That’s what they are often called. They are old enough to defend our country in Afghanistan or Iraq, even old enough to wear bars on their collar as an officer, yet many elder duck hunters won’t even give them the time of day when it comes to moving to the next level of our sport.
I remember being 20 years old. I knew that I had a lot to learn, but I also knew I wasn’t a kid anymore either.
When it comes to social media and hunting, Twitter is something I value personally. I get Twitter. It’s fast and to the point.
Last year I began to notice something when surfing waterfowl accounts: there were tons of university students who were taking down ducks by the droves.
For some reason, I wanted to put a voice to that, because I genuinely believe that collegiate waterfowl hunters have a lot to offer. From that simple idea came the “Campus Waterfowl Project.”
Originally, the Campus Waterfowl Project was basically just an eBook highlighting collegiate hunters across America, but it quickly gained traction as something much more social and organic. The eBook put the spotlight on 14 hunters from 14 universities, with each hunter offering a duck hunting tip specific to the plight of the collegiate hunter. Upon completion, the eBook was published and sent out over the digital space via Twitter. Immediately students nationwide began talking about it in social media.
Knowing that there was more to this than just an eBook, an Instagram account was launched in November of 2014. In less than 11 months of the launch, @CampusWaterfowl currenly has over 17,000 collegiate waterfowl hunters engaging one another across the nation.
And that’s the idea behind Campus Waterfowl: to give a voice to the collegiate hunter.
A Case Study Of Credibility
Wesley Littlefield, the Southwestern Rep enrolled at Rogers State University in Oklahoma is genuinely responsible for the vast majority of early growth of the movement. He said, “It is not uncommon for collegiate hunters to be overlooked in our ability to hunt because we are young. When we created Campus Waterfowl we had one goal: to prove that the collegiate hunter does have a credible voice in the waterfowl community. People tend to forget we often have been waterfowl hunting since we were able to shoot a gun and have learned a thing or two from everyone around us.”
I suppose what impresses me most, as a 42 year old man with a ton of contacts within the waterfowl community, is that these collegiate hunters are incredibly savvy with finding a way to fill a tote strap. They are, in their own language, “legit” when it comes to bringing ducks to the ground with very limited access to property.
Derek Christians, the Northwest Rep from South Dakota State University, said, “All across the nation college students have the passion to hunt and spend time with their friends. Yes, the reason why we are in college is to get a degree, but you cannot keep a person from their lifestyle. Our education has carried us outside our home regions, which often means we are out of a place to hunt. And that translates into the simple reality that we have learned how to scratch out a limit on public land.”
That’s incredibly impressive to me as a veteran hunter. These young men have an insane work ethic when it comes to hunting and they will pay the price to beat you to the duck hole.
Then there’s the issues of calling. I’m telling you, from the time I’ve spent around college students, these guys can hold their own with just about anyone who can run a duck call.
Logan Smith, the Southeastern Conference Rep hailing from Mississippi State University, spoke to the lifestyle issues they face. “There is a lot that goes into being a collegiate hunter. Finding time to scout the perfect duck hole for you and your buddies to go to on opening day is tough, but because we love the outdoors so much we learn to balance school, work, and hunting all at once. Hunting is such a huge part of who I am, but having your priorities right and knowing that school comes first is a big deal. Hunting is not my first priority in my life, but it is most definitely a priority I will never lose.”
The Magnetic Roots Of Migration
Smith is correct. It is about priorities. I also think it’s about root systems. You can uproot a young man and sit him in a classroom on a campus far from home but the magnetic pull of the migration remains just the same. He’s going to find a way to get to a duck hole before exams start.
These young men are only months away from being our next sales agents in the hunting industry. They are just months away from being husbands, fathers, accountants, teachers, or even farmers; but, they are all conservationists today. They are living it, and living it now. And that deserves recognition.
Every passionate collegiate duck hunter out there today is tomorrow’s wetlands advocate with more purchasing power than they had just months before commencement. Every passionate collegiate duck hunter knee deep in the mud today will be chest deep in a career tomorrow.
And if you need living proof of just how fast that happens, one of our contributors to the original eBook is Lake Pickle, a Mississippi State student now working full time as a videographer for Primos.
A Freshman Class:
Every Year Since Forever.
These collegiate hunters aren’t going anyway. As for their voice, well just look at what’s happening with @CampusWaterfowl on Instagram. They’re growing by thousands of student-hunters a month.
One thing is for sure, they aren’t kids anymore. The future of hunting, and the hunting industry, needs them … now.
If you want to keep up with this campus movement, Mossberg is going to put the student-hunters front and center by a blog that runs this fall during duck season. It’ll launch in just a few weeks. One thing is for sure, it’ll be entertaining. I’ve learned that college students come up with some insane ways to kill ducks and geese!