300 attend Deer Association fundraising banquet in McCloud

Shareen Strauss
Jennifer Blankenship with her daughter, Jocelyn, son, Jake, and husband Josh sit with family friends during the annual California Deer Association fundraising banquet held Saturday, April 8, 2017 at Dance Country in McCloud. By Shareen Strauss

Needing a larger facility to hold its annual banquet this year, the California Deer Association Mt. Shasta Chapter moved to Dance Country in McCloud and drew approximately 300 people Saturday.

The non-profit organization raises money for wildlife conservation and helps fund habitat projects and youth education in the outdoors.

“To help raise funds, we have raffles and auctions at these banquets,” said Pat Fitzmorris, who is the senior field director for CDA’s Northern California Region. He said the banquet featured a special presentation for veterans and a pistol was given to one lucky veteran.

“Last year we raised 3.2 million dollars statewide,” Fitzmorris said. “At this banquet, 75% of the money we raise goes into local projects to help Siskiyou County’s deer herds. All this is done by volunteers.”

The walls of the large Dance Country room were lined with raffle and auction items. Mounted trophy bucks and the American flag were displayed above the announcer’s platform.

Many participants were dressed in camo or plaid with baseball caps or cowboy hats, jeans and boots. Many families attended together to see old friends and talk about hunting and projects they are working on.

“This is for wildlife conservation, hunting and to pass on our outdoor traditions,” said Fitzmorris. “We work with the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife.”

Emily Towers, one of the volunteers who helped put the banquet together with her husband, said, “This season, we planted Bitter Brush on Mt. Mohagany at the Goosenest Ranger District out of Macdoel which is X zone. My husband, Kelly, helped build Guzzler Tanks which are big bins that collect rain water to fill water troughs for the deer during dry seasons where there are few water sources in the McCloud and Mt. Shasta areas.”

Josh and Jennifer Blankenship and their two children, Jocelyn, age 13, and Jake, 9, sat with friends. They said they come to the banquets every year.

“We all hunt,” said Josh. “It is a great opportunity to spend time with the family. I have many fond memories with my dad and my grandfather being in the woods and hopefully my kids will have good memories of these times as well. My kids learn responsibility. I want them not to be fearful of guns and respect the responsibility that goes with handling a firearm.”

Jake said, “I like hunting because I like meat. I have learned to listen to my dad and to the sounds of the woods.”

Jennifer said, “Hunting is education. I appreciate that my freezer is full and it is as organic as it gets.”

John McDowell sat at another table with a group of men, most of them from Mount Shasta. As he put his raffle tickets in a hat on the table, McDowell said, “I love being outside and being with friends, hiking around and maybe getting lucky and getting something. That is what I love about hunting.”

Mike Burns, one of two chairmen for the Mt. Shasta Chapter of CDA, said this is the chapter’s seventh year. He and his wife Kaila were two of several volunteers who organized the event. Other organizers were chairman Trenton and Jessica Willis, Jeremy and Jessica Potter, Kelly and Emily Towers, Sam and Becky Kubowitz, Tara Willis, Jason and Kim Workman, Ryan Barham, Matt Melo and Kathy Reno.

“Our goal is to get our deer herds back and healthy in Siskiyou County,” said Burns. “We have many projects including adding water guzzlers, freeway deer crossings in Scott Valley, conservation and youth programs such as the Chiara Tadina Memorial Hunter and Safety Course. The money raised stays local.”

To become a CDA member or for more information, go to their website: caldeer.org