Luke Rausch doesn’t know how much Pheasants Forever has grown over the years. But he sure is happy it’s here. The 11-year-old can recall hunting trips with his dad, Andy Rausch, from their White Bear Township home to prairies near St. Cloud or Marshall, Minn., but he—and others much older than him—probably have no idea what his once-hometown organization, Pheasants Forever, has done to make those formative outings possible.
Since 1982, when it was founded in a White Bear Lake basement, Pheasants Forever has grown to a $50 million, 140,000-member, 750-chapter organization committed to habitat conservation and youth programs in 40 states and Canada; the organization’s wildlife habitat projects have been instrumental in protect or enhance more than 9 million acres on this continent alone.
“For me, it’s the opportunity to have someone fighting for the cause to keep land available,” Andy Rausch says. “Making sure the Legislature and the state are hearing from us hunters. … I think Pheasants Forever does that really well.”
The idea of Pheasants Forever first flew after a St. Paul Pioneer Press outdoors column by Dennis Anderson appeared in 1982. He wrote, “Until now, we’ve done little but complain. Until now, we stood by, watching Minnesota’s native habitat disappear, and with it wildlife of all types.”
The column, with its call, “So it’s up to those of us who are willing,” was met with a chorus of civic action, with a $5 pheasant stamp hunters could buy, with most proceeds to go to restoration projects, as Anderson had outlined, based on practices in place in South Dakota. Both bills passed the state Legislature.
“This energy level still had people saying what else can we do? And chapters formed and the money raised within those chapters would stay locally. That was the model,” says Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever’s president and CEO.
The organization keeps 92 percent of the money raised by the chapter in the chapter area for habitat and youth education, says Vincent, a White Bear Lake resident.
“The thing that I like about Pheasants Forever is that every chapter has their own projects that they are doing and raising the money,” Andy Rausch says. “They keep the money local, and for kids, it’s the opportunity to have land available.”
With White Bear Lake fully developed, there aren’t places to hunt in the city, but chances are available in Hugo and more rural areas short drives away, Rausch says.
On those jaunts, Luke fell in love with the sport. About two years ago, he got his first turkey and pheasant. “He has been hooked ever since and said, ‘This is so awesome!’ ” Andy Rausch says. “Then I took him out pheasant hunting as well and he has fallen in love with it and has continued to have fun with it.”
The youth piece of Pheasants Forever has been a part of the organization always since its inception, Vincent says. One concept has been the No Child Left Indoors initiative to get them off the computer, away from the TV and outside.
“One of the things that we recognized early on in the organization was if we were going to sustain what we believe is our hunting heritage and wildlife conservation, the best place to start was with young kids and get them on a path of thinking about the outdoors,” Vincent says.
With the encouragement of Pheasants Forever, Andy Rausch has also brought his older daughter, Maddie, hunting. “She went from carrying the gun to carrying the camera,” Andy Rausch says.
Regardless of preferences, that memory has been made and was made possible by the work of Pheasants Forever.
For more information:
Pheasants Forever Ramsey County chapter: Contact Terry Johnson at email@example.com
Pheasants Forever Washington County chapter: Contact Stephen Bany at firstname.lastname@example.org