Joey Rhoades stood at the edge of a pond at T&S Farms, surrounded by a couple dozen kids, and tossed a dummy duck out across the water. At his command Pearl, a 4-year-old golden retriever with a championship pedigree, jumped off the grassy bank into the shimmering pond.
The gaggle of children gasped and giggled and pointed. The local Greenwings were hooked.
In all, more than 30 children and their guardians, many of them decked out in camouflage, gathered last Saturday (Aug. 24) for the annual Greenwing Youth Day, presented by the Ridge Flyway chapter of Ducks Unlimited. All morning long, eager volunteers put the young outdoors enthusiasts, male and female, through the paces of several hunting-related activity stations.
“I didn’t start hunting until I was a teenager. When I got into it, and my family started getting dogs, I liked it,” said Mr. Rhoades. “It’s a lot of fun, but like anything else, it takes a lot of practice and effort.”
Mr. Rhoades already has been instilling a love of the outdoors into his own children. Six-year-old Henry and 3-year-old Sallie Eve, even at their tender ages, are fond of going out into the family’s yard and tossing the dummy duck for Pearl to retrieve.
“She calls it training the dog,” Mr. Rhoades said of his preschool hunter-in-training.
So, it’s no surprise that this young hunter would take great joy in sharing his passion with other daddy’s kids at the Greenwing Youth Day. “When you’re hunting, it’s almost as much fun watching the dog work as it is shooting,” he said, as Pearl shook the water from her fur at his feet. “I go on some hunting trips where I don’t even shoot. I just go and work the dog.”
Numerous other outdoor enthusiasts took time Saturday to pour into the lives of the kids who attended the free Youth Day. The family fun event included lunch and a free membership to the Ducks Unlimited Greenwing program.
Sgt. Robby Barnes of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources was on-hand to offer gun safety tips and to coach the youngsters in archery. Each kid had the chance to take up a bow and fling foam-tipped arrows toward a row of balls hovering on a cushion of air piped into an inflatable archery range.
Will Berry of Batesburg taught the kids the differences between duck calls and turkey calls and demonstrated each technique. In another canine demonstration, Travis Smith and his prized Labrador named Ripper practiced land-based retrieving.
The wide variety of outdoor activities seemed well-received by those who attended. At age 8, Colton Talbert is well on his way to becoming a seasoned outdoorsman. He started shooting his crossbow about three years ago and said “practice and patience” are what it takes to be a good crossbow hunter.
Though yet to bag his first deer, young Colton clearly loves those times when he can sit out in the woods, waiting for his prey. His daddy Trey Talbert is just waiting for that day when his son’s patience will pay off.
“I’ll probably be more happy than he is,” Mr. Talbert said. “It ain’t all about killing. It’s about being out there in God’s creation, looking around at Mother Nature, watching the birds. I don’t even care if I see a deer; that’s just a plus for me. I’m out there to get away from work and all the conflict in this world.”
The Ridge Flyway chapter of Ducks Unlimited is part of an international nonprofit conservation organization, started in 1937, that boasts more than 622,000 members in the United States and another 130,000 in Canada and Mexico. After the Greenwing Youth Day, the local chapter also hosted a Sportsman’s Night Out on Saturday evening at T&S Farms, complete with food and an auction to support Ducks Unlimited’s conservation efforts.
For more information on the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited, contact 803-422-0636 or 803-917-9936
Story by Tony Baughman / Posted September 3, 2019