Local Families Continue Waterfowl Traditions

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In February, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife held one of two special youth waterfowl hunting days to encourage families to introduce the next generation to the sport. For Hank Draper of Milford, these occasions offer him another opportunity to pass down a tradition that he shared with his father throughout his life. He remembers joining in on the hunt as young as six years old as his first job was to help set up decoys. As he got older he helped retrieve ducks and at age seven had the opportunity to shoot his first duck on his own.

“I really enjoyed spending that time with my Dad, he was a hard working business man and often very stressed out,” said Hank. “That was our time together and looking back that was one of the biggest drivers in our relationship.” 

Tom Draper, a pioneer in the media business here on Delmarva owned WBOC and Draper Holdings LLC. He was one of the founding members of the Bombay Hunt Club in Leipsic, DE in 1979. The organization aimed to create waterfowl habitat and preserve acres of wetlands. Although the sport was part of the fun, Hank remembers that “The real memories were the camaraderie, sharing the tradition and the heritage.”

Three years ago Hank introduced his son Thomas, now 9, to waterfowl hunting. Shooting his first duck on his own last year, the pair joined other families on February 10 as they continued the tradition of the youth hunting day. “When I was a kid there were not so many competing things like video games, electronic devices and sports that were so involved,” said Hank. “I wanted him to get outdoors and be a part of something that man has done since the beginning of time. It is quite an experience to sit there and watch the world awake before the sun rise while listening to the sounds of nature, the wind whistling through wings overhead and geese in the distance.”

More than just the techniques, Hank hopes to pass down the disciplines his father taught him during their times in nature including the patience of waiting for the right shot. One challenge he is teaching his son is to try to shoot only drakes. In showing self-restraint he can ensure that the females live on to continue to produce more ducks for generations of hunters. It’s one of many ways to give back to the resource.

After each hunt, the family prepares the ducks and carry on the tradition of “use what you take.” The ducks are used for several family meals a week during the hunting season as well as frozen to accommodate meals outside the 60 day hunting season. With an increase in families wanting their food to be organic and free-range, Hank states that it “does not get any fresher than going out and shooting wild game.”

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