Originally Posted by Duckdon
I got there late and left early so take these notes at face value. Hopefully much was accomplished during the second half of the meeting. These are my reflections on the material covered during my attendance.
AWA seems like they have a nice baseline 501(c)3 in place. The members that spoke (Shaun, Wayne, Tom) seemed like they had a firm grasp on the dynamics of the local habitat and also continental duck production considerations (migration, wintering habitat, breeding habitat). My reservation with AWA is that they have been established for a long time and most of the forum has never heard of them. When asked about what they do for projects, we were told they donít have any at the moment. The groundwork is there and the history is there but if they are that stagnant even with resources at their disposal, that gives me reason to be cautious of immediately merging the two groups. If AWA could ďtake offĒ with the injection of the AOD members that attended and those that wish to become involved but couldnít make it, that group WILL make some significant contributions. They donít seem to be quite as focused on local issues as the general membership of the group wished last night but their efforts would be much more productive in Alaska than any of the Duck Unlimited chapters. Although many of us in attendance gladly contribute and participate in DU events, this AOD group seemed to focus more on the following (with my commentary after each dark bullet);
∑ Youth Recruitment
o Some of my favorite days as a young person were following adults into ďwild landsĒ to check traps or build blinds or clean out wood duck nest boxes. It helps establish that stewardship mentality that leads to more good people out on the landscape.
o The group mentioned taking a kid hunting or having dedicated youth days. Thatís great, especially if we are trying to bring in children that donít come from a waterfowling family. Like many other pursuits, this game is a difficult one to get into if you havenít been shown a path.
o There was discussion of scholarships to young people. It was championed more by Shaun than the general membership but those kinds of civic involvement hold merit and have their place. However, in my experience, scholarships typically go to those that are already ďin the system.Ē It makes sense because the kids are a known commodity but again, that stewardship and exposure probably existed so itís the other 90% of potential youth hunters that need our attention.
o The 3S approach to recruiting young people came to mind- Schools, Scouts, and Shooting events. There are many many more. Frank? Youíre the dude dealing with the young folks.
∑ Nest boxes and habitat projects
o Duck producing habitat is probably about as good as it gets but there are localized opportunities to make a difference. The brush/tree cutting at the old alien landing was one proposed at the meeting. Of course there are considerations working on State land but Joe Meehan is an agreeable guy in my dealings with him. If there are folks willing to do work, there is probably a mechanism to make it happen.
o To tie back in with the youth recruitment, these boots on the ground events are a chance to bring kids out into the Flats or into a boat for the first time to go see the open places that they drive past going to Anchorage and back. They may not necessarily be producing more ducks, but they can produce the next generation of people that care about wetlands and the ecological services they provide.
o People want to help out. They want to have a reason to wander around and visit with buddies. If we can take that desire and use ducks as the rallying cry, great. I appreciate the northern lights better seen away from the lights of town, I really dig the native plants (orchids, irises, star flowers), I take joy in having a muskrat bump into my waders, I think fish and the tides are fascinating, I canít get enough of short-eared owls flitting above the grass and northern harriers rousting up flocks of yellowlegs and dowitchers. There is much to be learned about animals that use cavities for nesting (ducks, woodpeckers, wrens, swallows), food caches (bird and mammal alike), and predation (weasels and squirrels). Lots to be learned by just being out there.
o The discussion of private land, or lack thereof, came forward as well. However, it may be possible to team up with the folks down near Pt. Mackenzie and other entities with fields to do some sort of fall feed enhancements.
o A reason to be on the duck grounds when ducks arenít there.
∑ Positive presence to help dissuade slob activities.
o If you know your neighbor, itís easier to hold folks accountable to shooting times. It also establishes a self-policing force in the marsh where you can possibly approach the violator and have a positive interaction with the person instead of casting judgment or issuing a complaint to Alaska Wildlife Troopers. It might be someone that really doesnít know any better. It might be someone that needs to be watched and reported as well.
o Litter and carcasses at access points make us all look bad. Do the right thing, try to leave as little trace as possible and be considerate of all user groups. Just because itís legal doesnít mean it is right.
o If we had a more solidified community of duck hunters, we would have more confidence leaving our trucks and equipment at access points. Again, a self-policing group that knows that John Doe doesnít own that truck and shouldnít be taking any gear out of that topper. This also plays into the marsh rescue scenario where itís easier to call on someone you know to get bailed out (pun!).
o Boat launch parking and etiquette would increase. Iíve only been down Rabbit Slough twice but one of the times I tried to visit with the other group and they were not friendly whatsoever. The whole world knows about that access point, no reason to give me dirty looks because we both use the closest point of access to the largest growing community in the State. Rub elbows, meet new people, disperse into the marsh and hide in our own little pocket and repeat.
∑ A clearinghouse for information.*This one is solely my contribution as it wasnít brought up during my time at the gathering.
o This group could provide an orientation to waterfowling for new AK arrivals or just folks new to the sport, or simply wanting to know more about the local landscapes. This can prevent some of the issues with shooting hours, poaching, littering, etc.
o Bird ID. There is a fraction in every community that will go out with a gun and shoot first and ask questions later. Alaska seems like it has a higher proportion of people that arenít good with bird ID. Thatís just fine because itís not easy. However, with a little bit of help, it becomes pretty simple for common ducks. Luckily Alaska waterfowl limits are very forgiving in terms of number of birds and \species composition for bag limits. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game or Ducks Unlimited might have a program already set up for this exact issue. If not, a temporary wing box at common access points would probably get you most species you would need to pin and dry for a full duck ID training program. There was some background chatter this fall from a few forum members about getting something like this going. It would be good as a refresher to those of us more familiar with local birds and it would be GREAT for newcomers to the area and to the sport.