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Locals take duck honors

LAUREN WOOD THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Grayson Lewis was awarded with an individual State Chairman’s Award of Excellence Saturday at the annual Ducks Unlimited state convention. The Natchez chapter was also awarded with a State Chairman’s Award of Excellence.

NATCHEZ — State awards were handed out at the Mississippi Ducks Unlimited convention at the Grand Hotel Saturday, and the Natchez Chapter of the organization was well represented.

The Natchez Chapter received an award of excellence for its contribution to the state organization, and chapter member Grayson Lewis also received the same honor as an individual.

LAUREN WOOD THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Todd Kruebbe, from left, with his dog Ben, David Victory with his dog Boo, Dennis Lanigan with his dog Cassie and Al Conlee with his dogs Bart, Winnie the Pooh and Jettie Ann all attended the Ducks Unlimited convention this weekend. Kruebbe, Victory, Lanigan and Conlee are all members of the Gulf Coast chapter of the British Field Trial Society of America.

Billie Ray Fann, DU regional director for the State of Mississippi, said Natchez is always well represented in the organization.

“It exceeds all expectations,” he said. “We’ve seen growth over the last seven to eight years. This chapter gives great efforts to raise a lot of money. They are consistent and very effective at doing it efficiently.”

Lewis said he was honored to receive his award, especially since his father, Bruce, got him into the organization and was at one time president.

“He got me involved when I was young,” Grayson said.

Fann said this year’s 75th DU convention was a chance to get as many members as possible together in one place for three days to celebrate the past and plan for the future.

“We are celebrating the accomplishments throughout the year,” Fann said. “It’s an annual event for everybody to get together to celebrate the year’s efforts and share thoughts on the upcoming year.”

The convention started Thursday and included parties, banquets, business meetings and an awards ceremony.

Fann said Natchez was a great host for the event.

“It makes like a mini-vacation for (the members),” he said. “It helps get people here. It’s like a little mini-cruise, but you didn’t get on a boat.”

District Chairman Dwight Jones said the annual event is a starting point for the next year.

“It builds the popularity for the whole state,” Jones said. “It gets everything moving.”

DU members from all over Mississippi attended the convention, but some of the most attentive guests were forced to remain outside for their portion of the convention.

Several members of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the British Field Trial Society of America brought their dogs to put on a demonstration of their duck-hunting skills Saturday morning.

The group focuses on training dogs to perform the British method of training and scoring in simulated hunting situations for competitions.

The Gulf Coast Chapter was at the convention to promote itself, and also attract new trainers to the organization.

“We want to get more people involved,” chapter member Ace Berry said. “We want to spread the word more or less, and try to invite more trainers and chapters.”

The Mississippi State University chapter of DU took home the top collegiate award this year and also ranked sixth in the nation in DU’s “Sweet 16” list of top producing college chapters.

In 2012, DU conserved more than 13,000 acres of hunting land.