‘Ducks and Donuts’ Youth Hunt Opens Duck Season at OWMA

The Stoker family and Teegan Freeman enjoyed their time at the Ducks and Donuts event held Saturday morning. PHOTO BY STEPHANIE BUNKER/The Progress

There were a lot of donuts, even if the ducks were scarce on Saturday morning at the Overton Wildlife Management Area (OWMA). The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) brought the breakfast and a prize drawing to spice up the annual Youth Duck Hunt.

The event, being called “Ducks and Donuts”, started with a drawing at 4:00 am to help youth to get excited about participating in the duck hunt. Prizes included items related to duck hunting such as decoys and duck calls. Arms Corps Rock Island from Pahrump donated a shotgun to the event which was won by Moapa Valley’s own, Alyssa Vann.

NDOW brought a grill and equipment to cook a full breakfast for participants at the end of the hunt. “We have a small window of time when we can do our raffle before the youth go out on their hunt,” said NDOW Public Affairs Officer Doug Neilsen. “We want to make this event something they can remember and look forward to.”

The event is supported by businesses that donate funds for the breakfast and the raffle which has made this a successful and flourishing event. “Every year we have someone who shows up to donate,” Neilsen said. In fact, They even had a trap thrower donated last minute that morning.

OWMA is one of the only areas in the Nevada that has a youth hunt before the general season. “Adults can’t hunt yet so they can focus on helping the youth today and they aren’t worried about their own hunt,” said OWMA Manager Benny Vann.

Vann reported that the number of hunters has been steadily declining. NDOW and other entities are doing what they can to encourage and teach youth how to become interested in the sport.

According to Neilsen, the youth duck hunt in the past only gathered 3-4 youth. “Myself and my coworkers brainstormed some ideas on promoting the hunt and we came up with Ducks and Donuts,” he said. “We had 44 hunters and mentors show up that first year then 32 the next and after that COVID happened.”

This year the event held strong with 41 mentors and hunters participating. Vann has also seen a decrease in the number of ducks around the OWMA. “It was a tougher time this year,” he said. “The weather has been warm and the drought conditions poor. There has been a report of less numbers of first year birds up north, which are the type of birds harvested the most.”

Vann explained that the ducks won’t stop for water but continue their journey south. Vann mentored his daughter that Saturday morning of the hunt and said that she didn’t even get a shot off due to lack of birds. Possibly her luck just ran out after winning the shotgun at the raffle.

But not all the youth hunters got skunked in the hunt. There were a total of 12 birds harvested that morning. Mitchell Stoker had a great morning, he was positioned in a blind with his mentor Nick Gulli, his friend Beck Freeman and Becks dad Preston Freeman. Mitchell reported that he saw a lot of birds but many of them were flying high. He was able to harvest a bird called a Coot, and Beck harvested a Teal Green Wing duck.

This was Mitchell’s 4th year hunting duck but there is plenty to continue learning, he said. “I learned how to set decoys in the right places and how to tell what direction the wind is blowing,” Beck said.

He also said that he enjoys the “Ducks and Donuts event put on by NDOW. “I liked how last year they had a competition and gave out prizes,” he said. “It’s fun to hang out and I like that they let the youth shoot first.”