If Elmer Fudd had attended a waterfowl hunting clinic like the one offered Saturday, he might have been dining on roast Daffy Duck.
The annual Juneau Waterfowlers' Fair and Shooting Clinic covers everything from luring ducks into range with decoys to shooting practice with flying clay pigeons. The clinic is timed to prepare hunters for the opening of duck hunting season Sept. 1.
Hundreds of hunters use the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge each fall, said Fish and Game biologist Neil Barten.
"It's probably the most heavily used wetlands in Southeast Alaska for waterfowl," Barten said. "It's really a nice area for hunters because they can get up in the morning and go hunting for an hour before work."
The wetland is also great for parents taking their children duck hunting, because it is so convenient. But the convenience comes with some limits. With homes along the edges of the wetland, duck hunters are on display.
"They're kind of hunting in a fish bowl and they really have to be ethical and they really have to be responsible when they pull the trigger," Barten said. "They really have to be extra careful about what's beyond their target."
Shotguns have a range of about 150 meters, so the shots rarely reach the edge of the wetlands, and if they do they are harmless, Barten said.
"Over the past couple years there's been a few times when a hunter shot a duck and a homeowner had a couple shells hit their roof," Barten said. "It's probably not a danger at that point, but it's kind of disconcerting."
Hunters will be reminded of the regulations for shooting in the wetlands. The shooting hours start a half hour before sunrise and go to sunset.
Matt Robus, the former area biologist, will talk about using decoys. By setting up decoys correctly, hunters can get clear shots within 25 to 30 meters, Barten said.
"You don't want to be shooting much further than 40 meters," Barten said.
Participants will sight on duck silhouettes set up at 20 yards, 30 yards and 40 yards so they can gauge the distance through the barrel. They will be able to try shooting with varying shot sizes, giving them an idea of the pattern the shot makes and how it hits the side of the duck. The more knowledgeable and effective hunters are, the less likely they are to wound a bird, Barten said.
Then participants will take aim at clay targets and flying clay pigeons.
"By the end of the day they've kind of covered all the gamuts," Barten said.
That should leave hunters prepared for the season opener. The first few days of duck hunting season are usually pretty good, as hunters go after birds born and raised on the wetlands, Barten said. When those birds get scared off, there's a short lag in the season. Then the migratory flocks come through on their way south.
This is the fifth year the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Juneau Gun Club have co-sponsored the waterfowl hunting clinic. The clinic starts at 9 a.m. at the Juneau Gun Club and costs $10.
Kristan Hutchison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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