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President lauds hunt club's benefits for farmers, community

Contributing writer

New president of the Goldenrod Hunt Club, J.C. Saunders of Lehigh, wants farmers to know that his group is looking for more acreage to add to their membership access base. Farmers who give hunt club members access to crop and CRP ground earn up to $3 per acre in addition to what they already may have received for crops or CRP payments.

According to Saunders, everyone involved in the hunt club rental agreements benefits through friendships, effective wildlife management, and economic stimulus.

“Hunting is an outstanding natural resource of this area,” Saunders said. “The hunt club gave me a place to hunt with my family, drew us into this community, anchored us to this area.”

Saunders took over the job of President of the Goldenrod Hunt Club in September after former founder and president ,Rod Peters of rural Goessel, retired from the position in late spring 2011.

Originally from southeast Kansas, Saunders and his wife, Susan, made connections with Marion County approximately 12 years ago. At that time, they taught hunter education courses for the state and met one of Peters’ sons in one of their courses.

The club was named Goldenrod Hunt Club because much of the land involved was associated with the Peters family farm, and others, along Goldenrod Road in the western part of Marion County.

“I work in Hesston (Excell Industries) and my wife teaches at Goessel,” Saunders said. “But it was because of our love for hunting and the friendships we developed here through the Goldenrod Hunt Club that we bought land and a home here.”

Saunders said there are currently 20 members in the Goldenrod Hunt Club, with a waiting list for new members. Current members pay a yearly fee and then hunt according to lawful seasons for dove, whitetail deer, pheasant/quail, and turkey.

“We are not to be confused with the big-money outfitters in the area that bring in wealthy out-of-state hunters looking for only the big racks,” Saunders said. “Our club members have a deep respect for the property owners who allow us to hunt and we are here to fully appreciate all aspects of nature, managing the deer and game populations in a way that benefit the farmers. Most of the time, a farmer will not even know we are around. Our members abide by an additional code of ethics, respecting private property boundries and making sure no area is pressured to much at any one time.”

Members of the Goldenrod club stay up-to-date on who might be hunting where and when to avoid accidents through e-mails and cell phones. Even so the hunt club pays for and provides liability insurance coverage that protects the land owner.

Currently there are about 1,000 acres of crop and CRP land enrolled with the Goldenrod Hunt Club.

“We really are looking to gain more of the CRP ground,” Saunders said. “We like to keep it about 50/50 with crop land and grass, but it is the CRP that is the key to keeping game birds in Kansas.”

Saunders said the Goldenrod club was originally formed after Peters felt there was too much hunting pressure on land he had enrolled in the WIHA (Walk-In Hunting Access) program, created by the state.

“I think the walk-in hunting program is great,” Saunders said. “But our local club can pay the same amount or more to farmers and then we have control over how much hunting is allowed in certain areas. With the state program, access is not limited or controlled in any way and this could lead to too much pressure being placed on the wildlife.”

“We have a resource here in central Kansas that, if managed properly, will be here to benefit not only our families, but our children and grandchildren, too,” Saunders said. “That is what is important to me.”

Growing up, Saunders didn’t have much chance to hunt with his dad, though he would have liked to very much.

“My dad was a butcher in a grocery store,” he said. “He worked a lot and didn’t have much time off. Then he died when I was pretty young and we just didn’t get to do much together.”

Now, hunting with his own children — daughters Jessica and Samantha — Saunders said most important to him is the time he spends with his family doing what they love to do.

“My wife, Susan, was always very outdoorsy, a Girl Scout, riding horses, etc.,” he said. “I was actually surprised when she took to hunting with me and loved it. We started out shooting skeet together and it went from there. Now she is probably the more avid deer hunter between us. She puts in the time in the deer blind and is like an unstoppable force in deer season.”

Saunders said the couple continues to give hunter education classes together, as well as lead a seminar each fall at Rock Springs Ranch called “Becoming an Outdoor Woman.” Susan is also a certified shot gun instructor through the state. Saunders is also a board member with Marion County Quail Forever.

“It is very important to me to be active with local conservation and youth projects,” he said.

Last year, Saunders’ daughter Jessica shot her first deer and is looking forward to going out with her parents again this year.

“You know, we hunt because we love the out-of-doors,” Saunders said. “But we also eat what we get. We enjoy a lot of venison and it helps keep our own grocery bills affordable.”

In addition to being a food source for hunt club members and their families, Saunders said that many times hunt club members donate meat to local food pantries and organizations.

“It’s much better to be putting that meat into people’s bellies, than having it run into your vehicles on the roadways, costing thousands of dollars,” he said.

There is also a benefit for the local economy when it’s hunting season in Marion County, Saunders said.

“When people are out hunting, no matter where they came from or how much they paid to do it, they are going to be buying gas at the local stations, buying snacks at the grocery stores, eating at the restaurants, and stopping to get additional clothing, supplies, or ammunition in the area,” he said. “It really is a good resource we should all be aware of and support in these times.”

Last modified Sept. 28, 2011

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