An evening at the “Carpenters for Conservation” Pheasants Forever Banquet in St. Paul reveals the chapter’s true colors
By Tom Carpenter
As far as Pheasants Forever banquets go, this one didn’t feature the kind of rural skyline you’d expect as you walk in on a late winter or early spring evening.
Instead, the skyscrapers of urban St. Paul, Minnesota, soared just to the west against the setting sun as a cold March night began to settle in. But inside, you could feel the warmth right away as friendships rekindled, laughter reigned, good-natured jibbing and jabbing filled the air, and, most prominently, smiling and excited kids ran around everywhere.
I was doing a little helping and a lot of enjoying at the "Carpenters for Conservation" Chapter 844 Pheasants Forever Banquet. The chapter may reside in an urban area, but it is filled with serious pheasant hunters who care about conservation … and about getting youth focused on hunting, shooting and the outdoors.
“It’s a great chapter,” said Will Clayton, Pheasants Forever Regional Representative for Eastern Minnesota. “These members may be from urban and suburban areas. But they really ‘send it around’ and have their name on a lot of projects across the state.”
“But it’s their youth focus that really sets them apart,” Clayton added.
That was clear from the start.
I manned two buckets next to the banquet’s registration table. Every boy and girl age 16 or under wrote their name on a piece of paper and dropped it in the Boy or Girl pail to be entered for a drawing for a Lifetime Minnesota Small Game Hunting license. Four lucky winners would come from each bucket. That drawing, held about midway through the banquet, was the highlight of the evening for everybody.
“This is the best prize ever,” said girls’ winner Lilly Wewers. “Now I have my hunting license forever. We love hunting pheasants.”
The Chapter is also extremely active in supporting the shooting sports for teen youth. “We try to help out about a dozen clay target teams a year, with dollars to fund their activities,” said longtime chapter volunteer John Swanson. “It feels good. And a lot of kids get involved with the shooting sports because of it.”
As if to prove the point, just moments later, out of the blue, Swanson was presented with a thank-you photograph from one of the high school clay target teams the chapter helped out last spring.
“We really appreciate the dollars,” says St. Louis Park clay target team coach Dick Plantz. “We wouldn’t have a team without that support. For instance, we could go to the Minnesota state meet only because the Carpenters for Conservation Pheasants Forever chapter covered all our registration fees, and funded our ammunition.”
No child left the banquet empty handed. Another highlight was the grocery bag giveaway, where every youth in attendance lined up to receive a special collection of goodies, including a Browning / Pheasants Forever hoody in blaze orange, a box of shells, shooting targets, an orange hat, and other donated prizes.
“That’s a lot of orange,” laughed Swanson as kids explored their prize bags. “But that’s the color we want them wearing every fall.”
Pheasants Forever “Carpenters for Conservation” Chapter 844 showed its true colors, and is committed to The Habitat Mission … as well as the next generation we need to recruit to keep that mission alive.
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