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Football, basketball and other mainstream sporting events may get all the press at Illinois State, but many may not know there are other sports that include hunting and fishing there too. No large stadiums or big crowds, but students at ISU have two very successful organizations that are getting national attention.

It’s great to see our youth getting outdoors and enjoying sports they can participate in for a lifetime.

The Illinois State Bass Fishing Team started the year ranked in the top 20 nationally and just returned from a successful trip to Toledo Bend Reservoir in Texas. The team will continue to have tournaments this spring and early summer across the country fishing B.A.S.S., Cabela’s and FLW trails as time permits.

Below the Waterline has covered members of that team and will continue to do so as we get further into the fishing season.

Another student organization that has been active for six years is the Illinois State Trap and Skeet Club. The goal is to educate students, faculty and staff on the fundamentals of firearm safety, competitive shooting and the comradery of shooting sports by providing a proper and safe environment for them. Club members compete at local and national shoots and shoot once per week each semester, but that is not all of it.

Since the group’s inception, it has won Illinois State Awards for the largest banquet (560 attendees), the LA Dixon Award for the most new members created, the largest amount of money raised, most improved chapter and the RSO Outstanding Achievement Award at ISU.

Since 2014 the organization has averaged raising more than $34,000 per year with proceeds staying within the chapter to support conservation of wildlife, habitat restoration and outdoor hunting traditions, as well as youth programs.

No doubt the group is growing and self-sustaining. It is affiliated with Quail Forever here locally. These young people work hard at shining a positive light on youth and outdoor related sports and activities.

Local outdoorsman Rodney Graf heads up the organization and is a student at ISU. “This club is 100 percent student run and we have over 50 student members which includes 15 to 20 young ladies,” said Graf.

“Our goal is to provide the opportunity to begin or continue students’ passion of the outdoors including hunting, competition and conservation. There are a lot of kids programs, but once you are over 16 years old there isn’t much. We fill that void.”

Graf is a grad student at ISU and will have his Masters Degree in agriculture. He hopes to teach and be active in the Future Farmers of America as an adviser when he completes his grad work.

The Illinois State Trap and Skeet Club is about safety and outdoors awareness and provides hunter safety classes. The club is involved with youth events such as dove hunts and active at building food plots and habitat building for birds and animals.

March 31 is the group’s annual banquet at the Interstate Center. Tickets are $35, $60 per couple and kids are $15. Doors open at 4:30 and dinner is at 6 p.m. Monies raised go to the club for shells, transportation and lodging for two shoots per year and a trip to the South Dakota Pheasant Fest.

Sponsorships are available for the event and there will be raffles, auction and kids activities at the banquet.

To buy tickets you can go to www.pheasantsforeverevents.org/event/3246 or contact Graf at rodgrafjr@gmail.com. His phone number is 309-261-4810.

Sportsmen banquet

Don’t forget the McLean County Sportsmen Banquet is Saturday at the Interstate Center. This is the 27th year of raising funds that go to children’s programs in the McLean County area. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. and dinner is served at 4:30. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Raffles, auctions and a wild game dinner is part of the event.

Terry Brown is President of Wired2Fish.com, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to www.Wired2Fish.com.

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