A high school senior project 11 years ago has catapulted into a thriving outdoor business for a Dunn family.
Starting with 20 mallards, the family now offers duck and quail hunting and a number of shooting venues on its 118 acre farm in Harnett County.
Mother, father, daughter and son are each a part of the enterprise known as H2O Fowl Farms. Each also maintains full-time duties outside the farm. The father, Andy Howard, is a purchasing agent and manager at an electric cooperative. Son, Drew, builds houses in the Raleigh area. Daughter, Holly, is a nursing student at the Duke University School of Nursing. And mother, Shari, is deputy director of human resources for the state.
When Drew was a senior at Triton High School, he decided to raise some ducks for a school Future Farmers of America project.
“It slowly evolved into the business by combining that small purchase of 20 mallards and our passion for hunting,” Drew said. “The overhead cost was minimal to begin with but grew over the years along with the business. Like many businesses we had to figure it out as we went along, and it was a great experience to be a part of.”
Duck and quail season at H2O Fowl runs from October through March. Several duck impoundments are planted with corn or millet along with a 3-acre pond.
“You hunt from one of our five stationary blinds or in our portable duck blind,” Andy said. “We also offer blinds that are handicap/wheelchair accessible.”
The farm also is home to two Labs and three English pointers.
Hunting heritage runs strong in the Howard family history.
“I grew up in a family that hunted,” Andy said. “I have been hunting since I was 12 years old. I started off rabbit hunting with my uncle and his dogs, and I started waterfowl hunting at 14.”
Holly, 23, plans to work in an acute care setting as a registered nurse.
“At a very young age, the love and respect for the outdoors and wildlife was instilled in me,” she said. “My dad and brother were great role models for me growing up, teaching me the importance of wildlife conservation. I have the utmost respect for all wildlife and the role it plays in our environment. What I enjoy most is my time spent hunting with my dad.…”
Holly finds waterfowl hunting a way to break the stress of her studies. She expects to be home on break from Duke during the waterfowl season. She guides, schedules hunts and prepares for hunters with special needs.
“If we have someone coming with any sort of disability or special situation that calls for adaption, then I will take the steps needed to suit their needs,” she said. “We encourage people of all ages and abilities to hunt with us. … It is a privilege to make these special hunting experiences happen.…”
Drew, 28, started guiding waterfowl hunts when he was 16. Now his time is limited to attending special functions on the farm.
Drew’s school project that sparked the business grew out of his love for the outdoors.
“Our love for hunting and the outdoors played a major role in the selection of this project,” he said. “If I had to do something for school I always liked to make it interesting and incorporate something I love in the mix.… Nature and the outdoors teaches you lessons you just can’t get in any other facet of life.”
Drew gives most of the credit for the business to his dad.
“This was all possible due to his support and hard work,” Drew said. “The people we get to meet and the smiles on their faces make what we do amazing. Also creating a business from nothing feels pretty amazing.”
The quail hunting part of the operation started six years ago followed by the shooting range four years ago. Included are a skeet range, pistol and rifle bays, shooting matches and concealed carry classes.
Law enforcement and the military use the facility for training, and 4H clubs and the local high school practice on the range. Fundraising shooting matches are held with local groups such as Toys for Tots. H2O partners with Freedom Alliance and Quail Unlimited to provide hunting for military wounded during active duty.