Hello friends

Kids And Mentors Outdoors (KAMO) is an organization that was started through this column in 2007 and has since grown to seven chapters throughout Wisconsin. Our goal is to not only introduce kids to the outdoors, but continue the process with follow-up experiences. We do this with one-on-one mentoring and group events.

This week’s column is about a recent outing where two freshmen from Auburndale High School — Breanna Brandl and Dylan Hart — went on their first duck hunt with two members of the Marsh/Point Chapter of KAMO. It’s KAMO’s newest chapter, which is located in the Marshfield and Stevens Point region. The group holds its meetings at the visitors center at the Meade Wildlife Area.

Saturday, Sept. 16

High 85, low 63

Ben Gruber is a paramedic who works in Nekoosa, and Marlon Marks is a firefighter and paramedic for Wausau. Today would be Marlon’s first waterfowl hunt, just like Dylan and Breanna, but Marlon would strictly be a helper and observer.

We met at 5 a.m. on a marsh in Wood County where I have a bear bait and have been watching lots of ducks for the last two months.

My golden retriever Fire and her pup Ruby would be fetching the kids’ ducks, if they should be fortunate enough to harvest one.

On Thursday evening, Ben, who is the president of the Marsh/Point Chapter, taught Dylan and Breanna how to operate and shoot a shotgun. These two kids have been classmates for most of their lives and they did not know they would be hunting together until Thursday.

In KAMO we try to make everything fun and educational, and this morning would be both, as we took two canoes on a short journey in the dark and then set out our decoys. Everyone had chest waders and was an active participant, not just an observer.

After our decoys were set, we had about 20 minutes before night became day. We talked about dogs, fishing, ducks and the peace and quiet before daybreak.

I learned that Breanna loves to fish walleye on Lake Nekoosa, and that both Dylan and Breanna both have rottweilers.

Ben is a very skilled duck hunter, and like myself, is well aware that first-time duck hunters generally are not quick enough to shoot at a duck, much less hit one on their first hunt.

Ruby is a year old now, and is as crazy as she is full of love. She seemed to want to sit on Dylan’s lap a lot.

There were lots of wood ducks that would fly by us frequently, and in almost every case, the kids did not shoot because the experience happened so fast, but it was obvious that everyone was having a very good time.

We were all sitting and hiding next to two canoes when three woodies buzzed us from out of nowhere. Dylan got his gun up quick enough this time, fired his first shot ever at a duck, and low and behold, it dropped out of the sky.

Ruby exploded like a field trial champion, swam to it and brought it to my hand. Just like that, Dylan Hart bagged a beautiful drake wood duck.

Let me tell you about KAMO. We are trying to make a difference in Wisconsin’s outdoor experiences for kids and thankfully we are getting the job done. Everything from insurance, to a board of directors, to a 501(c), to bylaws and a background-check policy has been taken care. Like so many volunteer organizations, what we could really use is more mentors, and in some cases more kids. And as crazy as this sounds, KAMO is eager to start more chapters.

The sky is the limit, and by that I mean KAMO is not just about hunting and fishing. So if you want to join or know a kid that could use some outdoor experiences, check us out at www.kamokids.org.

Folks throughout Wisconsin in locations like Ladysmith, Poynette, La Crosse, Marshfield, New Lisbon, Wisconsin Dells and Florence have established KAMO chapters. Please checkout our website and become a part of KAMO.