Hunters rendezvous in DowagiacPublished 7:54pm Sunday, January 29, 2012
Lots and lots and knots of people.
Hunter’s Rendezvous annually fills Dowagiac Conservation Club, M-51 North, with outdoor-oriented families. The 15th on Saturday was no exception.
The event combines fundraising with a casual atmosphere where beginning hunters mingle with experienced hunters.
One such knot formed in front of virtual reality hunting, which is like a video game.
Another gathered around the carving table where youngsters whittled sweet potatoes into what-nots.
Visitors could watch trophy bucks (as well as turkey and elk) be scored, a fisherman tie feathery flies or just gaze in admiration at displays of deer and other game harvested locally while warming up with a bowl of chili.
The event is designed to be educational, so conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever promote their habitat protection missions.
Row after row of tables of gear and merchandise various organizations donate are part of a silent auction.
Hunter’s Rendezvous replenishes the conservation club’s youth education fund, which supports hunter safety classes, Youth Fishing Day and Wildlife Encounters, a program which brings live animals into area classrooms for interactive presentations, as well as Tracks magazine for schools to use as a teaching tool.
A noticeable knot appeared around Jack Crouse, the antique gun appraiser who succeeded the late outdoor columnist Larry Lyons this year.
That’s because Crouse had been presented with a German gun to examine with an ornately carved stock and gold inlays he estimated could be worth $25,000.
Its owner lives in the Marcellus area. It was passed down in his family through a great uncle.
“It would have been made by a German master craftsman. Generally, when you see stuff like that from Germany, it got confiscated when Allied troops occupied and brought back after World War II,” said Crouse.
“People with serious substance might go to them to commission a piece like that especially for them. That one has got the gunsmith’s name, Schilling, and Suhl, a famous gunmaking city in Germany. The work alone tells you this was a guy at the top of his game in 1880 or 1890; $25,000 is just a stab.
“You never really understand what these will bring until you put them in a major auction that specializes in high-grade, collectible firearms. Recently, Teddy Roosevelt’s gun came out of hiding and got, I believe, almost $800,000. And one of (author Ernest) Hemingway’s double rifles, which I had actually seen on display in a hotel in Key West, brought somewhere around half a million dollars.”
“You never know,” Crouse said. “Everything else I’ve looked at today was like $50 to $100.”