Ah, the dog days of summer are here. Crowded lakes and beaches, a slow bite on the water, and, just in time for your mask-free siesta, the annual Guns and Gear issue of DU magazine! We can officially begin counting down the days until the kids go back to school (in person!) and teal pack their plumage for another trip south. For the first time in two years, we can focus on Fourth of July picnics that dare to mix households, and we can enjoy the slower pace that these months bring, even if you haven't followed a school calendar in years.
Our partners in the outdoor industry have been busy lately, as hordes of COVID captives fled outside and rediscovered the magic of nature. Kayaks, tents, ammo, and RVs flew off the shelves and off the lots in a binge of escapism that all of us in conservation hope translates into memories and life-altering experiences for children and adults alike. For decades we've wondered how to get people back outside, and the novel coronavirus of 2019 raised its hand and said "I know how!" Now we all need to work to turn the fad into a movement that etches into America's hearts the pleasures to be found across this wondrous land, without waiting on a pandemic to do it for us.
Suffice to say the Guns and Gear issue is loaded with lots of both for you to explore. In fact, this issue is one of our thicker magazines in a while. Our advertisers have returned in a big way because the support of our members means our circulation is one of the largest remaining in the entire outdoor publishing world. Our magazine is one of the many ways our partners strengthen our organization, and we hope you'll support them. Our preferred vendor firearms partners help us raise millions of dollars each year at our events to restore habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife, provide clean water, and rebuild coastlines—to name a few of the services our work delivers. We are grateful for their longstanding, loyal support.
We also highlight several "newbies" who share the stories behind their first successful waterfowl hunts. I think we all remember our own first time in the blind, and we can relate to the joy that comes from hosting someone else's first hunt. We feature an important partnership we've formed with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service on the Great Plains to work with cattlemen in the Duck Factory. Cattle and ducks coexist better than you and your freshman roommate, and the wetland and grassland benefits that ranchers provide for their herds also provide key nesting habitat for waterfowl.
Speaking of the Great Plains, and much of the West, we are in serious drought as of this writing. Ducks and cows, farmers and ranchers, all need water, and it didn't come this year across much of the most important waterfowl nesting areas on the US and Canadian prairies. There will be no changes to the upcoming 2021−22 season dates or bag limits, but a drought could affect future seasons depending on the severity and duration of the dry weather. To pile on, COVID restrictions prevented the annual federal waterfowl population surveys on the breeding grounds across the United States and Canada for the second consecutive year, creating a data gap in the formulas that impact management decisions. While these formulas include long-term population data, and most waterfowl populations have been strong, we are watching this closely and are in regular contact with state and federal agencies in the United States and our colleagues at DU Canada. Thanks to you, over 15 million acres of habitat have been conserved since we were founded in the dark, dry days of the Dust Bowl, but it reminds us of the work ahead.
On an editorial note, our family dog, Eve, got more fan mail from her mention in the last issue than I've ever received, so she may have to take over this space. I hope to see you at DU's national convention in New Orleans, September 8–11!