Often, very often, when someone finds out I’m on the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever National Board of Directors their response is a big “Huh?” Then they point out to me (with raised eyebrows) there is no significant wild pheasant population in Vermont and no PF or QF chapter in Vermont. True enough, so I’m always compelled to explain why me, why Pheasants Forever.
I don’t just hunt in Vermont. I hunt in many parts of the country, each year fitting in at least one pheasant trip to the Midwest and one quail trip down South. As a “consumer” of bird hunting resources – game and habitat – I feel an obligation to give more than my license fee and lodging dollars where I travel. Given the decline in bird populations and loss of habitat in most states, I am compelled to do something to support and replenish the resources I use in the field.
“Priority One” for most hunters is, understandably, supporting the habitat in their home hunting grounds. But there’s an equal responsibility we share when we partake of habitat in someone else’s backyard. Helping to preserve and restore habitat anywhere in the country is the conservation equivalent of Fair Chase.
Another argument for a non-pheasant-state resident to support PF/QF lies in the work the PF/QF legislative team does – consulting on conservation program legislation, helping members voice opinions to their legislators, etc. These actions influence conservation legislation that, in turn, affects all 50 states.
Although I can come up with other reasons for a Vermonter to support Pheasants Forever, the last reason I usually give is based on the effectiveness of PF/QF as an organization: How PF/QF impacts young hunters today in pheasant or quail country could directly affect habitat and hunting in my region a decade from now.
Let’s say a young girl from North Dakota is on her first hunt, walking the edge of a PF project shelterbelt of tight junipers. She sees her dad’s Lab get birdy up ahead by a thick cluster of bushes. She moves closer, nervously watching first the dog, then the brush. A magnificent rooster flushes straight up. She carefully mounts her gun and squeezes the trigger, her heart pounding the whole time. The bird tumbles down. The dog retrieves it to hand. In those few moments she becomes a hunter for life.
Years later, she’s living in New England. Now she hunts ruffed grouse instead of pheasants. Now her hunting grounds are successional forest instead of buffer strips and grasslands. Now she hunts with her own bird dog and her own children. Some things have changed, but because she had that first place to hunt – and fall in love with hunting – she cares about habitat conservation not just there but wherever she calls home.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.