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Why We Do What We Do

Insights from DU CEO Dale Hall
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After each waterfowl season, I like to reflect a bit on what I have been blessed to experience, what it all means to me, and why it is so important that we continue to work tenaciously to preserve these precious gifts that have been handed down from the committed stewards who preceded us. 

Jeff Churan, one of DU's well-known former board members, says there are only two seasons: duck season and the season preparing for duck season. For those of us involved in Ducks Unlimited, that's definitely true. But why? Why do we feel such exhilaration being outdoors before daylight and enduring the fury of cold winds that often chill us to the bone? And why do we enjoy the hard work involved in making our favorite hunting spots the perfect habitat for migrating flocks of divers or dabblers?

This year I was blessed with the opportunity to hunt in two flyways, and to see some of the most spectacular displays of bird acrobatics nature can provide. Teal and ringnecks that fly close to the deck, high-flying pintails that suddenly cup their wings and glide into range, and mallards that play coy, circling above the flooded timber or rice fields. Believe me, fair chase is alive and well!

When I'm sitting in the blind waiting for that magic moment half an hour before sunrise, I often quietly listen to the five-note quacking of a hen mallard as she sounds the morning wake-up call; or to the wing beats of ducks already out and about, exploring where they might want to spend their day. 

The special conversations with our hunting partners about things important and not so important do more than simply pass the time; they help us learn more about ourselves and those who share these moments. Still, what someone says never reveals as much as what he or she does. There is no better expression of generosity than when a hunting partner whispers, “This one is yours—take him!”

Watching the sunrise as the ducks fly overhead is truly spellbinding. But trying to explain that to someone who has not experienced it is like trying to prove the existence of a higher power through empirical data. Some things can't be reasoned or seen; they just have to be experienced. They have to be felt. The rush of emotion that reaffirms our connection to nature and all of creation is deeply embedded in our DNA. Just as we are absorbed in watching the flames of a campfire or listening to the sound of cascading water, we know we belong when we're waterfowling. I have sympathy for those who have never experienced that feeling. I hope your season served as a strong reminder of why we do our work at Ducks Unlimited, and why it's so important to accept our responsibility to pass along these priceless gifts to generations yet unborn.

DU's national convention is a great opportunity to celebrate all that we do for waterfowl, and to learn more about our continental conservation programs. While last year DU surpassed the 13-million-acre milestone in habitat conserved across North America, many challenges lie ahead and many more acres must be conserved to fulfill our mission. This year's convention will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, and as always, there will be lots of great activities and events for the entire family. For more information, visit convention.ducks.org. I hope to see you in St. Louis!

Dale Hall, 
Chief Executive Officer

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