SHOOTING CLAYS TO PRESERVE WETLANDS

Clay-trap shooters gathered at  Rumson Country Club’s shooting range for the event, a fundraiser hosted by Ducks Unlimited. (Photos by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By STEPHANIE SCHROEPFER

A misty fog offered the perfect hunting-in-the-field vibe for nearly 50 enthusiasts who gathered for a trap-shooting event at the Rumson Country Club Saturday.

Shotgun blasts broke the morning calm as 47 participants took turns firing at orange discs lofted into the air at the the Monmouth County chapter of Ducks Unlimited‘s third annual clay shoot, a fundraiser for the conservation and maintenance of North American wetlands.

The clay shoot and the other charitable events Ducks Unlimited sponsors create opportunities for shooters and hunters to put money back into the wetlands, said state chairman Scott Paterson, a Rumson police lieutenant. Funds raised from entry fees and raffles will be dedicated to conservation efforts, he said.

“Hunters give back more than anybody,” Paterson said. “Trap and skeet shooters too, but we take, take, take, and we need to give back.”

Anyone who has hunted “at one point feels the need to give something back,” said Craig Widmaier of Red Bank, treasurer of the Monmouth County unit.

“This is strictly a grassroots and volunteer effort for habitat and wetland conservation,” one that has grown exponentially as Ducks Unlimited is now an international organization in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, Widmaier said.

Paterson, Widmaier and Monmouth County chairwoman Anne Pfaff have racked up a combined 50 years volunteering with Ducks Unlimited. The event, and the organizations’s mission, made for “a natural fit,” Pfaff said, as she ran around organizing shooting squads on the range’s blacktop surface.

Each shooter got three rounds of 25 clays, and chances at individual and team prizes. Raffle merchandise included prints, hand-carved shore birds and decoys by Anthony Ciambrone.

Paterson is also planning a spring shoreline clean-up in coming weeks with help from Ducks Unlimited and students from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, he said. Volunteers will find contact info on the Ducks Unlimited website.