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Hunting Dakota with Roosevelt: A decade of providing “A Unique Hunt of a Lifetime”

Posted by Kylie Blanchard, Co-Editor 10/9/2017 1:37:50 PM

This year’s Hunting Dakota with Roosevelt (HDwR) event marks a decade of providing “a unique hunt of a lifetime” for members of the military, sportsmen and volunteers. The event started in 2008 with the ambitious goal of combining efforts to raise money for the fight against cancer, honor the state’s military, and incorporate the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation on the land where Theodore Roosevelt lived and hunted. From its first year, the event has succeeded in meeting this goal and has also created impacts beyond anything organizers thought possible. 

Roger Krueger, event founder, approached Jon Hanson in 2007, following Hanson’s retirement from the North Dakota National Guard, and asked him to join in making the event a reality. “Roger really had the concept and we just worked to develop it,” says Hanson. “It’s evolved into something we couldn’t have imagined."

 

Helping Your Neighbor

The concept for HDwR was based on the North Dakota way of helping your neighbors, says Krueger. “North Dakota is one great big town with a whole lot of space between neighbors and houses. It’s a uniquely Midwestern concept,” he says. “When our great-grandparents came here 150 years ago, all they had was each other, and that genetic tendency to help your neighbor still exists here today.” 

The gentlemen developed the event’s focus and began approaching potential sponsors with the idea for the event. “We developed the three pieces of the puzzle, patriotism, the fight against cancer, and conservation, to make the event successful and draw sponsors,” says Krueger.   

One of HDwR’s biggest champions was the late Sheila Schafer, the First Lady of Medora. “She was a face, fire and cheerleader behind this event,” Krueger notes, adding she opened doors for the group in Medora and knew Tweed Roosevelt, great grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. She encouraged him to participate in the event, and Roosevelt has since participated in nine of the last 10 hunts.

“After we met with Sheila,” says Hanson, “we decided we had to do this event, because she said we had to. But we were still kind of thinking this was a one-shot deal.”

 

Supporting the Military

“When we started, we wanted to do something to help the military,” says Krueger. “The first year we had 18 military people participating. These guys and gals deployed, came back from hostile environments, and dispersed. After the first year, and every year since, we’ve been getting messages from our military participants and the theme is, ‘I’ve been going on these hunts and I realized I am not alone.’ We didn’t intend that, but it happened.” 

Hanson says the event and its impacts have reached further than organizers anticipated. “What struck me, was we offered this to military mobilized after 9/11 to thank them for their service, and they end up thanking us for the hunt and a weekend of a lifetime.”

Selected National Guard members are sponsored for the weekend’s events, which begins Friday with a sporting clays shoot and lunch, followed by a banquet honoring the HDwR’s military participants at the Elks Lodge in Bismarck. On Saturday, event participants hunt in western North Dakota and stay in Medora. “We have also found that military participants want to come back and continue to participate, so now every team has a former participant called a Military Attaché, responsible for the safety, health, hydration, and hygiene of each team member,” says Krueger.

In total, the event hosts 70 hunters, along with a support team of 25 in the field each year. Another support crew of 30 individuals stays in Medora preparing for the hunters’ stay. Participants also take part in a landowner’s recognition banquet on Saturday evening, followed by a campfire. Sunday concludes with another morning of hunting and an informal meal back in Bismarck.

Sponsors support a hunting team of seven individuals including the selected military participant, military attaché, dog handler, and four guests. “It’s just fun,” says Hanson. “Everyone has a good time, and nobody gets too serious.”  

The Fight Against Cancer

HDwR has also raised a net total of more than $600,000 in funds to support the Bismarck Cancer Center (BCC) Foundation in providing financial support as well as holistic services to nurture the body, mind and spirit of the patients receiving treatment at the BCC. The center serves more than 600 patients each year within a 250-mile radius of Bismarck.  

Over the past 10 years, HDwR has played a vital role in providing more than 16,000 nights of free or reduced cost housing for cancer patients in fully furnished apartments located within walking distance of the BCC, and more than 6,700 complimentary massages, 1,750 physical therapy visits and 3,500 free consultations with a dietician.

In addition, funds raised by the event have provided more than 4,500 patients and their families with social and spiritual assistance, as well as nearly 830 prepaid gasoline cards and 250 survivor art classes.

Krueger says supporting the BCC again focused the event on helping your neighbor. “Each of us, with the gifts we have, can make a difference with our neighbors,” he says. “The idea was that everyone is impacted by cancer and we wanted to direct support to the patients and families that have to travel, use gas and take time off work.”

 

Conservation

“President Roosevelt was the father of North American conservation and he birthed that idea in North Dakota,” says Krueger. “The cornerstone of the conservation effort is the relationship between landowners and sportsmen.”

Focusing on building relationships with landowners in southwest North Dakota has not only provided additional hunting land, but has built valuable relationships in the HDwR community. “The first year, we had three farmers allowing us the use of their land, but since that time, 45 farmers and ranchers have opened their gates, ranches, farms, and hearts to this activity.”

HDwR has also found a way to give back to those who have welcomed the event to the region. In 2012, the town of Bucyrus and its surrounding area was ravaged by a grass fire, destroying many structures as well as homes. “This happened right before our event that year and we took the proceeds from the silent auction and passing the hat at the banquet, and wrote a check to the town for $5,000 to say ‘Hey, you’re our neighbor, too,’” says Krueger.

The event’s Saturday night banquet provides an opportunity to recognize the landowners and their families for their contributions to the event. In addition, Krueger notes, former patients of the BCC are also now opening their land to HDwR hunters. “That really puts a face on our cause.”

 

The Future

What started as a team of two organizing HDwR has grown to a committee of 18 meeting monthly to plan each year’s event. This year, HDwR hopes to reach a gross total of $1 million in money raised by the event. But more importantly, says Hanson, organizers want to continue to build relationships and comradery through the event. “It’s the relationships we’ve built that has kept this going,” he says. “We’ve made friends in 17 different states and we have people coming back every year. It’s meant a lot to a lot of people.”

Krueger says organizers and sponsors have worked to keep the event unique and special to all those involved. “We’ve had sponsors that have been with us from the beginning and they don’t want to see it become a huge event, they want to keep the intimacy of the hunt,” he notes. “I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.”     

“The serendipity of the whole thing and how it has come together is incredible,” he continues. “We’re the luckiest guys you’ll ever meet. This is our job to create something special.”

This year’s HDwR event takes place Oct. 20-22. For more information on the event and the HDwR organization, visit www.huntingdakotawithroosevelt.com.

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