Call it the elk preseason. Or, maybe, the postseason.
Regardless, there’s been a lot of elk-related activity in Minnesota these days. And none of it of the hunting variety.
Meetings and public comment have been ongoing for months on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ new elk management plan. And, in an effort to “give people more time to weigh in,” the DNR said, that comment period that was to end Dec. 27 was extended nearly a full month — to Jan. 22.
Now, information and input gleaned from all of that will be discussed during an informational meeting scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3 at the Lancaster School in Lancaster, Minn. — in the heart of northwestern Minnesota elk country, which is at the heart of the new DNR elk management plan.
According to the DNR, the meeting will include a presentation summarizing the comments received by area residents and other Minnesotans on the draft elk management plan, followed by additional opportunities for public discussion regarding the comments and the plan itself. The DNR, too, will discuss the elk research project with landowners in the elk range and seek permission to capture elk on private land — later this month, the DNR plans to capture 20 adult cow elk and fit them with GPS collars to track movement and seasonal habitat use.
Also this month, starting with the Brainerd Lakes Area Big Game Banquet, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet season is in full swing — in February alone, 80 RMEF chapters across the country will hold banquets supporting elk land protection and habitat stewardship as well as the restoration of elk herds, which is part of the premise behind the DNR’s efforts and new elk management plan.
The Brainerd banquet is scheduled Friday, Feb. 5 at the Forty Club in nearby Aitkin, Minn. According to chapter member Don Miller, doors for the event open at 5 p.m., with dinner at 6:30 and a program at 7 that will include a live auction and raffles. A silent auction also is planned, and Miller said 13 guns highlight the giveaways. Tickets still may be purchased by calling 218-543-4380 or online at events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5130.
According to Al Habighorst of the RMEF, monies from the banquet “go to the national foundation and then to the Minnesota chapter — of the money raised, 90 percent will go back to the work we do.” Habighorst also said that efforts are in the works to start a herd in neighboring Wisconsin (Fond du Lac).
A large number of other RMEF banquets also are scheduled across the Northland in February:
- Feb. 6 — Elk River Royal Big Game Banquet in Otsego, Minn. (for tickets, call 763-263-5071 or go to events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5131); Lewis & Clark Big Game Banquet, Yankton, S.D. (605-661-0553, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5190).
- Feb. 12 — Southeastern Minnesota Big Game Banquet, Rochester, Minn. (507-951-5411, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5132).
- Feb. 13 — Minndak Big Game Banquet, West Fargo, N.D. (701-403-3914, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5188); Missouri River Bluffs Big Game Banquet, Chamberlain, S.D. (605-234-5687, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5191).
- Feb. 20 — River Valley Big Game Banquet, St. Peter, Minn. (507-248-9622, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5134); Dakota Heartland Big Game Banquet, Winner, S.D. (605-840-0244, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5213).
- Feb. 27 — Badger Big Game Banquet, Middleton, Wis. (608-225-7206, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5159); Namekagon River Valley Big Game Banquet, Hayward, Wis. (715-634-1742, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5254); Prairie Heartland Big Game Banquet, Huron, S.D. (605-352-4414, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5195); Theodore Roosevelt Big Game Banquet, Dickinson, N.D. (701-290-0629, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5225); Prairie Coteau Big Game Banquet, Brookings, S.D. (605-691-1102, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5209); Prairie Lakes Big Game Banquet, Willmar, Minn. (320-221-0104, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5136); North Star Big Game Banquet, Maple Grove, Minn. (952-270-2609, events.rmef.org/shop.aspx?eid=5133).
Numerous other RMEF banquets are scheduled in the coming months, too. For a complete list of RMEF state and chapter events, go to www.rmef.org/Events/StateChapterEvents.aspx.