Bismarck, N.D.—When Jeremy Stephens went on his first duck hunt 10 years ago, the experience transformed his outdoors life.
“I was instantly hooked, and duck season turned into a year-around obsession for me,” said Stephens, 30. “I love being in a duck blind with my friends. I love the camaraderie. And I love to hunt.”
Stephens’ obsession for waterfowl hunting meshes seamlessly with his new job as the Delta Waterfowl regional director for Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. The job requires extensive travel and long hours, but Stephens says he loves the challenge of spreading the Delta message and forming new chapters.
“I’m truly passionate about Delta’s mission and understand that something must be done to ensure the future of ducks and duck hunting,” he said. “I really wanted to be apart of it. This was a dream opportunity to work for an organization that I believe in.”
Stephens is no stranger to Delta Waterfowl and its programs. Three years ago, feeling the itch to get more involved in waterfowl conservation, Stephens founded the Howard County Delta Waterfowl chapter in New Franklin, Mo., about 25 miles west of Columbia.
“I wanted to start a chapter because of the organization’s commitment to science-based programs and its emphasis on hunting and introducing kids to our heritage,” he said. “When you look at demographic trends within waterfowling, it’s obvious we need to recruit new blood.”
As chapter chairman, one of Stephens’ first priorities was to organize a First Hunt youth field day. His goal: use local volunteers/members to educate kids on all things duck and goose hunting, as well as plant the seeds about the importance of waterfowl conservation. Event funding came from the chapter’s Waterfowl Heritage Fund (WHF). Introduced in 2002, WHF allows Delta chapters to keep 25 percent of their fund-raising proceeds for local conservation- and hunting-related initiatives.
“Having access to a portion of fund-raising proceeds is a real boon for local chapters, and it certainly helped us defray expenses for our youth field day,” said Stephens. “I’m pretty certain many chapters wouldn’t be able to hold local events without WHF.”
Stephens says his work as a chapter chairman will help him with his new position as regional director. “I’ve been in the chairman’s shoes and have seen a lot of problems chapters will likely face and know how to solve them so they can be successful,” he said. “My goal is to spread the word about Delta and our programs and build a foundation of committed volunteers in each state that I cover.”
Stephens, who grew up in a small rural community along the Missouri River in central Missouri, is married and has a 5-year-old daughter (whom, he says, he’ll take duck hunting for the first time this season). He also competes in hunt tests with a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever.
Asked to describe his perfect day of waterfowling, Stephens, who hunts Missouri’s public lands system regularly, didn’t hesitate: “Hunting flooded cornfields in the Missouri River bottoms, picking off greenheads with several friends and my dog, Zingo. I enjoy the camaraderie of visiting with friends in between groups of ducks.”