A South African springbok safari, a tahr adventure in New Zealand and a Manitoba caribou hunt are just a few of the trips up for grabs on Sept. 15. That's the date the newly-formed Manitoba chapter of Safari Club International (SCI) is hosting its first fundraising banquet. With prizes like that, it's no surprise that tickets for the event are selling quickly.
Three years ago, a handful of enthusiastic Manitobans starting tossing around the idea of forming a chapter of SCI, arguably the world's most prestigious and vocal organization when it comes to standing up for hunters' rights and wildlife conservation.
"We really believed that it was time Manitoba had a voice in SCI," said Dwight Gelhorn, vice president of the chapter. "We wanted to ensure that Manitoba hunters had a say in protecting their rights and playing a role in conservation."
Gelhorn said right from the start the plan has been to forge relationships with other like-minded organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and Fish Futures, so that conservation gets the attention it deserves.
"As hunters and outdoors people, we believe we're the first ones to be able to see the subtle changes on the landscape. Then it's about science-based management. Together is how we're going to get things accomplished," he said.
Gelhorn added that it's more important than ever to encourage people to reconnect with the outdoors.
"We're simply becoming more urbanized and detached from nature. The more people that visit our forests and fields, the more they see just how important nature and conservation really is," he said.
Gelhorn is encouraged by a positive trend in attitudes toward hunting.
"I'm definitely seeing more interest from the young people, both in fishing and hunting. We had better take advantage of this and let the youth of Manitoba know we are there to help and guide them, just the way someone helped us," he said.
Support for the new chapter and the upcoming fundraising banquet has been nothing short of exceptional. That's obvious in the listing of live and silent auction items.
There's a catfishing excursion for four on the Red River, coyote hunting and a day on Lake of the Woods with tournament angler Jeff Gustafson. There are also binoculars, a tree stand and his and hers Serengetis on the auction block as well as five firearms, including a Benelli Nova 12 gauge 3 1/2-inch pump shotgun.
But ask Gelhorn for the pick of the litter and he'll point to the resident caribou hunt for two at The Lodge at Little Duck. The package includes five days of hunting at the five-star lodge northwest of Churchill, a private cottage, fishing for northern pike, lake trout and grayling, all meals, guides, field care, and meat and hide processing. The total trip rings in at just under $15,000.
The SCI Manitoba Chapter banquet is Sept. 15 at Club Regent Casino Hotel in Winnipeg. Individual tickets are $60; a table for eight goes for $450. The party starts with cocktails at 5 p.m. Visit http://manitobasci.ca/ for ticket information or to become a member of the new chapter.
Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org