By Ronnie Weston| February 9, 2012 at 3:50 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 2:16 PM
AUGUSTA (AGFC) – The ducks may not have cooperated, but 17 Arkansas kids, ages 10 to 15, had a memorable experience with Muddy Bayou YoungGunz.
It was the youth hunt, the windup of the Arkansas season for 2011-12, and the youngsters were participants in the third yearly event put together by Cody Alberson of McCrory with the help of a slew of friends, volunteers and commercial enterprises.
Some of the young enthusiasts hunted ducks for the first time. Some were stepping into footsteps of fathers, uncles and grandparents. For a few, they would never have had a chance to duck hunt if they were not selected for this outing.
Allen Cain, 13 and from McCrory, said, "We didn't get to shoot, but we saw some mallards and some green-winged teal this morning. There weren't big numbers of them, maybe 10 in the biggest bunch."
Christian Little had a wide smile at the finish of the event. In a drawing, he won a new 12-gauge autoloading shotgun, one of many donations from sponsors of the youth hunt. Every one of the young participants received clothing and hunting gear worth about $600. This included face paint, and the youngsters used their imagination with this, down to decking out the face of a yellow Labrador retriever.
For Dillon Reynolds of McCrory, the hunt was also special in that he brought down a banded mallard drake, and the prize got him started on a duck band necklace, that traditional ornament for Arkansas waterfowlers.
Kaelyn Mills, 12, of Hensley added another element to an exciting hunting season. She got in a duck hunt just under two months after she killed a trophy bull elk near the Buffalo River. She didn't get a shot at a duck this time, but she downed her first duck in an earlier hunt. And she has experienced deer hunting also.
Of the 17 youth hunters, six were girls. Several women participated as mentors to the young hunters in the field and with other activities in the event. Stephanie Daniel, a wildlife biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, gave a program on hunting, habitat and even covered trapping.
Alberson said, "The mission of the Muddy Bayou YoungGunz is to lessen the challenges that hinder today's youth from experiencing hunting and the outdoors by providing them with an adventure than can build on while instilling in them a passion for nature."
Hunting clothing and boots for each kid was provided by Drake Waterfowl. "They gave us about $6,000 in clothing for this event," Alberson said, "and we had $10,000 in donations from other companies and people. One woman sent a thousand dollars and wanted to remain anonymous. She said her son had leukemia and was unable to hunt."
Each of the young hunters took home a duck call provided by Echo Calls of Beebe. Classic Fare Catering of Harding University provided meals, and lodging was provided by some Woodruff County hunting clubs.
After receiving the clothing and other gear and enjoying a campfire complete with the making of S'mores, one youth said, "This is just like Christmas."
It is an experience for the adult helpers as well, and they came from Mississippi and Tennessee as well as from Alberson's circle of duck hunting friends in the McCrory area.
Alberson told writer Zach Hill of Greenhead magazine, "We want adults that know the benefits of teaching a child early about the outdoors, hunting and conservation. There are not only hunting lessons to be learned, but life lessons also."