Once in the large pit blind, we prepared for sunrise and an exciting morning waterfowl hunting in the duck hunting capital of the world: Stuttgart, Arkansas. Sharing the blind was the 2009 Women’s World Champion Duck caller, 17 year old Shelby Free, and her dad, Bill.
In the quiet, you could hear each of us load our guns with Winchester ammunition as we prepared for daylight and ducks. Darkness gave way to a harsh reality of frozen rice fields, dark gray skies, high winds and driving snow. Hour after hour we sat and waited for the ducks to appear. Despite Shelby and Bill’s calling efforts the few waterfowl we did manage to see decided to stay in the timber. And it was not a good day to be in a boat.
Despite the valiant efforts of Ducks Unlimited (DU), valuable sponsors and champion duck calling we went home with an empty cooler. “That’s hunting,” said Andi Cooper, a DU biologist from Mississippi. And she was right. Still, I couldn’t help but think what this place would be like if conservation organizations such as DU did not exist. Who would work to conserve and protect this vital environment?
What if there was no conservation groups working to preserve and protect the wildlife that we love to hunt? Where would we be today if no efforts were made to protect vital nesting and wintering grounds for the waterfowl or precious mountain meadows for elk? Would there be any duck hunting? Would we be contemplating that spring turkey hunt or enjoy the majestic sounds of the bugling elk?
Years ago, I remember seeing my first wild turkeys in a nearby field and I enthusiastically renewed my membership to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). I celebrated when elk were successfully reintroduced in the Buffalo River area of Arkansas and Eastern Tennessee. I recall sitting in the pit blind last year and watching thousands snow geese filling the cold winter sky and enjoyed knowing that my DU membership helped make that a reality. What if we didn’t have conservation organizations such as DU, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and others?
These organizations are only as successful as the core volunteers that support them,
without the tireless efforts of their volunteers there would be no reason to celebrate these milestones. “DU volunteers are truly the organization’s foundation. Knowing that waterfowl and wildlife are benefiting from our habitat work is one thing, but the fact that wetlands are natural flood barriers, filter ground water and provide recreational opportunities for everyone in the community makes DU volunteers true stewards of the land. DU relies on its volunteers for every aspect of the conservation mission,” says Chris Jennings, Communications Specialist for DU.
It is not just individuals that aid in helping conservation groups, corporations such as Yamaha, RAM Trucks, Winchester, Remington and Budweiser to name a few all partner with these organizations. “For more than 20 years, Winchester has supported Ducks Unlimited wetland and waterfowl conservation projects and has been the exclusive sponsor for their shooting programs. Strong conservation partnerships like ours with Ducks Unlimited benefit wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage.” said Dick Hammett, Winchester Ammunition president.
Corporate sponsors do more than just funnel much needed financial support; often they can provide valuable exposure of the importance of conservation to the non-hunting communities. “Yamaha is proud to be a part of this effort through our work with DU and other important outdoors organizations. We always strive to promote safe, responsible use of our products as well as the responsible and sustainable use of our lands so that they may be available for generations to come” says Van Holmes, Public Relations Manager for Yamaha ATV Group.
With all the questions we, as hunters, have to ask including where can I hunt? What weapon to use? What ammo is best suited? There is one question I am glad we don’t have to ask and that is “what if we had no one working to preserve some of our most precious resources, the wetlands, mountains, elk, turkey and yes, the ducks?”
Guest post by Lisa Metheny of Outdoor Inspirations