Jim Hulbert is "real people" as they affectionally say in the South. There is no pretense about him. Just a passion and drive for ducks, wetlands and the volunteer sportsmen and women nationwide that are the backbone of Ducks Unlimited.
The Longview, Washington ophthalmologist and present Chairman of the Board for DU is one of four candidates for Budweiser's 2008 Conservationist of the Year award.
He certainly deserves the award.
I had the pleasure of working with Hulbert (and his equally hardworking wife Jean) during his two-year stint as president of Ducks Unlimited. I addressed him as Dr. Hulbert the first time I met him.
"Let's not worry about using doctor," he said with a smile and a firm handshake. "Let's just stick with Jim. I've been Jim a lot longer then the doctor part."
I wrote speeches for him. It wasn't difficult. Jim always manages to connect with his waterfowl hunting audiences, whether it's a story about a Montana DU volunteer trying to get a skunk out of his house or one of Jim's tales about his many beloved dogs.
He always keeps things simple and focused, never projecting an image that he is something more special than anyone else is during his extensive travels throughout North America — at his own expense — to meet and encourage the DU faithful.
Hulbert is quick to say that he is the one who winds up getting his batteries recharged during his visits.
"I go and give the speeches to get everyone fired up, but it's the great people and the great success stories that they tell me that gets me fired up," he likes to say.
Hulbert's resume of success during his presidency is impressive. He focused on refreshing DU's sagging volunteer numbers and brought 25,000 new faces onboard. This resulted in 600 new fund-raising events for the organization around the country, bringing in the money necessary to restore more than 100,000 acres annually.
Under Hulbert's watch, DU launched its $1.7 billion Wetlands for Tomorrow campaign. He's helped focus DU's efforts on the key duck breeding areas of the Prairie Pothole Region and the Boreal Forest, and he's led DU's efforts in youth conservation education.
If you met Jim, you'd immediately invite him to your duck camp. He's just that kind of guy.
The Budweiser Conservationist of the Year will be announced in February at the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. To cast your vote, simply log onto www.budweiser.com.