A group relaxes in front of the Ponoka Fish and Game Association Club House

A group relaxes in front of the Ponoka Fish and Game Association Club House

Reflections of Ponoka: Dedicated to conservation and education

The Ponoka Fish and Game Association was established in 1955 under the direction of local physician Dr. Barry Backus

The Ponoka Fish and Game Association was established in 1955 under the direction of local physician Dr. Barry Backus and avidly supported by many enthusiastic members from throughout the Town and County. Our dedicated local club, which now has over 650 members, have for 58 very active years proudly followed the strong mandate of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, which was formed in 1908 and now has 100 affiliated clubs throughout the province. At the present time, the provincial body, which is one of the oldest and most respected conservation groups in the nation, has 17,000 dedicated volunteers, oversees 30,000 acres of critical habitat land, and is a strong and united force to both government and industry.

A major milestone of the rapidly growing Ponoka and district organization occurred in the late 1950s when a pristine 5.9 acre piece of rolling and tree-lined natural land north-east of town was kindly donated to them by Mr. Edward Bailer. The area was fed by the steadily flowing Maskwa Creek, and after the members had cleared the brush from the ravine bottom, a dam was built to create a magnificent 4-acre lake. Unfortunately the dam was washed out with the run-off of 1961 and 1962, but with an ambitious club effort and the assistance of the County of Ponoka, some heavy equipment, and the Government of Alberta, a permanent concrete spillway was constructed and remains in place to this day. The next addition to the property was a fully modern but natural 3200 square foot clubhouse, followed by quaint buildings for storage, camping, and activities for all age groups. Over the last 25 years, the Ponoka Fish and Game Association purchased more adjoining property in the area, which now includes a pistol/rifle, and archery range, as well as a dozen canoes, an annually stocked lake,  many kilometres of wandering walking trails, and all sorts of unique and natural surprises around every corner of the 200 acre conservational treasure.

The main mandate and goals of the Ponoka Fish and Game Association are to teach all aspects of conservation by providing courses, training, and education for citizens of all ages. These year-round instructional activities out at the sight include: the use of firearms and safety, archery, trapshooting, fishing, canoeing, a hunter training course, and much more. The club’s extremely popular conservation camp is hosted every July at Lake Pofianga, while the hunter training courses are well known throughout the province and have attracted close to 30 eager participants 12 years and over to each session. From May to September, the area is enjoyed by families or groups of up to 200, who rent the facilities for countless special events, during which they can camp, relax, and take advantage of the many amenities and activities in the great outdoors.

A longstanding highlight of Ponoka Fish and Game calendar is the Rifleman’s Rodeo on the Labour Day weekend, which, for nearly a half a century, has attracted marksmen of all ages from throughout the prairies for a great weekend of keen competition and camaraderie. Participants in the open sight and scope classes have the unique opportunity to show their skills on the outdoor range while fireing at the silhouettes of five animals set from 80 to 300 yards. As well as regular meetings and events at the clubhouse, another exciting and traditional event for P.F.G.A. members and their families is the measurement of horns and fish from the past hunting and fishing season and the presentation of annual trophies and prizes.

In 1991, the Ponoka Fish and Game Association secured access to 50 acres on the north Chain Lake east of town, then later partnered with the Lacombe and Millet clubs to purchase 74 acres on the centre Chain Lake to be used as a conservation and preservation project. Then in 2005, the Ponoka club also resumed responsibility for a 99 year lease from the County of Ponoka for the protection of 40 acres on the northeast corner of Gull Lake. New exciting plans and projects in the future of the local club include the remodeling of the club house kitchen, as well as ongoing upgrades on the rifle range and other areas of Lake Pofianga. For close to six decades, the dedication and efforts of the membership has always been outstanding, with special mention of life members such as Phyllis Walcheske, Jake McMillan, and Jerry Fink, who have all remained involved in the year round programs and promotions.

The current executive of the Ponoka Fish and Game Association are: President Evelyne Huseby, first VP Wayne Ungstad, second VP Dave Abt, Secretary/Treasurer Beth Sykes, Membership-Tova Christensen, Publicity-Robert Greene, Glen Eden property-Chris Lyle, Pofianga property-Dale Jess, rentals-Leonard Davis, Big game-Ray Abt, Archery-Tom Simpson, Bird/fish-Dale Jess, Predator-Tim Thoreson, Environment and Grants-Wayne Ungstad, Range-Al Mossip, Trap-Dick Sykes, Rifleman’s Rodeo-Brent Nabozniak, Youth programs-Christine Frandsen, Pistol-Ray Abt, and Casino-Dave Abt.

New members are always welcome, and for more information on all programs and rentals please get in touch with a member or phone the Association at 403-783-6192. There have and always will be countless successes and challenges for all Fish and Game members along the way, but their ongoing powerful motto of yesterday, today, and long into our future will be to promote through education, lobbying, and programs the conservation and utilization of fish and wildlife, and to protect and enhance the habitat that they depend on.