The Fort Frances Sportsmen's Club held its annual general meeting Monday night at the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau (old CN station).
It was revealed that 2018 was a quiet year for the club, with many behind-the-scenes activities taking place with the board of directors working at maintaining and improving the club.
For the 2018 O.F.A.H. lottery year, 69 books of tickets were sold for a profit of $629. The money raised from the sale of tickets was used for the Rainy River Elk Restoration Project.
In terms of club property and ranges, the range roads had work completed on them that included new culverts being installed where needed.
Daryl's Custom Landscaping was contracted to complete the work.
During the fall, the overgrown brush along the roadway started to be cut back.
Blair Beadow gave a report on the archery range. In July, the club began work on the range that included cutting grass both on it and on the outside of the field.
The club also identified the 3D shooting lanes and cut them out.
Other work involved cleaning out the archery shed, cleaning out the 3D animal storage, and building a storage rack for the 3D targets.
The club has roughly 33 usable targets but require the replacement of large 3D targets. That will be achieved by the money raised at its 3D events.
A 3D event was held back on Aug. 26, with a modest turnout.
Two 3D events are planned for this year, with the first coming in May and the second one slated for August.
During the fall, replacement of the range targets was discussed and it was decided that five Bulldog range targets were to be purchased.
In mid-December, five such targets were purchased and were received in late January.
The plan is to permanently mount the targets at the range in May. To pay for these targets, the club has been soliciting sponsors and has raised more than $900 so far.
An archery club meeting is slated for next month to get the 2019 season going, with an election of officers to be held at that time.
The goal is to provide an archery range that can hold tournaments up to the World Archery Program, or formally FITA standards, and to encourage National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) to use the club's facility.
The belief is that it would help the club grow the sport of archery.
Henry Miller then gave a report on youth education and conservation, as well as on bluebirds.
Mine Centre School has an outdoor program for its primary classes, with Miller invited to take part in one of its excursions into the bush.
The school needed some guidance in setting up a program for the older students. Miller made several suggestions and took the Grades 4-6 out to show some of the techniques that could be used.
Several of the teachers stayed after school to walk the trails and learn more about the environment.
Building birdhouses in classrooms is part of the club's initiative to help increase the bluebird population and last summer, many of those boxes were used by the bluebirds.
In February, two Grade 6 classes and a Grade 4 class at Robert Moore School constructed 59 birdhouses. In addition to making the boxes, the students also learned to identify bluebirds, tree swallows, and wrens.
For his bluebird report, Miller noted the winter of 2017-18 was extremely cold and lingered into the second week of April.
On the night of the nocturnal owl survey on April 11, the snow coverage was 95 percent. But the temperatures rose quickly, with the first bluebirds appearing on May 19.
“Not long after that, there were more bluebirds than I had ever seen,” Miller said in his report.
Residents in the district, whose children had built birdhouses through the sportsmen's club's school programs, wondered why there were so many bluebirds nesting in the boxes which never had been used before.
“It was a great year for these birds," said Miller. ”They thrived in hot, dry conditions.
“I monitored six trails [73 boxes]," he noted. "Eighteen pairs of bluebirds fledged 86 young, with mortality in only one nest.”
All ground-nesting birds, such as bobolinks, meadow larks, and grouse, also thrived.
In fact, bobolinks—which were in every hayfield in our area—fledged their young before the hay was cut.
But Miller also noted that tree swallow populations remain low.
In the 22 years before 2015, these birds nested in about 80 percent of the 437 birdhouses being monitored.
In 2015, very few returned from the south and their numbers have remained low since then.
For big-game hunting, Chris Bonner-Vickers noted changes have been made to the licensing process, in which licences can be purchased online and then printed off.
There are new regulations on how to deal with the paper licences.
Reporting each year is required for each game licence purchased—even if the tag was not filled. There also are fines for non-reporting of the survey cards.
In terms of skeet shooting, 2018 was a quiet year on the range. Weekly shoots took place but only a small number of participants took part.
Due to the reduced number of active skeet members, there was no year-end competition shoot.
An update also was given regarding the club's boat launch at Frog Creek.
The boat launch still has issues with it and the club has been advised by the MNRF that other clubs have lost court cases trying to gain access into waterways over private land.
Those clubs paid more than $80,000 in legal fees in their unsuccessful attempts.
There is case law that will provide past precedence to the courts in favour of the private land owner that legally owns and is paying property taxes on the riverbeds.
This past precedence has shown that the courts will not rule in favour to the private land owner's legal right to their property.
The club executive still is looking for alternatives to resolve this problem, and have talked to neighbouring land owners to lease land where the club can relocate its boat launch to.
But these attempts have been unsuccessful to date.
In other news, club bursaries were awarded to Alana Gerula last year. She received $1,000 towards her studies.
Members also are encouraged to check the club's website and Facebook page for news, updates, and events throughout the year.