By Jeremy Anderson, Regional Director
I want to start this by first thanking my fellow Regional Directors across the western states. In the last year and a half or so we have had some major roadblocks with COVID-19. What that did to us as a group made us stronger and closer. We worked together under the leadership of Mike Laughter, MDF Director of Field Operations, and found ways to raise funds to continue our mission of ensuring the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer, and their habitat. It has been well documented over the last year or so, but I still think it is worthwhile to give a tip of the cap to them all. Without you guys and gals I am not sure where we would be.
With all that 2020 brought us with canceled events and no real end in sight, 2021 has been just as challenging. Booking events with all the state, county, and venue regulations and all the while trying to keep our members as safe as possible was a real challenge. We knew we needed to be back and in our communities, but we had to be responsible about it. Some banquets went off without a hitch like a normal year. Others were scheduled, moved, rescheduled, almost canceled, and then rescheduled again. This put a lot of stress on the Chapter Chairs and Committees, and I cannot thank them enough for their persistence to hold the events that we were able to have. Every penny we raised has helped us continue doing what we love.
One chapter that didn’t get a highlight because we just finished their banquet is the MDF Ladies of Utah. Here again is a chapter that had been scheduled for 2020, then canceled, then booked for 2021, and moved multiple times. The committee, under great leadership from Fawn Hullinger, decided September 25 was the date to stick with. The committee was awesome to deal with all summer long. We had weekly conference calls to plan the event and to strategize getting more attendees. The ladies decided on the theme Unmasked Masquerade and it was a hit! Ladies from southern Utah, northern Utah and even out of state purchased their tickets and showed up in beautiful gowns and masquerade masks. The night was full of fun things for everyone. As usual we had Casino Parties of Utah there with blackjack, craps, and roulette for the ladies as well as bingo! The committee did a fantastic job getting great donations so that we had a huge raffle, auction, and games. Thanks to the Ladies of MDF Utah for a great night!
On the project front, we used some of the funds from the ladies’ event for some planting of sage and bitterbrush in November. Also, our Richfield Monroe Chapter hopes to install at least one more guzzler before the winter hits. They have been very active this year already, installing guzzlers and purchasing a water tank to then go and fill those guzzlers due to the drought. I cannot thank Jim and Ken Freeby enough for their relentless work on improving mule deer habitat down in southern Utah.
As a reminder from a previous article, we attended our Watershed Restoration Initiative annual project funding meeting and were able to fund over $1 million again. We had some very cool studies that we helped fund such as big game studies on the Book Cliffs and Boulder Mountain, as well as good mule deer habitat projects across the landscape in Utah. We are poised to make a bigger push this coming April and cannot wait to work with the biologists all over the state.
We have a new addition to our MDF Utah team. Evan DeHamer was hired as a Habitat Partnership Coordinator in October. Evan will be a great addition to WRI, grants, and large-scale stewardship projects here. I look forward to working with Evan and our great volunteer project staff that already does so much for habitat in our beautiful state.
As we look toward 2022, I cannot help but be excited to hopefully get back to even more normalcy. I think starting the year off with a banquet or two and then jumping into the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo (WHCE) will get us all feeling back to normal! This year’s Expo is going to have some new twists to it that I feel like the public is really going to enjoy. Plus, missing it for one year only means everyone is going to bring their “A” game from vendors and guides to our entire MDF staff and volunteers!
One thing I am concerned about is just how busy everyone is with life right now. Trust me I get it! The economy is good for most, so working overtime or having a side hustle is becoming the norm. I can see how from the outside looking in, a local banquet feels like it just happens without a ton of effort. On the contrary, these folks bust their humps for weeks and months to put on a good show for you, the mule deer enthusiast. But more than ever we need your help with these local chapters. Joining a committee is one of the most rewarding things I ever did. You can participate at whatever level you want, there is no standard or rule. One thing is for sure—in order to fund the millions we do and to put our stamp on bettering the mule deer herds, we need your help. Joining and becoming a member is the first step, but I would love to see you more involved on the chapter level if at all possible. All you need is love for mule deer, a belief in what we are doing and some effort!
Hopefully you are reading this article because you just grabbed it from your mailbox or our MDF booth at Expo. If so, circle back and come over to talk with me about how you can help in your area. We can use help in all the chapters across the state—even the well-established ones such as Utah County and Weber Davis need some new blood. I would love some immediate help in Price, Cedar City, St George, Sanpete Co, and Logan. We have people in place in all those areas, they just need some support. The more committee members the less one person must do, and we make a much bigger difference.
The new website is so easy to navigate and find things such as conservation permits, upcoming projects and banquets in your area. Huge shout out goes to our MDF website committee that spent hours working through bugs and bringing opinions on what you, our members, want to see. That committee was made up of Salt Lake City staff, Conservation staff, and Regional Directors.
The purchase of the 8,107-acres Cinnamon Creek property will ensure important mule deer habitat will remain accessible for public use. MDF provided $1 million to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) to support the acquisition.
Lastly, even though this is a Utah spotlight I want to give a shoutout to Montrose and Grand Junction, Colorado, chapters. I helped cover some events for them either in person or planning beforehand. What a great group of people in both chapters. Thanks also goes to Gary and Chris Jenkins for helping me out at the Montrose event. I have often said I am not sure what I would do without my High Desert Leadership team. I certainly don’t want to find out
As always, to better keep track of all things Mule Deer Foundation Utah, follow us on Mule Deer Foundation / Utah on facebook and muledeerfoundation_utah on Instagram.
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.