We held the organization’s 10th National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic last weekend. More than 21,000 people (and hundreds of bird dogs) attended the event. For three days, Milwaukee was the epicenter of the upland world. Here are eleven things that struck me as I think about this year’s Pheasant Fest.
1) Upland Enthusiasm. As Mark Twain once said, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Twain’s words hold true for recent predictions forecasting the demise of our cherished upland bird hunting traditions. While there is no doubt we’re in a habitat war for the ages, millions of folks love the uplands. In fact, Pheasants Forever’s membership has never been larger, there is technological growth in our industry (see SportDOG Brand or Garmin’s new dog products), bird dog breeds are increasing in popularity, and the locavore movement is exposing new people to wild upland meats. Add upland conservation’s benefits to America’s water quality, pollinator plight, and prairie ecosystems, and you can count me as a glass half-full optimist who sees an exciting future for upland bird hunters.
2) Midway Goes All the Way. Larry and Brenda Potterfield, owners and founders of MidwayUSA, have proven time and again their commitment to getting the next generation involved in hunting. This year, they made a remarkable $950,000 donation to Pheasants Forever’s youth programs.
3) Cheers to Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a state that embraces beer, sausage and their hunting traditions, and we found the market knowledgeable and embracing of our conservation message.
4) 28 Gauges Going Gangbusters. Seems I’m not the only bird hunter with a crush on 28 gauge shotguns. There were more 28s on the show floor than ever before – from CZ to Franchi and Beretta to Connecticut. A wingshooter has lots of choices these days in smaller bores.
5) Lee & Tiffany Crushed It. The Lakosky’s may be known for their deer hunting escapades onOutdoor Channel, but they were a huge hit with the bird hunting community at Pheasant Fest. In fact, their shed hunting seminar with Tom Dokken was a standing room only log jam of people on Saturday afternoon. I was most impressed with how genuinely nice the Lakosky’s were to me and every fan they encountered at Pheasant Fest.
6) Goodbye Perennia. While perusing the awesome shotguns in the Beretta truck, I was informed their gorgeous Perennia model over/under shotgun had been discontinued. So, if you find one of the remaining Perennias on a sporting goods rack somewhere, scoop it up.
7) The Pied Piper of Hunting Locavores. The James Beard award winning food blogger, Hank Shaw, has been a part of the Wild Game Cooking Stage the last three Pheasant Fests and his audiences continue to grow. While in Milwaukee, I also had the chance to join Hank and David Draper, Field & Stream’s The Wild Chef, at the chef’s table of Hinterland which included an epic nine-course marathon of bison heart, quail and elk loin. It was a dinner I’ll remember forever.
8) Gaga for Griffons. As pointed out on our Pheasant Blog, (Ten Bird Dog Breed Popularity Trends), the wirehaired pointing griffon is a bird dog breed on the rise. Pheasant Fest was a great example of that trend with lots of griffons on the show floor and in the bird dog parade.
9) Test your Litter. My friend, Brian Lynn, the Gun Dogs blogger for Outdoor Life, is working for a new company called Paw Print Genetics. Staffed by expert geneticists, the folks at Paw Print can test your potential sire and dam before a litter is ever conceived. This simple testing helps prevent inherited diseases and subsequent heartache.
10) Sling Shot. After months of Twitter conversation, I was excited to meet the friendly folks behind the Upland Sling. More importantly, I look forward to checking out their new bird hunting sling come fall 2014.
11) The Politics of Conservation. Last year, Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken spoke during Pheasant Fest in Minnesota. This year, Republican Representative Paul Ryan took the microphone in Wisconsin. While not, because of our tax exempt status, affiliated with any political party, Pheasants Forever does lobby for conservation issues. In an effort to work with legislators on these issues, wherever Pheasant Fest is located, we invite local elected officials to participate in our event. The good news is that both Minnesota and Wisconsin’s politicians spoke from a background of bird hunting, which helps make our case for conservation, regardless of political affiliation.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our official announcement of the location for National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic 2015.
Bob St.Pierre is Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.