Jim Bennett

“It’s the oldest Duck Camp in the state.”  Paul Smith Outdoor Editor of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel gave us that title a couple years ago. This year’s 46th Annual Duck Camp gathered a group of waterfowlers aging from the age of 10 to 69 who pitched tents in northern Wisconsin to enjoy time together as friends, parents, kids and dogs. Great food ranging from Alaskan salmon to Duck Poppers, brined duck breast fillets wrapped in bacon cooked over an open fire to deep dish apple pie made the camp amazing; despite the fact we lost our cook.

Jon McCorkle age 71 had developed Parkinson a few months ago, a fairly debilitating level that has changed his life completely. Jon’s loss of balance, dizziness, the very obvious shaking along with driving restrictions has limited his livelihood keeping him from doing what he likes most. One of those things was Duck Camp. 

“I really miss the obvious things that the camp offers. The camaraderie, giving each other crap when they miss and congratulating them on good shooting and good dog work. I enjoy cooking and eating. We had some great meals up there. I miss the sounds at sunrise of geese and sandhill’s calling off in the distance,” added Jon.

Jon was and still is a hit with the kids and we have young hunters learning the art of waterfowling almost every year. “With Parkinson’s I’m right there with them. I can’t get my gun up like I used to. I’m slow moving around and fast flying ducks can catch you off guard. And who would want an old guy out there shaking and fumbling around with gun next to you?”

Jon said, “I remember when I was young and just becoming a good shot. I liked to hunt grouse, often with my dad who was a great shot. In many cases the fast flying flushed grouse would be barley off the ground before I’d shoot and bag the bird. I remember a time pheasant hunting with a group and flushing big rooster pheasants. I’d yell rooster and shoot before the other guys had their guns up. I was really fast. ”

Jon was happy to hear that young Mathew, 12 and Josh LeMay, 10 and their dad Chris, were out in t he marsh before dawn. Mathew in his 3rd year hunted out of Josh Bennett’s duck boat.  Josh LeMay, in his first year hunted with his father Chris in his duck boat. Hunting close together my son Josh told me, “You could tell Mathew was into his 3rd year. He knew what he was doing. Little Josh, as he is fondly called, struggled a bit to get his gun up, shoot and spot ducks. But he definitely dropped a bird and both boys fired over a box of shells with limited success but they were learning.”  That made Jon proud. The four brought back 21 out of a possible 24 bird limit.

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com

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