BONNERS FERRY — The annual Ducks Unlimited (DU) dinner and auction took place on Friday, Nov. 2, at the Boundary County Fairgrounds Memorial Hall, drawing a record attendance of around 180 people.
DU was formed during the Dust Bowl in 1937 when the waterfowl population plummeted due to the drought. A small group of dedicated sportsmen formed the organization with the mission statement of habitat conservation. Since that time, the total acreage conserved in North America has reached over 14 million acres.
The organization has blossomed and has a large following here in Boundary County, as evidenced by the enthusiastic crowd drawn to the dinner and auction. With hunting season upon us, people were ready to come together, bid on items, play games, and “talk duck” with one another while enjoying a prime rib dinner put on by the Springs Restaurant of the Kootenai River Inn.
“People like to come to Ducks Unlimited dinner when it is duck hunting season, when it is fall and they are thinking about hunting,” said Kootenai Valley Ducks Unlimited Committee Chairperson Susan Gutknecht.
The large room was filled with silent auction and raffle items. Some were DU merchandise, but many were donated by local businesses.
“We have probably 15 percent more this year,” said Gutknecht about the donations. “It just seems to grow every year. I think the word of mouth goes around and they know that they get a lot of recognition from us.”
There were many activities, from games to raffles, and no one was excluded from the fun.
“We always have a ladies’ table because the ladies kind of get forgotten in this,” explained Gutknecht. “The prize for that is a pink 9mm gun. Any lady who plays that game gets a gift.”
With a record number of children attending this year, there were games and prizes for them as well, including an indoor basketball toss, and an exciting game of Heads of Tails. All the children also received a gift for attending.
“The kids all get a gift because those are the future duck people,” explained Gutknecht.
The adults also got a chance to play Heads or Tails, a game played with paper plates and a coin, with the winner took home a brand new grill.
“This event is great. These girls do a good job,” said Ducks Unlimited Regional Director Mond Warren. “They are busy girls, but they take the time to put this on and they do a fantastic job.”
“I really enjoy coming up here and working with them. I go to a lot of DU events, with a lot of guys, and they are talking about ducks and elk hunting. I come up here and they are talking about what color swatches they want to use on the tables,” Warren said with a laugh. “I just let them go and show up ... and it looks fantastic.”
As people finished eating the live auction commenced. The volunteer FFA students paraded around the tables, holding up framed prints and other items as auctioneer John Sater auctioned them off. The most spirited bidding was for an intricate wood duck decoy which sold for $475 to Dennis Fitch.
“We have the best prizes that we have ever had. We have a really nice turnout. Lots of guns to give away,” said Ducks Unlimited volunteer Dennis Warner, who has been involved with DU for 25 years. “I want to thank the community for the support.”
Many in attendance remarked that this was their favorite DU event to come to every year.
“This is by far the most fun, and the most organized too,” said Warner.
The dinner and no host bar were both quite popular, and brought by the Kootenai River Inn.
“They do it for us every year and they do a great job,” said Gutknecht. “Everyone raves about the dinner every year.”
“The dinner was really delicious; such variety, good horseradish, lovely prime rib,” said Karen Standal. “It was well worth waiting for.”
From dinner, to auction, raffles, games and more, the room had a boisterous vibe of people having a great time. Behind the scenes where a hard working group of volunteers, not just DU members, but also a group of FFA members and Mountain West Bank employees.
“We couldn’t do it without the committee, we couldn’t do it without the local businesses,” said Gutknecht.
The combination provided everyone with a night of fun, and all for a great cause.
Ron Large has been coming to this event for years.
“I love it. I think it is great,” said Large. “The food is excellent. The banquets are always great. The Kootenai Inn always puts on a good banquet. It is just fun.”
“People are winning things,” Large said. “The kids are winning. That’s what it is all about, having fun.”