Our Outdoors: Banquet Season

Silent auctions, live auctions, games and raffles pay off with funds raised to build better habitat, improve hunting and increase public access.  (Simonson Photo)

By Nick Simonson

This year, my chapter of Pheasants Forever eclipsed the $7 Million mark in habitat acquisitions and restoration projects.  Through funds leveraged through a state grant program, partnerships with the state and national PF organizations along with the much-appreciated assistance of nearby PF chapters and local conservation clubs, our alliances have opened nearly 4,000 acres to public hunting and converted marginal ground into major habitat complexes in the last 34 years.  While the vetting process, financing and organizational efforts for these projects can take time, it all starts with one annual spring event which energizes the membership and raises the necessary local funds to make these endeavors possible.

The wildlife banquet is an early spring staple as our area of the country transitions between seasons.  Whether it’s a Pheasants Forever banquet, a Ruffed Grouse Society function or a wild game feed held by a local rod and gun club, the traditional spring banquet brings like-minded folks together and provides a chance for people to renew their membership, enter a few raffles and share hunting or fishing tales over a good meal.  What’s more, these events help local groups raise money and manpower for conservation projects.

Money raised at banquets goes toward leveraging grants to establish wildlife management areas and develop youth outdoors programs. (Simonson Photo)

Chances are there are spring banquets going on in your area this month which provide an opportunity to network with area hunters and anglers and make connections that will last a lifetime.  If you’re into muskie fishing, Muskies Inc. might be the group for you to look into, and attending their spring event in your area will help you get to know fellow anglers quickly.  If you like to hunt upland game, groups like Pheasants Forever and the Ruffed Grouse Society are nationwide organizations with hundreds of chapters across the U.S., with members looking to share a similar message of habitat conservation for these distinctly different birds.  Whether you want to be part of something big and nationwide like Ducks Unlimited or want to help out locally with a wildlife club focused on your locality, a spring banquet or similar event gives you the chance to join and meet a good number of people in one night.

Blaze orange caps and shirts are the standard dress code at wildlife banquets, like this Pheasants Forever event. (Simonson Photo)

Generally, most banquet tickets also include the price of membership and your contribution of the extra dollars goes a long way in sustaining local work on the ground level.  From a region-wide nesting box project, to a road clean up, to habitat improvement and acquisition efforts – memberships go a long way in creating a larger network of manpower for the greater good of conservation.

In addition to the membership and dinner, most spring banquets are held in an exciting carnival fashion.  With raffles, drawings, awards and presentations, spring banquets bring in money for a variety of projects, recognize local conservation leaders and provide attendees with a chance to win prizes including firearms, framed prints and other collectors’ items.  Through donations by local businesses, national organizations and other contributors these events bring in thousands of dollars which fund youth programs, tree plantings, water monitoring projects and other conservation efforts in your area.
The banquet season fills the void, particularly this year, between ice fishing and open water. Pick an organization that is pertinent to your pursuits and make new friends, find a mentor, donate an extra twenty bucks, hope for a new shotgun, and trade stories with fellow hunters and anglers who share your passion…for our outdoors.

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