By Chris Hauff
MCCLELLANVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) – Eighth grader Hannah Lurcach is usually tucked warm in her bed on Saturday mornings around 3 a.m., but the first weekend in December was different.
She had already been up for hours preparing for what could be one of the most memorable days of her life.
"Hopefully I'm going to shoot my first duck," she said as the hunt began.
Hannah Lurach was picked from a pool of more than 3,500 applicants to participate in a special duck hunt offered by the Department of Natural Resources at McClellanville's Santee Coastal Reserve.
"A lot of people at my school hunt. I was like bragging about it," Lurcach said. "I was like 'oh, you don't get to go with me."'
Not long after arriving at the reserve last Saturday morning, Hanna drew a ping pong ball from Greg Lynch, the DNR biologist in charge of organizing the hunt. Written on the ball was a number corresponding to the duck blind Lurcach would spend her morning hunting in.
After Lurcach and 25 other kids were prepped by Lynch, they were out the door and loading up gear into the back of a truck trailer built similar to a hay ride. Once all the gear was packed, the kids and their parents were dropped off at their drawn locations where they boarded jon boats and took off in the dark towards the blinds.
As the sun heated up the cold morning, and light began to sneak up over the water, anticipation grew for the children on the hunt. Who would take the first shot?
Shooting time was right around 6:45 a.m., and those hunting didn't wait any longer to pull the trigger. Gun fire rang as ducks circled around the sky. It would carry on in a steady fashion for nearly an hour.
"The boat ride over there is really cool because you get excited," Lurcach said. "You get to sit there and look good and see God's creations."
According to Lynch, the two hunts like this one offered every year are really one-of-a-kind.
"The neatest things about these are that it's a really quality hunt. It's something that you can't do inside S.C. unless you're a really wealthy land owner," Lynch said.
Lynch says it's important for the state to offer programs like this. He says it helps keep and build interest in the outdoors.
"We have kids that come out of here with their limit of birds," Lynch said. "Others, it's their first time out here."
And although it was Hannah's first time, it didn't stop her from getting what she came for.
"I got my first duck. It's a Gadwall," she said.
Lurcach's excitement was written all over her face, a smile from ear-to-ear as she climbed back in the truck trailer after the hunt was over, carrying her duck.
"It was getting towards the end, and I was kind of bummed out. I didn't get nothing. But then it came and I shot it. I was so happy. I think I jumped up and down and made the whole boat shake," she said.
Lurcach's first time was definitely one she won't forget, and that's the goal for Greg Lynch and DNR. In the past few years the number of applicants has gone through the roof, in many cases setting records.
This specific hunt took place in the break between the first and second halves of the 2011 S.C. duck season. During that time it's illegal to hunt certain waterfowl, unless you are a child participating in one of the statewide hunts.
If you'd like to submit your child for a hunt, click here. At the site you can find all the information including where and when the hunts are offered.