GBDHA LTH 2016
Article submitted on 2016-10-07 by: Dave Swanson
This year I had the privilege to coordinate the Green Bay Duck Hunters Association’s (GBDHA) annual Waterfowl Learn to Hunt (LTH) program.
The LTH program is for anyone (of any age) that has not previously hunted waterfowl and provides new hunters a safe and educational introduction to waterfowl hunting.
The program consists of a 4 hour safety training that includes both classroom training and time with their mentors on the shooting range. This training is held on a Friday evening, followed by the actual 1:1 mentored hunt the following morning.
After the hunt, the hunters and mentors meet to share stories and have lunch as a group. The GBDHA has held this Department Natural Resources (DNR) sponsored event since 2001 and there is no cost for the new hunters to be part of the program. The 2016 LTH was an incredibly successful event from several perspectives.
First, when the process of seeking volunteers began, I was impressed on how quickly people offered to help with training or being a mentor. Most all the volunteers have supported LTH in the past and are members of the GBDHA. It was really something to see the cooperation, commitment, and comradery of the volunteers. I could see very early on that there was something special about this program. Also, several folks with the DNR were also key in making this program a success. Among them, Aaron Wright was helpful with the administrative aspects of the event and DNR Warden Darren Kuhn was instrumental with the hunter training. I believe the volunteers had as much fun as the new hunters!
Secondly, the mandatory hunter safety program was interactive and tremendously educational. The training not only covered the important aspects of safety. I was impressed on how hunter safety instructor Jack VanSistine and Warden Darren Kuhn also spoke to the new hunters about hunting ethics, conservation, and what it means to be a sportsman. There is more to waterfowl hunting than sitting in a blind and shooting at ducks. The trainers did an excellent job of explaining this to the new hunters. Also, time on the range and the opportunity to shoot at clay targets was helpful for the hunters. Shooting a moving target is not easy, especially for someone new to the sport. Jack’s son, Jeremy (also a certified hunter safety instructor) was instrumental in training on the range. Thanks goes to the Brown County Sportsman’s Club for the use of their clubhouse and shooting range. The training was clearly a success, in itself.
Lastly, the excitement of the new hunters and their parents was incredible. It reminded me of how excited I was when I began hunting. All hunters had one-on-one supervision with a qualified mentor. The mentors provided needed equipment, boats, blinds, dogs, and support throughout the hunt.
The mentors also spent valuable time scouting hunting areas prior to the hunt. This effort resulted in ensuring the hunters were well positioned to have some action and see some ducks or geese. This year the group shot 14 ducks. That is impressive, given this was their first time hunting in a duck blind. Also, having everyone meet after the hunt gave the participants a chance to tell their stories and hear what other hunters experienced. The smiles, laughter, energy, and excitement of the new hunters sharing their stories was priceless.
What an incredible experience for all participants, hunters and volunteers alike. I’m certain the LTH opened the door for some new hunters, which helps this amazing tradition to continue on in the future. It was exceptionally rewarding and I look forward to next year’s LTH!
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