Youth bag first deer in county hunting grounds
It's the love of hunting, being passed from a father to his sons.
It's the desire of members of a local organization to make a difference.
And it's the vision of county commissioners to see wasteland turned into something more.
That's what's happening at the former Marion County Landfill site.
An area around the former landfill, which isn't good for much else, is being used for hunting.
For Adam and Aaron Molleker of Marion, they have had some of their best memories of hunting in that wasteland.
It worked out incredibly well when dad Don Molleker took his two eldest children to the area around 3:45 p.m. Dec. 2, and barely 20 minutes later, Adam shot his first deer — a good-sized doe about 20 yards out. Fifty minutes later Aaron shot a buck about 25 yards away, the second of his young career as a hunter.
Both boys were able to kill the deer with one shot each, sharing a gun.
Don has always emphasized gun safety and the boys shot targets before going out "for real."
The trio was at the county hunting refuge a week earlier and saw one buck that day. The boys couldn't get a clean shot so the deer got a "free pass" that particular day.
Ironically enough, the two deer that the young hunters bagged Dec. 2, were the only ones they saw during their outing.
"This one was smaller," Aaron said, comparing the buck to one he shot last year. Adam was quick to say that his doe was larger than Aaron's buck that was shot this year.
As part of the hunting experience and responsibility, the boys helped their dad field dress the deer before taking them home to finish processing.
"I want them to learn every aspect of hunting," Don said, particularly the responsibility of shoot to eat and eat everything they shoot.
In the end, 50 to 60 pounds of meat was processed from the two deer.
An avid and responsible hunter in his own right, Don said it is important to teach youth the proper way to hunt with safety being the first and most important aspect.
While hunting, the boys share one gun, a .243 Winchester, Don explained. "It works pretty well because Adam is left-handed and Aaron is right-handed."
It also is a test of patience, waiting for the deer to come out and waiting for the best possible clean shot.
The idea of a special hunting area all came about several years ago when Marion County Commissioners wanted the closed and sealed former landfill site to be something more than wasted land.
Marion County Quail Forever stepped up and offered to get a youth and disabled hunting program started. Hunters are not allowed to hunt on the cap or the actual landfill but there is plenty of acreage around for quail, pheasant, and deer hunting.
"We planted food plots, had a spring burning in 2006, and mowed a shooting range," member Bill Shirley said.
Not wanting to overcrowd the field and for ease of scheduling, a total of five hunters were given permission and access to hunt for birds and deer.
The criteria requires the youth hunters to be 16 years of age and younger, or any disabled person. Even though the hunter education course is not required for youth 16 and younger, the organization requires it for youth to hunt on the county property.
Hunters could apply to hunt this past season through the Marion County web site.
"We held a drawing, like a lottery, to determine dates," member Dale Ehlers said. Bird hunters had two days and deer hunters had one.
Blinds, which are small camouflage-colored huts with an opening for shooting, were borrowed from hunting sites at Marion Reservoir. Hunters are required to be in a blind to assure safety as well as provide cover.
The bird hunters didn't fare as well as deer hunters like the Mollekers, with far more deer sighted than birds.
"We might let the bird hunters back in later on when the season opens up again," Ehlers said.
The boys are proud of their hunting skills they have learned from their father.
"It takes more than a safety class for youth to learn the proper way to hunt," Don said. "It takes time. It continues to be a learning process."
Don first took Adam hunting five years ago. Aaron has been hunting for three years.
"Parents need to remind their kids about safety," Don said.
Don particularly commends the commission for allowing youth and disabled hunting.
"Otherwise the kids and others are competing against adults," Don said.
Next year Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will take over the operation of the hunting area but the purpose will remain for youth and disabled.
As for Adam and Aaron, their experiences will be with them forever, drawing on them when they take their children hunting.