BIG RAPIDS — Randy LaPreze of Stanwood has been an active deer hunter his entire life, which is why being the event chairman for the Mecosta County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited has meant a lot to him.

The annual banquet is March 28 at the Eagles Club in Big Rapids.

It’s the 18th annual event and LaPreze has been involved each time.

He recalls the first event at Falcon Head.

“We were actually the first Whitetails Unlimited banquet scheduled when whitetails hired a new state director,” Lapreze said. “We were the first banquet scheduled, not the first one held.”

They’ve had other venues and have found a home at the Eagles.

Games, raffles and a social hour are highlighted at the banquet. Proceeds support Whitetails Unlimited projects.

The chapter supports experiences for youngsters and Purple Heart disabled veterans at Legends Ranch west of Big Rapids.

“We try to help folks who have difficult challenges one way or another. We’ve done that for a number of years. They get an opportunity for the hunt of a lifetime,” LaPreze said. “We hope to have a couple of the kids who participated this year to be at the banquet, which we’re excited about.”

Women are encouraged to bring in their largest 2012 season antlers from a free-ranging whitetail for a chance to win the 10th annual Sylvia Becker award.

Banquet numbers usually average around 250 in recent years.

Participants come from all over Michigan, especially from local counties, LaPreze noted.

“We have people that come back every year from outside the area,” he said. “We host it the same Thursday in March every year. It allows people to keep on their calendar and plan for next year.”

Prices include a variety of items such as firearms, outfitter packages, hunting and outdoor related equipment, plus artwork and collectible.

LaPreze an be contacted at (231) 823-9424 for ticket information. All tickets need to be purchased by March 22. There will be no tickets at the door.