A Surefire Way To Ruin Wild Game Dinners

A Surefire Way To Ruin Wild Game Dinners

Wild Game Dinners and Door Prizes Can Be Your Best Friend ... Or Your Worst Enemy. 

If you do it right, wild game dinners and outdoor ministry efforts to reach hunters can be a gold mine of outreach for your church. Perhaps the greatest privilege I have within my calling to reach outdoorsmen is in getting to speak to hunters at wild game dinners and men’s conferences all over the nation. As a result, I see and experience a variety of issues related to creating the best atmosphere for an event.


One of the greatest challenges, and to be candid, the greatest area of failure in bringing down the mood of the event, actually comes in how your event handles the giving away of door prizes. Think it through: your crowd has been there for 90 minutes already. The speaker, hopefully, did a great job. The crowd’s attention span has rounded third and is heading for home. Yet, for the next 34 minutes, they have to sit through a brutal routine of watching you give away 87 … individual … prizes.

Wild game dinners are notorious for this blunder. It can completely kill your event, and it can destroy any chance of repeat attendees for next year’s gig. As a person who’s seen about every great way, and equally every terrible way, to host an event, here are a few ideas to consider:

Think Through How Many Prizes You're Giving Away.

If you decide to give every person there a gift, have them get it from greeters as they exit. Even in large crowds, it seems to me that the magic number is 25 door prizes. After that, even though it’s free swag, it gets old. There’s no need to give away a single pack of hand warmers to 40 individuals just so they can win something.

Be creative to save time. Bundle an NIV Outdoorsman Bible with those hand warmers and a MISSION cap. It’s a nice package and you saved a ton of time because 3 small gifts went to 1 nice gift. 

Use Runners.

There is absolutely no reason to have your winners come up individually to receive their prizes. It takes a ton of time to fight through a crowd. Have your volunteers, or even the youth group, there to be your runners.

Call the name, have the winner raise their hand, and the volunteer takes it to them. While one runner is on the way, another name is being called out. It cuts down time dramatically.

Never Get A Comedian Or Storyteller To Emcee Your Prizes.

I've watched this BOMB in epic failure proportions too many times to count. Storytellers and comedians feel the need to talk. In fact, they feel they have robbed your crowd of their gifted humor if they refrain from doing their thing! When it comes to door prizes at wild game dinners, talk time is over; that’s why you hired a guy like me to come in and communicate to your crowd. Tonight is about reaching hunters and exposing them to your outdoor ministry. It's not a time for a storyteller or comedian to get his 87 extra minutes of glory. It’s time to get this done and close out a great night.

Take Pictures Later.

If you want prize-winners to get their picture taken, ask them to stick around for a few seconds over in the corner for individual shots taken immediately after the event is dismissed.

Use Buckets.

Yes, buckets. This is by far the coolest thing I've ever done way back in the day when I was hosting wild game dinners myself.

I learned this the hard way. Many years ago I hosted a wild game dinner while serving a church as the Evangelism Pastor. Pretty simple idea: we drew names from a single bucket for our prizes, and our grand prize was a tree stand.

A 76 year-old man, who has never hunted, won my tree stand. When his name was called, the crowd erupted in laughter because they knew Mr. Ricks had no need for it. Everyone laughed, that is, everyone except me. I wanted that awesome prize to go to a hunter; specifically, to a hunter who didn’t know Christ. The next year, I came prepared, and man did it ever work well.

When participants arrived at the door, they had to make a choice. I had buckets labeled

  • Deer Hunter
  • Duck Hunter
  • Turkey Hunter
  • Fisherman
  • Non-Hunter
  • 15 & Under

The genius of this is that if you do win something, you actually get gear you want and need. If I’m a turkey hunter, I would hate to get a Rapala crankbait because I don’t bass fish. I’d much rather a bass angler get something like that.

The reason 15 & Under is critical is that you don’t want a kid winning a custom turkey call when he has no idea what he’s won. It’ll be broken by tomorrow, when a real turkey hunter would love and appreciate a custom box call. Give kids things like flashlights, head lamps, backpacks, etc. The same goes for Non-Hunters. Some guys aren't really interested in wild game dinners or hunting, they just want to be at a cool event for men. Great. Give them knives, flashlights, socket sets, whatever.

When it comes to your grand prize, which is usually a gun, ATV, large amount gift card, etc., then put every person’s name back into the bucket for the “grand prize.” This way it’s totally fair, and nobody gets shorted.

When it comes to prizes at wild game dinners, I would not make the mistake of giving away a really nice Primos Double Bull blind, or a tree stand, for your Grand Prize. Again, you’re getting specific to a certain type of hunter by doing that. Gift cards, guns, or "universally appreciated” items are your best option.

Remember: Don't Try And Do It All In One Night. 
    • ​Have them eat.
    • Bring up the speaker and have him communicate the gospel.
    • Give away prizes ... and be done with it. 

​If you're doing outdoor ministry right, then you're in it for the long haul, which means this won’t be the last time you see these people. If you wear them out with a sloppy event, then you actually may want to consider keeping them there even longer, because it will most likely be the last time you see them!

Hey, here's what you may not know about me. 

I've spent the last 15 years being hired as a consultant to denominations, major Christian publishers, and ​churches partnering with them to create strategies to reach hunters. 

I've learned a ton of brutal truths along the way, and you can access them here totally free. There's over 18 strategies, tips, and insights to create a new way of thinking about reaching hunters. Click on the Strategies For Ministry banner below. No strings attached. I hope it helps you impact the kingdom of God far beyond your imagination. ​

outdoor ministry

Jason Cruise is a published author and speaker. 
He is the host of Spring Chronicles on Sportsman Channel.
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/JasonLCruise
Twitter:  @JasonLCruise

Have You Seen Jason's Video On Choosing A Speaker


  1. Great advice Jason. I also learned all this the hard way. Cutting short to about two hours has been more successful. I love the suggestions about the buckets. Never thought of that.

    • Thanks so much. Yes, the bucket concept is by far the best way I’ve ever seen to make sure your door prizes have maximum effect.


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