BIG RAPIDS — It tends to be quiet on the hunting front in March, but that doesn’t mean sportsmen aren’t thinking about their favorite pastime.

The local Whitetails Unlimited (WTU) chapter is having its annual banquet Thursday at the Big Rapids Eagles Club.

Event promoter Randy LaPreze said the evening will feature a buffet dinner, auction, door prizes, sporting equipment limited edition, wildlife art and WTU collectibles.

A grant from the event, WTU officials said, will go toward local projects that uphold WTU’s mission.

WTU state Field Director Jason Maraskine will be at the event.

“He has covered the east side of the state for a number of years,” LaPreze said. “We’re excited to have him at our event this year.”

“Our banquet started in 1996,” LaPreze said. “We were actually the first banquet scheduled for Whitetails Unlimited in Michigan with the new state director that year.”

There’s been a WTU banquet every year since them.

“It’s a nice event and it’s local,” LaPreze said. “It’s just fun, and it’s for a good cause.”

Attendances are usually more than 300.

“Last year at our banquet, we gave out 35 guns in addition to lots of other prizes,” LaPreze said. “A majority of the folks are local. We do have folks who come every year form further away. A lot of times they’ll have friends in the area they’re teaming up with. We have a good local representation.”

Whitetails Unlimited was founded in 1982 with the goal of raising funds in support of education, habitat enhancement and acquisitions.

“Our monies go to support youth challenge hunts and Purple Heart disabled veterans hunts through Quest Ministries under the direction of Skipper and Colby Bettis,” LaPreze said.

The Bettis’ have established Two Hats Ranch in the Stanwood area.

“Those kids come in with varying forms of physical challenges and we do everything to meet the needs,” LaPreze said. “We have special programs set up. All kinds of accommodations are made whether it’s for the kids or veterans to get them out in the field so they can enjoy God’s Country.”