For the Ducks: Outdoor Medicine

A message to Team DU

Michael Furtman

Nature itself is the best physician. —Hippocrates

With apologies to the great Tennessee philosopher Bocephus, a duck hunter can survive. Many of us have "a shotgun, a rifle, and a four-wheel drive," and we can get by when toilet paper is in short supply.

When times are tough, or disasters strike, neighbors gravitate to the nearest hunter-gatherer's home. There, they find slightly freezer-burned fish, game, and a waft of smoke from a grill. There's a generator, at least one boat, fishing tackle, ammo, and the know-how to put them to use.

DU members are resourceful, self-sufficient, and ever generous to those friends and family who wander over to a socially acceptable distance from the grill to check on things and accept a portion, kindly offered. In all sorts of adversity—natural, viral, economic, or man-made—those with a connection to the land and water, those who are close to nature, endure.

So it is with our collective efforts as a conservation company. Ducks Unlimited, which is to say Ducks Unlimited's people, rallied behind the mission and did things we've never done before, overcoming obstacles we've never imagined, to do better than merely survive the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and all it wrought. With some adjustments, our conservation staff pressed on and outperformed our pre-crisis acreage goals. Our event planners and their volunteer committees migrated auctions and raffles online, tapped into homebound audiences' need for good, clean fun and a chance to win a shotgun or a YETI, and raised money for the ducks, even as public gatherings disappeared. This magazine, and the one before it, was designed, written, and edited entirely from the disparate homes of our staff without physical interaction. You really can teach old waterfowlers new tricks.

The lessons of this lost spring are not the many things we can do now that we couldn't do before, but rather what we've confirmed about human nature. We know that we can eat more suppers together, that board games still hold our attention, that even teens can find smartphones boring after gorging on them, and that pets are happy to help you telework. We know that work and school can both be missed after a while, that long pants and razors are not necessities of life, and that we can all get along under one roof. Most importantly, and not news to any of our members, society has rediscovered that nature is the best medicine for mind, body, and soul.

A new season brings tentative hope that the worst is behind us, tempered by the uncertainty of the unknown. Here at DU, offices have reopened, banquets are trickling back, and habitat work continues at full throttle. In this issue, we highlight new guns and gear, wrapped in the enthusiasm for getting back into the woods, on the water, and in the marsh to continue the all-natural healing that we've practiced for generations. We welcome to the helm our new president, Doug Schoenrock, who has lived the DU life for over 20 years and brings to the role a profound respect for the outdoors and a clear vision for our future. Our past president, Rogers Hoyt, served a rare three-year term and led us through a record-shattering fundraising campaign, staff leadership changes, and the coronavirus pandemic with passion, good humor, and a contagious love for this organization. They are but two of the 57,000 volunteers who are the heart and soul of DU. There is no DU without the likes of them, or you.

DU has seen a lot of history, and made some, too. It will take more than a virus to stop our work, and more than a recession to dampen our conviction. We can all do our part to leave the world better, stronger, healthier... for waterfowl and wildlife, and for people. DU is in the outdoor medicine business, and our form of treatment is good for the whole continent. Thanks to you.

From the July/August 2020 issue of Ducks Unlimited magazine