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Eleven Observations from Pheasant Fest 2014

The Stabyhoun, courtesy of the Ameri-Can Stabyhoun Association, was one of nearly 40 bird dog breeds represented at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic. Photo by Bob. St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

The Stabyhoun, courtesy of the Ameri-Can Stabyhoun Association, was one of nearly 40 bird dog breeds represented at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic. Photo by Bob. St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

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.

Pheasants Forever accepted $1 million in donations for the organization's youth programs at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic 2014, including $950,000 from Larry and Brenda Potterfield of MidwayUSA, $25,000 from SportDOG Brand and $25,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Photo by Jim Cooper

Pheasants Forever accepted $1 million in donations for the organization’s youth programs at National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic 2014, including $950,000 from Larry and Brenda Potterfield of MidwayUSA, $25,000 from SportDOG Brand and $25,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Photo by Jim Cooper

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 on Outdoor 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.

Rep. Paul Ryan speaking at Pheasants Forever's national banquet. Photo by Jim Cooper

Rep. Paul Ryan speaking at Pheasants Forever’s national banquet. Photo by Jim Cooper

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.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, 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.

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19 Responses to “Eleven Observations from Pheasant Fest 2014”

  1. J says:

    I have attended multiple Fest and I have found that this years was truely lacking in vendors & attendance compared to previous fairs. I was hoping for something much larger.

  2. David Norris says:

    I stated before that I would love for the “Fest” to come to cleveland. I’m not sure what ever became of my comment, but We do have a lot to offer, including a great venue in our huge I-X center and many passionate upland fans and dog lovers. I belive Cleveland would be a great fit, for many reasons.

  3. Jim Waldman says:

    I agree with Mr. Norris, Ohio needs serious consideration for a Pheasant Fest. If not someplace like the IX Center, then the state fair grounds in Columbus.

  4. I would like to see Pheasantfest go to where it would be in range for people in the eastern section of the country to attend. While the east coast is mainly quail country, there are alot of pheasant hunters in ohio, pennsylvania, and maryland. I would suggest the Ag Center in Harrisburg.

  5. Terry J. says:

    Number 12, Bob: Spending time with your Father. Priceless!

  6. Matt K says:

    I also would like to throw in a vote for Columbus, OH. There is a reason why a Cabelas, REI, Gander Mtn. Gun Superstore, and Dicks Sporting Goods Outdoor Superstore have all opened up shop in the area in 2013-14….there are a lot of people who enjoy the outdoors in central Ohio. The SE Ohio PF chapter also holds the largest Youth event in the country here each spring. A Pheasant Fest in Columbus would be a success and would make it much easier for those in the East and NE to attend as well.

  7. Jeff Kenkel says:

    I live only 25 miles from Milwaukee but I did not attend. That location has horrible parking, they stuffed PF on an upper floor, and who the heck wants to go downtown on a weekend anyway?

    Sorry that Milwaukee offered up such a dismal location. Wisconsin is better than that. It probably affected attendance.

  8. Jon Starkey says:

    Fargo, ND or Sioux Falls, SD

  9. Jim Seaton says:

    I also live about 25 miles from the venue but I did attend. Parking was not an issue costing only $10.00 at Grand Avenue. I walked thru the mall came out the NE entrance and the Wisconsin center was kitty corner across the street. Escalators up to the upper floor if your feet hurt.

    Too bad, you missed an opportunity to attend in your own back yard, I thought the affair was pretty good. Went to the one in Madison a few years back and it was similar.

    Maybe next time we could have it at State Fair park where the Sports show is held.

  10. gordon green says:

    I agree, go east…Cleveland!

  11. David Kuhn says:

    Come to Pittsburgh, PA!!!
    Why not come to the state with more hunters per capita than any other?!?

    Along with being a hunting state, there are plenty of conservationists that would love to see the pheasant population come back to PA!

  12. John daly says:

    Bring the show back to Omaha

  13. Rick McKay says:

    I agree with Jon Starkey and John Daly Fargo ND or Sioux Falls SD or Omaha NE

  14. Jim Waldman says:

    It’s been west numerous times, even repeating in cities before we get a chance to have one in OH or PA. How about giving someone else a chance before another repeat visit?

  15. John Dzerdz says:

    I agree, lets get the Fest North or South Dakota where there is a lot of upland hunting that goes on. Also more central for a lot of the western folks for once.

  16. Jennifer Lehman says:

    I loved having this in my hometown of Milwaukee this year! I currently live an hour north and we spent the entire weekend with our hunting friends enjoying Milwaukee’s great hospitality. At the show, we enjoyed each day’s seminars but I personally was hoping for more women-centered events and/or sessions. Could a shooting range be set up within the show somehow? Would have liked to try out some of the firearms being displayed. Just my 2 cents. Thanks again for coming to Wisconsin. Can’t wait to hear about next year.

  17. Lisa Shaffer says:

    This was Paw Print Genetics’ first year at Pheasant Fest. We had a lot of interest in our canine inherited disease testing. Milwaukee was a convenient and well attended location. We look forward to being at Pheasant Fest next year!

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  19. Bob Jensen says:

    Thank goodness for a few Washington politcians like Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan.
    He’s with us, and we all should be pulling for him on the national scene before it’s too late. He know’s what’s necessary if this Country isn’t going to go broke!! Glad he was part of the show!


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