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Megaduck Challenge Article

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New Organization Threatens Very Core of Waterfowl Research

Henry David Thoreau once said, "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life."

A few years back, John Andrews, then Chief of the Office of Migratory Bird Management, learned firsthand what Thoreau was getting at when "came to his house" in the form of a phone call. I was calling the Chief to discuss a project was finalizing that would do a whole lot of good for waterfowl research - or so we thought. WFC had concocted the idea that we could assist Fish & Wildlife by increasing the percentage of duck bands reported annually. To do so, we were going to put a bounty, or reward, on ducks baring selected federal bands. In fact, was willing to offer one million dollars to the individual who shot and reported a specific federal duck band that would be selected from current USFWS bands. Along with the million-dollar duck would be bands of lesser value and additional prizes. I went on to explain to Chief Andrews that we were currently negotiating an insurance policy with Lloyd's of London and were on the cusp of launching our million-dollar duck program. All we needed was the Service's duck band database. In response, the Chief just about, well… he just about began running for his life.

Actually, to paraphrase, he said this:

If you go forward with this program, you could ruin everything we're doing in waterfowl research as it relates to banding. And banding is the core of what we do.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. We could do what? I replied. Clearly the Chief didn't get it. We wanted to help these guys, not hurt them.

If you really want to help, the Chief continued, you'd drop the idea immediately. Either way, the department will not willingly release the banding data.

But why? I pleaded. The Chief explained:

Banding is a crucial element of waterfowl research. The data we gather through banding is essential in furthering our understanding of specific species and the overall health of North America's waterfowl resource. Banding reports figure heavily into Adaptive Harvest models and guide us in setting seasons and managing the resource. Waterfowl biologists don't need quantity. They need quality. When you're working with banding data, quality is best measured in consistency. We have documented a long history of established norms in regard to band reporting. What you are proposing could dramatically alter those norms and thus skew our studies to the point of putting us in the dark.

Feeling a bit embarrassed, I apologized and hung up the phone. immediately dropped the idea of the Million-Dollar Duck Program.

Now fast-forward a few years. Recently a member made a number of calls to our offices with requests to buy advertising in our magazine to promote, you guessed it, a million-dollar duck sweepstakes called Megaduck Challenge. We explained that we, too, had had the very same brilliant idea a few years back but came to realize (because we were flat out told) that such a program could severally damage waterfowl research. We explained to him that once he talked to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, he would realize this, as well.

To our disbelief, he told us he had already talked to Fish & Wildlife and that the Feds had given him "the same story" they had given us. Nonetheless, his company was going forward with their program. When we asked how they intended to get the banding data if the Service wouldn't give it to them, he told us they had discovered that they could use the Freedom of Information Act to get around the Feds. Dismayed, we asked why they would go forward with such a program when they've been clearly told that doing so could severely hurt waterfowl research and thus waterfowl and waterfowling - the very thing they purport to be in support of. His reply was terse and telling: "We have too much money invested in it."

Needless to say, turned down their advertising, as did (we've since discovered) Ducks Unlimited Magazine and the Delta Waterfowl Report. Wildfowl, however, accepted and ran their ad.

In a telephone interview with to Tom Fulgham, Editor in Chief of DU's Magazine, Tom stated DU's policy in regard to the acceptance of advertising:

"Whenever we run an ad we try and assess what the impact will be. If something doesn't feel right, we often submit it to our conservation department to get their opinion. In this instance, our conservation department took it directly to Fish & Wildlife to get their feelings. Both agreed that this program would not be good for the resource and would have a negative statistical impact. Furthermore, Dr. Bruce Batt, our science editor, has philosophical concerns about whether such a program would be good for waterfowling."

When asked if the group had approached DU with offers of donations, Fulgham stated that he believed there was talk in that regard. He went on to say that DU's conservation people have since told him that they "do not want us to go near this group at all," thus he felt that any such offers would be turned down.

Delta Waterfowl Foundation confirmed that they were offered an opportunity to receive monetary contributions from Megaduck by becoming a conservation partner. Delta, however, made it clear that they did not wish to be considered. When asked to explain the decision, John Devney (Group Manager of Communications, Marketing and Development) stated that "Delta was aware of the US Fish & Wildlife Service's concerns over their ability to maintain accurate harvest surveys in light of the Megaduck program and wanted to respect the Service's position."

During a telephone interview with Brian Milsap, current Chief of the USFWS Office of Migratory Bird Management, asked the Chief to explain the Service's position in regard to the Megaduck program. "This is not something that will help us and could have severe effects on our ability to accurately estimate harvest rates," Milsap stated. "We know the current percentages as they relate to birds harvested and bands reported. With this program in effect, we would have no idea how those percentages were being effected." When asked to elaborate, Milsap stated that biologist know that, "historically, there is a consistent reporting rate in regard to mallards. If the lottery increases band reporting, we would misinterpret the data and would wrongfully conclude an increase in mallard harvest. This misinterpretation would then be figured into the Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) models and impact regulation setting. Anything that drives up reporting rates biases the data," Milsap stressed. "And this doesn't even address the actual impact on harvest that so large a reward would have."

When asked what his department intended to do in light of Megaduck, Milsap stated that "we're worried about all these things and the damage it could do. If and when we receive an official request for the data, we'll take it to a higher level in the department and try and identify the possibility of illegal activity in an attempt to stop it."

Milsap was then asked if he tried to explain the negative impact the Megaduck program could have to the person who contacted him from the company. "I did," the Chief replied, "but the man said he had already invested too much."

When you consider that American waterfowlers have invested over a billion dollars in waterfowl conservation, you have to wonder just how much money is "too much" that it's worth placing at risk the decades of dedication and commitment duck hunters have invested in the resource.

Posted on the Megaduck website is the following:

The National Waterfowlers' Registry™ (NWR) is one of the fastest growing member-driven waterfowling group[sp] in the U.S. The NWR was established for duck hunters by duck hunters to support waterfowling in North America. Band reporting data is a crucial portion of the science of waterfowl conservation and management. Past efforts to improve band reporting percentages have seen varying levels of success. It is our hope that through the combined efforts of our members and staff that we may provide valuable additional band reporting data thereby enhancing the long term management of waterfowl across North America.

How any "waterfowling group" can acknowledge that band data is "a crucial portion of the science of waterfowl conservation and management" and then move forward with a program that has been deemed, at best, dangerous to the welfare of waterfowl conservation and management is difficult to understand. It's even harder to accept.

The question would like to ask its members and readers is this:

Do you believe the Megaduck Challenge threatens the quality of waterfowl research and the management practices that rely on the banding data?

To answer this question, please participate in's online poll located in the right-column on the main page. WFC will forward the results, along with comments posted in our dedicated forum, to the Department of the Interior for review and consideration. It is our hope that the Department will realize the true value of our shared waterfowling history and heritage and work to secure its future. It goes without saying, North America's waterfowlers have invested far too much.

Click here to access WFC's discussion forum dedicated to this topic.

The poll is located on the right.

Thank you for voicing your thoughts on this important matter.
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Evidently Wildfowl mag, Remington and Columbia are sponsors. I wrote to both Wildfowl and Remington and said I would no longer be a customer if they continue to support this program.
Actually there is a Full Page ad for this on pg. 14 of the August Issue of Wildfowl Magazine with the following sponsors:

Mack's Prairie Wings, Remington, Columbia, and Realtree
Ok, I wrote to Columbia and Mack's too :bop:
I'm glad John Moline is taking a stand against this at waterfowler.

Considering I don't know all of the facts about this, it's kind of hard to take the agreeing position, but from what I've read about this thus far putting a price on a birds head nationally is going to increase poaching. Just like trying to win the lottery, the more tickets you have the better the chance....but in this case it's ducks.

I'm going to keep on eye on this to see where this goes.

Their website is:

Check out the contest and sponsors on the right.
Putting a price on a birds head poaching or not is just plain unethical.If the USFWS said not to do this,Do the right thing and dont.
Think of the trend this could start. The last thing we need is for duckhunting to become as bastardized as bass fishing. Next thing you know, there would be a pro duck hunters circuit with major sponsors, duck tournaments with weigh-ins televised on ESPN, etc.
Once again a group trying to put a price tag on the resource. I personally will not do business with companies who support such schemes, I had an order in with Macks and since learning about this have cancelled it, and have sent a letter to them stating why.
Along the same lines, there is a group out of Washburn that is rumored to be organizing a goose hunting tournament this fall! The organizer is allegedly going to pocket all the profits. The G&F has heard about this and they have an ear to the ground! Just what we need, more commercialization of the resource. :puke:
These type of events are going to take our sport to the levels of the BASS and PWT, all about $$$ and fame,and nothing to do with the true meaning of the sport, enjoying the outdoors with family and friends!!
I hear you dblkluk.I fished touraments for a while and the first thing I noticed was all of the big ego's that were competing against each other.When I decided to quit after a few years it was because of all the cheating going on.I have now taken a different perspective on the outdoor experience and enjoy it much more.Why take a relaxing sport and make it harder than work(it really was).If this mega-ducks progressees I can see it becoming much the same. :eyeroll:
Thanks for the URL Chris. Here is how the site is promoting the contest:

"Never before have waterfowl hunters been inspired to hunt legally lest they miss a chance at collecting $250,000 or any of the other great prizes offered by the $1,000,000 MEGADUCK CHALLENGE™ and its product sponsors."

How do they feel this is going to inspire people to hunt legally? If anything, it will inspire people to shoot over their limit, shoot at birds out of range, shoot before/after legal time, etc. Some people already have problems with ethics and laws. Telling them that there are 4 ducks out there worth $250,000 each will only provide more incentive to break the rules. :2cents:
Hey guys new member here. I have to say I agree with you on this one but I dont now what I can do, Who do I write or email? Also, what do you guys do about guys that sky bust? :puke:
Remington and Columbia have been pulled from their list of sponsors, and I was told Mack's pulled out too... I wonder if this contest will die?
Trying to post a -mail from Mack's and you are correct Chris it seems they are pulling out also. Maybe I don't need to sell myRem just yet!

Gist of the e-mail was that the original idea was to promte more band reporting but Mega took it up and over the top. This was not the intention of Mack"s at least from what they indicated. I wonder if maybe the number of negative and threatening respones are causing some fear in loss of sales?
Ron Gilmore said:
I wonder if maybe the number of negative and threatening respones are causing some fear in loss of sales?
I'm assuming that's exactly the reason why they pulled out. Nobody wants that kind of bad PR (and yes, in some cases I do believe there's such a thing as bad PR).
It is good that the sponsors are pulling out! I like my Remingtons, although I suck with them, right Chris? This type of thing is totally over the top and would probably result in some bad PR for sportspeople too. Could you imagine if PETA go ahold of something like that? No good!

Speaking of PETA. I was working in a customer's house yesterday (I am a carpenter) and I noticed some PETA crap in her house. I wanted to say something but she is a friend of a friend and I want to get paid. :eyeroll:
I received this from Bill Jordan and Realtree.

Waterfowler Alert: Notice of Cancellation

After further consultation with U.S. Department of the Interior regarding
potential negative ramifications, Mack's Prairie Wings, Realtree and
Remington are withdrawing any further support to the National Waterfowlers'
Registry's MegaDuck Challenge event. Please note that Columbia Sportswear
had not approved the use of its name or logo, and at no time did they offer
or give any support to this promotion. We apologize to Columbia for this

We have officially canceled any association with the National Waterfowlers'
Registry's MegaDuck Challenge event. We extend a sincere apology to those we
have offended. We will continue to demonstrate our strong commitment to all
of our valued customers and friends in the field.
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