Jordan Bullock pulls on his earmuffs, lifts his grandfather’s bird gun, a Remington 12-gauge, and shoots a virtual turkey.
Virtual, that is, in the sense that the bird itself was bagged and frozen far from here. There’s no bird on the other end of Bullock’s muzzle—he’s the designated shotgunner at the Mount Si Fish and Game Club’s annual Turkey Shoot, blasting targets, not fowls.
The Turkey Shoot is part of the venerable, increasingly challenged organization’s long-lived legacy. And Bullock, as one of the younger members of a club that dates back more than 60 years, is helping keep that legacy going in the face of a changing world.
The Mount Si Fish and Game Club was incorporated in 1947. One of about a half-dozen such clubs in the state, and among the oldest, it’s always been a vehicle for potlucks, derbies and tall-tale fishing stories. But it also has a serious mission.
“We support the Valley,” said member Don Platzer of Fall City. Thanks to the club, he learned to shoot as a grade schooler. Every spring, you can still find him encouraging young boys and girls as they try a fishing pole for the first time at the club’s children’s derby.
“If you see the eyes of some of these kids when they catch their first fish, you’ll remember it for the rest of your life,” Platzer said.
Snoqualmie Valley resident Bob Hamerly’s family has put four generations in the club. When his family moved to the Valley from the midwest, they brought a love of fishing. It never left, and now his granddaughter Amy, 22, is in the club, one of a number of women who make up a third of the active members.
The $10 annual membership entitles an outdoors enthusiast and his or her family to a year’s round of activities, and the chance to make a difference for hunting and fishing causes.
Club members write letters to officials in Olympia, making the case for their needs. They also promote sportsmanship and donate time and resources to good causes. This year, the club awarded three college scholarships totaling more than $1,200 to Mount Si students. Every spring, the Fish and Game Club’s Kids Fishing Derby pits hundreds of children from across the Valley against some 800 planted trout at ponds behind the Snoqualmie Police Station. Some of the tougher trout hide there for months, providing summer sport before the ponds dry up.
In April, the club hosts its annual Salmon Dinner at the Mount Si Senior Center in North Bend for $7 a plate.
This holiday season, the club is trying a new fundraiser. Club members are selling Noble Fir Christmas trees from a private lot.
Club members consistently refer to the family, friendships and memories built by the club. Hamerly and Platzer can’t help but swap fishing stories about the sturgeon that got away.
Being in the club “is an absolute blast,” Platzer said. “Sometimes, you laugh so hard you cry.”
As Bullock readies his shotgun during the Turkey Shoot, held November 13 at the Hamerly residence outside of Snoqualmie, other members are indoors, counting winners. Following traditions that go back to the ‘50s, the shoot involves a game of chance. In October, club members bring target cards to restaurants, hangouts and garages across the Valley, where, for a tiny fee, patrons can mark a portion of the target. Those whose sector gets hit by the most pellets win a bird. In the case of a tie, there’s a shoot-off.
According to Platzer, gaming the system is an impossibility—across dozens of cards, buckshot patterns appear random.
While Bullock notes the ease of his ‘hunting’ on this chilly Sunday afternoon, inside, members admit that the Turkey Shoot this year wasn’t the biggest moneymaker. The game club had raised its prices, from 50 cents to a dollar a chance, thanks to rising turkey prices. Still, the winners get their birds, and a number are always donated to the Mount Si Food Bank.
“We go the extra mile,” Platzer explained. The tradition must go on.
Bird costs aren’t the only sign of changing times. The club’s active membership, about 20 today, has steadily shrunk as members age.
“We’re pretty much down to tradition anymore,” club treasurer Shawn Hamerly said.
Tougher regulations and dwindling stocks have limited the catches that members could once look forward to. Time was when the club would never even think about buying a salmon for the annual salmon derby. Last year, they had to do it for the first time.
During salmon season, club member Bev Bethards used to keep a foot-long board out on her front porch, listing all the catches.
“Now, we’re lucky to have three on the board,” she said.
You can join
Club members try to push back against modern challenges, both by seeking new members and by writing to Olympia.
“We’re trying to keep this available for our grandchildren,” Platzer said.
New members are always welcome—in particular, young families with children, who have a true interest in the outdoors. Be warned, though: This club is slow to change.
“We take new ideas, try to improve on old ideas, and keep things going,” Platzer said. Everyone gets a chance to speak at meetings, he said.
Shawn Hamerly welcomes people with “a passion for the outdoors; people who don’t want to change what we’re doing.”
The Mount Si Fish and Game Club meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month at the Snoqualmie Police Station.
To learn more about the club, call treasurer Shawn Hamerly at (425) 888-4605. To sign up for a Christmas tree, call Jerry Houser at (425) 788-6990.
• To learn moer about the Mount Si Fish and Game Club’s annual children’s fishing derby, which typically begins on the first weekend in May, see the Valley Record’s past coverage.