On March 5, the Bull Run Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will hold its 25th annual Big Game Dinner at the Middleburg Community Center. The event features dinner catered by Tutti Perricone, as well as silent and live auctions to benefit ongoing projects supported by the RMEF. The annual dinner is more than a fund-raiser. It’s also a celebration of the return of elk to Virginia.

Elk had been extinct east of the Mississippi River since 1855. On the heels of its success in the effort to restore elk in Wisconsin in 1995, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked cooperatively with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Commission to re-establish elk in Kentucky. That project began in 1997 and proved extremely successful with herd at 10,000-plus elk.

RMEF’s project to restore elk in southwestern Virginia began in 2012 and has been very successful, thanks to the passion and efforts of volunteers like Leon Boyd of the Southwest Virginia Coalfields Chapter. Boyd has been documenting the flourishing elk herds year-round with photos and videos. The elk obviously like their new habitat, which was groomed and seeded by Boyd, his son Brandon Boyd, and other RMEF volunteers. from the local Coalfieds chapter.

Since RMEF’s inception in 1984, the 501(c)(3) organization has grown to nearly 220,000 members in 500 chapters in the U.S. There are eight chapters in Virginia with more than 2,500 members. Composed of hunters and conservationists, RMEF has worked consistently to fulfill its mission of ensuring the future of elk and all wildlife, their habitats, and the American heritage of hunting.

To date, RMEF has protected or enhanced 6.6 million acres and opened more than 769,000 acres for hunting and other public outdoor activities. By the end of 2015, RMEF and its partners completed 57 conservation and Hunting Heritage Outreach projects in the Commonwealth. The projects, valued at more than $1.3-million, enhanced 715 acres of habitat.

Best of all, the overall elk population has grown to about one million. In Virginia, the original 71 elk released have flourished, and the herd is estimated to number 130 or more, with an estimated 50 calves due when birthing season begins in May.

If you’re into conservation, if you believe that hunting supports conservation, please consider joining RMEF and get involved nationally, as well as locally with the Bull Run Chapter. Supporting membership is only $35 per year.

Please note: you must be a member to attend the Bull Run Big Game Dinner on March 5 at the Middleburg Community Center. It’s very easy, because the RMEF membership fee is part of the online dinner ticket reservation: $135/per couple, $85/individual, and free dinner for youth members under 18 ($20/year).

Tickets are available online — http://www.rmef.org/Virginia/BullRun.aspx — and don’t delay. Tickets sell out fast, because the Bull Run RMEF Big Game Dinner offers the best ever food (everyone loves Tutti’s cooking!), great benefit auctions, and very fun-filled evening.

For more information about the Bull Run Big Game Dinner, please call Rich Vigue: 703-217-4988.

www.RMEF.org