For the Ducks: Gadgets, Gear, and People

Celebrating our volunteers, great hunting products, and the companies that support our conservation work

Michael Furtman
Adam Putnam and hunting dog

By Adam Putnam, DU CEO

I have just returned from the Prairie Experience, an annual (in pre-pandemic times) immersion in the science, research, and life cycles of prairie wetlands and waterfowl. DU hosts this event with our Canadian partners, and it rotates each year between the two countries. This year it was held in North Dakota, and we welcomed the largest group of prairie pothole supporters ever. They arrived with three years of pent-up enthusiasm from repeated covid-related delays and departed with even more wisdom and passion for the mission after three days in the field.

I found more water, green grass, and nesting pairs on this trip to the prairies than I have on any visit in the last several years. As I write this, planes are flying waterfowl breeding population and habitat surveys in Canada and will soon deliver the data on how much and where the drought has relented and where it persists. Only then will we know how waterfowl have been impacted by some of the worst drought conditions in decades. We know the western Canadian prairies have not received as much spring precipitation as the Dakotas. We shall see.

We are proud to present the Gear Issue for 2022! This is our summer wish list for the upcoming waterfowl season and the bane of minimalist spouses who, like Aldo Leopold and Marie Kondo, fail to be impressed by the latest gadgets and technology. Who doesn’t enjoy a new camo pattern, the latest boat and blind comforts, or an improved decoy spread? After all, safety and comfort are essential for waterfowlers, and the birds grow wiser and more wary each season. Also in this issue, we showcase the “Ultimate Duck Boat,” which is decked out with the latest nautical upgrades and accessories. This vessel is just a bosun away from getting its own show on Bravo.

We bring you these temptations thanks to the support of our Proud Partners, preferred vendors, and advertisers who support us and the overall mission because they recognize that conservation is good business. We are grateful for all their support, and we enjoy the advancements that they have made to our sporting traditions.

Our work on the landscape gives people new places to roam as we conserve over 500,000 acres of habitat each year, much of it on public lands open to hunting. Eddie Nickens reports on the results of our work on state and federal lands that hunters and nonhunters alike benefit from, as we restore landscapes for hundreds of species of wildlife, not just ducks and geese. This land truly is your land, and we make it better for all creatures.

We also have a special treat in which five celebrity chefs answer the unanswerable question: what’s the best way to cook a duck and enjoy the fruits of our labors afield? You will want to tear out these pages and tape them to the duck camp fridge as inspiration. Folks, there is more to life than duck poppers, as amazing as they are.

For all our discussion about gizmos and gadgets, though, our real strength comes from our people. I left the Prairie Experience renewed by the passion of 55 people from across the country who immediately became dear friends and eagerly absorbed all they could from a talented young crop of new DU scientists who couldn’t contain their excitement in sharing all they’ve learned about the landscape and the myriad forms of life it nurtures. This was AP Duck Biology, summer camp, and earth science rolled into 36 hours, and it left everyone wanting more. Our participants have volunteered and run DU events for years, and their visits to the prairies give them a firsthand look at how their work makes a difference for the greater cause and the grander scheme. Without our people there is no science, no habitat work, no policy, and simply no DU. No gadget can change that simple fact.

We will gather in New Orleans in July for our national convention, which will be an overdue celebration and a time for rejuvenation. Convention attendees will be impressed by the work our conservation team shares, grateful for the efforts of our volunteer leaders, and inspired by the energy that comes from joining hundreds of like-minded individuals dedicated to conservation. I hope to see you there!

From the July/August 2022 issue of Ducks Unlimited magazine