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A Conversation with Dale Hall

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DU's new CEO talks about his vision for the future of wetlands and waterfowl conservation

Dale Hall
Photo by jowdyphotography.com
"Everything we do today to benefit wetlands and waterfowl is a legacy that we are leaving to our children and grandchildren, who will appreciate that DU was here doing its important work. –Dale Hall

A new era in wetlands conservation began in May as Dale Hall took the helm as CEO of Ducks Unlimited. Having served as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from 2005-2009, this devoted family man, wetlands biologist, and avid sportsman brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to this important leadership position. Hall recently took a brief timeout from his busy schedule to answer a few questions from Ducks Unlimited.

Tell us a little about your background. Where are you from, and what is your academic training?

I grew up in southeast Kentucky in Harlan County. After beginning college at the University of Kentucky, I spent four years in the U.S. Air Force. I completed my undergraduate degree at Cumberland College and went to graduate school at Eastern Kentucky University and Louisiana State University (LSU). I received a master's degree in fisheries science from LSU. My initial training in fisheries led me to wetlands conservation, which became my greatest interest throughout my career.

While I was at LSU, I met my wife of 34 years. We have three children—two daughters and a son. My career at the USFWS took a lot of twists and turns, and each of my children was born in a different state and in a different region of the country. My wife recently reminded me that moving to Memphis will be our ninth move.

Family is very important to me. Those of us who are fortunate enough to do something for a living that we are passionate about can't succeed without the love and support of our family. And that same sense of family also extends to the workplace. DU's many dedicated staff and volunteers are also a family, and that's how I see this organization.

How did your early experiences in the outdoors inspire you to pursue a career in conservation?

I was very fortunate to be raised in a hunting and fishing family, and I was introduced to the outdoors at an early age. I believe hunting and the outdoors are in our DNA. Consider the peace that comes over you when you see the sun rise over a marsh or while you sit by a campfire on a fall night. When I'm out in a duck blind in the morning and the ducks are just starting to fly, I sometimes set my shotgun down and spend a minute or two being thankful. I'm thankful just to be there in such a beautiful place and to be doing what I enjoy right there at that moment. That's what hunting is really about, and that's where my passion for conservation comes from.

What do you enjoy most about waterfowl hunting?

I love everything about waterfowl hunting. I love the wetlands, the birds, and the challenge of bringing a wary flock into the decoys. But I think what I love most is the camaraderie and the relationships that are built in a duck blind. I don't know of anything else you can do that builds stronger bonds between family and friends and that is more wholesome and pure than hunting and fishing. I've enjoyed hunting with my daughters and I've hunted with my son almost his entire life. I was there when he shot his first duck and when he took his first deer. But looking back, the harvesting of game was really irrelevant. What was most important is that we were together.

Do you have a favorite species of waterfowl?

I love them all. Every species has a place in the ecosystem, and I enjoy hunting all of them. From the standpoint of beauty, a wood duck is hard to beat. And of course I really enjoy mallards and teal and the other popular species. But when I see a pintail cup and come down from about 1,000 feet high, there's nothing else like it.

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