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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
RUBY LAKE NWR: Youth Waterfowl Expo a Major Success
Region 8, September 19, 2009
The smiles say it all, for these participants in the 2009 Youth Waterfowl Expo at Ruby Lake NWR. (photo: Rena Hanks, SCI )
The smiles say it all, for these participants in the 2009 Youth Waterfowl Expo at Ruby Lake NWR. (photo: Rena Hanks, SCI ) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Marti Collins, Ruby Lake NWR
The seventh annual Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge Youth Waterfowl Expo held on September 19, 2009, attracted 48 youth ranging in age from 9 to 17 and their families, a total of 150 people was a record attendance for this remote station.

The annual Expo introduces youngsters to the National Wildlife Refuge System, waterfowl, and waterfowl hunting and is conducted by refuge staff,  the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Safari Club International, Ducks Unlimited, and Elko County 4-H Shooting Sports.

The refuge hosts the largest population of nesting canvasback ducks west of the Mississippi River outside of Alaska.  It is visited by more than 220 species of birds, yet many Elko County residents are unaware of the wildlife observation and recreational opportunities the refuge provides.

The morning started with the participants heading to Brown Dike for duck banding, a clinic on duck decoys, and a workshop on firearm and boating safety.  Each of the youths got to help band a duck and then release it back into the wild.  For most of them, this was the first time they had held a live, wild bird.

While one of the groups was banding, another was introduced to the art of putting out decoy spreads for the purpose of bringing ducks into a blind.  They learned about the different types of decoys, decoy patterns, and blind placement.  A third group was being instructed in the four basic rules of firearm safety, boating safety, and how to get in and out of a boat safely with firearms.

Following these activities, a member of Ducks Unlimited gave a retrieving and dog handling demonstration.  In addition to having the dogs do a number of retrieves, dog training tips were provided and a number of questions from the group were answered.

Everyone then headed back to the refuge headquarters compound, where they were treated to a chili dog lunch, courtesy of Safari Club International.  After lunch, each houngster received a goody bag full of items, including a decoy, duck call, and lanyard.  The refuge wildlife biologist gave a duck calling demonstration, and each participant practiced their skills.  They then took part in a duck calling contest, which provided great entertainment for the onlookers.

The older youth then headed out to shoot trap with 4-H Shooting Sports and NDOW oversight.  The younger kids practiced on the 4-H Shooting Sports pellet gun range and LaserShot, an interactive computerized hunter education and shooting program

At the end of the day, a drawing was held for prizes and two lucky youngsters won shotguns provided by Ducks Unlimited and Safari Club International.  Everyone had a great time, and many positive comments were received.

The original intent was to mentor interested individuals by accompanying them in the field on the state-designated Youth Waterfowl Hunt Day the following weekend.  However, NDOW changed the date late in the summer to the first Saturday in October, and mentors had already made other hunting plans.  This is still the goal for next year.

Contact Info: Martha Collins, 775-779-2237, marti_collins@fws.gov