When my father died in the 1970s, I stopped hunting. It was something we did together, and without him my interest faded. If you read my StarTribune column (Home and Garden section, Wednesdays), and include the tiny type at the bottom of the column, you know that I belong to Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and Pheasants Forever. My memberships have nothing to do with hunting. It's all about conservation. Those are the organizations to which I routinely give money for bird conservation -- many, many species of birds, not just game birds. I contribute to Audubon Minnesota, although I'm not a member, and there are other bird-conservation organizations that receive occasional donations from me. For feet-on-the-ground habitat acquisition and restoration, though, my first choice are the hunting-associated organizations. (Must mention: I also buy duck stamps, an excellent way to contribute to bird conservation. More on that before we close.) What I like about the hunting groups is that most of their efforts are created by and funneled through local chapters. These groups also are incredibly skilled at raising money. So, when I join DU or Pheasants Forever I know two things. First, my money will go into a big pot of money contributed by hunters, sponsors, and other birders like me who understand that hunters are a plus, not a minus, when it comes to birds of almost any species. Second, the efforts are local. How good is Ducks Unlimited at raising money? Here are 2009's Top Ten funding totals as listed in the latest issue of the DU magazine: The Seattle, Washington, chapter raised $207,653. Anchorage, Alaska, came in second with $195,992. Waterloo, Iowa, was fifth with $124,617. The chapter in Mexia, Texas, wherever that is, raised $114,391. See what I mean? I think the best figure on the list came from the DU chapter at East Carolina University. It's 50 student members raised $38,000 last year. In seven years, this group has raised $103,000 for DU and a North Carolina state wetlands conservation project. The friend who sent me these numbers has worked in the birding community for years. He is well aware of the how well birders raise and spend money locally. His comment: "I wanna weep!" My solution is to send my money to where I think it will do the most good. Duck stamps: Cost is $15, and 98 percent of that money is used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to buy land for national wildlife refuges and waterfowl management areas. Is this a hunter-based program? Yes. Duck hunters must buy this stamp. Do hunters get most of the benefits? No. There were 85,454 recorded user visits at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (north of Elk River) last year. Hunting visits came to 9,788. That's about 10 percent. Many of the non-hunting visits were made by bird watchers. Do your share: buy a duck stamp. Join a hunting organization. Or, just give money to the conservation organization of your choice. They all do good things. Giving is what we can do.