Outdoors

Conservation groups return to roost in Kansas City

Howard Vincent is excited about the progress his conservation organizations, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, have made in restoring gamebird habitat and building bird populations.
Howard Vincent is excited about the progress his conservation organizations, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, have made in restoring gamebird habitat and building bird populations. Photo courtesy of Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever

The way Howard Vincent looks at himself, he is a traveling salesman peddling a unique product: hope for a better future for pheasants and quail.

Vincent, the president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, remembers the golden days when the gamebirds thrived in the Midwest; when orange-clad hunters and bird dogs filled small towns on fall weekends; when excitement filled the air as hunting seasons neared.

Much of that has disappeared from America’s culture, coinciding with the steady loss of wildlife habitat and the alarming decline in bird numbers. But Vincent and his organizations, which are dedicated to preserving and restoring that habitat, haven’t given up hope.

They are resolved to rebuild the gamebird world, one chunk of land at a time.

“We call ourselves ‘the Habitat Organization,’ ” said Vincent, who is busy preparing for the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, which will take place Friday through Sunday in Bartle Hall. “We sell hope. We know it will take a lot of work to change things.

“But our volunteers believe that we can make a difference. We’re not going to change the world, but we know we can make things better.”

Indeed, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have proved that the upland-gamebird situation isn’t hopeless. Habitat projects such as the ones the national nonprofits conduct are yielding impressive results.

Build it and they will come. To paraphrase from the movie “Field of Dreams,” that is basically the mission of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Provide good habitat, and the birds will respond.

Since Pheasants Forever was formed in 1982 and Quail Forever in 2005, the organizations have built an impressive record.

▪ The sister organizations have created or enhanced wildlife habitat on 10 million acres across the United States and parts of Canada.

▪ The Farm Bill biologists who work for the organizations made more than 35,000 landowner contacts in 2015 alone, leading to 1.4 million acres of habitat improvements.

▪ There are now 582 Pheasants Forever and 154 Quail Forever chapters across the U.S. Those 146,965 members are active in fundraising, and the local chapters decide how locally generated funds are put to use.

▪ In conjunction with state and federal agencies and other conservation groups, volunteers from Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever work to provide nesting cover, upland habitat restoration, food and cover plots and land acquisition.

This weekend, many will join in Kansas City to celebrate those victories and exchange ideas about the future when the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic is held. The event is more of a festival than a national convention.

The show, which rotates from city to city in the pheasant and quail range, is a bird hunter’s dream world. Bird dogs, training seminars, a landowner help desk, wild-game cooking demonstrations, seminars, displays by the leading hunting-equipment manufacturers, banquets — they’re all there.

Vincent, who is from Minnesota, looks forward to the event’s return to Kansas City. When the Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic was held here in 2012, it attracted about 25,000 people, one of the largest attendances in the event’s history.

“The first time we go into new geography, we never know what to expect,” Vincent said. “We were pleasantly surprised with Kansas City.

“There are a lot of avid bird hunters in that area, and the city embraced us. We’re looking forward to coming back.”

Brent Frazee: 816-234-4319, @fishboybrent

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