It was an idea I cooked up at the very last minute. I have attended the Hospice banquet in Worthington for the past five years or so. As a business donation to the event from LPL Financial Services that benefits the local Hospice Cottage, I usually purchased a table and then had the tickets given away the week of the event by Radio Works.

For the past few years I went to a table with a couple I know. They are Gordy and Lori Heitkamp. We always have a great time and the Hospice Cottage benefits from the packed house of other generous supporters.

This year about three days before the event I came up with an idea that I thought might raise more money for this great organization than my couples ticket or an entire table sponsorship.

I called one of the many super volunteers I know. This gal’s name is Deb Schiedt. I decided that I would offer up what I called “Dinner in the Wild.” This would be a dinner held at my wildlife property south of Rushmore. It included dinner and all the fixins’ for 12 people on a date of their choosing. The group was offered a choice of different main courses and, after a group consultation, we picked a date.

This effort was all about fund-raising for Hospice, but there would be several other great side benefits as well. This was my opportunity to donate to a great cause but to also expose a group of new folks who might not be as knowledgeable about the outdoors and what kind of work it takes to conserve wildlife habitat.

Part of the evening actually started at about 3:30 p.m. with a wildlife ride. I took the ladies first. The ride lasted for about 90 minutes and included many stops to pick one of each type of native grass and one each of every different wildflower that grows on the property.

We stuck our heads into a few nesting boxes. Some of the boxes showed the remnants of a successful duck hatch and others still showed what a failed nesting attempt looked like.

These structures were primarily for wood ducks, but I had some had merganser ducks using them. We opened several of the bluebird boxes, and not a single one of them had been used by a bluebird.

All of the bird houses were utilized by a bird called a tree swallow. The way to tell the difference was that tree swallows always have a feather or two or 10 in each nest. Bluebirds do not use feathers.

We talked about how fire is good for prairie grasses and could use my site, which had not had a recent fire, and compare it to Les Johnson’s site right across the property line that had been burned this spring. On the site that was burned, the grass was three feet taller than the grass that had not been burned.

While the first group was getting their daily or weekly quota of wildlife information, the rest were back at the outpost shooting at and, in many cases, killing a high percentage of clay pigeons. The ladies even tried their luck, some for the very first time, and I saw more than a few clays broken by the gals as well. One young lady shot her first shot ever and broke the bird on that very first attempt.

Some of the guys wanted to quit after a short run of broken birds so they could boast they shot 100 percent. Dinner was then served, and after everyone was full, I ventured out again with the rest of the group that missed with first wildlife tour.

The weather was absolutely perfect, and just as the sun was setting, we took a group photo with the wild bergamot wildflowers in the foreground and the setting sun as the backdrop. We all sat around and watched the stars come out with a glass of wine or a cold something else.

There were a few fireflies left, but that season is pretty much over for this year.

As a wildlife outing goes, I cannot think of a better one. I believe that each participant had a very good time and that positive results were gained by both the Hospice organization, and my goal of impassioning people to the outdoors was successful as well. If you think a dinner in the wild would be fun, the next chance to get one will be either at the YMCA Cruise Dinner on March 27th or the Hospice Cottage fund-raisers on April 4. Each opportunity will have a live auction item. Maybe you can have your own narrated wildlife ride.

I want to add a big thank you to Lori and Gordy Heitkamp, Casey Ingenthron and my gal Cindy Scott for their time and contributions to making this effort a complete success.