Feathering DU's Nest

Born the same year that Ducks Unlimited was founded, Ed Montague has been a force for good for 83 years, and his work has had a continental impact on waterfowl populations and habitats

© Eric Call

Born the same year that Ducks Unlimited was founded, Ed Montague has been a force for good for 83 years, and his work has had a continental impact on waterfowl populations and habitats. Ed is a retired Delaware state police captain and resides along the Nanticoke River, one of the storied tributaries of Chesapeake Bay. Naturally, the tidal marshes drew him in as a child and, at age 13, he began pursuing waterfowl there.

Grand Slam Life Sponsor Ed Montague (left, pictured with his son Mike) helped DU launch its Feather Society program.

Ed grew to cherish these places and understand the importance of conserving them. He found his way to Ducks Unlimited 38 years ago, and his dedication to the organization and its mission continues to this day.

In 1990, Ed brought a host of new ideas to DU in his position as Delaware state chairman, including one that would open doors to new funding sources. Ed had a friend involved in university philanthropy who described a concept that allowed donors to bequeath money to the university in their will. Ed proposed a similar program to Ducks Unlimited. He helped shape it and gave it the name we know today: The Feather Society.

“I thought, ducks feather their nests for survival of the next generation,” Ed explains, “so what better name to ensure our organization’s success than the Feather Society.”

The Feather Society has grown into a pivotal funding source for DU’s wetlands conservation work. With $380 million in planned gifts, the Feather Society has generated $43.5 million in mature gifts. Those gifts are the backbone of a permanent endowment that provides Ducks Unlimited with the flexibility to take on emergency projects and programs.

Peter MacGaffin, another longtime DU volunteer, Major Sponsor, and board member, is a friend of Ed’s. “Ed has always been a great advocate for waterfowl conservation,” Peter says. “He is an ideal volunteer. He has the passion and spends as many hours raising money and friends for the cause as he does chasing birds afield. That is pretty rare.”

Ed’s love of the hunt takes him and a group of close friends to Saskatchewan every year, a serious road trip of over 6,000 miles. “The prairie states we go through—Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota—we see firsthand Ducks Unlimited projects that we and others who support the organization have helped build,” he says.

Over the years, the road trip has grown into more than three weeks of friendship and exploration. “Maybe it takes longer because we are older, maybe it is because we simply enjoy the camaraderie,” Ed says.

Ed is a Grand Slam Life Sponsor, a designation earned by becoming a Life Sponsor of all three Ducks Unlimited organizations: Ducks Unlimited de México, Ducks Unlimited Inc., and Ducks Unlimited Canada. He is also cochair of DU’s Greenwing program in Delaware and has served the past eight years as chair of the Delaware Advisory Council on Wildlife and Freshwater Fish.

“Life is short; you have to do something positive while you are here,” Ed says. “Make sure you enjoy it and you will make a difference.”