Our Pledge To You


Giving due/perspective on Pheasant Fest’s place in Chicago’s outdoors shows


Sara Wabi (left), a sophomore at Marist, and Maddie Grobmeier, a senior at Lincoln-Way East, ham it up
Saturday during National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic while helping with Youth Village and the South Cook chapter booth. Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

You have to go back to when Keith Ogulnick ran the 10-day ‘‘O’Hare Show’’ in Rosemont decades ago to find an outdoors show around Chicago with the scope of the National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.

Ogulnick now manages the Chicago Boat Show for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Pheasant Fest, which ended Sunday at the Schaumburg Convention Center, will be in Minneapolis next year. The show moves yearly.

I thought Pheasant Fest would be like a young basketball star — one and done — in Illinois. But in its wrapup, Pheasants Forever called it ‘‘the event’s inaugural run in Chicagoland,’’ implying a possible return.

Pheasants Forever, which focuses on local conservation, was aiming for 30,000 attendees. The final number was 22,387. Illinois has more than 9,200 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members.

The push behind Pheasant Fest’s first appearance here came from Wayne Rosenthal, the departing director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and a life member of Pheasants Forever.

I spent every day in the Sun-Times booth and had time to observe and learn. Ken Abraham give me cover daily, so I could attend seminars and walk the show.

I sat in on wild-game cooking seminars by Hank Shaw, whose ‘‘Hunter Angler Gardener Cook’’ won Best Food Blog from the James Beard Foundation in 2013; forager/chef Lukas Leaf; and John Hennessy, who started at the Richton Park Aurelio’s. (I loved his pheasant skillet pizza.) Faithful reader Art Costa suggested I do Recipe of the Week.


Pheasant roulade, by Lukas Leaf, in an avocado/cilantro sauce at the National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

I caught Tom Dokken on training dogs to hunt shed antlers, just in time for prime shed hunting.

In the final hour Sunday, I sat in on Wade Louis’ talk about research on pheasant habitat areas, the basis for Illinois’ coolest hunting program.

I could have sat in on seminars of interest nearly every hour. That is partly why the show is so successful.

And Pheasants Forever knows how to build the future. Its youth programs work. As a dad on his fourth teenager, I think its success with youth stems from providing adult oversight but allowing youth to make their own way. The second-floor Youth Village was jammed Saturday, and youth from state chapters worked it.

Our booth was across from the South Cook chapter booth. On Saturday, Sara Wabi, a sophomore at Marist and the treasurer of Pheasants Forever’s state youth council, and Maddie Grobmeier, a senior at Lincoln-Way East and a member of the council, bounced between their booth and Youth Village.

They were willing to ham it up with #CSToutdoors, a promotion the Sun-Times wanted me to do. One observation: A few my age did the #CSToutdoors, but teenagers to 30-somethings embraced it, such as Ken Maggiore and Nick Pellikan. Maggiore is the Taft grad who had the greatest day in Chicago fishing on March 22, 2017, catching then-Illinois-record burbot and whitefish. Pellikan helped land both fish.

The outdoors live on around Chicago.



Colleen Callahan photo on her Twitter.
Twitter photo

Colleen Callahan, the new director of the IDNR, starts Friday.

Wild things

Ken Gortowski phoned Friday about 30 sandhill cranes headed north at 1:20 p.m. at the intersection of I-355 and I-88 in Downers Grove. . . . Wildlife biologist Bob Massey posted that robins, killdeer and bluebirds were sighted over the weekend in Kankakee County.

Stray cast

Considering Kris Bryant’s kvetching about social-media observations about his 2018 season, he should study how bass pro Kevin VanDam handles spectators on the water.

Kris Bryant receives high fives from Cubs teammates after hitting a first-inning home run against the Brewers on Saturday. (John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times)