In the mid-1970s, North Carolina was home to relatively few native wood ducks. That began to change when a “shop” teacher at Western Alamance High School put his students to work building and selling wood duck boxes.

The late J.W. Busick, an avid outdoorsman, knew that many of his students living in rural settings, but their hunting experience was mostly confined to small game, wild turkeys and deer. He also knew that wood ducks nested in trees but preferred cypress hollows, and that a dearth of cypress in North Carolina’s Piedmont meant fewer places for wood ducks to rear young.

He and his students took on a project — the state’s first public-school, wood-duck box-building enterprise. Through contacts in the lumber industry, Busick was able to obtain cypress boards at cut-rate prices, and his wood-working students began to build and sell nesting boxes. Soon, nearly every pond in Alamance and Guilford counties had at least one wood-duck box nailed to a pole or tree trunk. Local cities with municipal water-supply lakes also purchased Western Alamance wood-duck boxes.

The idea caught fire, and soon the cypress boxes — and wood ducks — began to spread across the state. For years, Busick’s students built and sold thousands of boxes.

Almost 40 years later, North Carolina hunters should remember Busick and his students for the role they played in boosting wood-duck numbers across two-thirds of the state.