Nathan Verdin’s love of hunting began at a young age when he shot his first deer as a 9-year-old. When a cousin was killed and another became disabled after an accident, Verdin turned to hunting to ease the pain.
Now he hopes to help others deal with tough life situations through the joy of duck hunting.
Verdin, 20, was recently featured in a TV show that followed a Canadian bear hunt he went on with his grandfather. During the five-day hunt, Verdin bagged a bear only thirty minutes before they were going to call off the hunt and head back home to Louisiana.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get one and it was great,” he said. “It was a huge bear. It was 410 pounds.”
Although he started off as a deer hunter, Verdin now calls himself a “waterfowl addict” and focuses mainly on duck hunting.
His passion for hunting runs so deep that he organized a group of local duck hunters into a non-profit organization to help disadvantaged youth and disabled hunters get into the outdoors. The goal of Taylor Waterfowl is to assist those who may have trouble accessing the outdoors or would not ordinarily have a chance to be exposed to hunting.
“When you take a kid out there hunting and you see the smile on his face, you can’t really compare it to anything else. I remember what it was like when I was young and I shot my first deer or duck. I remember it,” Verdin said. “I want to experience that again.”
Taylor Waterfowl was named in honor of Verdin’s cousin, Taylor Adams, who was killed in a home invasion in LaPlace in December 2010. In addition to Taylor’s death, another cousin fell off a roof and became paralyzed after breaking his back.
With the two events happening so close to one another, Taylor Waterfowl began as a community effort to help those less fortunate.
Inspired by the suffering of people he was so close to, Verdin felt called to help out in some way.
“I just feel like here I am blessed with a healthy body and I can do the things that I want to do. A lot of kids can’t do that. Disabled kids can’t just go out there on their own, so I feel it is my place to help them get out there and do that,” Verdin said.
Taylor Waterfowl hopes to transform the negative experiences in life into something positive.
“If I can look at the bad things that have happened in my life, maybe I can turn them around and make something good about them,” Verdin said. “We don’t want it to be a sob story. We want it to be as positive as possible, because we want that feeling from the people we take hunting. It is all about the smiles.”
Verdin said hunting kept his life from taking a negative turn and he feels that by introducing others to the activity he can positively contribute to society.
“We are going to try and target the less fortunate kids and get an idea of what we can do, even if they are troubled kids,” he said. “The way I look at it, hunting saved my life being that it kept me out of the streets and away from drugs.”
Over the past two duck seasons, Taylor Waterfowl has taken about a dozen children out on hunting trips.
“We are trying to start off with those we know who could benefit,” Verdin said, “We are teaching them the basics of hunting and basic life lessons. We are teaching them to have a mind of their own and be what you want to be.”
Despite their small start, the group has ambitious goals. They have grown steadily since their founding and have begun offering enough activities for youth that they are now starting a fundraising effort.
“We were taking kids and paying for them out of pocket. With the number now there is no way I could do it out of pocket myself and that is why we decided to make (Taylor Waterfowl) an official non-profit organization,” he said.
One of their main goals right now is to have a custom built boat that will allow for wheelchair access, but they are also hoping to make room to expand their youth hunt program.To assist in these efforts, Taylor Waterfowl will have a booth set up at the Louisiana Sportsman Show and Festival at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales from March 13-16.
At the show, the group will raffle off a guided hunt as well as several items donated to them by outdoor companies such as Fins and Feathers and Relixx Lanyards.
In addition, Verdin and other members of Taylor Waterfowl will educate hunters on the group’s goals.
“We will engage in face-to-face marketing and explain who we are and what we do. Hopefully it takes off from there,” he said.
Any guardian of a child or disabled hunter who would like to set up a hunt with Taylor Waterfowl, or those interested in donating to the non-profit, can contact Verdin by phone at (985) 722-7729 or by email here.
“Don’t hesitate to contact me. I am always willing to take phone calls and always willing to help out the best way I can,” Verdin said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: St. Charles Herald Guide reporter Kyle Barnett filed this report.