Having grown up with a family of outdoorsmen, Luke Castillo admitted that he has always had a passion for hunting and fishing.
“The older I have become, the more I have realized that it is more than just going out and harvesting game,” said Castillo. “It’s about spending quality time with loved ones in all of God’s creation. It’s a tradition — a way of life.”
Castillo found others with the same enthusiasm in the Turlock Ducks Unlimited Chapter, where he currently serves as Chairman. The local chapter includes 15 dedicated committee members from Turlock, Hilmar, Hughson and Modesto. There are over 27,000 members throughout the state according to Castillo, and nearly 600,000 total members across the continent.
Ducks Unlimited was founded in 1937 during the Dust Bowl when North America’s waterfowl populations plummeted to an all-time low. In response, a small group of waterfowl hunters joined together to form Ducks Unlimited with an underlying mission to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitats for the continent’s waterfowl.
Ducks Unlimited members participate in waterfowl hunting, with 90 percent of the organization’s members being hunters as well. The organization’s website states that “participation in waterfowl hunting fuels the passion of many Ducks Unlimited members to give something back to the resources that make their outdoor experiences so enjoyable.”
As a volunteer based nonprofit organization, Ducks Unlimited hosts more than 4,000 grassroots fundraising events, such as member and sponsor banquets, shooting and fishing tournaments and golf outings.
To date, Ducks Unlimited has implemented more than 1,300 conservation projects, conserving more than 719,000 acres of wetlands and associated uplands in California.
“In years past, events — like the one to be conducted by our Turlock Chapter volunteers on October 24 — raised over $2 million in California alone,” said Castillo.
The October event that Castillo is referring to is the Turlock Ducks Unlimited Dinner. During the banquet, guests will be treated to a meal provided by Neto’s Catering, live and silent auctions, a huge raffle and games for the whole family. For more information, visit the local events page on the Ducks Unlimited website and find the link for “Turlock Ducks Unlimited Dinner.”
In addition to the Turlock Ducks Unlimited Dinner, Castillo said that each spring — water permitting — local members help provide safe nesting places for hen wood ducks to lay eggs and raise their broods by installing, maintaining and monitoring approximately 300 wood duck nesting boxes on several public and private properties.
“It’s all about giving back as well,” said Castillo. “If it wasn’t for dedicated Ducks Unlimited volunteers before us, we would never have had this great opportunity that we have today.”
Membership for Turlock Ducks Unlimited is $35 annually, however Castillo said that membership is generally included when you attend an event. Any non-members are also welcome to any of the chapter’s events.
The Turlock Ducks Unlimited committee routinely meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Rico’s Pizza in Turlock four to five months prior to an event that they are hosting. For more information, interested individuals are encouraged to attend one of the local meetings, contact current Turlock Ducks Unlimited members, or visit ducks.org.