Equal-opportunity hunting

heron marsh
No, you don’t hunt herons. Or marshes. Or…youth.

At Heron Marsh in Henry County, children are welcome to hunt, but adults are not. This site is set aside exclusively for youth hunting—adults are there only to supervise. It wasn’t hunting season when I toured the site, but I could see the potential as a place for children to enjoy recreation, bond with friends and family, and perhaps learn a little about wetlands.

The property has a three-acre wetland situated in something of a bowl, bordered by the embankment for US highway 218. In fact, the wetland is a Department Of Transportation mitigation site for that road; the Highways people approached the County Conservation board for a partnership. I suppose the thinking is, if DOT is legally required to build a wetland, why not build one that will have other benefits as well? On the shore of the wetland is a blind, perfect for unobtrusive waiting on the waterfowl (another blind is located in an upland area, as well).

What blind? I don’t see any blind…

Wetland construction was unusual. A County Conservation Board official told me that 40 or 50 semi-truck loads (!!) of peat were brought in from Minnesota to raise the surface elevation of the substrate—a deep “borrow pit” had to be made shallow enough to function as a wetland, rather than a deepwater aquatic habitat (i.e., a pond). Apparently it worked, as a number of wetland plants (hydrophytes) are known to successfully grow there.

Classic bowl-shaped wetland…but not some kettlehole, it’s a borrow pit!

I didn’t see any amazing plants or animals on my visit, but the wetland—and large surrounding upland—are a fun walk nevertheless. Even better, I like the idea of this place: kids and their guardians enjoying spending time together. Parts of the site are even wheelchair-accessible, so kids who may be unable to enjoy other sports or outdoor activities could participate in this. Hunters bond over their experiences, and (hopefully) practice good observation and conservation skills, as well as harvesting game. I hope you agree that building a functional wetland, and encouraging the public to enjoy it, is something to admire. Have you hunted there, or know of other wetlands with unusual use? Please comment and share! Thanks for reading.

Author: Paul Weihe

Associate Professor of Biology at Central College, traditional author (Textbook of Limnology, Cole & Weihe, 5th ed.; Waveland Press), and now...blogger!

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