Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quail Unlimited: Fun Times In Albany

As I write this, dozens of outdoor industry leaders, conservationists, landowners, hunters and assorted muckety-mucks are descending on Albany, Georgia for the Annual Quail Unlimited Conservation Celebrity Event.

Formerly known as the "Celebrity Hunt," the event has traditionally been QU's biggest single fundraiser. This year, it's quite a feat that they've been able to even pull off the shindig. For the past year or so, the organization has been mired in financial turmoil, most of the leadership ousted, their headquarters up for sale, and their print magazine on hiatus.

Traditionally, the annual celebrity event has been a way for QU to recognize its sponsors and treat its major benefactors to a leisurely weekend of plantation hunting with actors, athletes, and politicians, most of whom are quail hunters too.

This year, I imagine things won't be quite as laid-back. New QU president Bill Bowles (formerly of Wynfield Plantation and currently of Quail Country, two of the finest Georgia plantations out there) is inviting any member to this years wing-ding.  While the openness is commendable, I suspect that during private conversations, he's getting a testy earful from sponsors, the board of directors and state chairmen.  I hope so, actually.

Nevertheless, I wish Mr. Bowles the best of luck. I firmly believe that as sportsmen, we should choose at least one conservation organization that we can support for the benefit of the wildlife that we care so deeply about.

I fear however (pardon the pun) that the QU bird has already flown the coop. While a few big-name sponsors -- the lifeblood of funding for any conservation organization -- are holding fast to QU, others have left. Dozens of chapters, many of them historically the strongest in the QU arsenal, have dissolved their affiliation with QU or disbanded altogether. Quail Forever, an affiliate of Pheasants Forever, has gained momentum and chapters. And handful of refugees from QU have formed the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, but as far as I can tell, it has yet to take hold.

Hopefully, good will come out of all of this. I've always been of the opinion that we've had too many national "boutique" conservation groups that are segmented to one specific species of animal. All of these different groups compete for a sportsman's dollar, spending precious resources on advertising, recruiting, and administration costs. If I were king (a scary thought indeed) there would be one national group (perhaps the NSSF?) that lobbies the government on national and regional issues that affect sportsmen and gun owners. That would leave state and local groups to focus on conserving and improving habitat in their local area.

It's a grassroots idea, and one that the existing conservation organizations probably wouldn't much care for. But who needs another DU gun case or PF hat? Nix the overhead and administration, and put those dollars to work for the critters that are most important to us locally.

A Pollyanna approach? Perhaps. But there are legitimate signs that this philosophy is already working. More on that later, so stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar though last fall when I first heard about QU's troubles. Why not combine each state's chapters into a locally-focused, results-oriented group, with all of the money raised in that state put to work right there in that state?

    Unfortunately there's not going to be much support for this from the national orgs - too many jobs at stake. It'll have to come from an uprising of sorts. Longshot yes, but if people in this country were ever primed for an uprising, now would be the time.