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Deer association puts out a spread – and puts on a show
The North Valley California Deer Association dinner packed the main exhibit building at the Colusa County Fairgrounds with about 400 people on Saturday. For one father and son, the dinner was a much-needed change of fortune.
Chris Cholette of San Francisco and his father, Tom Cholette of Michigan, came a long way for the late-season goose hunt this year. Things didn't go exactly as they had planned.
First, Tom Cholette's Friday flight out of northern Michigan was delayed due to heavy snow, and he didn't make it out to California until Saturday. Then, the hunting guide they booked called them to say that the hunting was no good. So much for that.
Chris Cholette searched around for something to do in the Sacramento Valley and found out about the Deer Association dinner. It turned out to be a good choice.
"Great dinner. I thought it was well-cooked. The raffle looks like it's going to be fun. I would say that it was well worth our driving up from San Francisco," Tom Cholette said. "If (Chris) walks out of here with a rifle, he'll be talking about how good (the dinner was)."
Even for those who didn't win a gun, the event had a lot to offer. There were many games to play, an all-you-can-eat dinner consisting of prime rib and chicken (with a number of sides) and complimentary wine at each table. In addition to the raffle, which included items other than guns, there was also a high-energy auction provided by auctioneer Kevin O'Callaghan.
Co-master of ceremonies Pat Fitzmorris said this was the association's sixth year at the fairgrounds in Colusa, and the event typically does well.
"We have 350-400 people every year," who added 75 percent of all the money raised goes to helping deer, "and that stays in California. We do a lot of projects, a lot of youth hunts, work on habitat ... and we raise money at banquets like this," Fitzmorris said.
The event's other co-master of ceremonies, Doug Turner, said on Tuesday morning he was happy with how things went this year.
"I think the auctions and everything went well. I haven't heard anything from (Fitzmorris) about what we made for the cause yet, but I'm sure it was successful just by the number of people there and the amount of raffle tickets sold," Turner said.
Turner said the event, in terms of the number and quality of guns raffled and auctioned, is one of the best in the area.
"It is comparable to what we used to do with the Ducks Unlimited Dinner when we used to have a chapter here," Turner said. "We'll be planning next year already. Take a week's hiatus and go from there."
O'Callaghan, who has done auctions for such clients as Donald Trump for real estate and Disney for rare memorabilia, did his best to keep the energy — and the bids — as high as possible.
Some items sold high. One of the highest-selling auction items of the night was an open zone deer tag. It went for $12,000. There were some steals, too, Turner said — like one out-of-state Mule Deer hunt that went for $3,200.
"The hunts went pretty high. The auction items went really good for us," Turner said.
After the auction wrapped up, the drawing began. One of the first items raffled was a Ruger 10/22 rifle. This was a special raffle for any current or former military personnel. Included with the rifle was a sculpture to commemorate the winner's service.
"We like honoring (the veterans). We hope to have even more for them next year," Turner said.
When the veteran's appreciation raffle was announced, Chris Cholette got up from the table without any explanation and moved to go fill out a ticket.
"My son was in the first Gulf War," Tom Cholette explained while his son was away from the table.
Moments after Chris Cholette sat back down at the table and a ticket was drawn from the bucket, he was headed back up to the stage to pick up a new rifle.
It turned out to be a good weekend for both Cholettes after all.