On the very chilly morning of January 8, 2011, fifteen young hunters, ages 12 to 15, participated in a Youth Duck Hunt on the Dalton Utilities’ Land Application System facility located along the Conasauga River in Whitfield and Murray counties. The hunt was organized by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Dalton Chapter of Ducks Unlimited in concert with Dalton Utilities. This was the first Youth Duck Hunt hosted on the Dalton Utilities facility.
Each hunter was provided with a guide and a dog for the hunt. Excellent hunting conditions and cold weather provided opportunities for every youth participating to harvest at least one duck. In all, 39 ducks were harvested which included seven species of waterfowl – Northern Shoveler, Ring-neck, Mallard, Ruddy Duck, Coot, Gadwall and Blue Bill.
Prior to the hunt, hunters, parents and guides attended a briefing held by Ranger Eddie Tomkins of the Georgia DNR on hunt rules, safety concerns and duck identification.
“Each year, the Georgia DNR works to advance its mission of getting more youth involved in hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities,” said Ranger Eddie Tompkins. “The Dalton Utilities Youth Duck Hunt enjoyed great success in its first year. The hunters endured cold and windy weather to enjoy the day’s activities. My goal in planning this hunt was to provide an opportunity for some kids to get involved in a great outdoor activity that might not otherwise be available to them.”
The Georgia DNR built and installed duck blinds in strategic locations for each hunter with the assistance of Ducks Unlimited volunteers. Additionally, the local DU Chapter raised funds to provide lunch to all volunteers and participants, as well as raffle items and gift bags for all of the hunters containing a duck call, goose call with DVD, a lanyard to hold calls, a face mask, 4 hats, camo gloves, Hot Hands, a folding stool, toboggan, a buck knife, and a discount coupon for a duck mount.
Additionally, the participating hunters had the chance to win such raffle items as a free duck mount, wooden duck decoys, duck blind material, and a Ducks Unlimited clock.
“The local Ducks Unlimited committee was extremely happy to volunteer as guides for this hunt. Some of these youths had never hunted before, so this was a great opportunity to introduce them to hunting with the Committee on hand to pass along the hunting tradition and our own personal experience,” said DeWayne Blair, Chairman of the Dalton Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.
“Everyone got to experience the camaraderie of an early morning hunt and lunch afterwards,” said Blair. “But our Ducks Unlimited Committee also got to share our passion for waterfowl and the importance of waterfowl identification and conservation of their habitats. The kids also got to experience firsthand the joys of working and hunting with dogs. We would like to thank Ranger Eddie Tompkins with the GA DNR for his role in putting this hunt together, as well as Dalton Utilities for hosting and assisting with the hunt.”
Donations for the hunt were provided by Safari Club International, Ducks Unlimited, Avery Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, Timberghost Hunting & Fishing, Inc. of Calhoun, GA, NWTF, Shipman’s Taxidermy, Dalton Animal Care, Science Diet, Liberty National Life, Hot Hands, Dorsett Industries, Dalton Box, EPI, and NW Georgia Dental.
Dalton Utilities also hosts deer and turkey hunts on its 9,877-acre facility. “Preserving our natural resources is our guiding principles at Dalton Utilities. Our Land Application System supports such a broad range of wildlife, and we manage our facility with this in mind. Hosting this Youth Duck Hunt with Ducks Unlimited is something we’re especially proud of,” said Don Cope, Dalton Utilities President and CEO. “Wetlands are important animal habitats but also play a very important role in water quality. Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. By introducing these kids to hunting, the Georgia DNR, Ducks Unlimited and Dalton Utilities are helping them establish the link between natural resources and human experiences to develop a desire to conserve those resources.”