By Tom Murphy
DeWayne “Tank” Schroeder was inducted into the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Hall of Fame in January at the annual convention in Alexandria. The honor cited his “exemplary attitude toward supporting the mission of the NWTF and tirelessly working toward those goals!”
Schroeder is a founding member of the Houston County Chapter of the Minnesota WTF. The chapter started in 1983 and is the state’s third oldest behind the Metro and Winona chapters.
He earned the honor with his emcee activities not only with the Houston County Chapter, but because he has been the only banquet emcee at Lanesboro’s Root River Valley Chapter since 1985 and the banquet emcee at the Winona Chapter for more than 20 years.
Those attending the banquets appreciate the talent it takes to be the emcee. The Houston County Chapter ranks second in the state in net dollars raised. The Winona Chapter ranks seventh, while the Root River Valley ranks 19th in the state in net dollars raised. The three chapters have raised almost $1 million since their banquets began in the 1980s.
Schroeder’s efforts on behalf of the Wild Turkey Federation started with organizing chapters and their banquets. Locally, he is an active gift solicitor and ticket seller. He also lines up the banquet food. The sold out 31st Houston County Chapter banquet will be held on Friday, March 7 at Ma Cal Grove Country Club.
Schroeder is an active wild turkey hunter and has passed the tradition to his daughters as well as his grandchildren. He was also the hunter spokesman when the state chapter received critical funding to partially finance a full time wild turkey biologist from the Legislative Committee on Minnesota Resources. Former State Representative Virgil Johnson was on that committee when it came to Caledonia to hear the local presentation at the Crest Supper Club.
Schroeder joins the late Al Huesmann of Caledonia on the Hall of Fame list of honorees. Huesmann was named in 2004. Others in the group from the area are Dennis Verthein of Plainview and Pat Schmidt of Lanesboro. Huesmann was Houston County Chapter’s first president. He was state treasurer for many years as well.
Schroeder was the first person given the State Chapter President’s Award in 1995. Huesmann was the second person given the award the next year. Only 16 volunteers have received that award.
The banquet program carried lots of names familiar to local wild turkey hunters and supporters. The state chapter has honored DNR employees annually since 1995. The best known DNR employee, Gary Nelson, is a wild turkey specialist who was honored in 2000. He is credited with re-locating the first wild turkey back into Minnesota. A story was written in The Caledonia Argus at that time. Nelson was the first fully funded DNR employee in the program.
Dick Kimmel, a wild turkey biologist, writer, singer and song writer was the first person honored in 1995. Dan Book, a Lanesboro conservation officer, received the award in 1996 and 2006. He was very active in the Root River Chapter over the years. Caledonia Area conservation officers Larry Webinger and Scott Fritz were honored in 2002 and 2011, respectively.
Local honorees are Verthein and Bruce Fuller, of Winona, who received the state chapter president’s award in 1999 and 2003, respectively.
Former state chapter presidents who have attended the Houston County Chapter banquet over the years are: Ron Schara, Bob Nybo, John Clark, John Beard, Jim Norman, Doug Grann and Verthein.
Except for Verthein, all of those mentioned are Metro Chapter members. Schara was a StarTribune writer. Nybo lived in Red Wing. Grann works for Wild Wings of Lake City and frequently shared the microphone with Schroeder at the local banqet.
Further history from the banquet program listed local people who received Minnesota NWTF Silver Spurs for their service on the state board of directors, including Huesmann, Book, Fuller, Grann, Nybo, Schara and Verthein. Other familiar names honored were Kevin Fuerstneau, of Plainview, who was the NWTF field person for many years, and Bob Schrank, who is known for his StarTribune reporting.
Banquet goers here will be able to bid on the first in a series of five prints painted by Houston wildlife artist Michael Sieve. “Who Cooks For You?” depicts an owl surveying the woodland terrain at night. Readers can see the print when they Google image the title with Sieve’s name.