In South Dakota, Four Generations of a Family Stay Involved with RMEF
By Matt Roberts,
Back (left to right): Quinn Everson and Don Wetzel
Front (left to right): Bryan Wetzel, Janece Wetzel, Tammy Wetzel , Kyle Everson, Rand Everson, Amy Everson, Patrick Wetzel and Matthew Wetzel.
“There’s nobody in this family that doesn’t live in South Dakota,” says Bryan Wetzel, a hunter, business owner and jack-of-all-trades from Lane, a small town of about 60 residents in the southeastern quadrant of the state. There’s also no one in Bryan’s immediate family that isn’t a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation member. Bryan, 55, and his wife Tammy, 53, are RMEF committee members and volunteers with the Mitchell Chapter, and everyone from their parents to their grandchildren are involved with the RMEF in some way. That’s four living generations of Wetzels that are RMEF members.
That’s also a lot of folks to keep track of, so here’s a brief breakdown. The oldest in the family are Don and Janece Wetzel, each 75, who are Bryan’s parents. Bryan and his wife Tammy have two children, Matthew, 30, and Amy, 28. Amy and her husband Kyle Everson have two children of their own, daughter Quinn, four, and son Rand who is only seven-months-old.
All live in South Dakota and do all that they can to help out with RMEF. Even the youngsters come along for the ride.
“We took my granddaughter [Quinn] to her first RMEF Rendezvous when she was two-weeks-old—that was four years ago,” Bryan says. “We took her out to the rendezvous in Custer to work on fences and stuff like that.”
For the Wetzels, hunting and the outdoors have always been all about family, work and values. Bryan’s wife Tammy says that pretty much anything they do is family-oriented, and that includes RMEF functions and hunting trips. “When the kids were little and they couldn’t shoot or anything, they walked, and when they could hunt they’d walk with an adult and learn how. They work together as a group, the younger and older ones, and they learn.”
In fact, Tammy’s daughter Amy was 11 when she took her hunter safety course and got her first elk tag. The Wetzels took her hunting on her 12th birthday, and she killed her first elk on the trip.
On the other end of the age spectrum, Don, Amy’s grandfather, still hunts and volunteers for the RMEF whenever he can.
“Don, Bryan and one of their other boys were just on work projects with us for two days working on guzzlers and repairing fence in Custer State Park,” says Tom Slowey, RMEF’s South Dakota regional director. “Don is still pretty physically active and hunts whenever he can get a tag.”
The family’s roots in South Dakota are deep. Bryan’s house moving company, Wetzel House Moving, was founded by his great-grandfather in 1926 and is still going strong today. The family has a cabin near South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest, which fosters the best hunting South Dakota has to offer. It’s about a five-hour haul from Lane, but they frequently make the drive for hunting trips and RMEF projects.
When asked what it is about hunting, the outdoors and the RMEF that’s so important and worth keeping in the family, Bryan said that it’s all about learning respect for the land, how to be responsible and how take care of yourself.
“I’ve got too many friends with kids where all they do is sit behind a TV or a video game,” Bryan says. “My grandkids are outside; my kids are outside and they know the value of work. When you go and you shoot something, no matter what size it is, you bring it home and you take care of it the best you can.”
In South Dakota, whether it’s an RMEF project, rendezvous, or weekly meeting in Mitchell—a city about 45 minutes away from Lane where the local RMEF chapter is based—you can bet on finding a Wetzel or two there.
Slowey feels that the family is valuable part of the RMEF in South Dakota. “The most important thing about the family, from my perspective, is that they’re continually involved with the Foundation in one way or another. They attend numerous other banquets supporting committees in the state other than their own, and they help with the on-the-ground projects. They’re always coming up with new ways to help the organization and stay involved.”