s about learning how being a good sportsman and building relationships that will last a lifetime,” he said.