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BRAD DOKKEN COLUMN: Wanted: New members for East Grand Forks Minnesota Deer Hunters Association chapter

Loren Abel

The Min-Dak Border Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association needs a boost, preferably in the form of new, young members with enthusiasm to carry on the good work the chapter has done for nearly 30 years.

"We're just kind of getting wore out looking for new blood," said Loren Abel, president of the chapter for most of its 27-year history. "We need some new bodies to help out, get a more rejuvenated board and a little more life in the organization."

A meeting to hopefully jump start the chapter is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20 at the East Grand Forks Eagles Club, 227 10th St. NW. There'll be a meet and greet session, a search for new chapter officers and brainstorming about getting chapter fundraising banquets back on track and developing goals for donating to worthy causes.

The chapter hasn't had a banquet for two years, and that has affected membership, Abel said. Unofficially, the chapter is down to about 25 members, compared with 150 members just a few years ago, he said.

Most people join the chapter or renew their memberships at the banquets, which drew nearly 200 people in the chapter's heydays before the Flood of 1997, Abel said.

"You see that in Ducks Unlimited and everything else," Abel, 63, said. "It's the same faces, and young people don't quite get involved with that aspect of the outdoors stuff. They like to do it if their dad took them, and when they get older, they just don't seem to keep the same interest unless someone older drags them along."

Besides banquets, Abel said he'd like to see the chapter resume its focus on the Hides for Habitat program, which raises funds through the sale of deer hides that hunters drop off at collection boxes. Abel said he and Jim Benson of Sportsman's Taxidermy Studio in East Grand Forks set up collection boxes and collected the hides last fall, but the Thief River Falls MDHA chapter picked up the hides and prepped them for sale because there weren't enough local volunteers.

"That would be one of the big things right away for this fall—get a few people that are interested in Hides for Habitat so we can get that going good," Abel said.

The chapter still has money in its checkbook and recently helped out with a youth day at McCollum's Hunting Preserve near Bejou, Minn., Abel said. The chapter also is donating money for the annual Options accessible deer hunt, set for Oct. 12-14 at Rydell National Wildlife Refuge.

The history of the Min-Dak Border Chapter of the MDHA dates to the winter of 1989, when the East Grand Forks Rod and Gun Club hosted a deer show at the old Westward Ho in Grand Forks, Abel said. The Thief River Falls MDHA chapter had a booth at the show, Abel recalls, and signed up about 25 to 30 members.

The next year, Abel and several other East Side deer hunters decided to start their own chapter.

"Pretty much the board has stayed about the same the whole time," Abel said.

MDHA sent a letter about Wednesday night's meeting to anyone who's been a member the past two years inviting them to attend. The event is open to people of all ages with an interest in deer hunting; the more the merrier.

"I think if a guy can get a nucleus of 10-12 people, that's maybe all it takes," Abel said. "I think there's lots that want to go to a banquet or they'll step in and help once in awhile."

For more information about the chapter or the upcoming meeting, contact Abel at (701) 741-1147 or email; or Stu Weston, MDHA regional director in Roseau, Minn., at (218) 689-4252.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

(701) 780-1148