Local hunters and outdoorsmen buy raffle tickets Thursday night during the annual Ducks Unlimited banquet at the Natchez Community Center. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Local hunters and outdoorsmen buy raffle tickets Thursday night during the annual Ducks Unlimited banquet at the Natchez Community Center. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Ducks Unlimited hosts annual event to help preserve wetlands

Published 12:02am Sunday, November 17, 2013

NATCHEZ — The steaks flew off the grill, and raffle tickets were bought in abundance Thursday night at the annual Ducks Unlimited banquet.

More than 100 hunters and outdoorsmen and women filled the Natchez Community Center to raise money to preserve something very near and dear to their heart — the wetlands.

“Ducks Unlimited is a North American conversation non-profit organization,” event director Key Smith said. “The money we made will go to preserving wetlands and increasing the number of ducks in North America.”

The organization has conserved more than 13 million acres of waterfowl habitats since 1937. One of its top five conservation priorities is the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

Stephen Edwards and Rick Prescott tend to the grill filled with steaks for the banquet. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Stephen Edwards and Rick Prescott tend to the grill filled with steaks for the banquet. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Ducks Unlimited has conserved habitats by acquiring land, restoring it, replanting forests and restoring watersheds.

The fundraiser featured a raffle ticket prize giveaway, an open auction and a silent auction that included a large array of prizes.

Smith they made sure to keep supporters’ best interest at heart when picking out the type of prizes people had the chance to win.

“All of our prizes are hunting-related,” he said. “We had 13 guns up for auction. We had decoys, ducks calls and much more. Our hope is to raise as much as we possibly can. Last year, we raised about $25,000 to $30,000, and we want to get around that number.”

Other prizes auctioned off included four-wheelers, and as many supporters went home with neat prizes, they also went home knowing they contributed to a great cause.

“Everybody here is a hunter, and 98 percent of the money we raised here goes directly to the preservation fund,” Smith said.

Smith’s father, Billy Key Smith, has has been attending Ducks Unlimited banquets since 1971, and he said it is a great way for hunters to give back to the very grounds they hunt.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to the resource and enjoy the harvest of the duck hunt,” Billy said. “Ducks Unlimited encourages wetlands preservation. We’re losing so much of the land to farming operations and things like that, and the goal is to restore as much of this to its original state.”

Smith said the banquet was a success, and they look forward to hosting more events in the future.