January 30, 2007
Duck camp for kids a special experience
For youth: Under 16
Includes: Friday campout and Saturday duck hunt
Where: T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area
Sponsor: Ducks Unlimited South Brevard Chapter
Reservations: 727-0059 and 725-3246
Camp Blackbelly will come alive Friday night with dozens of wide-eyed kids, stories around a bonfire, plenty of food and camping under the stars. Then it'll be up bright and early Saturday for a duck hunt.
The annual duck camp for kids sponsored by the Ducks Unlimited South Brevard Chapter will be part of the state-approved Youth Waterfowl Hunt at the T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area south of Palm Bay. The special hunt is for youth under 16.
John Hitchcock of Palm Bay will be among the more than 30 adults donating the use of their airboats and hunting boats, and acting as guides.
"I've been doing this since it started a few years ago and it's just a thrill to see the anticipation and the smiles on these kids' faces," said Hitchcock, a duck hunter and lifetime DU member. "Even if they don't take any ducks, they still have a wonderful day."
All activities, including the hunt, are free. Each youth will receive a duck call, a cap and other favors. Adults must accompany children but only the youth will be allowed to shoot.
During the two-day statewide youth hunt offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, licenses, permits and federal duck stamps are not required. The Goodwin area will not be open Sunday for the second day of the hunt.
Curt McKinney of Melbourne spearheads the event for the DU chapter.
"We've been involved with the youth hunt for years but we didn't start the duck camp until last year. We wanted to go the extra mile and do something really different and special for the kids," McKinney said.
This year's camp is named for the black-bellied whistling duck, a rare species in Florida known for its high-pitched whistling call.
About 80 youth participated last year despite heavy rain from a frontal system.
"Everyone was soaked but we never heard the first complaint," Hitchcock said.
McKinney said as many hunting parties as possible will be assigned to airboats and specially equipped duck boats.
"We expect to have 15 to 20 airboats and another 10 duck boats," McKinney said. "Those who didn't go in boats last year will be selected first. Some boats will take four or five people.
"Last year, some dads brought their own boats. We'll make sure that every child gets to hunt," McKinney said.
Those not using boats will hunt inside the small waterfowl impoundments in the 6,300-acre Goodwin area.
Hunting will end at noon. The bag limit will be six ducks for each youth with restrictions on certain species. Coots also will be legal game.
Campers must furnish their own tents or sleeping arrangements. Motor homes will not be allowed. All the campers will be grouped in one area near a small lake with security personnel, EMTs, generated lighting and portable toilets.
One of the highlights of the bonfire program will be tales by professional storyteller Bill Suiter of Melbourne. Suiter will include stories of old Florida and about Seminole Chief Osceola.
The Friday evening dinner by Sonny's Bar-B-Que in Palm Bay will start at about 5 p.m. Apollo Restaurant in Melbourne will provide the Saturday breakfast prior to the hunt. Darryl Jacobs, an Indian River County attorney and DU member, will host the post-hunt cookout.
Other organizations assisting are the United Waterfowlers of Florida, Delta Waterfowl and the FWC.
Reservations are necessary by Thursday at 6 p.m. Call McKinney at 727-0059 or Tony Rushing at 725-3246.
The Goodwin complex in south Brevard County is six miles west of Babcock Street immediately north of the Stick Marsh Reservoir.
Contact Sargent at 242-33697 or firstname.lastname@example.org
All smiles. Young Eddie Jacobs of Vero Beach was all smiles after last year's special duck hunt for kids. Eddie will be hunting again Saturday with his father Darryl Jacobs, one of the sponsors of the annual Camp Blackbelly sponsored by the Ducks Unlimited South Brevard Chapter. Only youth under 16 will be allowed to hunt. John Hitchcock, for FLORIDA TODAY