By Sterling McGinn

Eleven members and guests met in the Tahquamenon Sportsmen’s Club building on Monday, March 25 to decide the fate of the century-old organization.

Club members and officers have advertised and held meetings to encourage community members to join to keep the organization going. Those in attendance decided it was time to dissolve and hold one final tackle party this year.

“We have been having this conversation about the club and the financials and the future of the club for several years now,” said club Treasurer Kris Derusha. “It is just to a point that I don’t know what we could possibly do.”

Like many small-town organizations across the nation, the club has hung on for the last several years by the dedication of a few active members.

“We are at a turning point—as you can see, even with advertising we are still down to bare bones,” club president Terry Trepanier told the few in attendance. “We can’t continue to put on our events with this kind of a turnout.”

The club is also faced with a deteriorating headquarters building in need of numerous repairs.

Founded in the 1920s, the Luce County Rod and Gun Club became the Tahquamenon Sportsmen’s Club in 1932. It’s been headquartered in a county-owned building on East Victory Way since the 1940s.

One of the club’s claims to fame was Kid’s Creek, which was orchestrated by club members with cooperation from the Michigan Department of Conservation in designating portions of Teaspoon Creek as a fishing destination for youth age 15 and under. For more than 25 years, local youth were allowed to fish an area not frequented by adult anglers. This program was even featured in a nationwide fishing magazine in the late 1940s.

During its tenure, membership helped live trap deer with the Department of Natural Resources, planted trees and wild rice, and provided supplemental feeding for whitetail deer herds.

During the first couple of years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization struggled to maintain their three big yearly events: Big Buck Night, the Kid’s Tackle Party, and the Whitetails banquet. Participation at meetings and for events didn’t return to normal.

The event that had the most impact on local youth was the annual Kid’s Tackle Party, which has been held for decades. At the wildly popular event, every kid in attendance left with an outdoor-themed prize. Those prizes were donated annually through local businesses and individuals.

This year’s tackle party will be the last for the sportsmen’s club.

“We do have enough funds to do another tackle party,” Trepanier said.

The group is switching gears this year in not soliciting for donations but will use remaining general funds to purchase the prizes through the three local sporting goods businesses.

The official date for the event has not been set, but the club is hoping to hold it on May 11 or 18 in the school gymnasium. More information will be available after the next meeting.

The remainder of the club’s money will be used for supplemental winter feeding until the money earmarked for the program is exhausted.

“We will have to start getting into the process of dissolving our assets,” Trepanier said. “We have to go through a legal process to do that—we can’t give any of this stuff to people; it has to be done through charitable organizations.”

“I know if we were able to make this club work, we would still garner the support that we have before, if not more,” Trepanier said. “But we have to have bodies and we just don’t have them.”

Current club officers will remain in office until the dissolution is final.