Recently, a group of University of Delaware students visited Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland to learn about waterfowl hunting and wildlife conservation. Although they’re each pursuing studies in natural resources, all of them were first-time hunters.
The program, offered through a new partnership among Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, offered hunter education, shotgun safety training, and background on managing waterfowl populations.
Aside from the practical training and experience in the field, the program prompted the students to explore their feelings about hunting in general. Here are some of their individual thoughts about the experience.
How I dealt with feelings of guilt:
“My fears spawned from the action of the hunt itself; if I do succeed, how will taking that life affect me, either on site or after I come home? Can I personally consider taking a life, “success”? Will I let my leaders down if I cannot bring myself to squeeze the trigger after all the effort in training me?”
– Dawn Davin
How I made it through my first hunting trip:
“In fact, I was calm up until it was time to shoot. Everything happened so quickly. I am not used to shooting a gun, I am used to shooting clay birds, and I have no idea how a bird even lands in the water. I shortly found out, very quickly. I am up first. I see birds coming in as Jerry tells me to get ready. I respond as if I have never shot a gun before. I forget how to even hold the stock into my shoulder. As I am struggling to think straight, the birds see us and fly away.”
– Morgan Cochran
How my opinion on hunting has changed:
“I find that my opinion of hunting has changed considerably through the course. I always knew intellectually that hunting was an integral part of managing many species across the globe, but really honing in on the specifics and taking a part in that management connected me to the topic more. I learned so much about how setting goals for certain waterfowl species can aim to stabilize their population, and I got to participate in making those goals a reality.”
My final reflections on the day:
“The one time I began to feel guilty and question exactly why I went hunting was when I talked to my boss about it. She knows there are population control benefits to hunting, but wasn’t sure why I personally wanted to be a part of it. Like many of my friends and family members, she was surprised to hear that I, animal lover extraordinaire, truly enjoyed killing an animal. It was difficult to explain why I wanted to and enjoyed the hunt when put that way, but I was able to “change her mind a bit” after I told her about the economic benefits, the reasoning behind certain policies, impact of invasive species, and so on. I will certainly have to do some more self-examination to determine my true stance, but that is a challenge I welcome.”
– Samantha McGonigle