Delaware Nature Society Program Guide and Newsletter September - December 2017 - Page 23

Every fall, students and their parents gather at Ashland Nature Center for the series of seven weeknight Young Waterfowlers classes. A team of volunteer instructors from the community, with more than 200 combined years of waterfowling under their wader belts, lead the students through hands-on activities that are fun and exciting. Youngsters test their skills by blowing a goose call, carving a cork duck decoy, and training a retrieving dog. The State of Delaware’s Hunter Education course is taught in conjunction with the class, and students may choose to receive their hunter safety certification upon completion of the class. The Young Waterfowlers program successfully brings together a large group of young men and women (ages 10 to 16) each season, and many return year after year to be part of the Advanced Young Waterfowlers. Many graduates of the program return to the class to help out as assistant instructors. Delaware Nature Society shares the leadership of the program with the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, an environmental organization based in Unionville, PA, that is dedicated to environmental education and watershed conservation. “The partnership between Delaware Nature Society and Brandywine Red Clay Alliance (BRC) is one of the reasons for the long-standing success of the Young Waterfowlers program” says Jim Jordan, Executive Director of the BRC. “The partnership enables us to offer the program to a much broader audience, in addition to attracting instructors who have a vast amount of knowledge and expertise in different disciplines.” Chris Buccini, a DelNature member and active local businessman, joined his two sons as participants in the program for the first time during the fall 2016 class. He says, “the program brought us together to work toward a goal – getting out to enjoy waterfowl hunting together as a family. We invested our time in the program and built a foundation for a lifelong activity.” Field trips on Sundays help the students prepare for the waterfowl season. A visit to the Ommelanden Range in New Castle is when participants test their skills with shotgun shooting under the tutelage of certified instructors. Jim Jordan and John Campanelli, founders of the Young Waterfowlers program, bring decades of safe shooting instruction to help youngsters master the skill of breaking a clay target. A trip to the Bombay Hook refuge to gather grasses and camouflage the hunting blinds provides lessons in mastering the art of concealment. The Waterfowl Identification field trip takes the Young Waterfowlers families on a tour of the Delaware Bayshore from Delaware City all the way down to Bombay Hook, with stops at natural areas to scan wetlands with a spotting scope. The excitement of seeing a wide variety of ducks, geese, and swans is amplified by the additional sightings of wildlife like deer, foxes, and even a close encounter with a Snowy Owl one year. Chris Buccini notes that the trips are “really educational and an excellent introduction to the topics of conservation, habitat management, and wildlife identification.” And so we return to Bombay Hook where we started our story: An entire Fall season of classes and field trips prepared them for this day – both a graduation and initiation into the world of waterfowling. A flock of Green-winged Teal banks hard to the right of the blind and powers into the North wind. A Black Duck quacks loudly nearby, as the decoys bob gently in the water. Smiles flash as the youngsters prepare for the arrival of waterfowl joined by their guide, with their parents watching over their shoulders. Two generations together outdoors, connected by the tradition of waterfowling. Derek Stoner serves as a volunteer leader for the Young Waterfowlers program, after a fifteen-year career on staff with Delaware Nature Society. He is a published author and photographer for many conservation-focused publications. Delaware Nature Society 23