The annual Hodag Sports Club Banquet, considered by many to be the social event of the year, is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Quality Inn in Rhinelander.
The event draws sportsmen and women together for a great meal, plenty of camaraderie, and multiple chances to win prizes.
The Hodag Sports Club was founded in 1946 by a small group of men who were diehard fishermen, according to member Virgil Davis.
The original goal was to improve public access to area lakes.
Davis said eventually the men wanted to shoot trap, so they leased 8 acres on Highway C near Rhinelander, where the current Hodag Sports Club trap and skeet range still stands. Back then, membership was $1. When Speck DeByle joined the club, Davis said, he was concerned about what might happen if the lessor no longer wanted the club there because of the noise.. In the mid-1970s, DeByle said the club could purchase the 40-acre plot of land, which contained a house as well. That house and three acres could be sold off to pay for the rest of the land. There was some lengthy debate, but the purchase was eventually made, much to the enjoyment of the hundreds of members who have passed through the gates to enjoy their shooting sports over the years.
From its humble beginnings, the club has continued to grow and expand with over 750 members in more than 39 states. Now there are five traps, two skeet fields and a five-stand facility at the complex on Highway C. The club also owns and operates a rifle and pistol range west of town, the Steve Martin Training Center. The club's activities include leagues for trap, skeet, five stand, Single Action Shooting Society matches, U.S. Practical Shooting Association matches and ranges for general marksmanship practice. The club also facilitates the Rhinelander High School Trap Club, with many members volunteering as coaches for the club.
The banquet began as a Wild Game Feed and has since turned into something much more. Over 350 people are in attendance every year. As of this writing, DeByle said approximately 30 tickets for the event were still available. Proceeds from the banquet, according to club policy, go toward capital improvements.
Over the years, the club has been able to purchase more land and preserve that hunting land for the public. All land owned by the club is open Managed Forest Law land, where the public is free to hunt. Each year the banquet holds raffles with a large variety of gun boards, and has been known for decades as a "do not miss" event for the hunting and shooting sports community.
Tickets for the banquet can be purchased at the DeByle offices and are $45 for members, $85 for nonmembers, which includes a year's membership. The banquet is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., but will likely fill up earlier in the evening. Memberships to the Sports Club are $50 per year or $400 for a lifetime membership.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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