John Reagan was five years old when his dad took him dove hunting for the first time.

It’s a tradition he’s kept up with as he grew up into an adult – and eventually, involve his own family as well.

“My dad would take my brother and I out,” Reagan recalled. “It’s something I grew up to enjoy doing. We’d find just about everything over the years. I like taking my son and daughter with me and my wife to hunt a little bit as well.”

However, the duck population has steadily declined in recent years. According to a 2018 waterfowl survey, the total breeding population ducks amounted to 41.2 million, which is a 13 percent decrease from the previous year’s estimate at 47.3 million. The 2017 survey revealed a decrease as well, albeit a smaller one from 48.4 million in 2016 to 47.3 million in 2017.

To advocate for conservation efforts in the waterfowl population, Reagan is helping put on a fundraiser at 6 p.m. Friday at the Waxahachie Civic Center. All of the proceeds will go toward Ducks Unlimited, a national nonprofit that is dedicated to conserving wetlands and the associated species that live within them.

As the area chairman for the Ellis County chapter of Ducks Unlimited, Reagan has been involved with the program for over 18 years. And during that time, Reagan stated he’s seen resources becoming more and more scarce for wetland wildlife.

“You’ve got more and more people, and less and less land,” he expressed. “A lot of natural habitats are being lost just to development.”

Reagan stated that most of the money generated from the nonprofit goes toward preserving breeding grounds in Canada

He further explained that money is donated to breeding grounds in Canada and the Dakotas because that is where ducks typically migrate to during the winter and before returning south to nest in the spring. According to Ducks Unlimited’s website, 83 percent percent of their proceeds go toward waterfowl and wetlands conservation and education, while 14 percent goes toward fundraising and development and three percent go toward human resources.

“Most of the focus and money spent is spent up there,” Reagan stated. “Fact of the matter is if you don’t spend it there, then nothing else is going to matter – because there won’t be any duck and geese. If you don’t focus on the breeding ground, then there won’t be anything to migrate down to Texas anyway.”

Reagan explained that he does all kinds of hunting, from elk to antelope. One thing he particularly enjoys about duck hunting is how it’s more of a social atmosphere, compared to other animals where his group is more focused on the hunt.

“The thing about bird-hunting, in general, is that you don’t necessarily have to be super-quiet all the time,” Reagan remarked. “Bird-hunting can be much more of a social event, whereas if you’re deer hunting, you’ve got to be super quiet and you’ve got to worry about your scent. You can talk to your buddies, cut it up, watching the dogs work, those types of things.”

He also enjoys the dog work that’s involved with duck hunting, adding that his dogs play a pivotal role in the game that they catch.

“I’ve had five labs over the years,” Reagan explained. “They’ve been all trained to hunt with. It’s that much more enjoyable when you got good dogs to work with.”

Reagan noted that a common misconception of hunters is that they negatively impact conservation efforts in the country. During last year’s banquet, the Ellis County Ducks Unlimited chapter raised over $400,000 for conservation efforts, according to Reagan. And for Ducks Unlimited nationally, they’ve conserved more than 14 million acres of wetlands since its founding in 1937, according to its 2018 report.

“Hunters put their money where their mouth is,” he expressed. “Hunters are the ones that buy the annual licenses. That spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on equipment. Thousands upon thousands of dollars traveling to Canada to go on a goose hunt, or Colorado on an elk hunt. The amount of money that’s generated that supports conservation directly or indirectly by hunters makes what PETA does a rounding error.”

“Hunters are the greatest conservationists,” Reagan continued. “Do they take game? Yes, they do. But the game wouldn’t be there in the quantity that it is in a lot of cases without it being for hunters. If it wasn’t for hunters and the economic proceeds generated by hunters, they’d be extinct – or close to it.”

Reagan stated that in years past, the Ellis County Ducks Unlimited group has sold out weeks in advance for their annual banquet. This year, however, they have 10 tables still available.

Reagan expressed that he hopes people come out to support the cause, and help support conservation efforts across the country. The banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

“It’s a fun way to get out and enjoy nature,” Reagan stated. “If you get a few birds, that’s a bonus.”

Tickets are $80 for adults, $150 for couples and $50 for children. There’s also a silent auction at the banquet, where Ducks Unlimited is auctioning off 32 items, including hunting and fishing trips, beach vacations and tickets to see country artist George Strait.

If you would like to attend the fundraiser, email elliscountydu@earthlink.net, or go online at www.ducks.org.