Youths attend Ducks Unlimited camp

Special to The Advance

How do you tell the difference between lesser and greater scaup? The difference between common and red-breasted mergansers? Or how about the difference between a mallard hen and a mottled duck?

Even some veteran waterfowl hunters might have trouble making the distinctions. But following the 2009 Ducks Unlimited Greenwing Conservation Camp, Kelsey Freeland and Chad Morris of Tillar shouldn’t have any problem telling the species apart.

Duck identification was one of numerous programs offered to young waterfowl enthusiasts at the annual DU Greenwing Camp, which was held January 29 – February 1 near Stuttgart. Celebrating its 17th year, this year’s gathering welcomed 19 teenagers from Arkansas and Canada for four days of in-depth, hands-on education about waterfowl conservation.

Freeland, 15 and a student at Dumas Junior High and Morris, also 15 and a student at Cornerstone Christian Academy, were nominated by a Ducks Unlimited volunteer to take part in the unique camp, a collective effort by Ducks Unlimited, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. AGFC Commissioner George Dunklin and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones donated the use of their hunting lodges for this year’s camp.

“The camp helps establish or strengthen an enduring impression of wildlife conservation and DU’s efforts, not only in the campers, but their parents and friends who they tell about their weekend at the camp,” said Brian Davis, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist. “They learn and see first hand how DU and the AGFC promote wetland and waterfowl conservation, and that our collective mission is not only focused and accomplished through hard work, but that it can be fun and fulfilling at the same time. Our Greenwings are the future sportsmen and sportswomen of Arkansas, flag bearers of waterfowl conservation and volunteers of Ducks Unlimited.”

Campers learned about basic biology and management of waterfowl, wetlands ecology, waterfowl identification, hunting safety and ethics, duck calling, retriever training and many other valuable activities. At times, the camp can seem like a rigorous high school biology class, but one that students acknowledge as fun and extremely rewarding.

The camp included numerous activities such as field observation of ducks and geese, collection and identification of aquatic invertebrates and field trips to various wetlands ecosystems. With the youth waterfowl hunt following on the same weekend as the camp this year, the teens were able to participate in a waterfowl hunt at Five Oaks Duck Lodge on the last day of the camp.

“The young waterfowlers also received hands-on experience in such areas as waterfowl identification and duck banding operations,” said Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl coordinator. “Campers took part in banding 35 mallards that the AGFC staff captured at Lee LeBlanc Wildlife Management Area during the camp.”

The DU Greenwing Conservation Camp, conducted each year since 1992, seeks youths between the ages of 15 and 17.  The camp was developed to strengthen DU’s youth outdoor education efforts. Prospective youths are identified by a DU volunteer to attend the free camp.

Each year, two campers are selected to attend the DU Canada Great Greenwing Adventure held near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in August. Winners of the Canada trips at this year’s camp were Dillon Cox of Pocahontas and Dustin Jeffress of Beebe. Kelsey Freeland was chosen “Most Improved Camper” by camp counselors and selected as an alternate for the DU Canada camp.

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