There is something about the tranquility of paddling into a duck refuge pothole, pre-dawn with your son, as the wood ducks explode off the water and shriek of into the trees. It is waterfowl season in the great state of Vermont and Youth Hunting Weekend is upon us. A special weekend where only kids can hunt escorted by an adult. An almost magical time where the duck numbers are high, nonexistent pressure, and a sleepless night for a 12 year old awaiting the 4:00 AM wakeup.
The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, http://www.fws.gov/refuge/missisquoi/, is in northern VT and almost touches the great waterfowl breeding country of Canada. This year, like many other places has been one of low precipitation causing Lake Champlain to be at drastically low levels. Solution: our Jackson, how better to make it through 1’ water with 3’ of muck below it but a kayak. The wild rice, a main food crop for waterfowl was plentiful in the refuge this year but only in the back country swamps, far from where I can get my traditional 16’ duck boat with motor. We devised a setup where a rack holds our Jackson inside of the duck boat allowing us to motor the 3 miles upstream and back into the refuge, a hard paddle return against the current. Once back into the refuge, we stash the duck boat and slide out our kayaks into the swamp. Silently, we then paddle back a mile to the ‘X’ where both the ducks and the rice are plentiful leaving the rest of the hunters high and dry, literally.
Hunting in the water with a youth is always a challenge, balancing finding a good spot to keep them excited with the comfort a kid usually needs. We have found that our Jackson hits the spot, keeping my kids out the cold VT water, but giving them a stable shooting platform and comfortable, safe spot for the hours we spend out waiting for the ducks to drop in. This morning proved to be a success, first light came and the woodies started folding in. After many misses from a developing shooter, success. One of the first ducks taken out of the air, all while laying down inside the kayak. A proud, dry and warm kid with a beautiful duck, it what’s makes youth weekend special. So proud, that the same night, we all sat around the family dinner table and enjoyed my 12 year olds harvest of the day.
Thanks Jackson! Brian Dowling – VT USA