By Phil Bourjaily
Photography By Terry Allen
You go to a DU banquet to give back to the ducks. But in addition to supporting conservation, you have a chance to get a special-edition duck gun as part of the deal. That's the promise of DU "dinner guns," which have headlined the organization's grassroots fundraising events for almost 40 years. More than 100,000 guns have been sold at DU events
since 1973, raising an average of $2 million a year for wetlands and waterfowl conservation
DU's first Gun of the Year was a lead-shot-era Remington 1100 autoloader with a 2 3/4-inch chamber and the traditional 30-inch full-choke barrel. The 1100 was an ideal choice because DU had just completed 1,100 projects in Canada at the time. Like many dinner guns to follow, the DU version of the 1100 came in a 12-gauge waterfowling configuration with upgraded walnut and gold inlaid engraving.
Specially decorated and numbered, all DU guns are indeed collector's items, but underneath the fancy embellishments they remain hunting guns too. While many are kept locked up as treasured heirlooms, quite a few still earn their keep in the marsh every season. Together, these modern classics serve as a representative sampling of the diversity of firearms that gun makers have produced—and waterfowlers have embraced—over the past four decades.
1987 Browning A-5 (50th Anniversary Gun)
For its 50th birthday, DU went with a waterfowling classic: a Browning Auto-5 with a 2 3/4-inch chamber and a 28-inch modified-choke barrel. In 1987 John Browning's design—the first semiautomatic shotgun—was almost 90 years old, a testament to the reliability of its long-recoil action. In the minds of many hunters the A-5 is still the greatest waterfowl gun of all. This DU version could withstand steel shot and go to the duck blind if you were willing to risk its high-gloss round-knob stock and beautifully engraved silver-finished receiver decorated with wetland scenes and DU's 50th anniversary logo.
2012 Browning Maxus (75th Anniversary Gun)
Browning's Maxus, introduced in 2009, catches the eye immediately with its distinctive sleek profile. The lightweight, gas-operated Maxus has hunter-friendly features such as an enlarged trigger guard and a three-shot plug that can be easily removed with a key for those spring snow goose hunts. DU's 75th anniversary
gun features upgraded walnut on the stock and forearm and a marsh scene engraving on its silver receiver. This gun has a 3-inch chamber and 28-inch barrel with interchangeable chokes.