Ducks Unlimited chairperson Sandi Gunderson is looking forward to her first year at the helm of staging the annual banquet and auction.
"I wanted to do this because I've always been a hunter and I'm interested in conservation," she said.
Gunderson is a three-year member of Payson's DU chapter. Among the greatest obstacles she's faced in planning for the Sept. 21 event was rounding up the top-notch auction and raffle items that have long been associated with the banquet.
"(The giveaways, raffles and auctions) are looking great, we have lots and lots of items that have been donated," Gunderson said.
Among the list of prizes is a Marlin Model 25N rifle that will be given away at an early-bird raffle. To be eligible for that raffle, banquet tickets must be purchased by Sept. 7.
Banquet sponsors who donate $300 or more to the evening will be entered in a "1-in-5 event" for a chance at winning a Remington Model 5568 870 Express 12-gauge shotgun.
In addition to that raffle, sponsors receive dinner/banquet tickets for a couple and special recognition from the local and national DU chapters.
Those who donate $500 or more will receive all that and a chance at a Remington Model 700 BDL Custom Deluxe 7 mm Magnum, two limited edition prints and $100 in raffle tickets.
According to Gunderson, other evening events include a penny raffle, a silent auction and a tiered raffle.
The tiered raffle, Gunderson said, is one in which prizes are given away on three levels. Purchasers of least expensive tickets are eligible for the first tier. Owners of the more expensive tickets can win the upper tier prizes which are more valuable.
Although many of the prizes will be geared towards the outdoors, fishing and hunting, Gunderson promises there also will be plenty of fine jewelry and art.
The evening begins at 4:30 p.m. with a no-host cocktail hour. At 6 p.m., the dinner, which consists of filet mignon, will be served. The auction begins at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $55 for individuals, $85 for couples and $45 for greenwings.
Since the number of tickets sold is limited to about 250, Gunderson's best advice is to buy early.
For tickets, call Gunderson at 476-2168.
Ducks Unlimited is a volunteer organization that boasts almost 700,000 members in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America.
A part of its mission statement is to "conserve, restore and manage wetland and association habitats for North American waterfowl."
If those goals are attained, the habitats also benefit a variety of other wildlife, DU officials claim.
Since its founding in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has raised more than $1.72 billion. In 2001 and 2002, $128.5 million was raised.
About 83 percent of the money raised goes directly to wetlands and waterfowl conservation. Some of the threatened and endangered species that have benefited from DU projects include the bald eagle, American Peregrine Falcon, Aleutian Canadian Goose, Whooping Crane and the Yuma Clapper Rail.
Species that benefit greatly from the projects include Canada Geese, Mallards, Green-winged Teals, Northern Pintails and the American Widgeons.
In Arizona, Ducks Unlimited is funding ongoing projects at Perri Marsh and Pintail Slough on the Colorado River. Work at both included removing non-native vegetation, constructing levees, contouring land and building concrete ditches to provide water conveyance and control.
Other projects have been finished at Whitewater Draw wildlife area in southeastern Arizona and on the Gila Monster Ranch near the Gila River.
DU also submitted a proposal to Duke Energy to conduct a master plan for habitat restoration for about 1,300 acres of its property near Arlington.
According to DU officials, those projects will improve the overall health of the environment by recharging and purifying groundwater and by reducing soil erosion. They also help moderate floods and provide new recreational areas.
In all, DU has completed 35 projects in Arizona at a cost of $1,915,107.