Elk hunters and conservationists in the North Fork Valley now have their own chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, local supporters are proud to report. With the support of the Montrose chapter, one of the strongest chapters in the state, the North Fork Valley chapter recently received its own charter.
"We couldn't have done it without the help of the Montrose chapter," explains Gary Hubbell, 2013 committee co-chair. "
They were absolutely instrumental in bringing this chapter to life. They walked us through the process of getting started, and after two years of their help, we're ready to go it on our own."
The North Fork chapter conducted banquets in 2011 and 2012, with an average attendance of 120 people, netting over $25,000 in funds for elk habitat conservation.
"The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has almost 200,000 members nationwide, and there are over 2,000 members between Montrose, Delta, Hotchkiss, Paonia, Crawford and Cedaredge," reports Troy Sweet, western Colorado senior regional director of the RMEF.
"It was time we started our own chapter in the North Fork Valley," remarks Wendell Koontz, one of the founding members of the North Fork chapter and this year's committee co-chairman.
The mission of the RMEF is "to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, and our hunting heritage," says volunteer Greg Gilliland. "There are so many passionate elk hunters and conservationists in our local area that we really needed to give people their own chapter locally so they can become involved in our fund-raising efforts and our annual banquets."
Bidding can get hot and heavy on guided hunts, home accessories, wildlife art and jewelry, while prized guns are raffled off.
Those who are familiar with RMEF banquets know that they're a blast, with live auctions, silent auctions, entertainment and good food. "Of every $100 that we raise, $89 goes to conservation," notes former RMEF state chairman Bobby Gray of Montrose, who was one of the dedicated volunteers who helped jump-start the new chapter. Gray assured RMEF members that the "gun board" will be full of exciting live auction and raffle items, including a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22, a Remington M700 SPS stainless, two Remington 770 .243s, a scoped Mossberg bolt action MVP varmint rifle, a Mossberg Plinkster, a S&W Bodyguard .380, and a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum.
"With the guidance and assistance of the Montrose chapter, the North Fork Valley chapter RMEF used the Hotchkiss Elks Lodge 1807 until we outgrew the facility," Koontz says. "We look forward to expanding our banquet at Heritage Hall at the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss for 2013. We think attendance will be around 200 people this year. People around here understand that hunting is conservation."