25 facts about Pheasants Forever

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The pheasant, the sun, the auburn landscape — all make up the distinctive Pheasants Forever logo.

Pheasants Forever's fourth Pheasant Fest opens Friday at RiverCentre in St. Paul.

Here are 25 facts about Pheasants Forever, which was founded in St. Paul and is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

1 PF has 700 chapters, including 74 in Minnesota, and about 110,000 members nationwide, including 22,500 in Minnesota. Quail Forever, created in 2005, has 5,000 members nationwide. There is one chapter in Minnesota with 141 members.

2 The first PF banquet was held April 15, 1983, at the former Prom Center on University Avenue in St. Paul. About 800 attended. The event was, and still is, one of the biggest of its kind in Minnesota.

3 The speaker at the first PF banquet was the late Gov. Rudy Perpich, who later signed the state's first pheasant stamp bill -- which Pheasants Forever and supportive legislators had written and promoted.

4 The state pheasant stamp has raised $14.6 million for pheasant habitat and development on private and public lands, and for public land acquisition. The stamp costs $7.50 and is required of pheasant hunters age 18 and older.

5 Among attendees at the first banquet was famed waterfowler and outdoors writer Jimmy Robinson. Then 85, Robinson had been a supporter in the 1930s of the formation of Ducks Unlimited. He presented two $1,000 checks to PF banquet organizers, one from him and one from the late Robert Naegele Sr. A St. Louis Park resident, Robinson said he liked Perpich but didn't vote for him. "I voted for Harold Washington of Chicago,'' he said.

6 Here's how Pheasants Forever membership ranks with other conservation groups in Minnesota:

1. Ducks Unlimited, 42,000

2. National Wild Turkey Federation, 26,000

3. Pheasants Forever, 22,500

4. Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, 20,000

5. Minnesota Waterfowl Association, 4,000

7 The first outstate banquet was held in Willmar, in Kandiyohi County. Doug Lovander was principal organizer. When Lovander contacted Dennis Anderson, then outdoors columnist with the Pioneer Press, to express interest in forming a chapter, Anderson asked Lovander how serious he was about pheasants. "Put it this way,'' Lovander said. "I conduct my own spring roadside [population] surveys.''

8 The Kandiyohi chapter netted $16,000 from its banquet, drawing 500 people. Lovander and other chapter officers wondered how giving the money to St. Paul-based PF would help Willmar-area pheasants. A meeting beneath a circus tent on Lovander's lawn after a pheasant feed helped solidify a strategy that remains PF's hallmark. Namely, chapter money, exclusive of membership fees, remains with local chapters for habitat development.

9 PF says it and Quail Forever have affected about 5 million acres -- including planting grasslands, restoring wetlands, planting woody cover or food plots and purchasing lands -- since its formation. The total includes 370,262 habitat projects.

10 In Minnesota, the group says it has spent $33.7 million and affected about nearly 200,000 acres.

11 The formation of Pheasants Forever was not endorsed by all Minnesota wildlife groups. Some members of a group called the Minnesota Association of Farmers, Landowners and Sportsmen opposed the idea, viewing PF as competition. MAFLAS had encountered difficulty uniting landowners and hunters and eventually disbanded.

12 Iowa is the only state with a PF chapter in every county. Some counties have more than one chapter, so Iowa tallies 103 chapters in its 99 counties.

13 Minnesota has the most PF members, but Iowa isn't far behind:

1. Minnesota, 22,500

2. Iowa, 20,200

3. Nebraska, 10,200

4. Michigan, 7,900

5. Illinois and Wisconsin, 7,500

14 A key hire early in the group's history was that of Jim Wooley of Chariton, Iowa. Wooley was that state's upland bird biologist and his employment as a field representative/biologist smoothed the way for PF to expand in Iowa.

15 Early on, some chapters or would-be chapters wanted to stock pheasants. PF always has had a policy against stocking, arguing that habitat expansion is the key to higher ringneck numbers.

16 This is the fourth Pheasant Fest; the first was held in 2003 in Bloomington and was attended by about 12,000 people. Another was held in Omaha in 2005 and Des Moines in 2007, both attended by about 24,000 people. PF is hoping the St. Paul show will be the biggest yet.

17 At the first Pheasants Forever banquet in St. Paul, a Browning Citori 12 gauge shotgun was auctioned. The gun was engraved, "Pheasants Forever Number 1.'' Know the person who owns it? If so, e-mail dsmith@startribune.com.

18 The average PF member is getting older, reflecting national trends on the aging of the hunting and angling community. In 1990, the average PF member was 40, and by 1999, it was 44. Today, the average age is 49.9 years old.

19 The number of PF employees has grown from a handful to 57 in 2004 to 150 today, including 45 in the national office in White Bear Lake and more than 100 in the field.

20 The most unusual PF chapter? There's the MN Lady Slippers, an all-female chapter. And the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters chapter -- the first union chapter -- based in St. Paul. And there's the Royal Flush chapter in California, the nation's only chapter open only exclusively to life members.

21 PF has spent $260 million for its habitat and education programs, including $33.7 million in Minnesota.

22 PF has donated more than 5,500 acres and helped fund the purchase of another 22,000 acres of public hunting lands in Minnesota. Most are state wildlife management areas.

23 PF secretary Bob Larson of Wayzata and retired chief executive officer Jeff Finden of White Bear Lake are the only members of the original board of directors to remain in those positions today.

24 Howard Vincent, 51, of White Bear Lake, a Duluth native, has been president and CEO of PF for the past eight years, and has been with the group for 20 years.

25 PF has 15,000 youth members; chapters pay their $5 membership fee, so the kids get to join for free. That program has boosted youth membership, which tallied 4,000 seven years ago.
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