Robert (Bob) Bob Austin was the second president of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, in the early 1970’s. In the early years of MWA, Bob worked with area manager John Idstrom from Owatonna, and Dr. John Komarek from Lonsdale, building waterfowl impoundment dikes and control structures in cooperation with the Minnesota DNR. Bob was instrumental in the 2005 and 2006 Capitol Duck Rallies, and has been active with the Sportsmen for Change group with the passage of the 2008 Legacy Amendment. Bob continues to be deeply involved with conservation issues.
Bob grew up chasing ducks and pheasants with his dad in the LeSueur area. After turning 14, Bob started hunting on his own. He continued to hunt ducks and pheasants throughout his school years. After graduation from high school, he attended Mankato State University and earned a degree in Wildlife Biology.
A job with North American Aviation took Bob to California , where he decided that Minnesota was the place for him. Bob moved back to Minnesota in 1965, and became active with the MWA in 1968 after returning from the Arctic Circle Lodge, where he worked with a variety of heavy equipment.
Leveraging that knowledge, Bob began a career using his biology background with his newfound heavy equipment skills. He started doing his own wetland impoundment work, restoring wetlands and installing water control structures on the land, working together with John Idstrom and “Doc” Komarek across southern Minnesota. Most of this work was done on private land – working on wetlands, creating dikes or plugging ditches. The three men showed farmers what was possible on their lands with a little work, and the work paid off. These projects produced real results and ducks in the air.
Bob continued his love of waterfowl, and came to the forefront of the scene again during the 2005 and 2006 duck rallies, and he hasn’t stopped there. Bob has used his time and talent to help promote the Legacy Funding that was passed in 2008, and continues to tend to the legislature and do the heavy lifting that is required to hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable for the future.
We are proud to honor Bob Austin – for moving earth (literally and figuratively!) for Minnesota ducks.
Marv Bernet is a living legend. He has carved upwards of 2,000 decoys over the past 55 years. His skills are known throughout the Midwest and the entire country. Although most of Marv's decoys were designed for hunting, many are considered works of art.
Marv was born near Alma, Wisconsin, 1924. His father, a grocer, introduced Marv to hunting. Marv became enamored with nature and the lessons the outdoors had to teach. He lived only a block from the Mississippi River, and all the birds, animals, fish, snakes and plants which inhabited the backwater marshes, tributary streams and ponds.
By the time Marv was 15 years old, he could grab his single-shot 20-gauge shotgun after school, walk along the railroad tracks for 10 minutes and arrive in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway. One day he found a wooden decoy, chipped it out of the ice and brought it home. It was a Herter's Mallard.
In 1949, Marv made his fist decoys using cedar telephone poles for bodies and silhouette heads cut from board. They had no keels or dowels in the back. “They were pretty crude,” Marv says, but Joel Barber's book Wild Fowl Decoys inspired Marv to more artistic creations.
After four years of military service, Marv entered the University of Wisconsin in 1947. Aldo Leopold was his advisor. Marv graduated with a degree in soils and agronomy. He came to St. Paul in 1958, and the 1960s through 1980s were his most prolific decoy carving years. He used mostly white cedar, pine, hard balsa and basswood, and pine for the heads.
Marv blends form with function in these works of art. His decoys feature bold style with broad features that will both attract wildfowl and withstand the rigors of hard use. Marv's first of numerous awards was First Place at the International Decoy Contest, Puddle Duck Category, 1981.
Marv is a generous man whose good deeds go beyond the decoys he crafts. He willingly lends his knowledge to budding decoy carvers, is the annual guest carver at the Minnesota Decoy Collectors' Show, and has donated many decoys to conservation causes including the MWA, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.
We are proud to honor Marv Bernet – for his place atop the list of Minnesota decoy makers, for his legendary carving career, and for his work which will endure to future generations.
With a youthful love of rivers, ducks and decoys, a distinguished career in waterfowl research, and a lifelong love of the waterfowling tradition, Harold Duebbert has displayed a permanent passion for waterfowl and wetlands.
Born in 1929 in the small river town of Wellington, Missouri, Harold was introduced to the art of waterfowling by his father, uncles and “old time” river men. As a teenager, Harold plied the Missouri River in search of migrating ducks and geese with a 16 foot row boat he built.
In 1951, Harold earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Central Missouri State University with a major in biology and a minor in agriculture. Following military service, he attended the University of Missouri, and in 1958, received a Master of Arts degree in Wildlife Management.
In 1960, Harold joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was later recruited by Harvey Nelson to join the burgeoning team of waterfowl research scientists at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in North Dakota. During his 21-year tenure there, Harold and his colleagues conducted some of the continent’s most significant research on the ecology of prairie nesting waterfowl. While working in South Dakota during the 1960’s, Harold was a pioneer in the discovery that fields of cool-season grasses and legumes idled under USDA programs were highly attractive to nesting hens, and provided significant hatch success rates.
Based on his research, Harold authored or co-authored over 70 technical publications, helping lay the foundation for many of today’s waterfowl management practices including upland cover management, predator management, island management, and no-till / minimum till farming. Harold has received numerous conservation awards, including the prestigious “North Dakota Award” from the North Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society. He also maintains memberships with numerous conservation organizations.
It is no surprise that someone with Harold’s passion for waterfowl, who shoots a 1917 12 gauge L.C. Smith shotgun, hunts from a double-ended duck boat he built more than 40 years ago, and collects classic waterfowling books, would hunt ducks, geese and swans only over wooden decoys he has made himself. From his first rig of 100 roughhewn cedar decoys for the Missouri River, Harold continues his carving tradition of today.
We are proud to honor Harold Duebbert – for helping us better understand waterfowl and their habitat needs, and devoting his life's vocation to waterfowl.
Bob Jessen was born in Fairmont, Minnesota in 1931. Bob was in his grandfather’s duck blind before he could hold a gun, and shot his first duck in 1937. Bob hunted and fished throughout his early years in southern Minnesota, and can still check his journals from hunts in the 1950s. After high school, Bob served two years in the U.S. Air Force .
Bob received his degree in Fish and Wildlife from the University of Minnesota in 1955. Then he started working for Minnesota Department of Conservation , now the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Bob quickly moved to the newly established Game Lake Survey program , and helped develop early techniques to sample characteristics of shallow lakes, many of which are still in use today.
Bob transferred to Waterfowl Research in 1960 and began work on a study of ducks and land use in Minnesota. In addition, he worked on lead shot concerns, waterfowl banding and surveys, and flyway issues. Bob helped design the current Waterfowl Breeding Ground Population and Habitat survey, initiated in 1968 and still in use to monitor waterfowl populations in Minnesota. He coauthored Ducks in Minnesota and Ducks and Land Use in Minnesota, two important Technical Bulletins. .
Bob became Group Leader of the DNR's Wetland Wildlife Populations and Research Group when it was established in Bemidji in 1970. Simultaneously he served as the state’s Waterfowl Staff Specialist. He represented the state on the Mississippi Flyway Council Technical Section for many years, and attended Flyway meetings from 1963 until his retirement from the DNR in 1986. The Flyway honored Bob’s many contributions with the Mississippi Flyway Waterfowl Conservation Award. He was the MWA Professional of the Year in 1982.
After retirement from Minnesota, Bob worked for the State of Texas as their Waterfowl Biologist. There he faced new issues in a waterfowl wintering state instead of a production state. He served on the Central Flyway Council Technical Section. Bob then moved to Maryland and worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for two years to help implement the Harvest Information Program (HIP). Bob and his wife Eadie now reside in Bemidji.
We are proud to honor Bob Jessen – for his passion for using scientific data to manage duck populations, and for helping guide waterfowl management in Minnesota for over a quarter century.
John (Doc) Komarek was born in 1934. His father didn’t hunt, but his mother’s, father and uncles introduced him at an early age to hunting and trapping. Doc hunted throughout his school years in the woods, fields and marshes of southern Minnesota.
Doc knew in the 5th grade that he wanted to be a veterinarian. So after graduation from New Prague high School he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, earned his degree in 1958, and began a long career that lasted 46 years. While traveling around to farmers, Doc would talk to them about improving the land and making it better for ducks and wildlife.
This was the beginning of his conservation efforts in southern Minnesota. He would identify landowners that wanted to create wetlands, then contact Bob Austin who did the contracting work. They would coordinate projects with John Idstrom, the local area wildlife manager.
Doc found out about the newly formed Minnesota Waterfowl Association in 1969, and that is where he met Bob Austin. They began their quest to leave things better than when they found them. Doc's work led the way for many private wetland restorations, and the creation of numerous Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). His own property was purchased to prevent wetland drainage, and the subsequent restoration of five wetlands is a showpiece that has inspired other landowners to do the same, and to sell important conservation areas to the DNR for WMAs.
“We must continue to preserve wetlands," Doc says. “Wetlands improve the forests, protect native prairie and grasslands, and provide habitat for ducks and other wildlife to flourish.”
Doc was a “Golden 50” Award Winner with the Minnesota DNR in 2001, and received the Rice County Wildlife Enhancement Award in 2006. He has been married to his wife Geraldine for 56 years, and they have four children.
We are proud to honor Doc Komarek – for his will and commitment to making a difference on the landscape, and for being a tireless advocate for preserving and creating wetlands for future generations to enjoy.
As a young Minnesota boy, David Maass raised pigeons at his home in Rochester, where he was born on November 27, 1929. David's early love of everything wild expanded as he brought home orphaned birds and animals. His mother, Ora,was a former Minnesota trap shooting champion and his stepfather, Kelley, took him hunting. The Mississippi River bottoms were a frequent stomping ground. It all combined to create a love of wild things and wild places in young David.
David started his art career without the help of any formal art education, but he was gifted with incredible talent. Aided by friends and driven by a strong will that helped him become one of the foremost wildlife artists of our day, David's work is renowned for its painstaking detail and attention to accuracy. He is one of today's foremost wildlife artists. A seasoned hunter once said of David Maass' work, “That's exactly how it is and if it isn't, it should be.”
An avid sportsman and ardent contributor to conservation organizations, David has been actively painting game birds for more than 40 years. He has designed more than 35 conservation stamps and prints, a distinction few artists can claim. In addition to his wins in the Federal Duck Stamp contest in 1974 (wood ducks) and 1982 (canvasbacks), David won the very first Minnesota State Duck Stamp, in 1977. Interestingly, this painting was of three mallard ducks taking flight, which happens to be the logo of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. David was very instrumental when MWA was founded over 40 years ago. David was also selected by Ducks Unlimited as International Artist of the Year in 1988. He especially values this award, as it is a recognition of all his work.
Along with Minnesota, Texas, Arkansas, North Dakota and Maine have all featured duck stamps with David Maass artwork. Many conservation organizations have benefited from his creativity as well – the International Quail Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Delta Waterfowl Foundation, The Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, The Minnesota Waterfowl Association, and others. David's originals and limited edition prints have been exhibited in galleries and shows throughout the country, including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Collection of Fine Art in Washington DC, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, and the annual Minnesota Wildlife Heritage Foundation Show.
We are proud to honor David Maass – an artist who captures the thrill, essence and beauty of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.
Bill Stevens was born on a small family farm in Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota where he earned received a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management in 1961. While in the US Army, Bill served in the Game Conservation section at Fort Hood, Texas, managing the fish and wildlife on the post. Following his military service he worked on ruffed grouse research at the University of Minnesota and with the Minnesota DNR.
Stevens began employment at Federal Cartridge Company in 1965. For the first 20 years he coordinated the Federal-sponsored 4-H Conservation Camps that taught 4-H youth about conserving our natural resources. In addition, he developed educational and promotional materials for youth programs and consumers. He helped build a program so successful that today there are 4-H Shooting Sports Programs in 46 states with over 300,000 youth becoming involved with some kind of shooting sports activities annually.
Bill represented Federal during the changeover from lead to non-toxic shot for waterfowl hunting. This included the development and introduction of different gauges and shot sizes. In addition, he served on the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Non-toxic Shot Sub-committee, which recommended the nationwide requirement of steel shot for the entire United States by 1991. Stevens coordinated approval of Tungsten-Iron and Tungsten-Polymer as a non-toxic shot with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bill has been a strong supporter of all the non-profit conservation organizations out there, and has generated funding for numerous habitat, educational and hunting heritage programs. Bill has received many awards, including the Wildlife Management Institute – George Bird Grinnell Distinguished Service Award; USDA Cooperative Extension Service/4-H – National Partner in 4-H; NWTF - Lynn Boykin Hunting Heritage Award; SCI - Educator of the Year Award; IWLA – Honor Roll; Minnesota Ducks Unlimited – Jimmy Robinson Award; and multiple others.
Bill is especially proud of his service on the Governor Perpich Hunting and Fishing Committee in 1983-84 that was the beginning of of the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program. Bill and his wife Nila have one son, Andrew.
We are proud to honor Bill Stevens – a person who loved the outdoors and had the passion to get kids involved his entire life.