Generations of Ducks Unlimited members have come and gone, but our mission remains as strong as ever. Each succeeding generation brings renewal, just as prairie wetlands renew the life cycle of waterfowl each spring. New and younger volunteers and staff result in fresh ideas and novel approaches to understanding waterfowl and conserving more and better habitat. Threats to wetlands and waterfowl continue to escalate, but our resolve never wavers.
This has been the secret to DU's success for 75 years and counting.
Our supporters have embraced the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever. Here's a small sampling of the legions of DU members and volunteers who have given of their time and resources to make a difference for the ducks. Together they represent four living generations of the DU faithful, born in a nine different decades of the organization's existence. All are connected—old and young—to the ideals of building on the legacy left to them and leaving an even greater bequest to those who follow.
John (Jack) F. Talmage of Woodmere, New York
Heritage Sponsor John (Jack) Talmage joined Ducks Unlimited in 1956, when both he and DU were just 19 years old. Jack grew up hunting Long Island's coastal salt marshes at a time when duck populations and duck hunting were on the upswing. By the mid-1950s, New York City's annual DU dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria attracted more than 1,200 duck hunters from a three-state area. Jack was one of them. He signed on as a DU member and began volunteering right away.
"My good friend E. Herrick Low took me duck hunting when I was a teenager, and thanks to him, I couldn't stop," Jack explains. Low, a founding DU member and the organization's fifth president, took young Jack under his wing. The young man started out as a "runner," carrying drinks and helping run the raffle. By the early 1960s, Jack was chairing the prestigious event. He even appeared in the classic DU film Brant Shooting on the Atlantic, which featured a number of hunting scenes filmed on his property.
As Ducks Unlimited grew, Jack's work as a volunteer increased as well. He soon became New York DU state vice chairman and then state chairman. He always answered the call when DU added new chapters and events. His passion for conservation and waterfowling was more than impressive—it was contagious. Like his mentor Low, he became an enthusiastic recruiter of new members and volunteers.
No one on Long Island has represented Ducks Unlimited longer, and with more sincerity and passion, than Jack. For this, DU and North America's waterfowl are much better off.
Sherwood (Woody) Boudeman of Richland, Michigan
A Diamond Sponsor in Perpetuity and ardent DU supporter for more than 38 years, Woody Boudeman learned the value of land stewardship at a young age.
"My first experience with stewardship was as simple as my folks making us use the trash barrels along old Route 66 instead of just tossing stuff out the car window," Woody says. "Now, as an adult, I have been fortunate enough to be able to own land. I realize that being a good steward not only makes me feel good, but also makes the land more productive—for recreation, conservation, and everything else. I don't manage the land just to take ducks. My land provides productive wetlands for ducks and other wildlife."
Woody's commitment to good stewardship includes his strong belief in reaching out to future conservationists. "I am able to mentor my own children, but I also go to banquets and donate specifically to our Greenwing program."
Additionally, Woody helps young research students learn about the ecology of inland waters at Michigan State University's W.K. Kellogg Biological Station between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. "The students and I interact before they get started on their projects," he says. "When I think about it, that's an enjoyable form of mentoring, too."
Tyler and Carla Johnson of Chestertown, Maryland
Ducks Unlimited is a family tradition for Benefactor Roll of Honor donors Tyler and Carla Johnson of Chestertown, Maryland. They credit their respective fathers and other close family members for encouraging their love of the outdoors.
"My father and uncle were hunters," Tyler says. "They taught us, by example, the importance of giving back to the resource. They were also active sponsors of Ducks Unlimited for more than 34 years. The conservation ethic they passed on to us can be seen throughout my family and on the lands we manage."
Carla also developed an early and abiding connection to the land. "Growing up on the family farm, there were two things we could do—go to church or play outdoors," Carla says. "My dad had been an Eagle Scout, and he taught me how to identify birds by their songs and how to hunt ducks and geese."
Together, Tyler and Carla run the Quaker Neck Gun Club and manage more than 2,500 acres of farmland near their hometown. "Managing wildlife habitat is a year-round job," Tyler says. "It's important to make sure my fields are ready by the time the ducks arrive, so they can grow strong and have the energy to continue their journey. There is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing over 40,000 ducks hanging out on a pond we flooded. We take from the resource, so we want to give back."
The entire Johnson family helps out at an annual DU banquet, which draws upwards of 200 people from the local community. Their son, Webb, serves on the local committee, and their daughter, Fletcher, also pitches in. "Like us, the kids have grown up supporting this incredible DU event," Carla says. It's a fun family affair we look forward to every year."
Mark Low of Susanville, California
Bronze Sponsor Mark Low is a familiar face at Ducks Unlimited dinners and events throughout California. The hours he has logged as a volunteer would qualify as a second full-time job, but his passion and commitment to the cause of wetlands conservation never wanes. Its roots run deep.
"As a youngster wearing a Boy Scout uniform with that first merit badge, I was taught by my father to respect the land and the game—and to always leave things better than I found them," Mark says. "Although I never had the opportunity to discuss conservation with my grandfather, I'm sure those same values were passed down from his father. And I am positive that my children, even though they don't know it yet, will pass those values to their children."
At the heart of those values is a firm belief in personal responsibility.
"It is the responsibility of each generation to protect, care for, and cultivate the resources that God has entrusted us with," Mark says. "The natural places, the wetlands, and marshes that we respect so much must be left better than we found them. Leaders from the preceding generations have done this for us, and we are striving to do the same thing for our children. We must have faith that future leaders will emerge with the same love, respect, and foresight, and they will do their part to protect our resources for the next generation."
Jason Moore of Johnstown, Ohio
Life Sponsor Jason Moore didn't discover the joys of duck hunting until after he graduated from college. It all started when a good friend introduced him to DU by asking him to serve on a dinner committee in Dublin, Ohio. Jason was hooked right away—on waterfowling and on volunteering for the ducks. He says DU's mission keeps him motivated, but it's the people who keep him coming back.
"DU's most valuable asset is its people," Jason says. "You are not going to find better people, whether you're talking about my fellow Licking County committee members or my peers on the state council—all the way up to DU's senior leadership. These folks are passionate about the mission and driven by the responsibility to pass on a stronger heritage to the next generation of duck hunters."
Jason has had several roles in DU, serving as a committee member, treasurer, and chairman, as well as Ohio's major donor chairman. "Each one of these volunteer positions has provided me with opportunities to build friendships that will last my lifetime," he says. "I've also had a lot of fun along the way."
Being a parent has only strengthened his commitment to waterfowl and wetlands. "I grew up in a hunting family, and our father introduced my brother and me to the outdoors," Jason says. "Today I have two sons, ages nine and seven. Over the past decade, I began to realize that I needed to evolve from a user of our outdoor resources to a steward of our outdoor resources if I want to give my sons the same opportunities I've had. It's all about giving something back for what I've received, and leaving our wetlands better off in the process."
Kelen Fortkamp of Imperial, Nebraska
Though he's only 30 years old, Kelen Fortkamp is already a seasoned DU volunteer leader. His passion for waterfowling was fueled at an early age by hunts on Frenchman Creek and Enders Reservoir in southwestern Nebraska. He served eight years as a DU area chairman and was recently appointed Nebraska state chairman. While dedicated to the volunteers in his state, he takes a big-picture view of the need for continental conservation.
"I've had the opportunity to visit the breeding grounds and witness firsthand the positive impact that this organization has on North America's waterfowl," Kelen says. "That experience proved to me that DU is the world's greatest wetland conservation organization, and I'm proud to be a small part of it."
Perry Johnson of Four Oaks, North Carolina
Perry Johnson is the kind of guy you want on your committee. Who wouldn't want to be around a person who has a positive attitude and believes that great things can happen with a bit of heart, soul, and hard work?
Five years ago, Perry was instrumental in starting the South Johnston High School DU chapter, one of the first high school chapters in North Carolina. Within a year of its inception, the chapter held two events and raised more than $14,000 for the ducks. Perry, who is now a senior at North Carolina State University, serves on the North Carolina DU state committee.
Perry has been a passionate duck hunter since the eighth grade. "My friend Dylan Bass invited me to go along with him and his father on my first hunt, and I've been hooked ever since," he says. "I believe if I take from the resource, I should give back. The camaraderie you feel when you're out hunting with friends is the same thing I feel volunteering for Ducks Unlimited. We're having fun while getting the job done."
Libbie Lee Ansell of Galveston, Texas
As the granddaughter of former DU and DUMAC president Johnny Walker, Libbie Lee Ansell is living proof that good things come in small packages. At just three days old, she became a Junior Legacy Greenwing and one of DU's youngest supporters. Now, 12 years later, this energetic, outdoor-loving girl is fast becoming a seasoned waterfowl hunter and conservationist, enthusiastically embracing her family's longstanding traditions.
"When I was 10 years old, I shot my first duck—a mallard drake," Libby Lee says. "It was very rewarding. I can't wait to hunt again this year."
Libbie Lee is well known at Galveston DU banquets. She's been helping her father, Bill Ansell, with dinners since she was a small child. She's done everything from helping with pre-event planning to setting up tables. "I'm glad I can help," she says. "I love the outdoors and want to make the world a better place."
Sable Nelson of Wilson, Wyoming
Not all of Ducks Unlimited's members walk on two legs. Sable, an 18-month-old Labrador retriever, is one of DU's Junior Legacy Greenwing members.
Conservation may be a difficult concept for a dog to grasp, but each time Sable retrieves a duck she's doing her part. Her owner, Heritage Sponsor Greg Nelson of Wilson, Wyoming, has been committed to wetland conservation for many years. "I was always told that if you take from the resource, you have to give back," Greg says. "I wanted Sable to be part of the Ducks Unlimited family."
For her part, Sable is eager to continue her waterfowling adventures and do whatever it takes to help the ducks, especially if it involves retrieving.
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