By Kyle Cushman, Correspondent
You won’t find many elk roaming around central Texas, but you will find some supporters of elk and their habitat.
The Central Texas Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) held their annual fundraising event at the Bell County Expo Center on Saturday night. Hunters, conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts gathered for a meal, fellowship, and to raise money to support the cause. The banquet featured games, a silent auction, a live auction, autographed sports memorabilia and a steak dinner.
The mission of the RMEF is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Ronnie Creek has been on the committee for the Central Texas Chapter for 12 years. This is his seventh year to serve as chairman.
“When we talk about conservation, what we do helps elk, mule deer, big horn sheep and everything that lives on the land,” said Ronnie. “There are 3,500 head of elk in west Texas. We’re hoping that the state of Texas takes elk off the exotic list. It would help increase their numbers.”
Don Mayfield and his wife helped sell tickets to the fundraiser. “We sold 80 tickets up front, and we’ll have some walk-ins as well,” said Mayfield. “This is all about youth. We want to encourage kids to get outdoors. This is our 17th year in Central Texas. We have had fundraisers in Crawford, Killeen, and Seaton in prior years. This is our second year to hold the banquet in Belton.”
David Anderson, shooting sports coordinator for Tigertown 4H and his daughter, Emily, also helped at the fundraiser. “We received a grant last year from RMEF,” said Anderson. “That money went toward range time for kids to shoot trap and skeet. Our number one focus is teaching gun safety to youth. Number two is introducing them to a new sport. These are skills they can use for a lifetime.”
Michael Gookins is the RMEF director for the state of Texas. “We are all over the place. We have 14 chapters in Texas. Ninety percent of the money raised here goes to support the foundation’s mission,” said Gookins. “What most people don’t know is that part of the money we raise goes back to the state and helps fund local organizations. We give Holland FFA a grant every year. Tigertown 4H is also a candidate this year.”
Michael and his wife Donna live in Canyon Lake. Donna retired from her job and now travels with her husband around the state of Texas. “Central Texas is a great chapter,” said Mrs. Gookins. “I have made some lifelong friends. These are good people who work hard, play hard and want to give back to something they believe in.”