Living in Arkansas, it is easy to take for granted the state’s amazing outdoor and hunting opportunities. At any time you and your child can venture outdoors for some quality bonding time and experiences that many people outside of Arkansas could only dream of.
What’s hard to believe, and what many Arkansans don’t realize, though, is that thousands of children right here in the state still aren’t offered the opportunity to experience the state’s natural beauty or the chance to go on a quality Arkansas duck hunt.
Arkansas has an annual youth hunt, an attempt to do its part in providing this opportunity to the state’s youth. But all too often this isn’t enough.
A child participating in the youth hunt must have an adult who is not only willing to hunt, but also knowledgeable in the field. Often a lack of supplies, gear or clothing is the cause of a missed youth hunting opportunity.
There isn’t much the state can do about these instances. The issues are simply out of its hands.
So the question becomes: How do we as hunters do our part to help remove these obstacles for the youth in Arkansas?
Cody Alberson of McCrory had an idea.
Alberson founded The Muddy Bayou YoungGunz, an organization associated with the local Delta Waterfowl chapter in Northeast Arkansas. The organization is dedicated to removing the challenges that keep kids away from hunting and the outdoors.
“We encourage people to take a kid hunting, but not just your own. If you know of any kid that would like to go hunting, take them,” Alberson said.
The organization has taken a proactive stance on getting youth involved by organizing an annual Muddy Bayou youth hunt. The youth hunt, which enters its third year, is just one way Alberson has worked to increase youth involvement.
“I really want to focus on the kids who never get a chance to go hunting,” Alberson said. “There are a lot of kids out there that would enjoy experiencing the outdoors, but their parents have never hunted and, therefore, they aren’t equipped.”
For the hunt, each child is paired up with an adult volunteer.
“We want adults that know the benefits of teaching a child early about the outdoors, hunting and conservation. There are not only hunting lessons to be learned, but life lessons also,” said Alberson, who has made a career out of the lessons he has learned.
Of course, none of this is possible without backing. And Alberson has seen enough support in Arkansas — including help from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission — that he hopes to grow the event in other states.
Corporate sponsorship also has been a huge help. With equipment being the biggest challenge, donation of gear and apparel has been the toughest part of organizing the hunts. However, Drake Waterfowl has stepped up as main sponsor for the past several years, outfitting the youths head-to-toe with Drake gear — hats, boots, pants, coats and even underwear. Echo Calls also got in on the action, providing boxes of duck calls for the youths to use while in the blind.
“It is a great opportunity for these companies, to show how they support these youth at a young age,” Alberson said. “As they get older, the kids will remember that and support those brands.”
It’s not all about hunting for The Muddy Bayou YoungGunz. They have organized and participated in all kinds of conservation-related activities like duck-banding operations and hunter-safety instruction with AGFC. The organization believes that these types of events allow youngsters to form their own relationships with the outdoors and to see firsthand all that goes into making sure their kids have the right and the ability to hunt one day.
Alberson has big plans for the future of Muddy Bayou YoungGunz. He is looking to branch out to other Delta Waterfowl chapters and find additional support from adults, organizations and corporations.
“I know the bigger we grow, the harder it is for these companies and organizations to support so many kids, but we do not need to let that slow us down,” Alberson said. “What we can do is get enough people involved, raise money, keep making each kid’s wishes come true, and build a foundation for our future hunters.”
To learn more about Muddy Bayou YoungGunz, contact Cody Alberson at BDGOutfitters@Hotmail.com or (870) 351-0633.
Q&A with Cody
How did you learn about hunting and becoming active in the outdoors?
I was lucky to have a very “hardcore” hunting family. My grandpa, George “Mann” Alberson, was the start by teaching my father, and he then taught me. Right off, I was hooked. This eventually led to me wanting to help and show people the world I live in.
When did you get the idea of creating Muddy Bayou YoungGunz?
It was the kid coming out in me, and the passion for duck hunting. I was able to go along with the Arkansas Game & Fish [Commission] to assist in banding ducks. As the cannons went off and we started banding, I realized I was having a ball and was positive kids would love it, too. I always knew I wanted to be a part of introducing kids to the outdoors, and events like this would be a perfect opportunity.
What do you do for a career?
Since hunting is my passion, my career has always revolved around hunting. I am a freelance videographer for the Outdoor Channel. When I am not doing that, I am guiding duck hunts through my guide service, Bayou Deview Ducks. Also, I am a Pro Staffer for Drake Apparel. I love to hunt and to be outdoors so, needless to say, I love my job.