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In cahoots with coots

Ashby sportsman’s club celebrates unique bird.

In the small community of Ashby there resides a unique sportsman’s club known to the area as “Coots Unlimited.” What originally began as a group of about a dozen concerned sportsmen, is now comprised of over 250 dedicated members. The group helps to protect and conserve wildlife around the area of Grant and Ottertail counties and has even paired with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in many different instances. In 1979 the group of 12 gentlemen from the Ashby area got together for a duck hunt. They ended up shooting an unusual amount of coots, and proceeded to have a party and cook out afterwards. The year following, they decided to make their duck hunt an annual fundraising banquet, calling themselves “Coots Unlimited,” in honor of the coots they had shot the previous year. For more than 30 years now the club has had their regional coot shoot and beer drinking festival. At their 15th annual year, over 620 banquet tickets were sold to local and visiting sportsmen. Coot isn’t served at the meal anymore, but many other varieties of food and beverages are. All profits made from the banquet go toward the organization and their conservation efforts. Coots Unlimited officially became a sportsman’s club in 1980. Soon after, it had its bylaws signed in 1983 and became an incorporated organization in 1992. Chad Grover is currently the newly elected president of the club. It is free to become a member and is open to join by anyone. The sportsman’s club is also engaged in the community. They are a member of the Ashby Community Club and have donated to the Central Lakes Trail Shelter. They are actively involved with the youth of the area by hosting summer kids camps and teaching firearm and snowmobile safety classes. Coots Unlimited does many things for the surrounding wildlife. They help conserve lakes and fish by stocking walleye and crappie, hosting local fishing tournaments, and working on the Frog Lake Fishing Pier. Waterfowl is also an area where Coots Unlimited helps. They plant sago pondweed, build wood duck houses, raise ducklings, and build and maintain mallard nests. For deer, turkeys and pheasants, they plant and maintain food plots, release bred hens, maintain winter feeders and collect deer hides. The club even has a famous mascot to go with their unique name–a giant coot statue placed just off Highway 78 past Asbhy. The statue was made by two local men, Lyle Alvstad and Lian Olsted, and originally intended for use in parades. It was erected in 1992 and has remained in the same spot ever since, becoming an iconic symbol for the small town.             Rather than have a common mascot, such as a duck or otter, the group decided that the coot was exactly the right animal to choose. “We had to have something different,” said founding member, Jim Rylander. “We wanted something original that no one else would have.” The Coots Unlimited banquet sells around 400 tickets every year and is held on the Saturday before fishing opener at the Ashby American Legion.

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