Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Ducks Unlimited “Women in Outdoor Media” event in Arkansas. The accommodations were nice and the food was good, though unfortunately, the birds weren’t flying. Still, I returned from that trip in awe of all that Ducks Unlimited (DU) does for conservation; for waterfowl habitat in general. I never considered I’d be offered that opportunity again, but then earlier this summer I was contacted by Mike Checkett of DU with an invite to return to their event coming up in November 2011. He also suggested that I recommend a few more members of the Women’s Outdoor Media Association to attend with me.
The big question right off the bat was “Who to invite?” It finally came down to deciding which members would place stories in established magazines or newspapers, which members would get the most radio or tv interviews done for DU? Just doing an article for the WOMA, like I am now, is nice but the real “meat & potatoes” is getting other forms of media involved in creating more opportunities for DU. The dilemma was that many WOMA members wanted to go and there just weren’t enough slots to accommodate everyone.
After discussion this summer with the WOMA board, it was decided that media trips, such as this one with DU, could easily be abused if someone attended and then didn’t do the follow up work expected, or if someone participated and didn’t realize they needed to make room next year for other WOMA members to attend. With that in mind, I relinquished my spot for the DU event this year and turned it over to another WOMA member on the wait list.
Well, let’s just say God must have really wanted me to go duck hunting, as my connection with Outdoor Channel came into play and I went on their slot. I took along my camera supervisor, our “Saint” Marilyn, who is now busy editing a couple of webisodes for Ducks Unlimited that should be out by late December (I’ll post in the WOMA when/where those are ready for viewing.) FYI – Marilyn also did a quick video piece for our camp host location which is already playing at their website at www.BayFlatsLodge.com .
So now that I’ve bored you with the “how I got to DU camp”, let me give you a little bit of background on a fast 48 hours spent at camp. On arriving Monday afternoon we were greeted by our host extraordinaire, Captain Chris Martin. To say that Chris lives and breathes duck hunting and fishing is an understatement. He has his hand in everything from the lodge website and social media, to training the hunting dogs. His wife Deb is the strength behind the throne, as she oversees maintenance of their beautiful lodge and works shoulder to shoulder with the kitchen staff to make sure everything is done right. This is no impersonal hotel, it feels more like a large B&B that is warm, friendly and of course the scenery is breathtaking in the Barrier Islands.
Just in case you are like me and don’t know much about the Barrier Islands (I could barely find Sea Drift, TX, on a map to get us there) check out one of many links talking about this unique coastal area at www.TexasWetlands.org/Barrier.htm . I was so taken with this area that for Christmas this year, I’ve purchased a three day “Blast and Cast” event for our family with duck hunting in the morning and fishing in the afternoon.
Getting back to the DU event the first evening (Monday), we had the opportunity to meet & greet the other women in our media group along with the two DU gals joining us for the event. I very much enjoyed getting to know Alicia Wiseman, a biologist for DU in Louisiana, and Emily Tyner, a DU Communications Manager located in Washington DC. The work that both of these women do for DU is invaluable, and just as importantly, I am impressed that DU is a leader in conservation groups that hire women!
The next morning (Tuesday) came with a wakeup call at 3:30 am to go duck hunting; pulling out of the docks by 4:30 am to head out in groups of three assigned to each boat, where our captain guided us through the Barrier Islands. We lay claim to one of the many blinds established along the waterways, or maybe the more appropriate term is “flyways”, and setup for business. This is where I have to delve into a sideline story about chest waders. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that chest waders will give you diaper rash if you don’t wear the right things underneath them? So I’m here to share with the rest of you that normal “wick away” long underwear is the wrong choice for under chest waders with temps in the Barrier Islands of 74 degrees. Just so you know, it’s hard to shoot ducks with a shotgun with one hand while the other hand is down inside your chest waders keeping them off your body! I survived; I even shot a couple of ducks, one Redhead and one Pintail. Then mid-morning, we headed back to the lodge, where I happily discarded my chest waders and got comfy in my yoga clothes just in time for lunch.
Now I’d already eaten a big breakfast, after being reassured that the boat ride to a duck blind was not going to be the high rolling seas I experienced recently on a Carnival Cruise. I’m not sure why I felt I needed to eat a big lunch as well, but count me in as the Bay Flats Lodge chef dished up a wonderful Red Snapper entrée. Now that I think about it, dinner the night before was outstanding as well and who could say no to Tiramisu for dessert? (Did I mention that the food at Bay Flats Lodge is awesome?)
After lunch, we had time for a couple of quick interviews and we were off to go fishing for the afternoon. I was on the only boat that afternoon that didn’t “strike it lucky”, but all the other gals had multiple fish stories with fish in tow as backup. To say I was envious was an understatement, but bless her heart, one of the gals in our group, Lisa Metheny, gave us some of her fish to take home. After admiring everyone’s catch, we arrived back to the lodge just in time for… yep, DINNER! Small wafers of duck breast served in raspberry sauce and this time Crème Brulee for dessert. (At this point in time I was really wondering if my chest waders were going to fit me by the next morning.) The rest of the evening was informative and fun, as first Emily gave us a brief synopsis of why membership in DU is so important; after all, in Washington DC the voters of large conservation groups get heard first!
Here is where I share with you that I became a DU member right after my first trip last year and I just renewed my membership again; though this year I “upped” the contribution amount. The work that DU does for waterfowl habitat isn’t just about more duck hunting, it’s about CLEAN water and salvaging the wetlands which have a direct impact on everyone, not just duck hunters. My dad was an active duck hunter, living his whole life on Lake Huron. I’ll be honest that I never quite understood it as the Great Lakes in the late fall and early winter are cold, windy and wet.
With thoughts of my dad and how excited he would be to see me duck hunting, we headed out on the last morning (Wednesday) to go duck hunting. We woke up again at 3:30 am to see Stephanie from the Bay Flats Lodge staff smiling at us yet again while she served breakfast. Then, we were back in the boats by 4:30 am, arriving into the blind by 5:30 am and that’s when I had my duck hunting epiphany. Insert drum roll here…I sit in a blind in the Barrier Islands with a good guide (thank you Jason), with a retriever (our sweet Sadie) and along with a couple of new gal pals (Alicia Wiseman and Judy Rhodes.) It’s windy, the ducks are flying, we’re shooting, we’re having fun, the dog is happy retrieving and for a little window of time all is right and good in our part of the world. Understanding how blessed we are to be born women in America where we can own guns and go hunting hit me with full force. Understanding how blessed we are that Ducks Unlimited continues to work diligently on conservation efforts to benefit the ducks, benefit duck hunters and to benefit humans with fresh water. (Do I hear a big AMEN?)
We headed back mid-morning with many ducks in tow, which by the way is what I’m serving for Thanksgiving this year. It was a fast packing job for Marilyn and me as we were heading to another event back in Austin. We only had a few moments to hug our new friends, plus thank our hosts at both DU and at Bay Flats Lodge. How it happened that one of the most moving trips of my life took place in 48 hours I’m not sure, but I’m heading back to Bay Flats Lodge to try it again in the hope to recreate the magic for my family. Now if someone could just figure out how to help me eliminate diaper rash with these chest waders, life would be close to perfect for my next duck hunting trip!
If you are looking for the perfect Christmas gift, consider a Ducks Unlimited membership for your family members and especially the younger kids in your clan, as DU has a special program just for them. Visit www.Ducks.org for more information. Till my next DU adventure this is Duck Hunting Deb signing off…