The Topeka chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its 51st annual banquet and auction Sept. 6 at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Topeka.
Doors open and refreshments will be served beginning at 5:30 p.m., with dinner set for 7 p.m. and the live auction and raffles to take place at 8 p.m. Among the prizes that will be raffled off are the DU 2018 Shotgun of the Year: a Browning A5 Sweet 16 semi-automatic shotgun with a Ducks Unlimited engraving and walnut stock. Also available will be the DU Edition CZ 712 3-inch, 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun in camo wrap and a Ruger Precision bolt-action rifle.
Tickets are available at the early-bird price of $40 for a single person, $70 per couple and $20 for Greenwings until Aug. 29. Tickets will be available at the door for $50 apiece or $20 for Greenwings.
DU volunteer Jeff Neal said the organization isn’t just a great way to help ensure the future of waterfowling in Kansas, but it also helps connect hunting enthusiasts and conservationists who otherwise might not have met.
“I’ve been a volunteer for in excess of 20 years and have been serving as one of the ‘District Chairmen’ in northeast Kansas for about 10,” Neal said. “I started on a committee in Manhattan and over those years have assisted with events in Manhattan, Rossville, Topeka, Osage City and at various other locations within the state. This involvement has introduced me to some of the folks I now consider my closest friends. I’ve been hunting in several states and Canada with DU volunteers and have created some great memories along the way.
“My association with the organization not only allows me to give back to a resource I enjoy so much, but it also allows me to get to know others who share the same passion for the outdoors and commitment to protecting it for future generations.”
As of Jan. 1, Ducks Unlimited in Kansas had a total membership of 15,652 people and has spent nearly $16 million on projects in the state since its inception. That includes $1,173,389 raised in 2017. Past and current projects the organization has undertaken include work at the Ogallala Aquifer, Cheyenne Bottoms, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, Jamestown Wildlife Area and the Kanopolis Reservoir, some of the most important waterways in the state.
Neal said there were several more projects ahead for Ducks Unlimited, including at the Clinton Wildlife Area near Lawrence, the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita and the Gurley Marsh, Neosho and Talmo Wildlife Areas. A total of 30,894 acres have been conserved in Kansas as part of the organization’s efforts.
“We have two great chairmen leading the effort this year — Thad Wende and Cheech Kehoe,” Neal said. “Both of these gentlemen have been volunteers for some time and have some new and exciting things in store for this year’s event. In addition to our fall banquet, we have an annual ‘Wing Fling’ fundraiser at the local Hooters restaurant.
“Thad, Cheech and the rest of the committee put in countless hours in preparation of our events and are really great examples of the ‘grassroots’ fundraising machine that makes DU so successful.”
The Topeka chapter’s 50th anniversary banquet last year raised $30,942, and when combined with the event it hosted at Hooters in Topeka, the total amount of money raised was $35,863.
For more information about the group’s events and volunteering efforts, contact Neal at (785) 221-6625, Keehoe at (802) 233-1472 or Wende at (785) 845-5212 or follow the chapter’s Facebook page at https://tinyurl.com/y9yz86nz.
The chapter also is hosting a volunteer recruiting event from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Celtic Fox in Topeka. Those who are interested can come in and enjoy a free drink and food at the Fox, 118 S.W. 8th Ave., #202. The group also will be giving away a Sitka cap and a box of Avian-X decoys. Those wishing to attend should RSVP by contacting Chris Young at (913) 333-2922. Those who can’t attend but still wish to volunteer should also feel free to contact him.
Other 2018 Ducks Unlimited chapter events in northeast Kansas include:
• The 2018 Northeast Kansas/KC Area Ducks Unlimited District Meeting, set for Aug. 1 at Powder Creek Shooting Park, 8601 Monticello in Lenexa. Shooting will begin at 4 p.m. at a cost of $30 per 50 rounds of sporting clays. Top Flight awards to be presented. Free dinner and beer follows shooting at 7 p.m., and the meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Chris at (913) 333-2922.
• The Johnson County DU 9-Hole Golf Tournament and after-party, 4:30 to 10 p.m. Aug. 9 at Falcon Valley Golf Course, 9801 Falcon Valley Drive in Lenexa. Check-in will be from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m., with a prompt shotgun start at 5:30. To RSVP by Aug. 8, contacting Nick Neff at (913) 620-1073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most recent waterfowl harvest numbers through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show an increase in the number of geese taken in Kansas from 108,900 in 2015-16 to 128,000 in 2016-17. That includes an increase of 25,688 in the harvest of Canada geese and an increase of 1,096 in the harvest of white-fronted geese. The data also show an increase in the number of active goose hunters from 14,100 to 15,100 during that time frame.
However, duck harvest numbers were in decline in 2016-17, with about 5,600 fewer duck hunters hitting the fields and marshes of Kansas over the 2015-16 season. The total duck harvest dropped from 236,200 to 179,200, with a drop in the mallard harvest in Kansas from 112,358 to 95,986. Gadwall harvest numbers dropped from 31,068 to 13,981, green-winged teal dropped from 20,813 to 19,738 and blue-winged/cinnamon teal dropped from 39,816 to 27,609.
Despite the drop in harvest numbers, however, season duck harvest per hunter increased from 12.1 birds to 12.8, meaning Kansas hunters on average shot more ducks during the 2016-17 season.
Duck and goose harvest in the Central Flyway both increased overall from 2015-16 to 2016-17, with 2,430,800 total ducks and 912,200 total geese harvested compared to 2,225,600 and 670,900 the year before, respectively. The Central Flyway, one of four flyways waterfowl migrate along during the year, is made up of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Part of the Mississippi Flyway also passes through extreme northeast Kansas into Missouri.
The total amount of geese taken in 2016-17 in the entire United States increased to 3,266,900 from 2,537,500 in 2015-16, while the duck total across the U.S. increased from 10,992,900 to 11,607,400.