Pheasant Fest 2023: Five Reasons You Should Put Pheasant Fest On Your Calendar For 2024

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Each year as bird seasons close and the doldrums of winter set in, the hunting and upland conservation communities converge at one point somewhere in the Midwest for Pheasant Fest. Hosted by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, and for 2023 held in their hometown of Minneapolis, it’s one part outdoor trade show, one part educational symposium, several heaping spoonfuls of bird dogs and a few dashes of party for good measure – all to the benefit of upland game and the habitat they call home. 

What comes of their efforts? After 40 years in the conservation game, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have grown their community to over 400,000 strong. With their signature method of volunteer-driven fundraising, they’ve been able to put more than $1 billion into over half a million projects to impact 24 million acres and growing. 

A significant portion of that – more than $500 million – was raised in the ambitious Call of the Uplands campaign that kicked off in 2021 with a goal to establish or improve over 9 million acres of habitat nationwide. 

The flagship event of PF/QF, Pheasant Fest is not at all limited to pheasants and quail – far from it in fact. 

“This is no doubt the biggest grouse event in the nation as well,” mused Bob St. Pierre, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for PF/QF. “There are more grouse hunters here in Minnesota than any state in the nation.” 

And it doesn’t stop there. With attendees from all corners of the country, you’ll find folks devoted to chasing Hungarian partridge, blue grouse, chukar and more. Sit in on the right presentation at the Path to the Uplands stage and you might just learn about the change in migration patterns of the band-tailed pigeon in the years since the invasion of Eurasian collared doves.

But why should you make the trek to visit the show in the season of snow and ice? Here are some great reasons!

Reason 1: The Upland Film Festival at Pheasant Fest 2023

From ptarmigan to desert quail and from capercaillie to woodcock, the diversity of the upland community is spotlighted at the film festival held the night before the official kick-off of the convention. With drinks flowing and regularly punctuated by door prizes, the 2023 event featured five short films, spanning the globe from Alaska to New Mexico to Sweden and right back to Minnesota, where this year’s convention is being held. 

With contributions from Project Upland, Ron Schara Productions and the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever teams, the event is just as much about inspiring folks to get out and experience habitats and game birds that are completely foreign to them as it is about meeting up with old friends and making new ones. 

Reason 2: The Bird Dog Parade

An annual tradition, Pheasant Fest 2023 was kicked off with a celebration of the many dog breeds that draw people deeper into the sport of upland hunting. From the most populous and popular to niche and hard to find, they’re on parade for all to see. 

Even if you can’t make it to the parade itself, the show floor features booth after booth devoted to the breeds themselves, from Cesky Fouseks to Epagneul Bretons. If you’re looking to add a new dog to the pack, the opportunity to talk with owners, breeders and enthusiasts is invaluable. 

Reason 3: Education

With five stages in the main show floor and multiple break-out sessions in the conference rooms surrounding, there’s more knowledge to be had at Pheasant Fest 2023 than my brain could ever hope to contain. The stages themselves are themed, focusing on public lands, dog training, R3 (recruiting, retaining and reactivating) and habitat, as well as a main stage for the larger panel discussions, presentations and forums. 

Additional ticketed events are also available on specific topics like bird dog trauma training, a landowner workshop and the popular and ever-growing Women, Wine and Wild Game brunch. 

From discussions on the current corner crossing conundrum in Wyoming to puppy training presentations and in depth looks at the effects of depredation on pheasants, there’s a session for everyone. Learn how to take better travel and hunting photos from professionals in the field like Sam Soholt of Public Land Tees or plan a proper hunting road trip with the crew from onX Hunt

Reason 4: Getting Hands-On with Hard-to-Find Products

One of the best parts of a show like this is the ability to put your hands on shotguns, vests and a wide range of other upland hunting-specific products that might not be in stores near you.

Pheasant Fest 2023 was my first opportunity to see and touch the shotgun offerings from the Upland Gun Company – a relative newcomer to the market that deals in semi-custom to full custom side-by-sides and over/unders crafted to order by RFM, a long-time Italian maker. Starting at $2k and going up depending on options, customizations and wood quality, they produce fine firearms that look and feel well worth the price. 

From hand-made boots to lightweight strap vests and everything in between, Pheasant Fest 2023 has it all – and most of it is available for purchase on site or to be ordered and shipped to your door. 

Want to compare hunting boots? Some stand-outs like Crispi and Gumleaf are on hand to not only dive into what sets them apart, but also offer some pretty healthy deals. 

Reason 5: Contribute and Get Involved

From admission tickets to silent auction items, apparel sales to banquet live auctions, Pheasant Fest 2023 is all about furthering the PF and QF missions, which require finding and engaging new volunteers and more importantly, raising funds. By attending the event and spending a little cash, you not only help them reach those goals, you help keep events like this one going so that future generations have the opportunity to attend, learn and get addicted to the uplands in their own time. 

So if you find yourself struggling through bird hunting withdrawals each winter, consider making the trek to Sioux Falls March 1-3 for Pheasant Fest 2024 – it’s definitely worth the trip! Thanks again Pheasant Fest 2023.

Zachary Hein is a writer and photographer working in the shooting and hunting industry for over a decade. Based out of Sheridan, Wyo., he has a particular affinity for fine shotguns, bird dogs and all things with motors and tires. Find his work at fousekcreative.com or on Instagram at @z_hein.

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