Wood duck boxes: Cub Scouts work with Ducks Unlimited on the first boxes at Rainbow Scout Reservation

The South Suburban chapter of Ducks Unlimited worked with Cub Scouts on wood duck boxes for Rainbow Scout Reservation.

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Cub Scout Packs 99 and 270 and their completed wood duck boxes, with volunteers from the South Suburban chapter of Ducks Unlimited, at Rainbow Scout Reservation.

Dale Bowman

MORRIS, Ill.—I found it reassuring last Saturday when about 20 Cub Scouts poured out of the hall at Rainbow Scout Reservation after the serious business of building wood duck boxes, then spontaneously started throwing snowballs with some of the dads joining in.

Life should be lived.

Wally Klopp, the long-time force in the South Suburban chapter of Ducks Unlimited, invited me to come out to see the building of 15 wood duck boxes by Cub Scouts. The chapter approached the Scouts about doing the boxes.

“These will be the first duck boxes on the property.” said Rachel Wolverton of the Waapi Lenaswa District of the Rainbow Council. “It’s an awesome partnership.”

I would tend to agree with that assessment, given the question and answer session Klopp held with the Scouts before they began screwing together the boxes.

Rainbow Scout Reservation is a 737-acre preserve in Grundy County, a few miles southwest of Heidecke Lake, operated by the Rainbow Council. On Monday, the Boys Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Local councils have not filed for bankruptcy.

The questions from the Scouts to Klopp ranged all over, including how do the ducks get into the box (through the hole).

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Wally Klopp explains a wood duck box to Cub Scouts last Saturday at Rainbow Scout Reservation.

Dale Bowman

The completed boxes are put on poles, then a couple feet of metal predator guard is put under the box. Poles are preferred for the box placement, because if they are placed on trees, predator control is more difficult. The primary predators on wood duck boxes are snakes and skunks.

Klopp mentioned grease and Slinkys as other ways that people have predator guarded the poles. I had heard of grease but never of Slinkys, which made me envision a YouTube video of a skunk trying to climb the pole and getting Slinkyed (if that is a word).

Other ducks will use the boxes as well as other birds. Klopp said screech owls in particular are fond of using the boxes.

When the questions were done, the Scouts began screwing in 1 1/2-inch wood screws to put the pieces of the box together. Each box was cut from one 10 feet x 1 inch x 10 inch piece of pine.

“I did it one night when I couldn’t sleep and cut them up,” Klopp said.

The metal parts were donated by RoadSafe Traffic Systems in Romeoville, via Curt Haas.

When assembly began, I was at the back near Nicholas Carr, 8, and his dad Creig Carr of Plainfield. Nicholas was from Pack 99. The other pack in attendance was Pack 270. Carr made fast work putting the box together.

Christina Hinthorn, who has been the Pack 99 leader for the last three years, was there with her son Joshua, 8. She said most of the Scouts were around 8 and in third grade. With the building of the boxes, they fulfilled Baloo the Builder, one of the core adventure requirements in the Bear program of Cub Scouts.

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Cub Scout Joshua Hinthorn worked on putting together a wood duck box last Saturday for Rainbow Scout Reservation.

Dale Bowman

“You guys are our future,” Klopp said.

When assembly was completed, each kid put their name on the box. When the boxes are all put on poles, a map will be made with each pole marked on it, so the Scouts can find their box and take pictures in June.

Stephen Havera in his “Waterfowl of Illinois” tome wrote, “Wood Ducks initiate nesting in central Illinois in early March with peak initiation in April.” An average wood duck nest has a dozen eggs. (page 100)

Wood duck boxes have their roots in Illinois.

According to Ducks Unlimited, “In 1937, the U.S. Biological Survey (now the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) erected 486 bark-covered slab wooden boxes, which are thought to have been designed by biologists Gil Gigstead and Milford Smith at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in central Illinois. . . . Over the next two years, Arthur Hawkins and renowned wood duck expert Frank Bellrose erected 700 rough-cut cypress board boxes throughout Illinois. More than half were used by `woodies,’ revealing the great management potential of the boxes.”

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Volunteers from the South Suburban chapter of Ducks Unlimited install one of the wood duck boxes put together by Cub Scouts last Saturday at Rainbow Scout Reservation.

Dale Bowman

As the DU volunteers walked the group out to watch the installation of one box on a pole, a cavity in a tree was pointed out as the sort of nesting spot favored by wood ducks. Klopp said he has a box in his yard and he gets wood ducks every year.

Clapping and cheers went up as mounting the box was finished, then the group tramped back through the snow to the hall.

As DU volunteers cleaned up and the Scouts moved on to their next project, Klopp said, “We’re getting up there. I will never see all the benefits of this, but these kids will.”

Click here for more on wood duck boxes from Ducks Unlimited.

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The first installed wood duck box at Rainbow Scout Reservation.

Dale Bowman

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