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Courtesy of the Appalachian State University Mountaineer Chapter

The Appalachian State University Mountaineer chapter has experienced tremendous growth in recent years.


Many young people are introduced to hunting by their parents. Mesmerized by tales of big bucks or skies full of greenheads, children often aspire to be part of the brotherhood of the hunting camp. Ben Bograd and his father, Steve, of Statesville, North Carolina, have a somewhat different story.

“While I did go hunting with my dad in the Chesapeake Bay, I never became a waterfowler,” Steve says. That is until Ben gave him a handmade birthday card containing $14 and a note indicating the money was to cover a hunter safety class. “I will keep the note and the money until my last breath,” Steve recalls. “Ben is my favorite hunting partner, and I hope I am his too.”

A passion for waterfowl led Ben to attend his first Ducks Unlimited banquet at age 13. “I had heard of DU at that point, but I wasn’t familiar with all the conservation work they do,” Ben says. “As I’ve gotten older, what has kept me interested is all the good work DU does not just for ducks, but for people too.”

At the same time that Ben and his dad were getting involved with DU, Riley Fisher, who lived 50 miles to the east, in Winston-Salem, was also falling in love with waterfowl hunting. “I attended my first DU banquet when I was about 13,” Riley says. “I watched my dad, Mike, get involved with the organization, serving as the Winston-Salem chapter treasurer and then serving as North Carolina committee secretary and state campaign chair.” Riley saw involvement with DU as an excellent way to support a cause he cared about and meet people with the same interests.

Years later, as Riley was getting ready to head to Appalachian State University, DU Regional Director Jon Sturgill mentioned that the school was starting a new DU chapter and suggested Riley meet a young man named Ben Bograd. Riley explained that getting involved with the new Mountaineer chapter was a way to work toward a cause he cares about while getting his friends and peers involved at the same time.

Three years later, the Mountaineer chapter had grown tremendously under Ben and Riley’s leadership. In the beginning, the chapter had enough volunteers for a successful event, but Ben and Riley knew they could do better. “Our first recruitment event had a good turnout, but the number of returning volunteers seemed to get smaller and smaller,” Ben says. “We stayed focused and encouraged more students to become involved. Our chapter won the Bronze All-American Award and the Grand Slam Award in year two.”

Ben and Riley both had the opportunity to attend DU’s collegiate leadership summit, Third Term. “At Third Term, you learn so much about DU as an organization, the history, the work they do, and that ignites a fire in you, making you want to do more,” Ben says. Using what they learned, Ben and Riley helped grow the chapter from its original five-member committee to 30 to 40 volunteers showing up for meetings. At their December 2023 banquet, under Ben and Riley’s leadership, the chapter raised an impressive $46,683.

Inspired by their sons’ leadership, involvement, and commitment to the mission of Ducks Unlimited, both families have chosen to give their sons DU Life Sponsorships. “When my parents told me their plan to present me with a Life Sponsorship, I was speechless,” Ben says. “I am very blessed and grateful to have parents who support me and see the good in supporting Ducks Unlimited the way I do.”

Riley echoed his co-chair’s reaction to the sponsorship. “I am so thankful to my parents for this, as it has made me feel incredibly blessed and fortunate. We have all worked so hard to get to where we are as a chapter, so for Ben and me, this is just a perfect way to see the reward of all our hard work.”