Riceland Whitetails support youth, habitat, and hunting

Members of the Riceland Whitetails Chapter serve breakfasts at Wealthwood Rod and Gun Club  as a fundraiser to support youth activities in the Aitkin community.

The Riceland Whitetails Chapter (RWC), Aitkin’s local deer hunting organization and member of Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), has served the community since November 1985. RWC’s mission statement is “Supporting our Youth in Education – Habitat – Hunting and Legislation. The original chapter name was Riceland Chapter; it was changed to Riceland Whitetails in 2005.

“Our youth are the future of hunting in Minnesota,” said chapter treasurer Ralph Mykkanen.

The RWC membership as of August 2018 was 144 paid members. However, there are currently fewer than 10 members who participate in the chapter’s activities; their average age is more than 60, a concern for the future of the organization.

Denny Petrick served as the first president; other presidents included Scott Johnson, Pete Landgren, Dean Sanford, Tom Sanford, Brock Peterson, and currently Dan Bobseen.

An annual banquet which occurs near Minnesota Education Association weekend provides funding for the RWC activities. The first banquet was held in 1991. During the past five years, banquet earnings have averaged more than $8,600 each year. The state MDHA receives one-half of the banquet proceeds and one-half remains with the local chapter.

A 10-gun raffle provides funds for Forkhorn Day. Members also serve breakfasts at Wealthwood Rod & Gun Club and have been collecting deer hides for Hides for Habitat which began in 1991. During the past 27 years, RWC has earned $48,326 by collecting 10,501 hides.

One of the major events for the RWC has been the annual Forkhorn Day held at Wealthwood Rod and Gun Club each April. At the event, youth are taught skills in shooting trap, archery, .22 rifles, muzzle loader hunting, orienteering, and they learn about the DNR. Forkhorn Day has drawn more than 1,000 youth during the past 15 years at no cost to the participants.

At Forkhorn Day, youth have the opportunity to win camp scholarships which are valued at more than $425 each. Early records are unavailable but a conservative estimate of forkhorns sent to one-week camps at either Long Lake Conservation Center (LLCC) or Deep Portage since 1999 are more than 100. Jerry Bowman, recently deceased owner of Magnum Machining in Deerwood, partnered with RWC and sent 19 youth to forkhorn camps from 2012-2019.

Events supported since 1985:

Aitkin Archery Club youth bows donation; Aitkin County Environmental Education Day held at LLCC; Aitkin Dollars for Scholars; Aitkin Little League; annual banquet (Forkhorn support); art contest; An Aitkin County Tradition writing contest; Forkhorn Day; week-long forkhorn camperships at LLCC; McGregor, Aitkin, Cromwell (MAC) Bird Busters; National Archery in Schools Program; ten-gun raffle for Forkhorn Day; safety vests. The RWC has also donated more than $20,000 to other numerous community projects.

Comments from current active members:

Ralph Mykkanen, treasurer since 1998, “I remain active in the deer hunters’ group primarily to help ensure the future of hunting in Minnesota, not only for myself, but for my grandchildren and for other children if they chose to hunt. I love to hunt whitetails, thus I belong to RWC and attend many other MDHA fund-raising events.”

Dave Dickey has been a member of MDHA before the Riceland Chapter was formed and has been a chapter member since its inception. “It just made sense that I should be a member of an organization that, hopefully, would be supportive of my work as a wildlife manager. Many of my co-workers were members,” said Dickey.

Current president since 2011, Dan Bobseen said, “The reason I became involved in the RWC was because after two years of archery and rifle hunting with many hours in the field and seeing five deer one year and three deer the next year, I knew something had to be done to promote the deer population in Minnesota. I joined the MDHA Riceland Chapter and began putting in food plots, did winter feeding and supported point restrictions. In recent years, deer herds have flourished. True, there have been a few bad years due to weather, but for the most part, deer hunting opportunities have been good. The latest problem facing deer hunting is how to control chronic wasting disease.”

The RWC is seeking participants, especially women and men, who want to continue the chapter’s commitment to youth, “supporting our youth in education, habitat, hunting and legislation.”

Regular meetings are held the third Sunday of each month at the Landing at 7 p.m. where you will be welcomed to visit with current members and ask questions. You may also call RWC President Dan Bobseen at 218-251-2901, Dave Dickey 218-927-2896 or Walt Sauerbrei 218-251-5794.

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