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October 19. 2013 2:11AM

Dick Pinney's Guidelines: The late, great Hank Walker was one of a kind

Dick Pinney has gone fishin'. Here's a blast from the past, one of his favorite columns about a special organization.

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IT NEVER ceases to amaze me that many of the people that attend Ducks Unlimited Banquets and other affairs are not duck hunters, and don't really care one way or another about the sport, and some don't even find waterfowl fascinating. But they almost always do share one thing in common, and that's a love for the environment and conservation of our natural resources.

Ducks Unlimited is certainly one of the finest private, non-profit organizations that spends a very large percentage of the funds that it raises directly on conservation. In my estimation, D.U.'s only close rival when it comes to that kind of a track record on a national scale, is The Nature Conservancy. They have a similar mission to preserve, but do it on a broader spectrum than D.U.'s focus on wetlands and the uplands that surround them.

Recently, at Ducker's Day at Wagon Wheel Farm at Durham, I overheard a very dedicated hunter/conservationist, complain to a D.U. representative there that he was going to resign from D.U., because the organization wasn't involved in a turf battle over Canada geese. It seems that the hunter thought that D.U. should be putting up a fight because Canada has much more liberal goose hunting regulations, permits subsistence hunting by the native tribes, and in general, doesn't appear to be as protective of this resource as we are here in the States.

And the hunter was right about D.U.'s lack of involvement in this issue. Although they may have some say in those kind of issues, it's really not their bag. D.U.'s mission is a very single issue, and that is to preserve, protect, and develop, waterfowl habitat! And no one does it better, or even comes close.

We talked a little sense into this very fine person's head about this matter, and happily, I think he changed his mind. If we expect D.U. to get involved in all of the inner politics of the waterfowl situation, we're asking for big trouble. It's a great way to polarize good people against each other, and fragment an organization that has done more for waterfowl (and in turn help hundreds of other species), than any other group in existence.

While working a calling contest booth at Ducker's Day, our table was set up next to Geoff Walker's booth. Geoff is the son of the late, great, Hank Walker, wildlife artist, call maker, and decoy carver extraordinary. Hank's recent passing left a huge void, as many local waterfowl conservation fund-raisers were much enhanced by his (and often son Geoff's) presence.

Geoff, who resides in Newbury, Mass., is carrying on the fine family tradition, but he also knows that no one can really fill those big shoes of father Hank's. I need to share with you some of Geoff's thoughts of his father from a brochure that he wrote, entitled "A Son's Reflections of Hank Walker, the Artist."

"The excitement that a true waterfowler feels on those 'diamond blue' cold late December days when the winds blow hard and the birds decoy, in never ending singles, pairs and strings, is a feeling my father knew well. ... He felt that a good hunter is a true conservationist and steward of the environment. Because of his respect for the sport, Dad felt nature had a rhythm and that each stage was dependant on, or was related to, producing nature's harmony. He believed that hunting and other high impact use of our environment has a very important place, if done in good taste.

"In 1978 he returned from government to devote his time to his greatest loves - wildlife art, hunting and marshland preservation. He realized that the most committed group in this area was Ducks Unlimited. Dad felt that D.U.'s focus was the only real and viable approach to restoration and protection of marshland, thus the successful propagation of waterfowl. Because of this, Dad made it his mission statement to help D.U. wherever he could. He tirelessly campaigned and championed the causes and approaches that D.U. was involved in. He devoted his time and artwork to them for the next 15 years, where he helped to earn millions of dollars for the cause. For his efforts, Hank Walker received all three Palette and Chisel Awards, The Canadian Gold Teal Award, Atlantic Flyway Artist of the Year and six times Massachusetts D.U. Artist of the Year. In addition, the Outdoor Writers Association awarded him their Sportsman of the Year." (I'm personally very pleased that I had a part in this award!)

Having known Hank during his last years, and becoming acquainted with Geoff and his wife of late, I've come to realize just what a treasure to our area this Walker family is - and has been. Waterfowlers and outdoors lovers will be sharing Hank's legacy for many more years to come, as Geoff has arranged for the continuity by doing a limited edition print of Hank's work that will help D.U. raise more millions, and a fund that will restore some of the outdated water control structures at the Federal Wildlife Refuge at Plum Island/Parker River.

Hank's spirit lives on through Geoff and many of Hank's friends, and through Hank's lasting gifts. Good luck and Godspeed, Geoff, on your mission and journey. Please stay in touch.

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.


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