Episode 017 Whitetails Unlimited – Jeffrey Schinkten, President.

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Whitetails Unlimited – Jeffrey Schinkten, President
Whitetails Unlimited – Jeffrey Schinkten, President

Bruce Hutcheon: Welcome to another episode of Whitetail Rendezvous. Today I’m up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, the home, the headquarters of Whitetails Unlimited. And I’m sitting with one of the founders and the current president of Whitetails Unlimited, Jeff Schinkten. Jeff, welcome to the show.

Jeff Schinkten: Well, thanks so much for having me, Bruce, and welcome to Sturgeon Bay and Door County. We’re glad to have you.

Bruce: Well, I’m glad to be up here. And I’m just thrilled and honored that you took time out of your busy day to sit with us and the Whitetail Nation. As we both talked about in the warm-up, there’s over 11 million whitetail hunters throughout the country, in over 37 states. So let’s just jump right into it. Give us some background on Whitetails Unlimited.

Jeff: Well, let me tell you what. To go way back to the beginning, this thing, you know, we used to attend Ducks Unlimited banquets around here. And as much as we did enjoy duck hunting and enjoyed supporting Ducks Unlimited, we found ourselves sitting at the table many a times and trying to tell some deer stories, and when you were going up to camp next, and what was going on. And we found that, as much as we loved the duck hunting . . . we were only too happy to support it, like I said . . . we found that we were more dyed-in-the-wool deer hunters. And we decided, maybe we should go to a banquet that supported whitetail deer.

Our CEO, Pete Gerl, an old friend of mine, came up with the idea of investigating that. We didn’t find any deer organizations at the time. And it was his idea, along with his brother, Bill, and myself. And sure enough, we got together and said, “Let’s do something for the whitetail deer.” And that’s how it kind of came to be, knowing full well that that’s America’s number one game animal, and although it’s a pretty prolific animal, they still have their share of problems, too. And we said, “What can whitetails do, then, to be the advocate for the whitetail deer?” That’s how the whole thing got started, and 33 years later, here we sit, having this conversation.

Bruce: So 33 years ago, a couple of guys got together and said, “Let’s do something.” And, folks, I just walked into their headquarters. It’s like a lodge. It’s the knotty pine, some slate, and obviously, there’s a lot of heads. But if you get a chance, you’re in the Midwest and you care anything about whitetails, just stop by. Say hello to the folks here. It’s just like you’re going home to a bunch of people that love the same thing you do, and they’ll more than welcome you to the headquarters. And thanks for inviting me here today, Jeff.

Jeff: Well, like I said, you’re very welcome and glad to have you. And that invitation does stand for everybody. We’ve got a display area with the heads [inaudible 00:02:48], like you were saying, and then we’ve got some full mounts. We’ve also got a small gift shop. So if you happen to be up in Door County vacationing, just make a quick stop in. We’d love to see you.

Bruce: And they’re like 200 yards off of, what is it? 4257?

Jeff: Yeah, exactly.

Bruce: 4257. So you can’t miss it. And let’s roll right into the mission statement. I’m just going to read it. The mission is to raise funds in support of education programs, wildlife habitat enhancement and acquisition, and preservation of the hunting tradition and shooting sports for future generations. Let’s unpack that a little bit, Jeff.

Jeff: Sure.

Bruce: In the warm-up, we talked about the whitetail deer, basically. The hunting tradition and hunting heritage in the United States rides on, basically, the shoulders of the whitetail deer.

Jeff: I would have to agree with you on that, Bruce. It is the backbone probably of hunting here in the United States. I mean, the elk are phenomenal animals. The mule deer, the antelope, the turkeys, the ducks, the pheasants, I get it. But when it all comes down to the bottom line, it’s the whitetail deer that kind of drives the industry. So we’ve had a good product to work with in the whitetail deer, and quite honestly, in our 33 years, we have been blessed with so many loyal and generous members. That’s what allowed us to flourish, and to be able to work toward that mission statement.

One of the things that . . . and I will just say this, just so we get the cards out on the table . . . is, to some people’s dismay, we are not, truly, some type of a large political organization. Okay? We are a 401C3, which is designed for education and the habitat and the research and preserving our hunting tradition. But it’s more designed to celebrate the hunt. We are not the NRA, although we will support the NRA. We understand owning guns is going to be crucial to deer hunting and everything else. But we are not designed, and we can do a limited amount of lobbying, that type of thing, and we do some of that. We’ve been to Washington and pleaded our case, when it does include the whitetail deer.

But for the most part, we’re more about education. And when I say education, it’s for all levels. But we are surely zeroed in on our youth, and that’s always been one of our big projects. And we’ve done research programs, habitat. We’ve invested in buying crucial lands, to keep them in the public trust and improving habits and whatever we can do. We’ve got programs designed to get, not only kids, but adults and everybody, out on the range, shooting bows, shooting guns. And hopefully those people catch on with that, and eventually, they’re out in that woods hunting with the rest of us.

Bruce: Let’s talk about the youth, because youth recruitment is paramount for the hunting tradition to continue. One, we have to have critters to hunt, and then we have to bring kids along. Specifically, what is Whitetails Unlimited doing for the youth, in helping that recruitment process?

Jeff: Oh, sure. I can’t touch on everything we do, but I will touch on a few of our bigger ones. One of the mainstays that we’ve developed here about three, four years ago, was a program called “Kids on Target” and it’s a pamphlet that we get out . . . and we work through some of the various shooting, some of the shooting clubs or whatever it is to get this out . . . but it would go to individuals. It goes out to members, whoever requests it. We give it to you free of charge.

It includes a real nice medallion, if the child is successful. It includes targets which you can copy. If the kids can go ahead and put three in the red, we’ve got a division for shooting. One with rifles or 22s, that include unscoped guns and scoped guns. We’ve got another one for archery. And if the kids can put three in the red, then they qualify for the certificate in there and the medallion that’s in there. Real nice pieces, and again, we provide that free of charge.

To date, we have invested, our goal is to get, in the five years since the day we started, over 100,000 kids out in that field, shooting with guidance. Under supervision, mind you, with Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad, whatever, and make sure it’s all about safety, number one. And then, if they can pass it and they get fired up about hunting, then that’s what makes them want to grab a gun and go out and enjoy hunting.

Bruce: Now let’s talk about your chapters. Where are your chapters, and where is the fastest-growing chapter in the country?

Jeff: Sure. For the most part, we have members in all 50 states, okay? And we are currently at a membership of 95,000. And if anybody wants to join, I encourage them to go and find whitetailsunlimited.com. With a $25 membership, you get the magazine for the year, decals, and the honor of knowing that you’re supporting an organization that’s looking out for making a difference in the whitetail deer.

But we have chapters, I believe it’s in 25 different states. This organization started in Wisconsin, and consequently, it spread its roots from there in Wisconsin, the first chapters were there. Then we spread into Iowa, we spread into Illinois, we spread over into Michigan. And for a while, we were known not so much as a national organization, but more of a Midwest organization. Come to find that there’s a lot of avid deer hunters, not just in the Midwest, but up in the Northeast, down South. It’s amazing.

One of our best chapters came out of Portland, Maine. Another, now our number one chapter, is down in Louisiana. So we have spread our roots down to the South now, and I cannot tell you how excited we are to be down there, how much those people have a passion for this. So our number one chapter is down in Lake Charles, Louisiana. They do such a phenomenal job. And the number three is about 70 miles north of there, in a place called Beauregard, Louisiana.

And we’ve got great chapters in every state. Missouri. I mean, it’s just spread. Nebraska. Into Pennsylvania, into New York. So we’ve got chapters, and we’re looking for more chapters in those states. And if you ever desire to want to give back, you might want to call us up, touch base with us. And maybe you can start a chapter in your own hometown.

We’ve got an unique program, where we try to raise money. And what we do is, we try to leave 50% right back in the community where the money was raised, so they can work on their own problems. And over the years, those things have been, like, the NASP, the National Archery in The Schools Program. And they need money, because they schools don’t always have it. It’s always been about hunter education for the kids. It’s been about scholarships. It’s been about youth days . . . there’s another thing that gets kids involved . . . and we have youth days that bring in about 100, 150 kids.

And they’re serving them hot dogs, and they’re over there shooting the bows, and they’re on a compass course. And it’s just a great day for the kids, through money raised through Whitetails Unlimited banquets and, you know, that could happen in your area if you chose to. But you might have some unique problems, and then, let’s raise the money for that. It might be for bettering the shooting facilities around the area. It might be getting some educational materials into your local libraries. But there’s no shortage of ways to spend money, but we like to take our money and make sure it’s being put toward our mission statement.

Bruce: How does somebody . . . one of our listeners saying, “Boy, I’m in Springfield, Ohio, and how do I get ahold of the regional director? Or the person in charge of my state?” . . . how do they do that?

Jeff: Sure. That website is set up just for that, Bruce. The guy would go to whitetailsunlimited.com. First of all, there’s “Find an Event in Your Area” and then, what you can do is, you can click on your state, the state that you’re interested in. And above, it says, “This is Our Staff,” and you can look at our staff and it’s got all of our representatives’ names there and the states that they cover.

Calling one of those individuals will get you all the information you need. Or “Find an Event in Your Area” . . . Springfield, Ohio happens to be one where we do have banquets. And if you clicked on “Ohio” and then went down and you said, “Find an Event in that Area,” you could find Springfield, Ohio and find out when that event is coming up next year. And if it’s not sold out . . . which some of them are, and the facilities are tapped out, we can’t guarantee you’ll get a ticket . . . but in many cases, there are tickets available. Or even if it’s a place near Springfield. Maybe they want to have a chapter of their own, if Springfield is big enough to support one, and a banquet, maybe 30 miles down the road, is a real do-able type of thing.

Bruce: So when I walk into my first Whitetails Unlimited banquet, what should I expect?

Jeff: Number one, first and foremost, a good time. Okay? For the most part, this organization, if we had to put it one way, we’re about celebrating the hunt. We like our sport of hunting, we enjoy getting out there. We like getting together with other individuals that share the same passion that we do. So you come into that banquet hall and if this is the first time you ever went to a banquet [inaudible 00:11:57], you are going to see umpteen guns. You’re going to see deer blinds. You’re going to see knives and clocks and prints. It just doesn’t end.

There’s everything from auctions, silent auctions. There’s raffles. And you can get involved in all those things, with a chance to win some fabulous prizes, or whatever it is. And you see, well, only a handful of people. Maybe you’ve 200 people, and we’re giving away 30 guns or something. So 30 out of 200 go away with a gun. But you’re also going to get a good meal. You’re going to get a year’s membership to our organization. It’s all going to be included in there.

And you’re going to have the honor of knowing, just the fact to know that, you spend some money there that night . . . we’re not a publicly-held corporation, where the money goes back to stockholders and that kind of stuff. We’re a non-profit organization. The money is going to stay in your area, half of it to work on your projects, the other half’s going to come back. We try to earmark that money for your state or some Federal programs that are going to help the whitetail deer. And that’s what we’re all about.

So you’re going to have the satisfaction of knowing that, on your own, it’s a pretty hard task to maybe want to help the whitetail deer. But when you throw your collective . . . you and with all the rest of us, we swing a pretty big hammer. And that’s the way you can really make a difference in this world. And we encourage you to attend a banquet. Or if you want to, if you’ve got the gumption to start a chapter in your area and you call our people, they will be more than happy to take care of you.

Bruce: So listeners, you’ve got to be invested in your sport. And that means, attend a banquet. Become a member. And just participate, because we need to recruit kids. In my opinion, we need to make it easy for women to join the ranks of hunters, which . . . they’re the fastest-growing segment in America today, in the hunting industry. But we also have a responsibility, and I’ll underline that, to support those conservation groups that match where your passion is. And for this guy and Whitetail Rendezvous and everybody with Whitetail Rendezvous, we support the conversation groups that are doing hands-on work on the ground. Make it possible that we can hunt whitetail deer.

Jeff: Exactly. I just applaud what you’re saying here. It’s like, “Hey, if you’re a whitetail deer enthusiast, we’ve got a place for you here at Whitetails Unlimited. And even if you’re a so-so deer enthusiast, and you want to be with us, we’d love to have you. But if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool pheasant hunter, then look up Pheasants Forever. If you’re an elk hunter, get with the Elk Foundation. If you’re a turkey hunter, go with the Turkey Federation. And the ducks, obviously, go to Ducks Unlimited type of thing.”

But do get engaged in this. Don’t just take it for granted and then, when there’s finally problems, then come to the forefront. Let’s get ahead of this thing. Right now, hunting is actually more accepted now. It’s actually, how do I want to say? Accepted by the public as well now, as it’s ever been. And we’d like to see it stay that way.

Bruce: Let’s talk about the second part of your mission statement, wildlife habitat enhancement and acquisition. What role does Whitetails Unlimited play in that?

Jeff: A lot of times, we get requests back from our chapters, where they’re willing to take their money and put it into a project . . . and we’ve worked with the Pheasants Forever on this, we’ve worked with some state organizations, where there’s some key lands. But the people, they’re not, how do you want to say, rich enough to just donate the land back. But they’re going to sell it. They personally would rather sell it to the conservation people, than sell it to, maybe, a developer or whatever it is, to keep that land pristine. To keep that land there for hunting for all eternity here.

You start developing that land for condos and everything else, and it’s gone. And that’s obviously a big problem, in the United States, is urbanization. So wherever we can, if it is a key parcel of land, we do some investigation on that. We’re willing to put our money where our mouth is, and go out and help purchase that land, and at that point in time, give it back to the Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Fish and Game. Whatever it is in your state. And then, that’s public land. Land that you and I and everybody can hunt, and it’ll be there forever. Not developed, and streets and roads and fire hydrants.

So when it comes to purchasing habitat, that’s one thing. Then, there’s other types of habitat. We’ve got some programs, free of charge, members or non-members. We’ll tell you what to do with your land, to make it better for wildlife. There’s people who’ve got an idea, they’d like to do something and improve the habitat that they have. But they don’t have the knowledge as what to do.

We’re not teaching a master’s degree here at the university, but we’ve got it simple. We’ve got brochures that we’ll send over to you, so that you can go ahead and do what’s best for the land. And increase that caring capacity. And what type of habitat to put in that’s going to be beneficial, not just for the deer, but for all the wildlife, the birds, and the whole nine yards. So those are the kind of things we do. In other places, it’s prescribed burns. In other areas, we try to create walking trails, so people can enjoy nature, and I don’t know. I mean, it’s like, habitat’s ultimately very important to what we do.

Bruce: Now when you said you purchase the land and give it to the DOW or whatever states are involved, are those called conservation easements? Is that what they’re called?

Jeff: Well, sometimes they are easements. It’s easements that they will give you to get on to BLM land, or public land, or whatever it is. Sometimes there’s private land that stops you, and the landowner’s under no obligation to let you cross that land. So what happens sometimes, some of the public land that’s very good for hunting, is kind of land-locked, and you can’t really get to it. So some of the easements that we buy sometimes, will be to go through the private land. You pay the landlord to let you do that. And then, by doing that, you’re opening up tens, hundreds of thousands of acres by doing that. So there’s a lot of easements, over private land, to get onto public land. So that you have, ultimately, way more land to hunt.

If people do some investigating, one of the number one problems I hear is, “We don’t have any place to hunt anymore.” It’s all drying up, it’s all leased land. But I can tell you, if you take the time to research it . . . and there’s different programs in every state and they all call it different types of programs.

But if you take a look at some of that public land, look where the easements have been purchased for, and you get out there and do it . . . Wyoming a lot, they’ve got a lot of that stuff going on right now . . . it opens up hundreds of thousands of acres, and you may have more land to hunt than what you really realize. But it might take a little effort on your part, to go in there and do the investigation and open up those great lands, and get that big buck you’ve been chasing.

Bruce: In the warm-up, Jeff, we talked about suburban deer or city deer, and we were chuckling about, some guys have tree stands between the north and south or east and west highways on interstates. And they’re taking some big bucks. So let’s talk about whitetail hunting in congested areas, or metropolitan areas.

Jeff: All right. This organization’s all based on sound deer management. And sometimes, those deer get into the city areas and this and that. And deer are, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most adaptive species there are. They can live in the middle of a swamp. They can live out in the biggest national forest you’ll ever find. And they can live in your back yard, between you and your neighbor’s house. They’ve got the ability to adapt and to thrive where they are.

So what happens with that is, sometimes they don’t find much pressure, they get used to cars. They get used to people, they get used to hearing people. They get used to doors slamming, that type of thing, and there they are, living in suburbs. And okay, good for the deer, that they can do that. But then, sometimes bad. Because deer . . . then all of a sudden, if you can’t hunt in that area and the deer overpopulate . . . the next thing, they’re eating gardens or they’re eating shrubs. And pretty soon, people are looking at deer, how do you want to say it, as more of a vermin than as they trophy that they really are.

So sometimes, sound deer management is to thin out those herds somewhat. But I will say this. It’s one thing to be in the middle of a national forest, and what should you be? You should always be safe. But obviously, that compounds itself when you’re hunting between two interstates and everything else. The first thing I’m always going to preach is safety, and safety has really come a long way over the years. We still have quite a few hunters here, and yet safety has always been one of our number one projects.

We’ve always supported hunter safety, and the importance of that. But if you’re going to hunt in that city area, then you make sure that you’re really exercising caution. But where it’s legal, yeah, that can be some of your best opportunities. May seem like a strange place to be putting a tree stand, but yeah, that’s a good area.

Bruce: Let’s talk about your chapters in some of these metropolitan areas.

Jeff: Sure.

Bruce: Do you have chapters close to New York City? Or Atlanta, or Chicago?

Jeff: It’s really funny, but we’ve got chapters in New York City. In Chicago, not that I know of. I mean, it seems like this organization has flourished more on the rural, urbanized towns rather than the big metropolises. And we get a lot of people that come out of the cities that come to our banquets. And we’ve got some on the suburbs of the big cities, for an example. But maybe not downtown Chicago or something. But yeah, and they’ve got some unique problems there that are different than northern Minnesota, northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, where they’ve got to deal with winter kill and wolves, and everything else.

So every place presents some unique problems. And the further south you go, then they’ve got some different things. But for the most part, hunter education is universal. Getting these kids shooting archery in the schools, hey, that’s universal. We’ve got programs with us like “My First Deer,” where the kids can get involved in our magazine. And we’ve got a separate area set aside for our junior members in our magazine every issue, cuz we like to cater to the kids, too.

Bruce: Let’s talk about safety. And listeners, I’ll just say it this way. Never get off the ground without a safety harness and a safety rope. Do you have pamphlets? Do you have information that you share with your members about that?

Jeff: Oh, sure. Yeah, safety foremost. And that’s right. It’s not just where you’re aiming that gun, or that bow, and shooting it. It is about your own safety. And I have heard of countless stories where people, you know, “Hey, I don’t use a harness, or whatever it is.” And there’s some real sad stories that go along with that, unfortunately. Bruce is absolutely right. If you’re going up into a tree stand, or going up a deer ladder, or whatever it is, then you make sure you’ve got a safety harness. Because the consequences can be devastating, and we don’t want that, obviously.

Bruce: And I’ll just tag on that. Your family deserves to see you at the end of the hunt. Your kids need you to play football, toss a baseball, take them on vacations. And unfortunately, statistics say that some people who fall are in a wheelchair, or worse than that, they’re dead. So with all the seriousness that I can share with you, please be safe out there.

Jeff: And I’ll second that.

Bruce: Let’s talk about how you see the future for whitetails.

Jeff: Well, I know there’s a lot of people predicting doom and gloom. And we’ve got EHS, the disease out there. Some people call it blue tongue. And we’ve got CWD, and we’ve got some issues. But the bottom line is, you want to talk to me, Bruce, I’m an optimist. I believe in the future of the whitetail deer. I believe that this deer is so, well, how do you want to say it, so robust that it’s going to continue. You can’t stop them.

I know, when they saw CWD . . . I’ll use southern Wisconsin . . . and they thought their plan was going to be to eliminate the deer. There was deer down there, 70, 80 deer per square mile. And they thought they were going to bring that down to zero and hold it that way for a while. And I was one of the ones that said, “Good luck with that.” And hey, they went in there and they started shooting deer. And boy, they took it down from 80 to 60 to 50, and all of a sudden, when you go from 60 to 50, it was a lot harder than taking it from 70 to 60.

And now you get down to around 50, and you think you’re just going to go out there and shoot deer. Once they know you’re coming, they are the smartest animals on earth. You know what I mean? And then they try to do some night shooting, and they even catch on to that. And this idea, that you’re going to bring a deer herd down to zero, it isn’t going to happen. They’re just way too smart for you.

Well, anyway, with that said, I’m just saying that to prove a point. That the deer is going to look out for itself, and they’ll do what it takes. Meanwhile, I still am pleased with, are we losing some hunters in some states? Yeah, I get that. We’re busting our butt, along with the other organizations, to make sure that hunting is still going to be strong. But I feel like it’s the backbone, it’s what America is made out of. It’s our fabric. And I think that we’re going to be good to go in 10 years.

Are we going to have some problems? Sure. We’re going to have problems next year. We’re going to have problems 10 years from now. But we’re going to have, hopefully, some solutions. And we’re going to have this magnificent whitetail deer, and a whole batch of people who want to get out there and chase them. And I think it’s going to be all good.

Bruce: I’m sitting here with Jeff, and I’m in Wisconsin and when it was mentioned about the CWD, correct?

Jeff: Correct. Yep.

Bruce: I hunt Baraboo River, down in Juneau County, and that was smack dab in the middle of that effort by Wisconsin DNR. And I can tell you that, last season, we had one of the best seasons for the size of bucks that we’ve had in years. And we’re going back a really long time. So the one concern we have . . . and I’ll just throw this out . . .

Jeff: Sure.

Bruce: . . . is the increased number of wolves we’re seeing in southern Wisconsin, along the Baraboo River.

Jeff: Well, if you’re concerned about it down there, then you would appreciate how concerned they are about it in northern Wisconsin, because they’ve got bigger populations of it up there. And I get it, but I can appreciate a wolf. I mean, it’s a magnificent animal. But let’s be honest with you, they’re up there and doing what they were bred to do. They’re hunters. They’ve got to eat, too.

And consequently, I get it, though. And I listen to the people that say, “Wolves in our area are devastating our herd.” Now the wolf population is on the rise, and I was real happy to see when they had wolf hunts in the state. And I know that’s been, kind of, up and down and back and forth. But it’s like, all right, so wolves have a place in the habitat, that’s fine. I don’t want them to be the habitat. And in the winter, they’ve got an unfair advantage. They’re running on the snow and the poor deer are not.

They are magnificent hunters, and they can take down the fawns. I know out west, they take down a lot of calf elk, and even some of the adult elk. But it’s a concern. It’s one of the problems we have. You can put that on a list of 10 other things, too. But in the long run, the deer will survive. I know the elk are, I’m sorry, not the elk, the wolves are a problem. But we need to just make sure that we continue to ask that they lobby, so that they do have hunts. So that they can control the population on them, so it does not devastate, not only the deer, but everything. They can take down a lot of different things, besides just your deer.

Bruce: And thanks for that, Jeff. And just to our listeners. If you’re in a place, there are wolves, just talk to your DOWs, Department of Wildlifes. And ask them and get information, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. And anything in the wild, things have to be managed, and the better job we do at management, then there’s a balance. And much has been written about that throughout the years.

But think about that. And if you have something to say, get ahold of the right people. Just don’t sit in the right coffee shops, or having a beverage in a bar and talk about those things. But get involved in your state. And again, I’m just going to give a shout-out for Whitetails Unlimited, because they have a voice. And become a member, and then you’ll find that there’s a lot of other people, just like you, that care about and are passionate about the whitetail deer.

So we’re at the point in the show now, Jeff, that you get a couple of minutes to shout-out and thank whoever you want to thank here in Sturgeon Bay. Or people, your sponsors. We’re sitting in a room. Who is this donated by?

Jeff: Winchester. Winchester Ammunition. They came forward, stepped forward and purchased a room here at our headquarters and helped up pay off our building within a year’s time. That, and the generosity. My first shout-out’s going to go to the people who are currently our members, who have been members in the past. People that helped build this organization to what it is. And we have been, like I said earlier in the presentation, that we have been blessed with such loyal and generous members, that have allowed us to pay our building off in a year’s time. So that now we have money freed up, instead of having building payments and such to put into our projects. The projects that mean something, that will make a difference with the whitetail. So thanks to them.

Sponsors have been just, how do I want to say, coming out of the woodwork, more or less. The organization, we struggled for 15 years. It was slow, but we were climbing a hill every year. But now we’ve, like, turned the corner here four, five, six, seven years ago. And sponsors have been real generous. One of my favorite sponsors, it’s Larry and Brenda Potterfield from MidwayUSA. They have been the most generous people, that particular corporation.

They are the ones that sponsor our “Kids on Target” to the tune of $270,000 a year. They have adopted teams that we have adopted, to keep high school teams, college teams, out there shooting the trap. And keeping kids interested in the shooting sports, which shows, in turn, to generate people out in the woods and that. So MidwayUSA, truly one of the big ones here.

But we’ve been blessed with a whole bunch, and I don’t want to start naming all of our sponsors, or I’m going to miss some and I’d feel awful about that. But the bottom line is, thanks to the people at Catch A Dream. I want to say, Catch A Dream has been one of the things we’ve adopted, for terminally ill kids.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation stopped granting wishes to kids to go on hunting and fishing trips. Catch A Dream has picked that up. The Drury brothers, big names in the industry, have donated horns that we auction off at our banquets. And we take the money around and get it back to Catch A Dream. I know, last time around, we started that program a year ago, and we gave back $170,000 to Catch A Dream.

The Drury brothers have gone out and found another 400 sheds this year. They signed them. We’ve got a letter of authenticity. We’ll be auctioning them off at our banquets, so if you’re interested in picking up one of these dream sheds and knowing full well that that they money is going back . . . kind of an unique thing for your man cave or for your hunting room, for the hunting cabin or whatever . . . go to a banquet where we got the Catch A Dream horns, the dream sheds, signed by the Drury brothers and bid on them at an auction. Knowing full well that the money, again, going back to Catch A Dream, to do some good for those terminally ill kids that have a desire to go hunting. That type of thing.

But overall, I just want to invite any of you out there that are on the fence, that might want to become a part of this whole movement, we’d be glad to have you. We’d welcome you with open arms. And like Bruce said earlier, you’ll join some other people who have the same passion that you do, and it’s the whitetail deer. It’s whitetail hunting. It’s the preservation of our whole hunting heritage, our whole hunting sports. So from all of us at Whitetails, thank you, Bruce, for coming and i always enjoy a second to talk about whitetails. It’s our pride and joy around here.

Bruce: On behalf, again, of Jeff and all the people that put in hours . . . I know a little something about conservation groups and committee and all that . . . and the people that go out and toil because they’re passionate about whitetail deer, I’ll just give you a big shout-out and say thank you for all the people that put on these banquets. And, most important, the members who show up and support them. And on behalf of Whitetail Rendezvous, Jeff, thank you so much for having us here at the headquarters of Whitetails Unlimited.

Jeff: You’re very welcome, Bruce.