As a former high school football coach, Bruce Wilson is accustomed to motivating large groups of people toward a common goal. That ability makes him a natural fit for his job as chairperson of Ducks Unlimited, Payson Chapter.
Like he did during his gridiron tenure at Phoenix Greenwing High School, Wilson's goal is to increase team numbers to enable his squad to become a more potent force.
In an effort to boost DU membership, Wilson is mailing out information to about 350 local residents hoping they will hook up with the DU effort.
One of the first tasks new and returning members of the Payson chapter will be asked to help with is the staging of the annual fund-raising banquet.
This year, the event is slated for Sept. 30 at the Mazatzal Casino. Festivities will begin with no-host cocktails from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., which will be followed by a prime rib dinner. The spirited raffle, auction and prize give-a-way will follow. Overseeing the evening will be master of ceremonies Randy Roberson and auctioneer Larry Everhart.
Wilson expects the 230 banquet tickets ($85 each), which went on sale July 27, to sell out fast.
The current popularity of the banquet has not always been a given in the Rim country. Former longtime Payson Chapter chairman Harold Iverson remembers that in the late '80s "we had a hard time selling out."
But under the leadership of Iverson who was the state's 1998 DU chairman of the year the event has become an annual sell-out.
The list of prizes that are given away, raffled or auctioned during the evening is mind-boggling. It includes rifles, pistols, shotguns, archery equipment, decoys, prints, jewelry and camping gear. The list also usually includes several off-beat prizes. Last year, some of the more unique raffle items included an NBA autographed basketball, set of automobile tires, Denver Broncos football helmet, an autographed hockey stick and a Laughlin, Nev. vacation.
Currently, Wilson is in the process of finalizing this year's prize list, which already includes a myriad of firearms and numerous limited, signed and framed prints, he said. Most of the items are donated from local DU sponsors or the national chapter.
In 1998, the Payson Chapter was honored by the state organization for having the most banquet sponsors.
Call Wilson at 474-9266 for more information.
A quarter century of preservation
Many times, Bruce Wilson has been asked, "Why DU?"
As a 25-year member of Ducks Unlimited two of those spent serving as chairperson of the Payson chapter Wilson is quick with an answer.
On the local front, he said, DU is involved in a variety of good causes including sponsoring all fifth-grade students in Payson, Pine and Tonto Basin into DU's Greenwing program. That investment, Wilson said, is crucial because it assists in the environmental education of the young people.
In 1998, Payson was cited by the state DU chapter for having the largest number of Greenwing members in Arizona.
DU also donates to the Payson High School Lady Longhorn softball program by purchasing advertising space on the outfield fence.
For the past two years, the Payson chapter has made donations to the local firearm safety program which instructors use as prizes and awards for classes, Wilson said.
Around the state, DU is committed to at least 20 active and completed wildlife enhancement projects that have amounted to $759,959.
Some of those projects are at Roosevelt Lake south of Payson and Blind, Allan, Marshall and Upper Long lakes north of town.
According to DU officials at the Memphis, Tenn. national headquarters, the mission of the organization is "to fulfill the annual lifecycle needs of North American waterfowl by protecting, enhancing, restoring and managing important wetlands and associated uplands."
DU was founded during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s when a group of sportsmen banded together to form an organization that would help preserve the drought-plagued waterfowl populations that had plunged to unprecedented lows, DU officials say.
Waterfowl are not the only beneficiaries of DU's habitat work.
Over 900 species of other wildlife including 160 that are threatened or endangered exist in areas where DU projects have improved the overall health of the environment by recharging ground water, moderating floods and reducing soil erosion.
Today, DU is the world's largest private waterfowl and wetlands conservation organization, with a membership of more than 700,000 in the United States, Canada and Mexico.