Ready your palates as there is some fun - although it might not be fine - dining on the horizon. Raccoons, squirrels and rattlesnakes are just part of the crazy cuisine being tracked and bagged by the Stephenville Evening Lions Club as the organization prepares to host its 16th Annual Upland Bird Extravaganza.

The two-day event begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 15, when the Evening Lions unleash a wild game tasting and auction at City Hall at City Limits.

If varmits aren't your forte, why not try some other four-legged fare - buffalo, elk, moose, deer, caribou, rabbit, venison or even wild hog? For less adventurous diners, beef brisket and that famous Knights of Columbus fried fish is sure to please.

Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased from any Evening Lions Club member - Ed Horton with Tanglewood Pharmacy, Micah Butler with Butler's Smokehouse, Bryan Davis with Century 21 Home and Ranch Realty, Mark Fenner with Texstar Kubota or Kyle Masters with Bruner Motors (just to name a few).

Tickets are $15 per person or $25 per couple and will also be available at the door.

Fifteen "celebrity" shotgun shooters will go up for sale Friday and square off at Saturday's shooting events at the Horton Ranch.

"Whoever purchases the winning celebrity shooter will receive 60 percent of all the money that went into Calcutta's jackpot," Parks said.

Past and present celebrity shooters will include State Rep. Sid Miller, Sheriff Tommy Bryant, Tarleton State University President F. Dominic Dottavio, First National Bank of Dublin's Pat Demetruk, Greg Bruner of Bruner Motors, Ron Pack of First Financial Bank, James Woods of Town & Country Bank, Stephenville Mayor Nancy Hunter and July Danley with the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce.

Also on Friday, attendees can buy into a $50 raffle to compete for five top prizes, including an all-inclusive Jamaican vacation, Benelli Legacy Sport Shotgun, Ruger M-77 Hawkeye Rifle, $500 cash and $250 cash.

Silent and live auction items up for bid Friday night include guns, hunts, jewelry and much more.

The shootout

The action will take to the sky above Erath County Saturday (April 16) when gates to the Horton Ranch open at 8 a.m. Shooting events will begin at 9 a.m. with a warm up "White Clay Pigeon" shoot. The entry fee is $5, which buys 10 clay pigeons - one painted white. Hit the white pigeon and you win a free round.

The warm up will be followed by a Five-Stand Corporate Competition, which invites three-person teams, whose employers are an Eagle, Webelos or Cub Sponsor, to face off for one of two trophies.

Then, a $40 entry fee will buy a spot into the sporting clays open competition with the top five scorers competing for the grand prize.

Finally, a "knockout" or "Annie Oakley" competition will be held for a $10 entry fee.

Shoot participants must bring their own guns and shells, and ear and eye protection is required.

The shooting events will be followed by a crawfish boil Saturday evening.

The Horton Ranch is located 7.1 miles south of the South Loop (US Highway 377) on Alexander Highway (FM 914). You enter the ranch through the big green gate on the right.

The success

In the words of club member Cole Parks, "For an organization that prides itself on being nontraditional, unconventional and sometimes just plain unorganized, this group of local businessmen have been able to do more for Erath County than anyone could have ever imagined.

The event has outgrown its venue three times, expanded from one day to two and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit youth in the Cross Timbers area."

The annual event is more than an opportunity for the club's avid sportsmen to show off the shooting prowess and treat the community to rural cuisine, it is a fundraising event benefiting area youth, including Texas Trails Council of Boys Scouts of America, 4-H, Project SMILE, youth wrestling, SHS Outdoor Class, Tarleton State University Wildlife Society, Stephenville Soccer Association and more.

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