Listen: Woodie Camp (Gunderson)

MPR’s Dan Gunderson reports on The Minnesota Waterfowl Association's Woodie Camp, a northwestern Minneosta summer camp focused on waterfowl hunting calls, prairie ecology, and outdoor ethics and shooting.

Woodie Camp instructors hope to sell a new generation on hunting and conservation.


2017 MBJA Eric Sevareid Award, award of merit in Audio - Large Market Radio category


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TOM CRANN: With the number of hunters on the decline in Minnesota since the 1970s, hunting organizations are making extra efforts to recruit younger members. One is a summer camp run by the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. It teaches kids everything from conservation and hunting ethics to waterfowl language.


TOM CRANN: Dan Gunderson visited the camp in Fergus Falls this week.

DAN GUNDERSON: In an open air classroom overlooking a wetland at the Prairie Wetland Learning Center, John Schroers brandishes a cigar-shaped goose skull like a conductor teasing notes out of an orchestra.

JOHN SCHROERS: Relax. Breathe through the call. Let your jaw drop. You're taking a big yawn.


DAN GUNDERSON: A dozen students try to mimic one of the many goose calls Schroers is trying to teach them. The calls are used to lure waterfowl close enough for hunters to shoot. But callers also take pride in mastering the language of ducks or geese. Schroers picks up on the skill of student Robert Bastyr, and they go toe-to-toe. Heads bobbing and cheeks pumping.

JOHN SCHROERS: Nice jam session, man. Isn't that fun?

DAN GUNDERSON: Bastyr is a saxophone player, and sees similarities with waterfowl calling.

ROBERT BASTYR: They don't want to give too little air where you can't hear it. But you don't want to give too much where it squeaks. Not everyone can do it. And it really actually takes skill.

DAN GUNDERSON: Schroers says he's been teaching at the camp for 25 years, and still gets a charge out of seeing kids start to master the skills.

JOHN SCHROERS: They're doing everything I'm doing. They don't even realize it yet. It just brings a big smile to my face.

Yeah, it's fun. We'll be jamming. We've got our cool rays on. We're musicians. We're jamming.

DAN GUNDERSON: This is one of many classes crammed into the week-long camp. The camp is limited to 50 students aged 13 to 15 who apply and write an essay about why they want to come to camp. The Minnesota Waterfowl Association raises $46,000 to cover all camper expenses. The focus here is on outdoor activity.

Students learn everything from Prairie ecology to ethics and behavior. And of course, shooting. The campers fire more than 9,000 shotgun rounds during the week. Maddie Broton-Anderson from Owatonna tracks a clay disk across the sky with the barrel of her gun. Fires and misses.

STEVE PAGEL: You were real close. Real close. You were there. But then you slowed down.



DAN GUNDERSON: Shooting instructor Steve Pagel hovers just over her shoulder, offering advice. When she hits three targets in a row, Pagel gets a hug. At 15, Broton-Anderson is already a committed hunter.

MADDIE BROTON-ANDERSON: I love TO hunt because it's how I bond with my family. When someone hunts, it's like that's your time between you and nature. Nothing can beat that.

DAN GUNDERSON: Steve Pagel is President of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. And at 70, he's keen to sell a new generation on hunting and conservation. He's tickled to see more girls attending a camp that was once only boys. And this reflects a trend. More women are hunting in Minnesota.

STEVE PAGEL: We've had a lot of girls beat the boys. It's fun seeing that happen, when you get a girl that hasn't shot hardly at all. And the boy is a little bit on the cocky side, and the girl just smokes him.

DAN GUNDERSON: And more campers are coming with shooting skills even if they don't hunt. Miranda Danielson plans to go waterfowl hunting for the first time this fall. She took up trap shooting as a school sport a couple of years ago in Alexandria.

MIRANDA DANIELSON: I love it. It's my passion. I feel really comfortable. And it's something that I'm confident in.

DAN GUNDERSON: Danielson is so excited about shooting, she saved $1,000 last year to buy a shotgun.

MIRANDA DANIELSON: I've really put a lot into my shooting. But I love the outdoors too. So this camp is perfect because it's got a mix of the shooting. The outdoors.

There's waterfowl ID. And we're going to be banding ducks. It's awesome.

DAN GUNDERSON: That's just what the Waterfowl Association wants to hear. While the kids are having fun and getting excited about hunting, this is part of the group's grander mission to create the next generation of hunter conservationists. Covering the environment, Dan Gunderson. Minnesota Public Radio News, Fergus Falls.



Materials created/edited/published by Archive team as an assigned project during remote work period and in office during fiscal 2021-2022 period.

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