Lancaster Chapter Delivers Personal Experience for New Hunter

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An aspiring waterfowler connects with her late grandfather’s passion for duck hunting.

NEW HOLLAND, PA—Angelina Sweigart, an 18-year-old from southeastern Pennsylvania, always planned to experience her first duck hunt at her grandfather’s reassuring side, but in life’s puzzling way, those plans were dashed. Yet, in January of 2023, Sweigart would find herself cutting through the tides headed to an A-frame blind upon the same waters where her late grandfather had made a million cherished memories—the same place where her family had scattered his ashes not long before.

Angelina Sweigart prepares for the Hunt for her first duck, a hunt to honor her grandfather.

Angelina Sweigart prepares for the Hunt for her first duck, a hunt to honor her grandfather.

No ducks folded that day, yet Sweigart spent her first duck hunt as close to her “Pop Pop” as she could get, wrapped in the warmth and support of her Delta Waterfowl family—and making cherished memories of her own.

“Her grandfather, Fritz Meck, hunted with my grandfather, and I remember hunting around Fritz when I was a tyke … and I am old!” said Matt Kneisley, Delta Waterfowl regional director for the northeast Atlantic. “Fritz was heavily involved with our (Delta) Lancaster Chapter. He would bring both his granddaughters and Judy (their grandmother) to all of our youth events and to every dinner. He was a huge supporter of Delta Waterfowl.”

The arrangements began at the Lancaster Chapter’s event banquet in February, at which time Sweigart and Judy Meck were presented with a hand-carved decoy signed by the chapter members and inscribed, “In loving memory of Pop Pop.” Upon presentation of the heartfelt gift, which brought them both to tears, Sweigart asked Kneisley to take her on her very first duck hunt. He accepted the invitation wholeheartedly.

“Her Pop Pop was undoubtedly smiling down on both of us,” he said.

From there arrangements began to fall into place. The community, Judy Meck, an array of decoy carvers, local businesses such as S&S Guns and Ammo and The Gun Pantry, and members of two different Delta Waterfowl chapters came together in preparation as if Sweigart is among their own family, which in a way she is.

Hunter safety training—check. Gear—check. Safe shooting practice—check.

Angelina Sweigart's gift from Delta's Lancaster Chapter, her gun in memory of Pop-pop.

Angelina Sweigart’s gift from Delta’s Lancaster Chapter, her gun in memory of Pop-pop.

Kneisley, among others, pulled together the finishing touches, all gathering the night before at Meck’s “Duck Shack.” A family friend, Harold J. Warner, also joined them with his boat and an array of carefully handcrafted decoys to add to the old school spread. With anticipation, the group handed Sweigart her surprise: A Delta blind bag and her very own gun, a 20-gauge Retay semi-auto with custom engraving reading, “In Loving Memory of Pop Pop,” donated by another local business and Delta supporter.

“They surprised me with the engraving for the first hunt,” Sweigart recalled. “In memory of my grandfather.”

Before the sun had thoughts of rising, it was go-time. The group guided the boat to her grandfather’s tried-and-true hunting hole where—although he was no longer physically present—she would share her first duck hunt with him. Though the ducks didn’t cooperate, she left with two hand-carved decoys to begin her own collection—gifted by Kneisley and Shawn Benner—and a shared love for her Pop Pop’s favorite pastime.

“I am so thankful for all the hands that helped in putting this together,” said Judy Meck. “Just because there were no ducks (taken) did not take away anything from this wonderful experience.”

Sweigart is a full-time college student at Harrisburg Area Community College, where she is focusing on a career in dental hygiene and hopes to make it back out into the duck blind next fall. Kneisley noted personal plans to make this an annual event, teaching Sweigart the waterfowling way and honoring Meck.

“I want to say thank you—I appreciate all of the support, help, and just guidance and putting all this effort into taking me on my first hunt,” Sweigart said. “It was definitely a lot more than I expected, but it was awesome in the end.”—Christy Sweigart (The author is not a known relative of Angelina Sweigart)

Angelina Sweigart, during her hunt to honor her grandfather and longtime Delta Water supporter.

Angelina Sweigart, during her hunt to honor her grandfather and longtime Delta Water supporter.