Article contributed by Field Staff Writer E. Castillo.
Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever chapters hold an annual fund-raising banquet within their community where raffles, games, live and silent auctions provide an exciting atmosphere to collect much-needed fund-raising dollars. These funds remain within the chapter which can be distributed in four key areas; habitat improvements, public awareness, education, and land management policies and programs. Unique among national conservation organizations, chapters of Pheasants & Quail Forever retain 100 percent decision-making control over locally raised funds within their respective communities.
Chapter 706 is located in the heart of the Kansas City metropolitan area on the Kansas side. Its dual designation as a Pheasants and Quail Forever chapter favors both types of bird hunters.
Our annual banquet is always the first Thursday in March. It is our ONLY fundraiser. The donations and proceeds from the event funds several programs and activities throughout the year. In an effort to add something different to this year’s gala event, I took an idea from a Texas Quail Forever chapter. Their idea was to request hats from various local vendors and outdoor shops and then offer them up for a $15-dollar donation that would go to a habitat project. The hats were from local businesses, and came in hunter-orange and camo patterns. The idea intrigued me. It was simple, and it was easy. A name was needed to convey my idea. Something catchy. Hats 4 Habitat sounded perfect. Besides, everyone can always use another hat, and it’s for the birds. Literally.
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I was going to take the idea to the next level. I would utilize the vast Instagram network of fellow upland enthusiast to ask for help. Many of my requests and pleadings went to like-minded and passionate upland bird hunters that had blogs and that sold logoed gear. Emails and direct messages were sent just as quickly as I could type. This electronic Pony Express carried my idea and request. Immediately, responses came in from throughout the four corners of the country. All unique in their love for the outdoors and chase for the specific birds of their state and region. The donated hats would also help to promote their businesses, blogs, and websites.
The first to respond was Scott Lindar from Florida. Scott and I had previously connected via Instagram and spoken about our mutual interest in snipe hunting. Scott founded Marshdoodle, a website and blog that not only educated those interested in snipe hunting but the joys, and excitement this little odd bird brought. Scott was on board and committed several hats. Curious inquiries started pouring in. More explanations and additional commitments to Hats 4 Habitat were being added to the list. The momentum was starting. With iconic big names within the upland community like The Modern Wild, Border to Border Outfitters, and Fetching Feathers sending hats, I was sure to have an eclectic assortment representing the uplands.
Commitments from the southwest, the north woods, and south were locked in. However, I was missing representation from the “West”. Checking emails, I discovered Damon from Nevada Chukar Chasers and Straight Upland were all in. Both, of these group of bird hunters are committed to conservation, the hunt, and past time that upland hunting provides. Cardboard packages started showing up daily. My front porch seemed more like a parcel distribution center than a family home. Labels from states such as Arizona, North Carolina, Minnesota, Florida, and Georgia to name a few were a welcomed sight.
I discovered that several interested donors, did not have hats in stock. What to do. Thinking outside the box got me the idea behind Hats 4 Habitat, now I was determined to ask for help from outdoor apparel companies in the hopes to fill the void. To my surprise, I received feedback from Covey and Paddle. I explained to Daniel, the owner and mastermind behind his apparel company, my idea. Daniel was behind the project 100%. In fact, he was committing to sending ten “upland” themed hats and tee shirts for the cause! His gracious donation did not surprise me. I could tell through our conversations via email and Instagram that he was passionate about the outdoors and conservation. Hell, Covey and Paddle was built on it. You see, Covey and Paddle is authorized and licensed through the U.S. Department of Interior for Federal Duck Stamps. C&P’s hats and tees reflect the waterfowl hunting tradition to its very core.
The day of the banquet finally arrived. Chapter members and volunteers worked all day to set up and to make sure everything was in order. The Hats 4 Habitat table was set up near the open bar. Perfect. I would explain the idea behind a table full of hats to attendees under the influence. This could work in my favor, or not. People and families started trickling in. Those interested as to what my purpose was, inched closer and perused over the variety of hats. “What’s with all the hats” was the common question. After explaining how the idea was obtained and modified, they were curious and thought the concept was great. I asked for a minimum of 20 dollars for a hat of their choice. Twenty’s started to fill the pleather zip bag. Onlookers and passersby stopped and chatted. “Do you have any from Pennsylvania?” Why yes, I do. Check out these from Harvesting Nature. Another “donor” said, “You know, I use to hunt chukars as a boy.” “Here sir, look at these hats from Nevada.” I said. This was the common theme throughout the evening.
There were hats from all over. Hats with colorful logos, and artwork to embroidered patches. Hats of all fabrics and styles. Some of the most popular hats were of those sent by Covey and Paddle, Nevada Chukar Chasers, and Bryce Daviess. These old-school styled hats with the look and feel of a hat that your grandpa may have worn in the field were flying off the table like a busted covey of quail. I think the success in the table was that a lot of these hats were not only for the field and in blaze orange but could be worn out in town.
In the end, I was very pleased to the outcome and response that Hats 4 Habitat had. Just as important, was the total outpouring of support and donations from the upland community. It showed me that as outdoorsmen, we hold habitat, conservation, and public lands crucial to our way of life and our passion. Through this “hat” endeavor, relationships were made in the hopes to work again in the future. Collaborations and whisperings with those that donated may be in the works. I owe my fellow upland bird hunters a big thank you. Hats 4 Habitat will definitely return. Who knows, maybe a Tees 4 Trees (tree lines and windbreaks) will be next.
Thank you to ALL who donated hats.
Hats 4 Habitat