Trade show a showcase for conservation

National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic is the nation’s largest trade show and convention for upland hunters, sport dog trainers and wildlife habitat conservationists.

It features seminars, vendors and gear designed with upland hunters in mind. It’s hosted by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, which collectively have more than 140,000 members. I attended last weekend in Kansas City, Missouri.

There was something for everyone who appreciates uplands birds and their habitat. Attendees took in seminars, products, outfitters, gear, firearms and more.

Some specific highlights for dog lovers were the “The Bird Dog Parade,” which featured 40 different sporting dog breeds during the show’s opening ceremony. Some of the best dog trainers and handlers in the game, including Bob West, Tom Dokken, Rick Smith and Ronnie Smith, were there.

The Saturday night banquet featured country music artist Drake White, who sang hits like, “The Simple Life” and “It Feels Good.” But it was noted conservationist Shane Mahoney who stole the show. His captivating keynote address about the importance of conservation was full of American pride, from a guy who is from Canada. It was so refreshing to hear a foreigner boast about our country and all the hard work we do to lead the world in conservation issues.

“I am honored to be part of 2016 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic and to join the nation’s leading upland habitat conservation organization in their fight for habitat and wildlife conservation,” Mahoney said. “These are challenging times for wildlife habitat and the hunting traditions that all concerned Americans should fight to protect.

“No social movement is of greater consequence to the future of the United States and Canada than that of conservation. It is our responsibility to protect the habitats of these wild creatures so they can thrive forever.”

There was a youth village that offered fun and educational experiences for aspiring hunters and conservationists. Volunteers taught science, hunting, ethics and firearm safety. Expert chefs presented live cooking demonstrations on the Wild Game Cooking Stage. Hank Shaw stole the show.

National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic wasn’t only for hunters. The event offered as much to landowners who are interested in improving their habitat and quail numbers. Seminars throughout the weekend covered prescribed fire, restoring quail in prairie landscapes, pollinators and habitat management.

Bobwhite quail numbers have been declining since the 1980s. There is a lot of debate over why this is. Many government wildlife agencies and conservation organizations are working to stop the slide and reverse the trend. In many areas, including many in Indiana, their efforts are working.

Many of these experts came together at the first-ever Quail Summit on Feb. 20. Policymakers, biologists, landowners and hunters openly discussed quail and habitat across the United States. The event was a standing-room only affair with a large percentage of Quail Forever members and upland hunters filling the hall to capacity. Biologists from various regions of the country charted a road map to success for public and private land partnerships that are best suited to return bobwhite quail to their once widespread population status. Habitat management efforts were at the top of the list.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears occasionally in The Tribune. Send comments to