Story and Photos by Richard Simms
We were westbound and down, loaded up with guns, decoys and 4-wheelers. With each passing mile Charlie Lowery fidgeted in the front seat like a little boy going to Disneyland. When we crossed the mighty Mississippi into Arkansas, I thought Lowery was going to come completely unglued. And when we spotted the first ducks in a roadside field, Lowery voice bubbled with excitement, "There they are boys. Just waitin' on us!"
The river crossing at Memphis put us on the homestretch to the Cache'n-In-Duck Club, a hunting lease located on the banks of the Cache River, east of Little Rock. Ross Malone and I were guests of Lowery and fellow club member, Mack Gentry.
Lowery is a man who has dedicated his life to ducks, both personally and professionally. Year-round he has ducks on the brain… either figuring out new ways and places to hunt them. Or, figuring out new ways and places to preserve, protect and conserve waterfowl habitat.
Lowery is the local Regional Director for Ducks Unlimited (DU), well-recognized as one of the leading conservation organizations in the world. While DU is largely driven by volunteers, paid staffers such as Lowery spearhead the operation. In all of Middle and East Tennessee, as well as a large portion of Kentucky, it is his job to recruit, retain and train volunteers.
"I empower those volunteers," said Lowery. "If it wasn't for these volunteers raising the necessary funds for the habitat goals set by the DU conservation staff, Ducks Unlimited wouldn't exist. I help the volunteers set up events and help them to be successful in managing their expenses."
DU got its start in 1937 during the Dust Bowl when North America's drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows. A small group of sportsmen joined together to form an organization that became known as Ducks Unlimited. Its mission: habitat conservation. Now the organization claims nearly 600,000 adult DU members and more than 50,000 Greenwings (youth members). DU says since 1937 it has conserved more than 12 million acres of habitat in North America.
To accomplish that, DU volunteers host more than 4,000 grassroots fundraising events annually, such as member and sponsor banquets, shooting and fishing tournaments, and golf outings.