As winter draws to a close and the ice fishing season nears its end, volunteers of the Bremer Outdoors Team partnered up this past weekend with the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch to get a group of kids out on the ice.
The trip is just one of the group's annual activities as part of a broader effort to keep alive and thriving the sporting traditions enjoyed by many in the state.
As explained on the Bremer Outdoors Team site: "We are using this interest to create a bond to enhance the lives of members as well as enhance our community. The networking power of this group will help members in both their personal and professional lives. In all, we will work as a team for the betterment of our youth by introducing them to the outdoors."
Volunteers from the Bremer Outdoors Team and Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch help a group of youths fish on the ice of Lake Upsilon, Sunday. The annual weekend trip is one of the group’s events aimed at fostering an interest in outdoor sport in the Minot area.
"It started about seven years ago. We wanted to provide an outdoors group here at the bank," said Brent Mattson, president at Bremer Bank.
The original idea had been to promote sport networking, but since its start has had "an overall focus on our youth. That's the future for hunting and fishing," said Mattson, "getting kids involved. It's a good experience, and hopefully something they can take forward."
Mattson and group co-founder Greg Gullickson, an outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, host televised segments for KMOT-TV aired every other Monday during the network's evening news broadcasts, as well as half-hour shows aired Sunday mornings. The series highlights the various tips, tricks and safety concerns pertinent to outdoor life in the region. Comedian and personality Jeff Foxworthy has even promoted the programming, the success of which Mattson has described as "surpassing what I expected. It keeps us somewhat busy."
Every March the group joins up with Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch for its weekend ice fishing trip, such as the one this last weekend. In addition to providing the gear and expertise, Bremer Outdoors also donates hats and coats to participating youths. This year the coats were provided by the local Kmart and Wal-Mart locations. Kids and volunteers enjoy a day-and-a-half on the ice fishing for perch and northerns, with food brought in by snowmobile, lodging provided at a nearby resort, and sledding afterwards.
"Those kids had a ball, lots of fresh air and the outdoors," said Mattson.
The group stays active year-round. Mid-May brings Bremer Outdoors' Project Habitat, where kids construct a variety of things with materials precut at the Dakota Boys Ranch. This year they will build stands for birdbaths. A good turnout is expected, with up to 50 tables planned-for with volunteers lined up to supervise.
"All you hear are hammers going crazy; it's pretty cool," Mattson chuckled.
Project Habitat also has volunteers from Souris Valley Bowmen and the Berthold Sportsman Club help hold shooting events. The occasion is also a time to give, with Bremer Outdoors donating $1,000 to a local parent-teacher association and making "a sizable donation to a worthy organization," said Mattson, who explained that the group was still deciding who will be this year's recipient.
In the first week of September, Bremer Outdoors joins with at least a dozen outdoor groups from Minot and Berthold for their Youth Outdoor Festival. Gullickson organizes the event, held at the Game and Fish Park Outdoor Skills Center at the state fairground. With tables set up for the different groups to showcase themselves, food and drinks are provided as well as doorprizes that include decoys, guns, rods, and other equipment.
In addition, "Greg and I take some less-fortunate kids out fishing," said Mattson.
"Kids that need a mentor," Gullickson adds.
They find that the outdoor setting, the group activity, and the role-modeling provide youths with a unique opportunity for personal growth.
The Bremer Outdoors Team currently has about 250 members.
"You just need an account (at Bremer Bank) to be a member," Mattson explained.
Members get a team cap and are invited to its annual adult social functions. In September the group reserves the Minot Gun Club, celebrating the upcoming season with shooting, dinner, and an update on the group's doings.
"It's pretty festive out there," said Mattson.
Around February the downtown branch of Bremer Bank hosts an "antler brag," where hunters can bring in their season's trophies and converse with other sportsmen over dinner.
"Holy smokes, but we get some monster bucks brought in there. It's a lot of fun," Mattson said.
Bremer Outdoors Team's next event will be this year's Project Habitat, on May 16. For more information on the group, its activities, and how to get involved, visit its website at (www.kmot.com/Bremeroutdoors).