By Lynn Burkhead

Herald Democrat

If the Texas/OU Red River Showdown in the Cotton Bowl last weekend — or the upcoming spell of chilly weather next week — doesn’t alert you to this fact already, then one of the surest signs of fall is at hand.

And that’s the Texoma Chapter of Ducks Unlimited annual fundraiser, one of the Lone Star State’s longest running quacker backer events.

This year’s 43rd edition of the Texoma DU Sportsman’s Dinner gets underway at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Ray Davis Hangar at North Texas Regional Airport located at 4700 Airport Road in Denison.

According to 2018 Texoma DU Chairman Kris Spiegel of Denison, tickets to next week’s event are $50 in advance for singles, $60 at the door. There are also $25 Greenwing tickets available (youth 17 years of age and under) along with two sponsorship table levels. The latter includes Silver Sponsor tables ($650 each, five dinner tickets) and Gold Sponsor tables ($1,250 each, 10 tickets).

All tickets include a chance at winning various door prize items, the evening’s catered meal and beverages, a year’s membership in the Memphis, Tenn. based conservation organization, a DU decal and membership card, and a subscription to the award winning bi-monthly Ducks Unlimited magazine.

What’s more, the usual array of national and Texas DU merchandise will also be available, including offerings from Benelli, Beretta, Browning, Drake, Kimber, Mossy Oak and the Austin-based YETI Coolers.

Spiegel notes that this year’s event could be one for the record books, and that’s saying something considering the 42 previous dinners held by one of the top chapters in Texas DU history.

“Even with our great history leading up to this year, the 2018 Sportsman’s Dinner should be our largest event yet,” said Spiegel, noting that the local group has seen significant growth this year in both committee members and sponsor numbers.

He also noted that the Texoma Chapter is a recipient of both the President’s Honor Roll Award (for chapters that raise between $65,000 and $95,000 in a single year) and the Northeast Texas Chapter of the Year Award for the group’s efforts in 2017.

Such work was a part of the more than 2,400 nationwide chapters of DU that hosted more than 4,050 fundraising events last year. Such work has spurred the organization on since its Dust Bowl era founding in 1937, raising more than $ dollars to conserve and restore more than 14 million acres of vital waterfowl, wetland, and wildlife habitat.

Such success comes thanks to dedicated volunteers, committee members and banquet workers. For the Denison/Sherman chapter, that is a group that includes past area chairman Eric Kloppers, auctioneer Doug Rodgers, publicity man Bryan Norman, retired DU Senior Regional Director Jim Lillis, and the man that took Lillis’ place, Dillon Schroeder.

Other Texoma committee members include Art and Susan Arthur, Dan and Rachael Bennett, Scott Beezley, Charlie Brown, Howell Brown, Kevin Crouse, Terry Crow, Brett Evans, Justin Harris, Travis Helm, Josh Holley, Josh Johnson, Wes Johnson, Eddie McDonough, Kyle Patterson, Kyle Richards, Jeff Sanderson, Melody Singleton and workers from Best Pawn Super Store.

If a hard working and talented committee is one part of Texoma DU’s annual success formula, then another ingredient is the tremendous amount of donations and sponsor money that gets pumped into each year’s local dinner.

For instance, this year’s brisket and sausage meal (from famed Dieter Brothers Barbecue in Lindsay) is being underwritten by new Texoma DU Life Sponsor Casey Shires.

And that’s only one of dozens of Texoma DU sponsors, all of whom are greatly valued and appreciated. In fact, this year’s 58 sponsors is a group that includes such donor levels as Sponsor in Perpetuity (donation levels of $30,000), Diamond Life Sponsor ($20,000), Life Sponsor ($10,000), Gold Sponsor ($1,250), Silver Sponsor ($650), and Bronze Sponsor ($250).

“We are very grateful to all of our new and continued sponsors that allow us to be such a great chapter,” said Spiegel.

Special thanks must also go out to all of this year’s donors, an impressive and lengthy list of at least 67 individuals and businesses as Tuesday’s banquet time approaches. A portion of those valued donors contributing to this year’s local dinner include Ray Davis, Knives of Alaska, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Cabela’s, KXII-TV, the Herald Democrat, and many more.

What kind of collectible merchandise and outdoors gear will all of this produce for attendees at next week’s annual Texoma DU dinner? For starters, there will be a land-and-water all-terrain ARGO, a hunting vehicle donated by Dr. Mark Smith and raffled off by the local quacker backer chapter.

And don’t forget the 2018 Jerry Paul Higgins Gun Raffle, a selection that includes the DU Rifle of the Year (a Kimber 6.5 Creedmoor deer rifle), the DU Handgun of the Year (a Kimber 1911 .45 ACP), a Browning 6.5 Creedmoor deer rifle in Hells Canyon Camo, a Sig-Sauer 9 mm handgun, and more.

These and other firearms will be available through winning raffle tickets ($50 each), with the special raffle being underwritten by Jerry Paul Higgins, Ltd. and done so in memory of the longtime Texoma DU Sponsor in Perpetuity.

Other special items at the 43rd Texoma DU event include the $20 Pick of the Litter Dog Tags; a Green Goose Band Raffle ($20 each for a chance to win a Beretta A400 Xplor 28-gauge shotgun); a Gold Goose Band Raffle ($20, a DU Presidents Edition Browning Wicked Wings A5 12-gauge), the REAL Decoy raffle ($10, REAL Decoy action decoys or a guided duck hunt); the Duck Dice Game (for a Green Mountain Portable Pellet Grill and Smoker), and the Pluck-a-Duck and Pluck-a-Goose games for various raffle prize items.

This year’s live auction, handled once again by Whitesboro’s Doug Rodgers, features such items as the 2018 DU Stamp and Print by Scott Storm; collectible DU items; a four-person 1/2-day long fishing trip on either the Red River or Lake Texoma; the Terry Redlin “Country Neighbors” and “Autumn Shoreline” prints (both donated by the estate of the late Ray Matthews); a DU Flyway Knife Set; a DU Storage Ottoman; the 2018 DU Knife of the Year; a K2 Cooler of Wagyu Beef; the 2018 DU Gun of the Year, a Browning A5 Sweet 16; a Mossberg 930 Snow Goose 12-gauge; a Mystery Gun Vault; the 2018 DU Decoy of the Year by Jett Brunet; a custom T-Box Duck Blind; and the 2019 Duck Blind Dinner Table for 10.

Perhaps the year’s two biggest live auction items are two wingshooting adventures in Cordoba, Argentina as both a two-man, three-day dove hunt and a four-man, three-day dove hunt will be auctioned off. These trips reportedly include such things as lodging, dove hunts, guides, meals and beverages, local transfers to and from the fields, all being donated by David Denies Wingshooting.

And finally, don’t forget the Silent Auction either, one that will feature 18 items this year including the 2018 Federal Duck Stamp print by Scot Storm; a set of four Franklin Mint Collector Labrador retriever plates; a DU ladies watch; a DU Tabletop Patio Fireplace; restaurant packages; and plenty more.

“I helped get this chapter started back in the mid-1970s with such dedicated volunteers as Danny Bodecker, Jim Short, the late John Brakebill, and many others,” said Lillis. “We’ve built one of the state’s best DU chapters over the years with many, many successful banquets. But this year’s dinner could be as good as any, maybe the best.”

Why not come out next Tuesday evening, eat some barbecue, throw in a few dollars, and see if you can help make that forecast come true? Because once again, the Texoma DU chapter will be hard at work for the ducks all up and down the Central Flyway.