By Sherry Zuege, Comet correspondent

Carlton Hunting and Fishing Club (CHFC) was started in 2007 by 13 like-minded sportsmen. The club’s mission is to promote and maintain hunting and fishing recreational activities in Kewaunee County. Twelve years later the club still works toward that mission and has given so much to its community.

The club formed as a nonprofit organization in 2007. The initial thrust was to raise and release pheasants and conserve the local population (as seen in the top photo). The goal was to raise 500 chicks per year to release into the wild. The goal has been surpassed and to date about 12,000 pheasants have been released. Club members are in the process of building new brooders for the 1,300 chicks to raise this spring.

The decline in youth hunting is troublesome to club members.

“Hunting is part of our culture and needs to be preserved. This club is a means to promote that. Maybe we can make a difference and give to the next generation of hunters,” said Dick Paplham in a 2007 interview.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does background checks to qualify members to mentor youth. Kids that don’t have the opportunity to hunt work with a mentor for hunter’s safety training, to borrow a weapon if needed, and to hunt. The club has mentored about 50 kids and adults.

CHFC teams up with the Kewaunee Trap Club to offer hunter’s safety classes for kids and adults. The main emphasis is proper firearm handling and safety. Strong emphases are placed on making a clean kill so wounded animals aren’t left in the wild, respecting the land by leaving no sign you were there, and talking to landowners in the area before you hunt.

Zack Stangel and his Carlton Hunting and Fishing Club mentor Brett Paplham. (CHFC photo)

CHFC’s first club fundraiser was held at the Outback Tavern and about 50 people attended. This year, the 11th annual, held at Heritage Farm, had about 500 adults and 138 kids. The club has a special focus on youth and every kid in attendance gets a gift.

“Every year we are so amazed at the generosity of businesses and individuals in this community,” said Pete Mueller, CHFC president emeritus.

The club gives back tenfold including donations to people with medical hardships, Special Olympics in Kewaunee and Manitowoc, Kewaunee County Sluggers, Kewaunee Youth Trap, Kewaunee Net Pen Project, Hooray for Hollywood, Moonriders Snowmobile Club, Skills USA, churches, school sports, Manitowoc Kids Bass Fishing Tournament, Ag. Heritage Farm, and the Kewaunee Sheriff’s department for the thermal imaging camera.

The group also donated ATV signs in the Carlton township and the Kewaunee harbor live camera you can see online at KewauneeLighthouse.axiscam.net. CHFC also gives a yearly scholarship to Kewaunee High School with the stipulation that the scholarship committee must choose a student who wants a career in conservation or agriculture.

Club members are also integral parts of other organizations like Pheasants Forever, Kewaunee Conservation Congress, Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Lakeshore Business Association.

With the list of everything the club gives and is involved in, it sounds hundreds of members strong. The Carlton Hunting and Fishing Club has only 21 members.

“We’re capped at 21. It’s kept small to streamline voting and be able to make quick decisions,” said Brett Paplham, the current president. New members must be invited and voted in by all members to join. Once they are a club member they are held accountable for their activity and contributions to the club.

Max Kleiman, Maddix Mueller, Luke Kleiman, Coy Kleiman, and Derek Mueller are sons of CHFC club members. (CHFC photo)

“I kept hearing the name Carlton Hunting and Fishing Club. It was always pretty quiet like they didn’t want any recognition or accolades for what they did,” said Dave Wesley, a newly-elected member. “The club works behind the scenes for the people they live with in their community. I was excited when I was asked to join because how can you not want to be part of that. The world needs more of that.”

One of the goals of the young club was to one day have their own land for conservation and that dream is coming true. CHFC, through a legal agreement with Dominion Energy Kewaunee, is leasing 40 acres with a building. Members are refurbishing the building into the CHFC clubhouse. In the spring they will begin working on habitat enhancements and walking paths.

Club members are not allowed to hunt on the land, instead they will host disabled hunts, elderly hunts, and youth hunts.

“We don’t have the money to buy 40 acres; we are so thankful to Dominion for leasing to our club. We’re excited to be able to offer these special hunts in the near future,” said Brian Kleiman, secretary and treasurer.

To see more pictures, Carlton Hunting and Fishing Club has a Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/carltonhuntfishclub/