When most people think of a pre-game meal before heading out on an adventure in the woods, they picture a hearty feast laden with protein to give them the energy they’ll need to survive the brutal elements of fall in southwest Montana. That’s exactly what people got Friday night in Ennis during the 27th Annual Hunters Feed.
Groups and businesses from around Ennis prepared their finest, most filling entrée for the annual event, and more than 300 sportsmen and non-hunters alike came out to taste what each of them had to offer. Competition categories included Best Chili, Best Non-Chili and Most Unusual Dish, and those who participated in the judging enjoyed a treat that only comes around once a year.
From trout chowder and teriyaki duck to antelope chili and smoked Cajun deer sausage, each one of the 25 different entries offered one more way to fill ones appetite before heading out for opening day of hunting season.
As always the event was organized and sponsored by the Ennis Chamber of Commerce.
Jim Kramer of Ennis and his wife Nancy came out this year to experience the Hunters Feed for the first time.
“We don’t hunt, so it’s a good chance for us to taste the various game animals,” he said.
Local business owners kept busy serving up their prize dishes, some keeping the recipe a closely guarded secret while others were happy to share.
Stacey Reid of Coverups on Main Street also participated for the first time this year with a sampling of Mountain Madness Elk Fudge.
“We had one guy that doesn’t believe us that there is actually elk in here,” she said.
Reid was happy that this year’s event wasn’t foiled by foul weather, and said the best part of the annual Hunter’s Feed is the camaraderie of local businesses coming together with both locals and visitors.
“I think it really kind of brings the community together,” said Reid. “It’s just kind of a fun thing to do before it gets cold.”
This year’s chili cook off winners were the Ennis Trading Post with an Antelope Chili Verde, and runners up were the Friends of the Madison Valley Public Library with Elaine’s Navy Bean Green Chili. Winners in the non-chili category were the Corral Creek Coffee Company with a Whitetail Deer Carne Asada and runner up was the Madison Valley History Association with a Trout Chowder. The award for most unusual dish was Yesterday’s Soda Fountain with Biscuits and Mountain Lion Gravy, with runner up being the elk fudge from Coverups.
The Ennis Community Children’s School raised more than $2,100 by holding a raffle for a hunting rifle, and Ennis Chamber 50/50 raffle winner was Chris Murphy, who went home with $181.
As Shad Sterzick from the Ennis Trading Post served up his award-winning Antelope Chili Verde, asking whether patrons wanted hot or mild, he said the highlight of the Hunter’s Feed is just serving the people who come strolling down the sidewalk like he has for the last 11 years.
“Wanna try some?”