For the love of ducks, duck lovers: DU’s Bill Ebert is Ohio Outdoor News Person of the Year
Blanchester, Ohio — Bill Ebert loves ducks.
But, Bill Ebert loves people who love ducks even more.
Ebert, 58, is the state chairman for Ducks Unlimited in Ohio. Over the past 20-something years, Ebert has held nearly every office within Ohio’s DU organization, beginning as simply a member of the habitat and conservation group and rising up through the ranks.
For his volunteerism and work with DU over the past two-and-half decades, Ebert is Ohio Outdoor News’ Person of the Year.
A native of upstate New York, Ebert started hunting at an early age with his father.
“My dad was a very avid grouse hunter and a whitetail hunter,” said Ebert, who’s from the small town of Deposit, New York, just east of Binghamton. “ … I tagged along with him.”
Still, Ebert’s mind was a long way from ducks in those early years.
“I was a very avid whitetail hunter myself, and a couple of friends of mine were duck hunters,” he said. “They kept telling me that I really needed to come to the marsh because they said it was so much more fun than deer hunting.
“When I finally went, I did find it for myself more fun than whitetail hunting because we could all sit in a group and talk. And, you shoot more in a day (of duck hunting) than you do in a lifetime of deer hunting,” he said.
Ebert never left the marsh.
“One thing led to another and we all had retrievers,” Ebert said of himself and his three buddies. “We hunted together, trained together, field-trialed together. We were the three Musketeers.”
At the time, Ebert was an over-the-road truck driver at the age of 25.
“I did all 48 (lower) states and five provinces of Canada in 21 years of running the roads,” he said.
Ebert’s involvement with Ducks Unlimited began in New York.
“I got invited to a reorganizational meeting, which at the time was the Shenango County (N.Y.) DU chapter,” he said. “At the time, they needed somebody to be the chairman and I raised my hand. I started out as chairman (of the chapter) and after a couple of years I was the district chairman, on the state committee, and so on.”
Ebert came to Ohio when he met his wife, Debbie, who worked for Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati.
“I came out to Ohio and I joined the Clinton County chapter (of DU),” he said. “And, immediately became a district chairman out here … . Through the last 20 years, I’ve held nearly every office on the state committee at one point or another with the exception of secretary.”
On a national level, Ebert is on the organization’s merchandise committee and national shoot committee.
“I donate a lot of time to the ducks,” he said. “It’s a labor of love and it’s a great cause. We kind of joke about it, but we really don’t have a lot of friends (outside of DU). One of the basic tenets of DU is recruit, recruit, recruit. Well, it’s kind of tough to do that when all of our friends are duck people.”
But, it’s more than just hunting that drives Ebert and DU as a whole.
“Remarkably enough, as much as I love to hunt ducks, it’s equally as much about what good we’re doing for the environment,” he said. “Coming from upstate New York, the water was so crystal clear … . We were very blessed there with just natural wetlands. It’s Mother Nature’s sponge. With all of the farm practices, urban sprawl, asphalt, and chemicals, the wetlands do such a remarkable job of cleaning the water.”
Gary Will, a DU regional director in New York, and Rodney Schlafer, an influential Ohio-based regional director, have been large influences in Ebert’s career.
“(Shlafer) is just such a popular guy no matter where he is,” Ebert said. “He’s just a likeable guy … . Rodney and I have been very close.”
Will was Ebert’s first regional director with DU.
Ebert has tentative plans to shoot for a regional vice president role with DU, which would place him on the organization’s board of directors.
“I’m a self-employed truck driver, so although we certainly spend enough time running around now, I don’t know that I could continue to do everything I do now,” he said. “ … You sort of have to pick the number of days you’re going to travel.”
Ebert’s seat as chairman in Ohio will expire in February of 2019. This is his third year as state chairman.
Bill and Debbie, who have two grown children and several grandchildren, live on six acres in Blanchester, in Clinton County in southwest Ohio.
“I hunt Caesar’s Creek (Lake) and Cowan with some of the local chapters,” he said. “But, if I’m going to go duck hunting I normally go to Saskatchewan. Once you’ve gone, that kind of ruins you.”
Aaron Dynes, senior regional director for DU, said the role of the volunteer is probably the most important role within the organization. And, he said, Ebert exemplifies all a volunteer can be.
“He’s been involved with Ducks Unlimited since before my time (at DU),” said Dynes. “Bill has always answered the bell, no matter what the need was for our organization at a local level all the way up to the top position as a volunteer in the entire state of Ohio.
“For me, I rely on volunteers every day to get things done,” Dynes said. “Guys like Bill are very few and far between and are critical to our ability to be successful. Volunteers are absolutely the most critical element in our ability to achieve our mission … . Bill definitely qualifies as one of our ‘special’ volunteers. No matter what the task is … if you ask Bill he is ready, willing, and able.”