By Kristen Miller
DARWIN, DASSEL, MN - There are two active rod and gun clubs in the area one in Darwin and the other in Dassel which host a number of fundraising events throughout the year to go toward protecting Minnesota’s wildlife.
Darwin Rod and Gun Club
The Darwin Rod and Gun Club was formed in 1947, with the clubhouse being built in 1975, according to Vern Porth, member.
The clubhouse is located just east of Darwin along Highway 12, includes a rifle and pistol range, and has a trap shooting league in the summer months.
There are currently 300 members, with 30 of them active.
The club meets the first and second Wednesdays of the month at the clubhouse.
The officers are Andy Riehle, president; Merle Cropp, treasurer; and Pete Riehle, secretary.
There are three major fundraisers scheduled throughout the year. The money from the events goes to 12 organizations including Ducks Unlimited, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, and Pheasants Forever.
The club also gives a $300 scholarship to a Dassel-Cokato High School senior planning to study areas in conservation.
The next fundraising event is Las Vegas Night Saturday, Feb. 28, which includes a steak fry, games, and raffle drawings.
The club’s top fundraiser is the smelt fry, which attracts 1,400 to 1,500 people. The event, which is scheduled for Friday, March 13, is the “best smelt fry anywhere around,” Porth said.
Then, in the fall, the club will host another fundraiser to include half-pound hamburgers with all the fixings.
In the past, the September event has been pork chops, but with the hamburgers going over so well last September, the club will likely stick to that, Porth said.
The club is open every Saturday afternoon from Dec. 1 to April 1, where club members can play cards and participate in drawings.
“It’s a very active club. We’ve always got something going on,” Porth said.
Membership is $15 a year, or $200 for a lifetime membership. Members receive access to the rifle range, fishing access to Turtle Lake, where otherwise there is no public access; and free attendance to three club events. The club events include a wild game feed in January, an oyster feed in February, and a fish fry in March.
A lifetime membership includes all of the activities above and half-off the cost rental of the clubhouse for graduations, weddings, reunions, etc. To the public, rental is $220.
For more information about joining the Darwin Rod and Gun Club, contact Porth at (320) 693-3989.
Dassel Rod and Gun Club
The Dassel Rod and Gun Club is located at Sportsmen’s Park on the north side of Lake Washington, 1.5 miles west of Dassel.
The Dassel Rod and Gun Club is made up of concerned citizens wanting to see the lake and the park prosper, Winter said.
The club is looking forward to hosting a Boy Scouting event Jan. 31, the Boy Scouts Overnight Winter Camporee.
The club is expecting up to 125 Boy Scouts from the Litchfield, Dassel, Cokato, and Kimball chapters to participate in the fishing event.
The Scouts will learn about fishing in an effort to earn merit badges, and participate in a fishing contest. The object of the contest is that the Scouts have to catch two fish; one to throw back, and the other to clean, cook, and eat, according to Winter.
As hosts of the event, the members participating will help with cooking and facilitating the fishing contest and fishing stations.
This event is a way for the Dassel Rod and Gun Club to reach out to the younger generations and have more activities for them to enjoy and remember as adults, according to Winter.
The club has a number of fundraising events throughout the year including a walleye opener breakfast scheduled for May 9, a spring fish fry scheduled for April 17, a fall fish fry scheduled for Sept. 18, and a 357 Club banquet (for ticket holders only) is scheduled for July 25.
For the 357 Club, club members try and sell up to 357 tickets for $52 a piece. The ticket holders are then entered in a weekly drawing with 48 $100 prizes, three $250 prizes, and one $400 prize to be given away at the banquet in July.
The club’s main efforts are taking care of Sportsmen’s Park with fundraiser proceeds, providing food for wildlife, and other conservation efforts such as Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited.
The Dassel Rod and Gun Club will also be providing corn for free to be used as wildlife feed beginning Feb. 1.
One of the next projects the club will undertake is a new sewer and water system for the clubhouse, as well as a remodeling project.
The club meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the clubhouse.
There are approximately 150 members. The officers are Dean Winter, president; Chris Hansen, vice president; Daryl Moritko; and Dennis Isaacson, secretary.
Membership is $15 a year and includes discounts on rental of the facility and use of the boat landing.
Those interested in becoming a member can contact Winter at (320) 275-2299.