A group called “Save Minnesota Deer” started in Grand Rapids, Minn., in the winter of 1968-69 in an effort to save starving Minnesota deer. On June 30, 1980, this group grew to cover the entire state and became known as the Minnesota Deer Hunters’ Association (MDHA), and its mission expanded beyond just saving Minnesota deer. On September 15, 1986, a charter group in the Northwestern Minnesota area, officially known as the MDHA North Red River Chapter began to provide opportunities for all, especially youth, to enjoy the Minnesota deer hunting culture for many future years.
“Probably the most important (part of belonging to this group) to me is sharing the hunting heritage of Northwestern Minnesota with the next generation,” Kelly Turgeon, Red River Chapter member and president said. “I was fortunate to have it shared with me and I want to pass on that interest and that opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.”
A member since the mid 90’s, Turgeon helped the chapter, not being as active for some time, “reactivate” since becoming its president in 2014. The chapter has grown to 240 current members, covering the Hallock, Humboldt, Lake Bronson, Karlstad, Stephen, Argyle, and Lancaster areas. The entire organization has 20,000 members, spread throughout Minnesota chapters. It achieves its vision or mission by working in four different areas: habitat, education, hunting, and legislation/advocacy.
As Turgeon mentioned, the group’s primary mission is to provide youth outdoor opportunities, something he sees as important to preserving the Minnesota outdoors culture, one that has an understanding of conservation’s importance and Minnesota’s many outdoor opportunities, such as deer hunting.
“By providing those opportunities, educational opportunities in the classroom (and) in the outdoors, that helps us ensure that tradition of deer hunting and enjoying the great outdoors and the offerings that Northwestern Minnesota has, to be continued into this generation and the next generation,” Turgeon said.
He has witnessed this culture being passed on through the chapter’s annual fall banquet, to be held this year at the Stephen American Legion on October 22, 2016, with 200 to 225 people expected. This meeting, once attended by just an older group of men, has grown to also include both men and women and boys and girls of all ages.
“There’ll be situations there where we’ll have three generations of families,” Turgeon said. “We got grandpa, we got dad, and we got the granddaughter or the grandson, and they’re partaking in the MDHA banquet and fundraiser. And that’s kind of an affirmation that MDHA can help foster the continuation of that tradition.”
The group is not only about saving deer, but maintaining the many outdoor traditions Minnesotans have within arm’s reach. Hunting is about more than the hunt itself, but also the preparation and camaraderie that goes with it, from putting up a deer stand to processing one’s deer meat into sausage or having a big meal after the hunt, Turgeon explained.
“I think that’s something that runs very deep in the veins of Northwestern Minnesota and Minnesota in general,” Turgeon said.
To learn more about the Minnesota Deer Hunter Association, visit the organization’s website: mndeerhunter.com. To see more of this story, read the October 13 edition of the North Star News in print or online.