2017-04-20 / Top News

‘Ding’ Darling dedicates tournament to emeritus board member Wildman

“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society- Friends of the Refuge dedicates its sixth annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament on Friday, May 19, to the memory of Don Wildman, former DDWS emeritus board member and tournament committee chair. The longtime island resident passed away on April 11.

Mr. Wildman joined the DDWS board in 2010, but his connection with J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge dated back many years as he became involved with promoting the careers of the three nationally renowned Hautman brothers, multiple winners in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. He collected their original duck stamp and other works, which he often lent to the refuge for exhibitions. In 2016, he was elected as a DDWS emeritus board member.

“Don was passionate about conservation and art,” said Birgie Miller, DDWS executive director. “He was also an avid fisherman — from salmon fishing in British Columbia to tarpon fishing in Belize. His role in our annual tarpon tourney was invaluable and always enthusiastic, and that is why we chose to honor him in this way.”

The “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament pays tribute to the refuge’s tarpon legacy: The first recorded tarpon caught on a rod-and-reel happened in Tarpon Bay in 1885. Proceeds from the catch, care, and release tournament benefit wildlife and conservation education at the refuge on Sanibel Island.

“Don Wildman was a true friend of the ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said refuge manager Paul Tritaik. “He combined his love for hunting, fishing and the great outdoors with a passionate appreciation for wildlife art, not unlike ‘Ding’ Darling himself. This tarpon tournament is a manifestation of Don's passion and it is only appropriate that we honor his contributions."

“The refuge system has a long tradition of mindful fishing, and this event keeps in stride with the refuge’s mission and Don’s own vision to educate about ethical sportsmanship and resource conservation,” said Mr. Miller. “We will sorely miss his presence at this year’s event and in so many other refuge programs and events.”

For more information on the tournament, visit www.dingdarlingtarpontourney.org. ¦

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