As the Memphis, Tenn.-based Ducks Unlimited celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, Durant DU chapter president Chris Dorman admits that the local quacker backer bunch isn’t quite as long in the tooth.
But they plan to get there one day with this year’s 2017 Durant DU dinner serving as another step forward for a chapter making a comeback on the waterfowl fundraising trail.
This year’s local dinner is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 12 at the Choctaw Casino Event Center located at 3702 Choctaw Road. Doors will open at 6 p.m., the dinner by Roma Italian in Durant will be served at 7 p.m., and the live auction will begin at 8 p.m.
“Long before I was ever around, Durant and Bryan County had a large DU chapter,” said Dorman. “For a variety of reasons, it dwindled away and went by the wayside however.”
But as the saying goes, that was then and this is now.
“Back in 2014, I was reading what DU was doing in the state of Oklahoma and where they were lacking,” said Dorman. “I was sitting around having lunch one day with some guys and said ‘What do you think? Should we try and bring the dinner back?’
“The consensus was, ‘Sure, let’s do it!,’ and the next thing you know, we’re reaching out to state contacts, planning a DU dinner, and eventually holding that dinner.”
What happened at that first restart of the local fundraising dinner surprised a lot of people, Dorman included.
“Yeah, that first year, we netted approximately $23,000 if I remember correctly,” he said. “And the next year, it was much the same.”
So solid were the opening efforts of the Durant DU committee that the local wetland and waterfowl conservation fundraising chapter received national recognition for the group’s outstanding efforts, capturing the DU Pintail Award in 2014 and the DU Teal Award in 2015.
Currently putting the finishing touches on the 2017 event, Dorman and his committee of eight are excited about what is going to happen in a couple of weeks.
“Really, there’s not anything else like this in Durant,” said the local chairman. “SOSU and a few others have some fundraisers throughout the year, but there’s not much around like these DU banquets.
“It’s a great opportunity to get outdoorsmen, duck hunters, deer hunters, bird hunters, gun enthusiasts, and you name it, together in the same room to support the wildlife conservation cause on a local and national basis,” he added.
“That’s what we were able to do four years ago and that’s what has kept people coming back since then.”
When the group gathers on Thursday, Oct. 12, there will be a big selection of superb merchandise available through live auction, silent auction, raffles, games, and door prizes.
“It’s the 80th anniversary of Ducks Unlimited this year, so we’ll have plenty of collectible DU items,” said Dorman. “We’ll also have a number of firearms including selections from Beretta, Sig Sauer, Ruger, Glock, Winchester and Henry to name a few.”
The Durant DU chapter will also have the 80th anniversary DU Shotgun of the Year, a beautiful Fausti 12-gauge over-and-under, and the 80th anniversary DU Gun of the Year, a superb Weatherby Vanguard 7MM Rem Mag rifle. Both limited edition firearms feature exquisite wood, decorative engravings, and DU medallions, making them highly collectible.
In addition to the firearms mentioned above, there will also be other items like wildlife and sporting art prints, decorative sculptures and decoys, a Primo grill/cooker package, Drake waterfowling gear, Tanglefree and Higdon decoys, and a K2 cooler.
Perhaps the most interesting item of the night is a male black Labrador retriever puppy that comes from the lineage of two respected championship retrievers, one with Hall of Fame credentials.
“Yes, we’ve had a kennel, Boggy Creek Retrievers out of Coleman, donate a Lab pup to us,” said Dorman. “We’re pretty excited about that duck dog.”
There will also be a few other items available, including a two-day duck hunt in southeastern Oklahoma, a possible Lake Texoma striped bass fishing trip, and some custom duck calls.
“Maverick Dunn, who makes custom duck calls in Arkansas I think, he’s doing a run of custom acrylic calls that will have the Oklahoma DU logo on them,” said Dorman. “He’ll be there at our dinner and these will be some special calls that southern Oklahoma waterfowlers are sure to love.”
Dorman notes that the pace of sponsor table and individual ticket sales is good and that enthusiasm is high heading into this year’s fourth annual Durant DU dinner.
“We’ve done well with our sponsor tables,” said Dorman. “Those vary in price from $500 to $5,000 and we’ve sold a number already to local companies, businesses, organizations, etc. If someone wants one, there are still a few available, but they’ll go quickly I think.”
In addition to the sponsor tables mentioned above, there are still individual seats available as well. Dorman said that ticket prices are $50 for singles, $75 for couples, and $20 for Greenwings (youth 17 years of age and under).
Those that attend will be entered into the night’s door prize drawings, enjoy a catered Italian dinner and beverages, and will receive a one-year’s membership into DU including a year’s subscription to the award winning Ducks Unlimited magazine.
“To get tickets, you can always contact me at (405) 517-7187,” said Dorman. “That’s my cell phone and we’ll be sure to get the tickets either mailed to you or delivered around town.
“You can also get tickets in downtown Durant during daily business hours at Theorem, which is located at 126th N. 4th Street,” he added.
“And finally, pre-event tickets are also available online at the Ducks Unlimited Website at www.ducks.org. The URL for the Durant DU event’s ticket sales can be found at http://www.ducks.org/oklahoma/events/46415/durant-dinner.”
Lynn Burkhead is Senior Writer for the Outdoor Channel, World Fishing Network and Sportsman Channel and lives in Denison, Texas