Just a small town girl living in Barlow, Kentucky with a 150 acre farm and big plans. Waterfowl hunting is a sport that’s either loved or never tried again. The love/hate relationship may lie in the hands of the teacher.
On the one hand, duck season takes place during the winter months when it’s cold, damp, and generally miserable. Much time is spent in the mud and the muck. The hours are long and feelings of being cold, wet, and tired are likely to be experienced at the same time. On the other hand, if there’s a proper guide that leads you to the ducks, shares the ethereal beauty of the sunrise in the wee hours of the morning, and encourages the challenge of the hunt, it could be the best time of your life.
Desiree Owen and partner David Jones bought a farm in the Barlow River Bottoms five years ago with development plans for premier waterfowl hunting. This isn’t the first time Owen has ventured out in favor of unconventional and ‘out of the box’ career moves.
“I was fortunate to grow up in such a beautiful area where you could enjoy lake life and farm life.” said Owen. A native of Lyon County, Kentucky, Owen enjoyed both boating and horseback riding growing up. Her mom had been a teacher for the Lyon County Schools for 28 years. In this western Kentucky county, Owen received a well-rounded education in life.
Her dad was very interested in the events of the day. “My father read two newspapers everyday as well as two weekly news magazines...I ensured that I did too.” Owen said she knew at 15 years old she wanted a career in broadcast journalism.
In addition to being an avid reader, Owen took dance lessons and twirled a baton for many years. She was involved in beauty pageants and was the Captain on the Drill Team at Lyon County High School. After graduating, Owen went to Murray State University to pursue a career in news.
Majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science and advertising, Owen was making all the right moves to prepare herself for her dream job. There were several professors and mentors that looked out for Owen and encouraged her to go after what she wanted.
While at MSU, Owen was on the Homecoming Queen Court furthering her allure to the beauty pageant world. As a former beauty queen, she worked as a consultant to other beauty pageant contestants. From time to time Owen sat in the judges seat at various local beauty pageants. But the world of pageantry was only a stepping stone to a bigger fascination with using its platform to delve into politics. Those political interests led her to join the Kentucky Young Democrats.
Owen's first job after graduating college was with the radio station in Paducah, WKYX/WKYQ. “I answered an ad for a sales job but the owner of Bristol Broadcasting made a rare visit to Paducah and sat in on my interview. He told the GM to ‘put her on the air’.” They offered the Lake Patrol position.
It made sense, Owen was from Lyon County. The county’s two tourist towns Eddyville and Kuttawa are both located on Lake Barkley. Approximately one-third of Lyon County lies in the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area. LBL offers a wide range of attractions including hunting, boating, fishing, bird and wildlife watching just to name a few.
The Lake Patrol broadcast started with a couple of disc jockeys making small talk on the radio about lake events. Owen decided to make it her own. She reported on fishing, lake festivals, interviewed locals, and created a real ‘buzz’ around the lakes. Of course, at this time there were no cell phones so all reports had to be called in by landline. After the summer gig, she was promoted to afternoon news anchor.
As the rising anchor started covering city hall, school board meetings and other events happening in the region, she was quickly promoted to news director and morning anchor. During her time at the station, she won various awards such as Best Reporter, Best Newscast, Best Investigative Reporting, Best Documentary, and the list goes on. She said, “This was one of my most enjoyable jobs ever and I couldn’t have asked for a better work family.”
Owen was in demand. She received simultaneous offers from two different companies. WPSD, the local television station, offered a morning anchor position and WKCTC (formerly Paducah Community College) wanted her as their Public Relations Director. Owens chose option two. She said, “It opened a lot of doors for me.”
After WKCTC, she became Executive Director at Kentucky's Western Waterlands, a nonprofit marketing organization that served 14 western Kentucky counties. Next, she took a position as Development Director for the KY Tourism Council in Louisville, Kentucky which worked closely with the Cabinet. Then, she became Development Director for the Paducah Chamber of Commerce.
One of the biggest, most widely respected and admired community projects in recent years was the development of the Luther F. Carson Four River Center commonly referred to as 'The Carson Center' in downtown Paducah. Owen was hired as the executive director of the center to appoint a board of directors and formulate a funding plan for the 'then' Four Rivers Center. At the end of the day, the $46 million event center was built to completion in January 2004 opening its doors the following month.
After leaving The Carson Center project, Owen worked as a political campaign consultant on local and state legislative races for the KY Democratic Party. She also lobbied and consulted for M. Shrader and Associates of Frankfort. Owen even ran for political office representing the First District as State Representative. She said the campaign budget was small but she attended every function possible to win the seat. “One way or another, I’ve always been in, and around politics and government,” said Owen. Though the seat went to the opposing candidate, she remained politically active. Even contract lobbied with her friend, Melodie Shrader for a short while. Shrader is a coordinating lobbyist in multiple states.
Five years ago, the purchased Ballard County farm named The Green Timber Duck Club became Owen's happy place just as the lakes and farm land in Lyon County had been her refuge as a child. “We’ve built roads, levees, installed deep wells with the capacity to flood corn fields, timber, or potholes for ducks.” Some of the best duck hunting can be found in the smallest and least obvious spots. “It’s important to go where the ducks want to be on any given day.” said Owen.
Currently, the farm has four floating duck blinds. Floating duck blinds are camouflaged to its natural surroundings enabling the hunter to get a closer shot. It’s truly an architectural masterpiece. The next phase of the expansion for the property is to build a hunting lodge. The plan is to have the lodge completed by next season along with a long range shooting area.
The farm offers a small number of club memberships. Owen said, “We hunt 60 days of duck season and spend the other 300 odd days preparing for it.”
Owen's partner Jones was appointed by Governor Andy Beshear in August to represent the 14 far western Kentucky counties on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission. The nine member board reports to the Commissioner and makes all recommendations for hunting, fishing, and boating regulations for approval by the general assembly.
Jones is a lifelong outdoorsman and is a professional hunting and fishing guide as well as a professional bass tournament angler. He is also a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran. Both Owen and Jones were named Persons of the Year by the Ducks Unlimited Wetherby Chapter in Frankfort March 2020. They are active members in the nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the conservation of wetlands as well as waterfowl, and other wildlife.
Most of Owen's downtime is spent around her passion which is the outdoors. When vacationing, she enjoys traveling out west. She and Jones fish on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. They love to visit national parks and historical markers. The two participate in competitive rifle shooting. It’s true love and admiration for the outdoors.
Famous women throughout history have made it possible for women to become outdoor enthusiasts. Today’s women are on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms sharing their passion and influencing young women to get involved in a predominantly male dominated sport. Owen is one of those women that is opening doors for other women to actively pursue their passion.