During the Volunteer Recognition Event at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, MDF President/CEO Joel Pedersen welcomed a crowd of chapter volunteers, board members and MDF staff. The event is a mainstay at Hunt Expo, and we missed celebrating in person last year.
“Our incredible chapters and volunteers are the backbone of the Mule Deer Foundation, and they showed their commitment to helping our organization be successful over the last year,” said Pedersen. “We appreciate their hard work to host banquets and other fundraisers as well as coordinate volunteer projects that make a big difference for mule deer and black-tailed deer.”
Both new and existing chapters were recognized for their ability to host exceptional events in 2021 that raised money for MDF’s conservation mission and related conservation projects. The Overall Chapter Commitment Activity Award went to the Curt Gowdy Chapter in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while the runner up was the Star Valley Chapter in Etna, Wyoming.
The Highest Efficiency for an existing chapter was the Treasure State Chapter in Butte, Montana and the runner up was the Pahrump Valley Chapter in Pahrump, Nevada. The Highest Efficiency for a new chapter went to the Sheridan Chapter in Sheridan, Wyoming with the runner up to Etna Wyoming’s Star Valley Chapter.
The Highest Net for an existing chapter was awarded to the Great Basin Chapter in Elko, Nevada and the runner up was the Big Sky Chapter in Billings, Montana. For new chapters, the Highest Net award was earned by the Boulder River Bucks Chapter in Big Timber, Montana with the Star Valley Chapter in Wyoming earning the runner up.
Chapter volunteers were also recognized for their boots on the ground efforts for mule deer. In total, chapters committed over 2,600 volunteer hours to projects near them. Five chapters were recognized with the Bob Terry Sweat Equity Award for more than 250 hours while the Alpine, Texas Chapter had a whopping 745 volunteer hours and the Parker County Chapter in Weatherford, Texas contributed 705 total volunteer hours.
In addition to the chapter awards, eight states honored individual volunteers for going above and beyond for their chapter and their state. These Volunteers of the Year play a big role in helping the Mule Deer Foundation achieve its mission. Thank you to these hard-working volunteers and we look forward to seeing who our 2022 Volunteers of the Year will be!
Idaho – Carlos, Gabe, and Casey Allen
How many volunteers are needed to form a committee? Well, in Idaho one of the best chapters is the South East Idaho Chapter located in Pocatello with a chapter committee made up of just three people. Brothers Gabe, Casey, and Carlos Allen have run this chapter since 2013. The brothers grew up mule deer hunting with their father and their main motivation for volunteering is to ensure that their children also get the chance to hunt mule deer far into the future. In 2021, the South East Idaho Chapter banquet, held at the Phil Meador Ford dealership, grossed $100,000—the highest gross for a banquet in Idaho! For this effort, the Allen brothers were selected as Volunteers of the Year for Idaho.
Minnesota – Troy Hradsky
Troy Hradsky was awarded Minnesota’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year award for his overall event performance in the past two years. Once COVID mandates were lifted somewhat in 2020, Troy did not hesitate to get his first event, a Gun-A-Palooza, up and running in Brainerd. He followed up with six more in a span of 16 months by running these events in two other nearby communities. During a time of financial stress for conservation groups, he led his team and state with these smaller events that totaled up to what three normal banquets would achieve! Troy states that none of this could have happened without his great team—in particular his beautiful family—but we all know it takes a great leader to lead a great team!
Montana – Farley & Linda Hicks
If there were ever two people who deserved to be Volunteers of the Year for MDF it would be Farley and Linda Hicks. These tremendous volunteers were some of the organization’s earliest Life Members, joining MDF in 1992. Farley served on the MDF Board of Directors for several years and the couple chaired the Elko, Nevada chapter before moving to Montana. After their move, they actively supported all the MDF Montana chapters and chaired the Treasure State Chapter in Butte. In recent years during the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, Farley headed up the VIP lounge while Linda was a force behind the Ladies Luncheon. Unfortunately, we lost Linda unexpectedly in December 2021 but we are happy to honor them for their years of commitment to our mission. Rest in peace, Linda, you will be missed.
New Mexico – Kristy Maley
Kristy Maley, Chair of the Eddy County Chapter located in Carlsbad, NM was selected as the 2021 Volunteer of the Year for New Mexico. During 2020-2021, COVID restrictions meant events in New Mexico were extremely regulated or suspended in their entirety. Every time the restrictions looked to be easing up, Kristy was the first to be in contact with the Regional Director to try to hold an event. She also volunteered to help out with projects that were being held with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Kristy shows great dedication to improve the mule deer habitat and species survival in the state. Because of her continuous drive to keep MDF at the forefront of her volunteer activities during the 2020-2021 year, Kristy was an obvious choice for Volunteer of the Year.
North Dakota – Al Gunwall
Every year, North Dakota MDF chapters hold a statewide tag raffle in which funds raised go directly to the state’s P.L.O.T.S. program (Private Land Open To Sportsman). Unfortunately, COVID struck the country and our opportunities to sell tickets were in jeopardy. This did not deter State Chair Al Gunwall. Al went back to prior year tickets for contact info and reached out to folks over the phone to ensure they were able to participate in the raffle. Al volunteered to gather and track the ticket sales and went around the state with ticket booklets and posters to get the word out. Due to his efforts, not only was the raffle a success, but the 2020 tag raffle was the second most successful fundraiser in its 14-year history!
Texas – Charlie Barnes
Charlie Barnes is the embodiment of “Volunteer of the Year,” serving as a chair and co-chair for two chapters. Charlie has attended every major work project we have done in West Texas and has lent his plumbing expertise to build or rebuild guzzlers in this dry part of the state. Many of these projects have been done in remote settings, and showers/toilets had to be rented and brought in. Seeing this need, he personally sought donations for supplies, drove to West Texas, and built two fully equipped restrooms. Meanwhile, Charlie pitches in at trade shows in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, passing out M.U.L.E.Y. antlers to kids while signing up members and new volunteers to help mule deer in the state. Not stopping there, he found a $10,000 conservation partner to fund our next project! Charlie reminds me of the Energizer Bunny, and I wish I could clone him—many thanks Charlie Barnes!
Utah – Jim Freeby
Our 2021 Volunteer of the Year for Utah is Jim Freeby. Jim is the Chapter Chair of the Richfield Monroe Chapter. Jim works very hard raising funds in his area then putting those dollars to work. In 2021, Jim was able to pull off the largest banquet Richfield has ever had. One weekend later he and his committee were installing multiple much-needed guzzlers in that area. Weeks later they tied into a larger water project with the Division of Wildlife Resources installing boss tanks. We thank Jim and his wife for their tireless efforts to support mule deer conservation and are happy to present him with Utah’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year Award.
Wyoming – Neal Kiehne
The Star Valley Chapter in Wyoming, led by Neal Kiehne with lots of support from his wife Mary and others, started up during the pandemic and has been incredibly successful in 2021. They hosted two events—an Annual Banquet and a Does for Deer Ladies’ Banquet—that both netted over $40,000 each and had profit margins of over 60%. Neal and Mary organized these events almost by themselves and made sure they went off without a hitch. All the attendees had fun and Neal’s passion for the wildlife in Wyoming was evident to all those in attendance. We could not ask for a better Chapter Chair for Star Valley to make mule deer conservation possible. For these reasons and many more, we recognize Neal Kiehne for the 2021 Volunteer of the Year Award in Wyoming.
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, improving and protecting mule deer and black-tailed deer and their habitat, with a focus on science and program efficiency. MDF is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. MDF acknowledges regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruitment and retention of youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved in your state or become a member at www.muledeer.org or call 1-888-375-3337.