Big Muddy Duck Hunt celebrates 10-year youth program in Holt County

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Mound City, Mo. – A youth hunting program in waterfowl-rich Holt County began 11 years ago when two Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agents noticed something was missing in the marshes. Missouri offers a two-day youth waterfowl hunting season. That year, Cpl. Jade Wright and Cpl. Anthony Maupin decided to check on youth hunters at private duck and goose hunting clubs in the area.

“But there were no youths out,” Wright said. “The pools were flooded, decoys were out, and blinds had been dressed. We thought, how can we get some kids put into these blinds?”

The agents decided to organize a hunt to introduce young people to waterfowl hunting. They began networking with private waterfowl and conservation organizations in northwest Missouri. Waterfowlers responded, and along with continuing support from MDC, the hunt became an annual event. Partnerships led to a non-profit Big Muddy Association, Inc., to manage the event.

On Oct. 23, the hunt hosted 25 young women and men who harvested 24 ducks and one Canada goose during an evening hunt. They used blinds on loan from various private duck clubs and outfitters. More than 80 people helped, such as instructors, volunteer guides, safety coaches, and parents. Cpl. Wright and Cpl. Maupin organized the event with an assist from a dozen other MDC conservation agents or staff members. MDC also supports the hunt financially, but much of the financial and gear support comes from private donations to the association.

“Our goal is to provide a memorable duck hunting experience,” Wright said. “When they are older and have the means to go, they will go hunting.”

In fact, while checking hunters during the regular waterfowl season the agents are encountering duck hunters who went through the program years earlier, Maupin said. Big Muddy has hosted 233 young hunters to date. Participants are selected through networking contacts. Some years, the hunt has reached out to special groups such as military families. Space is limited. Hunts usually accommodate 15 to 25 youths. Waiting lists are available. A youth hunter may participate only once.

Instruction comes first in the day-long program. Hunters rotate to education stations. They learn about identifying waterfowl species. MDC agents talk about regulations and the role of conservation in managing wildlife. Participants learn about duck calling and hunting strategies and methods to prepare waterfowl for consumption. Firearm safety and wing shooting skills are taught on a trap range.

Participants and parents are paired with a guide and a safety coach. Then they travel to the blinds in the wetlands. The duck clubs assist with guides, coaches, and donations. Those donations have allowed the Big Muddy Association to obtain equipment used annually including a trailer, loaner shotguns, and clay target throwers.

Private donations and assistance from TriStar Arms made it possible for this year’s participants to get a special surprise at the dinner in Mound City following the duck hunt. Each hunter received use of a TriStar Arms 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun with camouflage finish. The guns were presented to the youths’ parents or guardians.

In the future, the Big Muddy Association may branch out into other youth activities such as archery and perhaps add youth duck hunts in other parts of the state. Continuing development of partnerships with people and groups interested in waterfowl and wetland conservation will be key.

“We’ll continue to work alongside other organizations that share our passion for involving youth in waterfowl hunting,” Wright said.

For more information about the Big Muddy Association or to apply to participate in future youth hunts, visit