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I saw some old friends and met some new ones Saturday at the Arkansas chapter of Safari Club International's annual banquet at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock.

The banquet is the Arkansas Safari Club's primary fundraising mechanism by way of admission tickets, various raffle games and a live and silent auction.

I love banquet auctions because they are the only places to see an organization's annual guns of the year. The Safari Club's shotgun of the year is a Fausti over/under 20-gauge. The specimen at this auction had a beautifully figured walnut stock and a brushed stainless steel receiver that appeared to be hand engraved, plus a hard plastic case.

To my surprise, the winning bid was, if I recall correctly, $3,400.

The rifle of the year was a Henry Big Boy lever-action chambered in .30-30. Two were auctioned Saturday.

Henry has really improved the quality and finish of its guns in recent years, but these banquet guns were several cuts above Henry's standard field grade. The walnut figure was very good, and the checkering appeared to be 22-24 lines per inch, with sharp, well-defined edges. Their receivers were exquisitely engraved with gold-inlay game scenes.

The winning bids were $2,100 for each.

As expected, a lot of great hunts were auctioned, including a premium African safari with almost all expenses paid. It went ridiculously cheap, and I regret not bidding on it.

Conversely, the Argentina dove hunt with H&H Outfitters went for almost twice as much as the safari. I hunted with H&H in Argentina in 2011, and everything was first class. I'd love to do it again someday with a 16-gauge double.

In the silent auction I really fancied a shotgun scabbard made of cape buffalo leather. I gave it a long look, but somebody else wanted it a lot more than I did.

Every organization promotes a theme at its events. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, for example, advocates habitat improvement and access to elk habitat.

The Arkansas Safari Club emphasized hunter recruitment, exemplified by a presentation by Matt Burns, assistant chief of education for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The Safari Club is also highly attuned to pressure from anti-hunters to ban trophy hunting in Africa. A video loop on a screen showed hateful and threatening social media posts from trolls on Internet sites where hunters displayed their kills.

Preserving a vital hunting heritage and lifestyle requires recruiting and mentoring new hunters. That is always in the atmosphere with any hunting-based conservation organization, but the Safari Club advocates it urgently.

The people that care enough to join and contribute financially, materially and personally to organizations like this are the spearhead of the pro-hunting movement. Join an organization that most closely aligns with your passions and get involved.

Elk Foundation banquet

A good time to start will be March 16 at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's 30th annual Central Arkansas Chapter banquet and auction at the Benton Event Center.

A cocktail social begins at 5 p.m., followed by supper at 6 p.m. The event will also feature auctions, raffles and other games. Auction items will include 16 guns, a permit to hunt an Arkansas elk, artwork, and hunting and fishing trips.

"RMEF banquets are a blast, but the best part is the money raised goes back on the ground for conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects right here in our own backyard of Arkansas," said Betty Thornquist, a volunteer for the Central Arkansas RMEF Chapter. "The funding also helps elk herds and enhances elk habitat and conservation projects across the country."

Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation permanently conserved or enhanced more than 7.3 million acres of habitat for elk and other wildlife. The organization also opened or improved access to more than 1.2 million acres of public land for sportsmen to hunt, fish and enjoy for other forms of recreation.

Each single and couple ticket includes a yearly RMEF membership and a Bugle magazine subscription.

For ticket information and reservations, contact Betty at (501) 796-2363 or bettynjack1016@hughes.net.

Sports on 03/07/2019

Print Headline: Safari Club calls for new hunters

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