Loyal Ducks Unlimited members from across the country have raised more than $1 million for conservation in the name of late Montana DU volunteer Eric Pierce. The DU Bozeman Chapter recently put on a gala to celebrate the legacy of a man known as an avid waterfowler and passionate conservationist.
“What a DU team effort it truly was,” organizer Pat Busby said. “The results were fantastic, especially since they will be used for conservation work in Montana and to pay tribute to such a wonderful, generous man who was a great conservationist.”
Busby and his co-organizers, Randy Newberg and Pat Harlin, worked with other volunteers and DU staff to get pledges and donations of nearly $700,000 even before the day of the event. Membership upgrades, cash donations, raffles and live auctions, combined with the donation of a piece of land by Eric’s widow, Nancy Pierce, brought in an even bigger number than the group had imagined.
"My family and I were beyond moved by the results of this event,” said Eric’s son, Marc Pierce. “The financial result will insure an on-the-ground legacy for my dad, and the stories and outpouring of good feelings that night are now cherished memories.”
“When we got close to a million, it was high-fives, hugs and tears,” Busby said. “We knew it would be big, but we never dreamt it would be a million dollars.”
Eric and Marc, a former DU board member and Ducks Unlimited Television (DU-TV) host, founded Big Sky Carvers, a decoy-carving factory in Manhattan, Mont. Eric was an active DU volunteer for more than 25 years.
“He was a true conservationist and really believed in getting kids in to the outdoors,” Busby said.
Former DU-TV host Jared Brown emceed the event, which featured exclusive raffles and adventures, including a “Cajun Outback” Texas duck and goose hunt with Brown and Marc Pierce, an “Old Mexico” whitetail hunt with DU legend Oran Richard, an Arkansas Black River flooded timber mallard hunt and an early teal and alligator hunt in Louisiana. The event also auctioned off some items from Pierce’s personal gun library, including a Parker Reproduction BHE – Grade Limited Edition 20-gauge side-by-side, Browning Citori Lighting Grade VI 20-gauge and a Cooper Model 36 Western Classic 22LR with octagon barrel.
“What was so amazing to me was all of the others getting just exactly what Eric had taught all of us over the years. And that was to ’give back,’ and man did they give back,” said event co-chair Pat Harlin.