The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association will celebrate its 30th year in existence this March and the local Rhinelander chapter is celebrating with its annual banquet.
The group, which was formed to protect wildlife habitat, promote legislation to protect waterfowl and educate individuals about waterfowl, has had an impact in this area.
“There was a local chapter a long time ago but that went away,” Tim Lehman of the Rhinelander chapter said. “So nine years ago, I started this chapter with a couple of guys from Eagle River.”
The chapter was originally center in Eagle River but as circumstances left Lehman as the only original board member left, he moved the chapter to his hometown of Rhinelander.
But the chapter’s reach has been felt across the area as the Rhinelander chapter of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association has done extensive habitat work to help the local waterfowl population thrive.
“A lot of our efforts center around habitat restoration and the developing of wild rice beds,” Lehman said. “That is the main food source for waterfowl around here.”
The Rhinelander chapter does not, however, just go out and plant rice beds, they enlist the help of some very important partners.
“We take kids out to help with the restoration and teach them about the rice beds and about waterfowl,” Lehman said. “It is important for them to know that they are not just paddling through a bunch of weeds. We teach them what the wild rice beds are, how important they are to the area and the habitat and about the waterfowl that depend on them.”
Lehman said engaging youth in outdoor sports is important as the number of sportsmen is dwindling.
“We are losing more hunters than we are gaining every year,” Lehman said. “We are not a hunting organization but getting kids involved in shooting and conservation is so important. It is important for them to see how their actions can impact the land around them.”
Getting children interested in hunting and conservation has also led the Rhinelander chapter to support trap shooting teams in area high schools.
“Crandon High School and Rhinelander High School are looking at starting trap shooting teams,” Lehman said. “If one or both of the schools decide to go forward with that, we would like to contribute to each team.”
And the main way the chapter raises money for all their efforts is through their banquet which this year is scheduled for March 15 at Holiday Acres Resort.
The banquet will feature dinner and a number of prizes and raffles.
“We have a lot of great prizes,” Lehman said. “We have 25 guns that we will raffle off this year. We have custom canoe paddles, a ladies raffle where we will raffle off a ladies gun and a youth gun raffle.”
Lehman said the group will also help out a local charity at the this year’s banquet.
“We are holding a raffle for the Food Pantry,” Lehman said. “Anyone that brings in a food item or makes a monetary donation will receive a raffle ticket to win a gun.”
The cost per ticket is $55 per ticket and includes a membership into the Rhinelander chapter of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association. Tickets for spouses and others in the household are $35 and do not include a membership.
Lehman said tickets are limited to 200 people and go fast.
“Last year we sold out before the event so we don’t sell tickets at the door,” he said.
For more information or to reserve tickets, call Lehman at 715-891-4985.