For every hunter out there, nothing can relate to the excitement and the memories made during that first hunt. For Kristen Monroe, her first duck hunt was certainly no exception to this well known fact. Plus to make this hunt even more unforgettable, she got to share it with some of the guys from Ducks Unlimited.

As 2011 comes to an end, many of us give thanks and reflect on the past. For us hunters, every hunting experience is special for different reasons. There is one particular hunt that comes to mind that I am especially thankful for; my first duck hunt. Not just because of the beautiful pintail drake I took home, but for the new friends and knowledge that was gained. Mike Checkett and Chris Jennings of Ducks Unlimited hosted the 3rd annual Women’s Media Camp at Bay Flats Lodge in Seadrift, Texas. Understanding the relationship between conservation and hunting has always been important to me. Checkett and Jennings were the perfect teachers. 12 women including myself, walked away from this camp with a better understanding of duck hunting, an appreciation for the value of wetlands, and how Ducks Unlimited works to preserve and restore them.

Diehard water fowlers live for the smell of marsh; the passion for ducks is in their eyes. I couldn’t wait to find out what made duck hunting so exceptional. My hunting group included Jennings, veteran outdoor communicator Laurie Lee Dovey, and Bay Flats lodge guide David McClelland. It was exciting to hear the ducks from afar, and the anticipation of my first shot. Dovey, Jennings, and McClelland educated me about duck identification and the significance of it. Don’t ever shoot the wrong kind of duck; you can get in a lot of trouble. Watching flock maneuvers can be helpful for identification; Pintails, mallards, and wigeon form loose groups while teals and shovelers usually fly in close bunches. Expert duck hunters are amazing; they also identify the duck by listening to their wing beat and call. Did you know not all ducks quack? Ducks also whistle, grunt, or squeal. Although Dovey has been in the outdoors industry for decades we shared the moment of shooting our first ducks together. All we had to do was combine shotgun skills, and a little tenacity. A lot of questions were answered that day sitting in the costal marsh blind.

Jennings explained the importance of the healthy wetlands, Ducks Unlimited works year round to protect. Wetlands are the key to keeping the wildlife abundant and crucial for a healthy living environment for people. They help purify the water by removing nitrogen and phosphorus along with any toxic chemicals that may exist. Marshlands are home to more than 900 wildlife species and they also help control soil erosion and subduing floods.

There is nothing comparable to hunting with likeminded individuals and swapping stories for a few days. Ducks Unlimited managed to evoke the love for waterfowl and wetlands in many women media members that didn’t already have it. In 1937, a small group of sportsman started a group with a single mission, habitat conservation. To this day 12 million acres of the most critical habitat for waterfowl has been conserved and restored. Congratulations for becoming one of the most effective conservation groups in the world Ducks Unlimited and Happy 75th anniversary!