For students whose childhood was filled with decoys and duck hunting, Harding has provided a chance to continue the tradition. At Harding, the Ducks Unlimited university chapter is devoted to continuing the tradition of duck hunting.
The shockingly low number of birds made this season particularly hard for duck hunters, according to junior Ducks Unlimited co-founder, Ross Edwards, who said the warm winter has prevented the birds from migrating south this season. Edwards knew the conditions of the land in Arkansas were ideal based upon his knowledge of conservation, but the weather has caused record lows.
“Bird-wise, this has been the lowest number of ducks killed in years for me,” sophomore Caleb Payne said.
Senior Riley Smith said despite her expectations not being met, she does not recount this season as being a failure. The general consensus among most student hunters is that the experience of hunting trumps the number of ducks killed in a season.
“I really enjoy the peace that I find when I’m out in the woods or the duck blind,” Smith said. “Just being able to watch the sun rise and set puts things into perspective for me, and gives my mind a break from technology.”
When life at school becomes frantic, these students find their sanctuary in the woods. Edwards said one of the main reasons he came to Harding was for the vast hunting opportunities near Searcy. Within an hour of Harding’s campus lies thousands of acres of land on which students can hunt, providing endless occasions to come together and hunt waterfowl.
“I love the moments leading up the hunt, like cooking breakfast in the woods before the sun rises,” Edwards said. “Just spending time with people who have the same desire to call in ducks is what I appreciate the most about the experience.”
Harding is very accommodating to outdoor lifestyles from providing hunter’s education programs to storage for hunting equipment through the office of Public Safety. Despite this season ending, hunters are already preparing their strategies for next season, and the Ducks Unlimited chapter at Harding is still growing.
“We’re a group of mostly hunters, and we’ll be happy to take new people any time we can,”Edwards said.“That’s a part of the experience, teaching others about our sport.”