Organizataion of Year

CRESCO - This isn’t your grandfather’s wildlife club!
Nope. Cresco Wildlife Club is for every age group, but the older members have been focusing on the youth of the community in the past few years.
Because of their volunteerism to spread the love of conservation and outdoor sports, the Cresco Wildlife Club was named 2023 Times Plain Dealer’s Hall of Fame  Organization of the Year. 
The Club boasts over 250 members. Although, President Greg Hudecek noted, “You don’t have to be a member to participate. All things are open to the public. We don’t limit it to club members, especially the events and suppers.”
Gooder Field
The Wildlife Club has taken the saying “Even an old barn needs a fresh coat of paint” to heart, and is slowly making changes.
The biggest change has been Gooder Field. Around 2014, Gary and Sara Gooder donated land that made a dream of the club become a reality — a trap range. This replaced the single trap house located next to the club house at the Howard County Fairgrounds.
But as with all things worthwhile, it takes money and lots of sweat equity. That’s where the club’s volunteer crew comes in. Slowly but surely, the range took shape with three trap houses, shelters, bleachers, storage building, an archery range, spacious parking range, new range house for meetings and scorekeeper. Through a recent grant, they will now be able to have lights at the range for practice and tournaments that run until dark.
The Cresco Area Clay Crushers use Gooder Field as its home field. Now in its fifth year of competition, the team continues to grow. With the support of the Wildlife Club, the Clay Crushers is one of the largest teams in the area.
Club member Terri Webb said, “The main reason for building the range was for the kids. When we first started, we wanted a dozen kids. Now we have 50-60 kids per year.”
Special events
• By having one of the nicest trap ranges in the area, the Club is able to sponsor different outdoor events during the year — trap shooting, archery and precision .22 rifle matches. These tournaments bring in sports enthusiasts from all over.
• From October to April, the Club has Bingo on Sunday afternoons at the Club House. Players come from Howard County and further, including Ossian, New Hampton and Decorah. Webb said, “Thanks to the Sunday Bingo crowd, the Scholarship Fund is well taken care of!”
Scholarships are given to students furthering their education in conservation.
• Several times a year, the club sponsors dinners, such as fish and chicken fries. 
But the most popular event is the wild game feed. Hudecek stated, “It got big enough we had to move it to the Expo Center!” This also serves as an appreciation to landowners who allow members to hunt and fish on their property.
• Each year, between three and five Minnesota and Iowa Conceal Carry Classes are hosted by the club, with member Todd Stephenson (TDS Enterprises LLC) as the instructor. 
• The annual Sports Show and Swap Meet is held in August and has grown so much, it is now held in the Club House and the Expo Center!
• Because the club has such a good core of volunteers, McAllister’s Heritage Event Center asks them to help with special holiday meals. In return, the club gets a portion of the profits.
Club House
The Club House is where members have their meetings. But is so much more!
It has been the central component of the Wildlife Club for generations. It sits next to the Expo Center on the Howard County fairgrounds. Most people probably know the building as the place where the live fish and turtles are displayed during the fair.
But that’s not all there is to the building. There are many different taxidermied animals on display, including the common deer and fish. They also have an entire bear, elk head, wasp nests, ducks and even a rattle snake!
In the past few years, the Club House has had a makeover, with a deep clean and moving some of the displays around to be more people-friendly. It has also added air conditioning and heaters for a more pleasant visit.
All the taxidermied animals are exhibited in the Trophy Room, just inside the door. Another set of doors takes a visitor to the Range Room, where the indoor .22 range is open in the winter. 
During the fair, the fish tanks are now displayed in the Range Room. In addition, there is a huge wildlife wall mural.
The Club House is available as a rental for family reunions, graduation parties, weddings and more. The Club offers it to youth groups such as 4-H and Boy Scouts at no charge. 
At this year’s fair, the Club has a new display — a 10-ft. root from switchgrass! It will show how the roots help keep the soil from becoming hard and allowing for better drainage.
The Club plans to have some classes and informational programs. One local law enforcement officer plans to take youth rabbit hunting on land the club owns on Robin Ave., south of Hwy. 9.
Some guest speakers give presentations during meetings, which are open to everyone and are held on second and fourth Monday of the month. One speaker is M.J. Hatfield of Burr Oak. 
The Cresco Wildlife Club will be honored at the Annual Howard County Business & Tourism Banquet on Wednesday, April 26. It is being held at the Heritage Events Center. Anyone is invited to come to celebrate the newest Organization of the Year. Call or stop by the Cresco Area Chamber for tickets, 563-547-3434.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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