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Delta's Waterfowl Heritage Fund Has Awarded $1 Million

Delta's Waterfowl Heritage Fund Has Awarded $1 Million

Jim Long scanned the skies from the stern of his flat-bottom boat as a brisk north wind whipped rising fog down the Susquehanna River. There was no place he'd rather be on a chilly November morning.

But the diehard Pennsylvania waterfowl hunter didn't need to pull the trigger on a flock of decoying mallards to be happy. Rather, the youth director for the Lancaster Chapter of Delta Waterfowl hoped his boatload of novice hunters would have a chance at ducks.

It was yet another outing for Lancaster's First Hunt Team, a mentorship program Long helped spur into existence that pairs novice waterfowl hunters with mentors for the long term — not just one hunt.

"There's nothing more rewarding than seeing the expression and the enjoyment they feel, and hearing the excitement in a young boy's or girl's voice after being in a blind for hours and shooting that first duck," Long said. "The real honor is to mentor youth and to continue drawing youth into the outdoors."

That level of dedication is why Jim Long was recently named one of six finalists for the North American Hunting Club's Mentor of the Year Program. The winner, to be announced in January, will be awarded a prize package that includes a 2013 turkey hunt and trip to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

Jim Long's work with First Hunt Team is a pillar of the Lancaster Chapter's efforts to support waterfowl hunting, made possible by Delta's Waterfowl Heritage Fund. The fund allows every Delta chapter to direct 25 percent of its fundraising efforts to local programs.

"The Waterfowl Heritage Fund is what makes Delta different," says Matt Kneisley, Landcaster Chapter chair. "We are a bunch of duck hunters who want to make a difference. We want to get out there and get our hands dirty, do the hard work that is needed in our community to save duck and goose hunting. Working with Delta Waterfowl gives us that opportunity."

The Waterfowl Heritage Fund was established a decade ago when Delta developed its chapter and event fundraising program. Since then, more than $1 million has supported 12,000 mentored hunt and field day participants, the installation of more than 6,000 nesting structures and scholarships for 452 young waterfowl enthusiasts.

"We want to harness the passion, the energy and commitment of our members and volunteers across North America," says Jason Tharpe, Delta Waterfowl vice president of membership and events. "These folks have the drive to get things done. We simply need to provide the funding mechanism."

Erik Myre of Minot, North Dakota, was drawn to Delta Waterfowl by the organization's commitment to hunter recruitment. His Delta chapter work with youth and women's hunts was recognized in 2011 when he was named a finalist for Field and Stream's Conservationist of the Year.

"Here we are in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region. We see the problems nesting ducks and duck hunters are having," says Myre. "The Waterfowl Heritage Fund allows our volunteers, our members and our community to become real stakeholders in waterfowl conservation and the future of duck hunting."

Frank Rohwer, Delta Waterfowl interim president, says the future of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting lies in the ability of people to take care of issues in their own back yard.

"Our chapter system is making a huge difference locally," says Rohwer. "I'm extremely proud of the work these men and women are doing each and every day."

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is a leading North American conservation organization, tracing its origins to the birth of the wildlife conservation movement in 1911. The Foundation supports research, provides leadership and offers science-based solutions to efficiently conserve waterfowl and secure the future of waterfowl hunting. Delta Waterfowl is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Bismarck, N.D.