The California Waterfowl Association hosts many hunting heritage camps and clinics each year, but one of the most stand out of the program is the weekend hunter camp held at Rancho Esquon in Durham, California. If you have never had the opportunity to step foot on this ranch in the heart of rice country, you are missing out. Not to mention the pristine natural habitat wetland inside the property. It is simply amazing to see. The ranch is also home to the Larry E. Merlo Education Center with a mission to teach as many youth as possible about our hunting heritage and the ranch makes the perfect setting to do just that!
In fact, I think so highly of this Hunter Ed Camp that I paid for Quinn to attend it last year, even though she had already earned her hunter’s education certification and had even already harvested her first buck! So why would I send her? Because I knew she would thrive with the hands on approach to learning while increasing her confidence as a hunter! I could tell you all about it from my Camp Mom point of view, but I’ve opted to have Quinn write about her experience herself and share it here for all of you to share with your own kiddos that may also thrive by attending a camp like this.
This year’s camp will be held the Weekend of May 19 – 20th and the deadline to register is quickly approaching. The camp is geared for youth ages 10-17 and there are also opportunities for Camp Moms / Dads to attend as helpers / students. Click here to register or find out more information!
And now I’ll pass the mic to Quinn…
…The Rancho Esquon hunting camp was a wonderful experience. It was very hands on and I learned a lot from the instructors. All the courses between the classroom, car rides, and the shooting ranges were an all around great time. I made so many friends and was really excited to be along the side of my friend, Swaisy, as she was introduced to the outdoors.
Just on the way there sitting in the car with Swaisy laughing about life and things, I remember how nervous I was to be going to a camp for a couple of days with only two people that I knew, my mom and Swaisy. When I got there I was super excited to get into all the things that we were going to do that weekend. We had our first session which was class. We spent that introducing everyone to the basic guidelines to hunter safety. I had already taken and passed my hunter safety exam a year prior, so I already knew most of the material the instructor was discussing, but like he told me, it’s always good to touch up on things to remember how to be an ethical hunter.
The next morning we loaded up in the car and headed to the range to do some archery, skeet shooting, and rifle shooting. The car ride there was probably one of the times I laughed the most hard. Everyone was having so much blasting the radio as we sang and drove by a whole bunch of rice fields that had a whole bunch of ducks in the fields and It was quite a wonderful site to see especially for the kids that haven’t had the opportunity to see that site before. I had a rough time at archery because I had not shot my bow at home for a while but it was great practice. Then we moved to the skeet shooting course, I was also a little rocky with that but finally got the hang of it and ended up doing a pretty good job. Finally, we went to shoot rifles. They were just simple air rifles which I was already pretty familiar with because I shoot air rifles at competitions for my 4-H club. Let’s just say by the time I was done the center of the target had quite a few holes in it.
After, we got to come back to camp for rest time. The girls had super nice cabins with really nice bathrooms and showers. We got to play games and goof off for a while until it was time for class. There is a lot of class time and it may seem super boring but it also is fun because if you answer a question right you can get a treat like an Oreo or something yummy.
We went to the hatchery the next morning. I had been there a ton of times due to my mom’s job; I would go help her band ducks when she needed help. Even though I had been too the hatchery I had super fun with my new friends there. We got to help band ducks and record if they were a boy or girl. All that was super fun but the smell isn’t great. Ducks are stinky! After we banded all the ducks we got to go release them out at the wetland part of Rancho Esquon. It was super cool to see how the ducks automatically connect to the wild when we released them. It was also cool to see some of the beautiful parts of the Rancho Esquon ranch.
Since everyone felt a little pressured with the test we had lightened things up with an archery competition beforehand. It was where you had to run to the trees and back then shoot at the target that had money filled balloons attached to the target and if you shot the balloon and popped it you got the money that was inside it. Swaisy and I went up against each other for some friendly competition. She won and got her first “buck.” Get it?
Then came the test, I was super nervous for Swaisy because if she didn’t pass I knew she would be pretty upset. Like I said I already had taken the test but I took it again just to see if I still remembered everything. When everyone finished the test, we had a duck identifying class while the tests were being gone over. When all the test scores were in, our instructor was calling off the names of all the kids that had passed the test. I was really nervous for Swaisy. The instructor was getting to about the last few cards and he still hadn’t called Swaisy, so I was really scared that she wouldn’t get it. When he finally reached the last card he had called Swaisy’s name and I was so happy for her. I immediately gave her a hug and told her, “Congrats!” I was super happy because I finally had a hunting partner and couldn’t wait to go hunting with her soon.