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Mitchell native brings SDWF, Hunting Film Tour to town

North America's most exotic hunts are coming to Mitchell. The South Dakota Wildlife Federation has secured the rights to a film made by Hunting Film Tour, which features hunters across the continent searching for moose, elk, bighorn sheep, waterf...

North America's most exotic hunts are coming to Mitchell.

The South Dakota Wildlife Federation has secured the rights to a film made by Hunting Film Tour, which features hunters across the continent searching for moose, elk, bighorn sheep, waterfowl and more, and it's bringing the film to Mitchell on Thursday for the first time.

"It's a way to get people excited for this year's hunting but also to bring up that next generation and get them excited," said SDWF President and Mitchell native Rich Widman. "We're pretty excited to bring it to Mitchell and show the folks in my hometown."

Widman grew up in Mitchell and graduated from Mitchell High School in 1984. His father loved hunting and fishing and passed on his passion for the outdoors, but Widman didn't realize the importance of preserving South Dakota's environment until he was older.

"Growing up, I had no idea. I just took for granted South Dakota's wildlife paradise," Widman said.

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Widman ultimately decided to join SDWF, the state's oldest conservation organization. Widman is serving his fifth year as president of the organization, which promotes public access to wildlife and recreation areas.

The Hunting Film Tour will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday at Logan Luxury Theatres on Lawler Street in Mitchell. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children aged 15 and under. Tickets may be purchased in advance from the theater or huntingfilmtour.com.

Hunting Film Tour has been making films for four years, and the SDWF has brought it to the state for three. The filmmakers review hundreds of submissions, Widman said, and select the 10 most interesting hunts, which are filmed in high definition.

SDWF has already shown the Hunting Film Tour this year Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City theaters. The filmmakers create a new movie each year, and Widman hopes to bring the new feature to the same four cities in 2017 while adding showings in Brookings, Huron, Aberdeen and Watertown.

SDWF has partnered with Ducks Unlimited, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Runnings of Parkston and other groups to sponsor the showing. The organization will also hold a raffle to give away a Winchester 7mm deer hunting rifle with a Vortex scope and smaller prizes.

In addition to generating interest in the outdoors, the screening is used as a fundraiser for SDWF to support its activities, which includes an event at Camp Bob Marshall in the Black Hills that teaches about 120 kids aged 14 to 17 about wildlife, the outdoors and how to safely hunt and fish.

The organization also promotes public hunting access in the state Legislature through the Camo Coalition, the nonprofit's lobbying arm of which Widman's brother, Mark Widman, is president. The group employs two lobbyists in Pierre to review bills that affect sportsmen.

"We want to make sure all people have places to hunt and fish," Widman said. "A lot of people don't have the money to pay, so we want to make sure we have public lands, public waters and keep our wildlife there that everybody can enjoy."

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SDWF is made up of 3,500 members made up of both residents and nonresidents because even people outside the state believe it's important to protect South Dakota's resources, Widman said.

"The South Dakota Wildlife Federation represents over 160,000 sportsmen and women in the state of South Dakota. Each of those people should be a member ... to help us help them protect this great state, this outdoor paradise," Widman said.

Related Topics: HUNTING
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