JadeAnn Oliver gets some hunting help from mentor Garold Becker and his dog, Marley.
My first waterfowl hunt
Marley makes waves and retrieves my prizes.
Last fall, my grandma and grandpa, JoEllen and Garry Oliver, enrolled me in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Hunter Safety Program held at the Chaseberg Rod and Gun Club. After finishing the course, passing the test, and participating in a really fun program called Learn to Hunt, I was ready for my first hunt.
In the Learn to Hunt program, each youth duck hunter is paired with an adult mentor whose job is to take youth hunters on a safe and fun duck hunt. The special youth season opened on the last Saturday in September and I was excited because I had learned so much from the classes but had never been hunting.
I was lucky because my mentor was Garold Becker and I already knew him. He's a very nice man who raised four daughters of his own. He also is an experienced duck hunter.
Garold told me he was going to be at my house at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday so I tried to get everything ready the night before. I laid out my hip boots, hunting pants, hat, coat, gun and ammo, so that I'd be ready to go in the morning. I was thankful because my hunter safety instructor, Caron Malin, loaned me her 20-gauge double-barrel shotgun to use on the hunt.
On Saturday I got up early, dressed and shoveled breakfast into my mouth. Garold was early and my grandma said, "Don't forget your lunch." She packed it for me the night before.
When we got to the landing I helped put the boat in the water, and after we loaded all our gear into the boat, I looked up at the truck and asked, "What about Marley?"
Marley is Garold's best friend. He's a 14-year-old black Lab who likes to hunt ducks as much as Garold. Garold smiled and said, "We don't want to forget Marley," and he quickly ran up to the truck and got him.
Marley was really excited. He is a beautiful old dog with lots of gray hair on his face that looks like a goatee.
In a few minutes the boat engine was running and we were on our way through the darkness. When we got to our hunting spot, the water was very shallow. Garold got out of the boat and set out about four goose decoys and a dozen duck decoys. Then he pulled the boat up next to shore and set up our boat blind so we'd be camouflaged.
Once settled in, we saw and heard some ducks and Garold started calling on his duck call. As the sun came up over the bluffs along the Mississippi, a flock of ducks flew in front of the sun and their silhouette was an awesome sight.
Garold stopped calling and it was completely quiet except for the sound of geese honking in the distance.
Then he started honking on his goose call and suddenly we saw two geese headed in our direction. We got down and hid, but unfortunately, they landed in a patch of lily pads off to our side and just out of range.
Garold began calling again. The geese swam closer, probably to within about 25 yards. I raised my gun, but Garold said not to shoot because the birds were on the water and that would be "unsportsmanlike."
Suddenly the geese began flapping their wings and you could tell they were getting ready to take off. In a moment they were airborne in front of us.
I aimed, fired and one folded and fell dead. Marley jumped out of the boat and swam out for the retrieve. He was back in a minute with the huge bird in his mouth and he shook himself dry on the shore before getting back in the boat. I thought to myself that, for those few minutes, Marley was a puppy again.
When I held the bird, it was soft and warm and I was amazed at how big and heavy it was. It was so cool and beautiful the way the water beads repelled from its feathers.
As I was admiring the goose, a pair of wood ducks flew past us and I shot and missed. Wow, were they fast! Just as I was feeling bad about missing, three other wood ducks came right in. I shot and one fell dead. I had killed my first duck and old Marley made another nice retrieve.
For the rest of the morning, we waited and waited for the next exciting event to happen, but it never did and I realized that the entire morning was one big exciting event that I'll never forget.
When we got to the boat landing, there were lots of youth hunters holding their birds, smiling, taking pictures and talking excitedly about their hunts. I was pretty proud, because I was the only one who bagged a honker. Later we enjoyed grilled duck and it was delicious. I had a lot of fun and I can't wait to go duck hunting again.
This fall, JadeAnn Oliver will be a sixth grader at DeSoto Middle School. She lives with her grandparents, JoEllen and Garry Oliver in the Village of Stoddard, a stone's throw from the Mississippi River and about seven miles south of La Crosse.