Testimonials and Press quotes:
"Wil- I just wanted to share with you some of the praise that I received for your wonderful tour. Everyone in attendance had nothing but great things to say about the trip- double rainbows, egrets, loons, eagles, etc. I don't know who I need to thank but I am sure you should be real close to the top. The board had an excellent quest!"
Bill Semion, for the Saginaw News 9/6/98:
"Lots of Michiganians spend hours driving to a remote corner of the state for a glimpse of an eagle perched above a beaver filled river, as deer romp through fields and ducks and geese call from nearby marshes. I did it five minutes from downtown Saginaw."
Janet Martineau, for the Saginaw News 5/23/98:
"In three hours, a stress filled week quickly vanished and a tranquility never known surfaced as calm waters, the quiet hum of a small boat, a warm spring day and the natural beauty of the Shiawassee Refuge worked magic."
"Bald Eagles soared overhead, so many of them it got a little monotonous."
Eric Sharp, for the Detroit Free Press 6/26/97:
Edward P. De Vries
"The 16-foot, flat bottomed boat turned into a side creek, and would have been easy to imagine we were in the Okefenokee Swamp or an unspoiled stream twisting through an Upper Peninsula Forest."
"If the DNR really wants to preserve Michigan's natural resources, it should offer the kind of program Wil Hufton does. If every Michigan resident got the opportunity to see, hear, feel and smell the fantastic places that we all own, we wouldn't have to worry about them."
Deputy Refuge Manager
Shiawassee and Michigan Island NWR's
"I have known Wil Hufton III for nearly 15 years through his eco-tourism business Johnny Panther Quest, a boat tour
operation which, in part, explores the backwaters and environs of the
Shiawassee River. Wil receives an annual Special Use Permit from our
office which allows him and his clients to enter specific, selected areas
of the refuge for wildlife viewing. I had the pleasure of accompanying Wil
on one of his trips last year and can tell you that he is a great
communicator. Although I get out on the river often on my own, I have to
say the trip with Wil was the most entertaining I can remember."
E.G. Paul 9/10/08
"A Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trip on the watershed of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most enjoyable and stimulating journeys to take. Any nature and wildlife lover will be overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring beauty of this "Everglades of Michigan" experience. Not only will you be mesmerized by the scenery and birds as you cruise on these waters but you will learn so much from your personable and knowledgeable guide, Wil. A unique encounter with nature awaits all who take this journey."
Hidden Jewel of Michigan.
Thurston Middle School 6/2011
I'd like to thank all of you for the recent Johnny Panther Quests Scholartrip on the Saginaw River and some of its many tributaries. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the richness of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and State Game Area with my students. What a unique experience for us all!
I appreciate Wil's professionalism and experience. He took time before the trip to answer all of my questions and worked with me on planning a time and day that would meet our needs. He also understood my request for all students to wear life jackets and he made sure to have enough child size life jackets available on the day of the trip. On the morning of the fieldtrip, Wil greeted us at the marina. The boat was waiting and Wil efficiently went over basic safety issues and helped us board the boat.
Once on the water, it was only minutes before two adult eagles were soaring in the sky above us. Wil was quick to point out this and other wildlife during our river adventure. During our trip, we spotted several eagles (both adult and immature), an eagle nest, red tailed hawks, deer (and a fawn), a muskrat, swans, geese, ducks, turtles, and even a few "mystery" animals! Wil always took time to answer questions and share his personal wildlife experiences with us. The kids loved seeing the wildlife and hearing Wil's tales. They were surprised that small birds will chase large eagles and that blue heron poop is acidic! We learn about acids and bases in 7th grade science class - I never thought that it would come up during a discussion while on a boat trip on the Shiawassee River! Yet that is just one example of what makes this trip a valuable learning experience. It is a great opportunity to use the amazing world around us to bring classroom learning to life.
In addition to information about the wildlife, Wil shared the history of the river and the surrounding land. I've taken boat trips up the Saginaw River to view wildlife, but they can't compare to a boat ride with a guide who knows the river and its history. From logging days of long ago to more recent issues dealing with water treatment facilities, Wil shares interesting stories that helped us understand the river as we see it today. After returning to school, I asked the students to share some of the information that they learned during the trip. There were many responses related to the river's use over time, current and past water quality issues, and the different colored sediment in the water from each tributary. Again, while topics such as point and non-point source pollution, erosion, and man's effect on the environment are all discussed in the classroom, it is a much richer experience when students can SEE the curriculum in the land and water around them. They will remember this trip more than they will remember any page in our science book!
As a science teacher, I want students to understand the natural world and to appreciate all that it offers us. I try to incorporate as many hands-on experiences in the classroom as I can. Yet, a field trip experience captures students' minds and engages them more than even our most interesting in-class experiments. However, due to lack of funds, it is rare that our students are able to take fieldtrips.The eight 7th graders who were part of the Scholartrip were the only students in the 7th grade to attend an educational fieldtrip this year. There are many wonderful educational opportunities in our area but most schools and families do not have the financial resources to take advantage of them. Your Scholartrip was a wonderful opportunity for students to take classroom learning out into the world around them. We are very thankful to all of you for making that opportunity available to us. The parent chaperones who also attended the fieldtrip were very impressed with the eco-tour. Our trip with Johnny Panther Quests was an experience that we will not forget. I hope many other students will have the opportunity to bring their classroom learning to life on a Johnny Panther Quests Eco-Tour.