With bags of free goodies, children went home tired Saturday after a day of fishing at McKinney Lake Fish Hatchery, during the Richmond County Ducks Unlimited Greenwing event.
The $20 ticket included a fishing rod, a Ducks Unlimited hat, a Greenwing T-shirt, and a duck call. The hatchery provided tackle boxes for each youth to keep that included a few lures, hooks, weights, and bobs, according to Rick Bradford, hatchery superintendent. A portion of the ticket price went to a Greenwing membership that includes a youth magazine subscription and access to online resources.
According to event organizers, 107 children attended, bringing parents and grandparents with them. The children were allowed to keep the fish they caught, and many children went home with several catfish strung together.
A BB gun trailer, set up by state wildlife officials, offered an opportunity for children to learn how to hold, aim and shoot a BB gun.
“The state was really instrumental in helping us,” said Gary Payne, Ducks Unlimited member. “The BB gun tent went over super well. The kids loved it.”
Hoffman Fire and Rescue brought its fire truck out for children to climb all over and play inside.
Walgreens contributed its time as well. It had a tent set up with two representatives handing out free items to children, like highlighters and Silly Bands. One Walgreens representative spent his time walking around the event site, taking pictures of children with the fish they caught.
N.C. Wildlife Officer Greg Queen showed children pelts of native mammals, like coyotes, red and grey foxes and a rare white weasel. Queen also had skulls of various animals, and children would guess which was the possum. He also had pamphlets and stories about tracking red wolves in the eastern part of the state.
“Do you know what this is?” asked Queen, as he held up a scaly leg with talons. “It’s a turkey leg.”
Children were impressed by the beaver’s tail on display, and were allowed to touch it. Queen said he nearly had a heart attack when, while wading to a duck box one day, a beaver poked his head out of the water, then splashed the surface with his tail as an alarm.
Wade Meacham, owner of Sun Dog Kennels in Ellerbe, and his training partner, Ben Chewning, brought a truck full of retrievers to Greenwing for a demonstration. First, Chewning introduced his Black Labrador Retriever, Cody. Cody was instructed to cross a pond to find a bumper that had been hidden before the event.
Using hand signals and whistles, Chewning guided the swimming dog to the location he needed to go to. After Cody brought the bumper back, Chewning tossed it in the water for play, and Cody hopped back in. Then Meacham opened the doors of the trailer and released five Irish Retriever puppies, which proceeded to hop into the pond. Bumpers flew and children squealed as the wet dogs went running in and out of the pond, shaking water off on the crowd and trying to find one of many bumpers being tossed into the pond by children.
Though the turn-out was less than last years’ 120 children, Ducks Unlimited members were pleased with how the event turned out.
“We are really looking forward to next year,” said Payne. “Sometimes our kids don’t get a lot of outside activity and activities that steer them in the right direction. So this is really good for them.”
Payne said next year, he hopes to have more T-shirts for sale for adults.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.