The world's largest upland event kicks off its 18th year with plenty of excitement and fun
By Chad Love
When the doors at the Minneapolis Convention Center finally opened Friday for the first day of National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, the excitement in the rush to the show floor was palpable. Thousands of eager upland fanatics flooded the aisles to take in all that the world’s largest upland hunting and conservation show has to offer.
But the festivities had been going to the dogs (and the birds) long before the doors opened —literally.
On Thursday night, over 200 attendees took in the Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever Film Festival at The Pourhouse in downtown Minneapolis. Viewers enjoyed five different upland films that spanned the upland world from Sweden to Alaska to the deserts of New Mexico.
Viewers enjoyed five different upland films at the Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever Film Festival.
Then on Friday an hour before showtime — in what has become one of the show’s most anticipated and beloved traditions — 103 bird dogs representing some 41 breeds took part in the 13th annual bird dog parade and ribbon-cutting.
As this unique yearly gathering of bird dog breeds from around the world pranced its paws, parade-goers were subjected to terminal levels of bird dog cuteness as well as the infectious and occasionally groan-inducing humor of MC Pheasant Bob, AKA Bob St. Pierre, PF & QF’s Chief Marketing and Communications officer. St. Pierre, with his trademark orange blazer and one-liners, is the parade’s longtime emcee.
Moving on from bird dogs to birds, one of the most highly anticipated quail-specific events of this year’s show was the 1st annual Working Lands for Wildlife Quail Symposium. A packed room of quail devotees heard from an all-star panel of experts on a variety of habitat and management topics.
In fact, one thing that is distinctly different about this year’s show is the increased focus on the upland birds themselves. Not only has there been a steady increase in quail-focused and quail-centric subjects — which reflects that rapidly-growing part of the organization in both members and mission — but the addition of the Grouse Trail to this year’s show highlights how PF & QF’s overall mission uplifts all upland gamebirds, not just pheasants and quail. If you care about upland gamebirds, regardless of species or geographic location, Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic should be on your list of can’t miss destinations.
Artist Kickliy roamed the show floor painting his signature real-time portraits.
But it’s the excitement of the show floor that is the beating heart of the Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic experience, and there was no shortage of thing to do, see, and experience for Friday’s attendees. From artist Kickliy roaming the show floor painting his signature real-time portraits to children’s activities in the Youth Village and Pollinator Pathway, to the hundreds of upland-related exhibitors, the exhibit hall aisles were crowded all day long. “Bird Dog Alley” was of particular popularity as it seemed virtually every show-goer wanted to pet, cuddle, or snuggle the many breeds represented.
The various Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic stages were hopping as well. This year there are four main stages on the show floor: The Public Land Pavilion, Bird Dog Stage, Path to the Uplands, and the Habitat Help Desk seminar stage, as well as a new feature this year called the Main Stage. Designed to highlight key conservation topics, during the main stage schedule all the other stages shut down. Friday’s main stage program highlighted leaders from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and PF & QF staff discussing a crucial habitat partnership as well as new and exciting management opportunities. (For a complete stage schedule click here).
It was a stellar opening day for the world’s premiere upland event, and Saturday — the first full day of Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic 2023 — promises to be even more of a barnburner, so if you’re looking for an upland fix to tide you over until the fall, be sure to come out to the Minneapolis Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. The show opens tomorrow at 9 a.m. with a full slate of activities and events.
The 2023 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic will take place at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis on February 17-19. Tickets and more information can be found at: PheasantFest.org.