As Scott Jinks explains it, it’s a “natural fit.”
That “natural fit” is a partnership at the club level between Hunting Retriever Club, Inc., and Delta Waterfowl.
Jinks is the president of the Trail of Tears Hunting Retriever Club, which has members from both southeast Missouri and the western side of southernmost Illinois, and is one of the founding officers of the new Trail of Tears Chapter of Delta Waterfowl.
The new Delta chapter made its debut during the Trail of Tears HRC’s spring hunt test on March 5 and 6 with a fund-raising banquet held on Saturday night at Arrowhead Lodge near Wolf Lake, Ill., which was the club’s headquarters for the weekend.
“There has never been a Delta chapter banquet held in conjunction with a HRC series,” Jinks said.
Delta Waterfowl and the national Hunting Retriever Club are partners at the corporate level. Jinks attended the HRC’s annual meeting last year when he came up with the idea to align the two organizations more closely at the club level.
“Delta was there. It kind of dawned on me that, hey, this would be a great opportunity because the two mesh so close together,” Jinks said. “I think eighty percent of Delta’s membership own dogs. Well, it’s a natural fit for HRC – being by hunters, conceived by hunters – to grow our membership, but bring Delta in and grow Delta membership by bringing HRC in.”
Jinks praised the members of Hunting Retriever Clubs, especially those with Trail of Tears. Trail of Tears Hunting Retriever Club began in 1998. Most of its members come from the Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Mo., area and Union and Alexander counties in Illinois.
“[We’re] trying to promote conservation through dog ownership. The best conservation tool is a well-trained retriever. So we’re on that end of it,” Jinks said. “Delta is, of course, promoting the ducks, which we’re all duck hunters. We’re an organization of hunters. So, obviously we want to promote ducks. Hopefully, we’ll get some of [Delta’s] members interested in HRC.”
Jason Dewes, a regional director for Delta Waterfowl and Delta’s director of fund-raising, was the keynote speaker for the banquet. He is enthusiastic about both organizations working closely at the club level, explaining that Delta isn’t just about habitat but is also an advocate for waterfowl hunters.
“This is the inaugural event for the Trail of Tears Chapter [of Delta Waterfowl]. We’re hoping that we’ll get more HRC clubs doing the same thing for us,” he said. “Our vice president was speaking at their meeting and met Scott. And Scott called up and asked what was the possibility of starting a Delta Waterfowl chapter here and tagging on a fund-raiser. This is the beginning of a new Delta Chapter. The HRC chapter, the same guys, have started their own Delta chapter – Trail of Tears Delta Waterfowl.”
Dewes sat down with this reporter before the banquet to talk about waterfowl conservation and some of the work that Delta Waterfowl is doing in that area.
“The Mississippi corridor had a fantastic year. The Central flyway did very well. We’ve got great breeding conditions coming into this breeding season for the spring,” Dewes said. “Snows on the prairies indicate we should have a pretty good spring, and a wet spring is good for duck production.”
A critical issue regarding waterfowl conservation is funding for the federal Conservation Reserve Program, an incentive program that encourages private landowners to put aside acreage for conservation purposes. A proposal in Congress has monies for CRP on the chopping block.
“CRP is the lifeblood for wildlife. If we lose federal funding for CRP, for some of those other programs, it’s going to be devastating for the migratory bird population,” Dewes said. “What needs to be stressed with that is the U.S. prairie pothole region is out-producing Canada the past two years in a row. So, with the U.S. producing more ducks than prairie Canada, it would be devastating for waterfowl hunters if we lost all that CRP gound in the U.S. prairie pothole region.”
Canada doesn’t have a comparable program to CRP. Delta Waterfowl is at the forefront to remedy that.
“The breeding grounds of Canada are broke. They are broke because of a loss of habitat. When I say ‘broke’, I mean it’s just not working,” Dewes said. “At Delta Waterfowl, we’re working on a CRP program for Canada.”
The program is called ALUS – Alternative Land Use Services.
“We’ve got pilot projects working in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. Prince Edward Island is funding their own program based on our ALUS. What I mean to say by that is it’s not a pilot program at Prince Edward Island. It’s been adopted as a policy,” Dewes explained.
Dewes said that the Trail of Tears Chapter plans to use its funds from the banquet to participate in Delta Waterfowl’s “First Hunt” program.
“First Hunt is our new program this year,” he said. “It’s not just for kids. It’s for anybody that wants to become involved as a hunter. It’s going to be chapter driven. Our chapters get to keep 25 percent of revenue that they raise, and the Trail of Tears Chapter is going to participate in the First Hunt program and use this fund-raiser to take some kids hunting who haven’t had the opportunity to do so.”
Jinks said the two-day HRC test ran “about 100” dogs, with Golden, Chesapeake and all colors of Labrador Retrievers entered. Several states were represented with dogs from Indiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma as well as Missouri and Illinois.
Hunt tests are run on a pass/fail scoring against a standard set by the National HRC. The tests are set up to closely reflect a hunt as possible. The conditions could not have been more akin to the real thing: cold early morning rain, falling temperatures, overcast skies, a steady north/northwest breeze of about 15 mph gusting up to 28 on Saturday. Sunday had no rain and the wind had died down a little, but was colder, in the mid 30s.
At the banquet on Saturday, the judges praised the hospitality of Trail of Tears, the grounds at Arrowhead Lodge and Treece Acres Hunting Club, the conditions, the help they received from the bird boys and girls – Trail of Tears HRC had hired the senior class at nearby Shawnee High School to do the honors – and, of course, the dogs.