National Pheasant Fest, Pheasants Forever's annual meeting/convention/trade show took place in Des Moines at the Iowa Events Center February 26-28. Thirty thousand people attended the event to sit in on hunting and conservation seminars and to check out dogs, guns, gear, destinations and some odds and ends in the exhibit halls. Here's what I saw during my visit: Rudy the Rooster gives the thumbs up. He is PF's youth mascot. Is it just me or does it seem odd to you, too, that a pheasant would wear a blaze orange vest?. Phil Bourjaily
The American Pointer Club’s message is clear: Who needs some wimpy hamster-sized Paris Hilton miniature peekapoo? A 65 pound English pointer makes a perfectly good lap dog and it can find birds. Phil Bourjaily
The Remington booth-on-wheels includes video shooting games for kids on the outside, real guns for their parents inside Phil Bourjaily
Over three days of the Pheasant Fest, the “Classic” hammer 12 gauge was the most-often handled gun at the Fausti Stefano booth. At $17,500, though, people handled it with care. Phil Bourjaily
Pointing dog fanciers outnumber retriever owners at Pheasant Fest by a good margin. I almost bought this shirt but decided to put on my flame-proof suit and post a picture instead. Phil Bourjaily
Hunter and dog trainer Don Otey of Coyote Leather of Grand Priairie, Texas, has been making wonderful braided leather lanyards both for upland hunters and waterfowlers since 1996. $95 Phil Bourjaily
Award-winning wildlife artist Larry Zach of Ankeny, Iowa, painted “Dream Bucks III,” a portrait of a deer killed in October 2008 by Iowa hunter Kyle Simmons. The painting depicts the buck on a mid-October afternoon just like the day Simmons shot the buck, a 240-inch, 28-point non-typical. Phil Bourjaily
Steve Pennington, a retired forester, lives in the fly fishing hotbed of — Des Moines? — and builds bamboo flyrods. His 8′ 5 weight rod costs an incredibly reasonable $375. The beautiful walnut and brass rod tubes sell for $58 Phil Bourjaily
Jason Markkula of Hendrick, MN, combined two of Minnesota’s state passions — beer and hunting — in Rooster Lager, a craft brew of his own devising. Profits from sales go to Pheasants Forever’s Build a Wildife Area land acquisition program. Coming soon, Markulla’s new brew: Walleye Chop. Phil Bourjaily
The Twin Cities’ 105 year-old J.W. Hulme Co. started out making canvas tents for the military then switched to awnings, then high-end luggage and leather goods. This shell pouch is made of “century walnut” leather with a pebble grain and costs $190. Phil Bourjaily
This 43-inch sable antelope decorated the booth of the Iowa chapter of Safari Club International. As sable scoring was explained to me, anything over 38 inches is big. 43 inches is the equivalent of a 185-plus whitetail. Phil Bourjaily
Activites for kids in Rudy’s Youth Village included archery and an airgun range. Phil Bourjaily
It is not true that Abe Lincoln’s parents had a pool table like this in the rec room of their log cabin. ** Ottertail Cedar Log Furniture** Phil Bourjaily
A Boykin spaniel in the arms of Jan Hinchman of J&L Boykin Spaniels. She and her husband Larry have raised Boykins in Wisconsin for 25 years. They even invited Man’s Best Friend blogger David DiBenedetto and his Boykin, Pritchard, to come up from South Carolina for a January grouse hunt. Bundle up. Phil Bourjaily
Federal plugged its new Prairie Storm ammo with this prototype promo sweatshirt that attracted attention everywhere it appeared on the floor. Phil Bourjaily
The most brilliant why-didn’t-I-think-of-that product I saw at Pheasant Fest: you can’t lose the earplugs on Avid’s shooting glasses because the earplug cord is threaded through holes in the glasses’paddles. $19.95 Phil Bourjaily
I photographed this Mud River dog bed at SHOT, but it looks much better with a cute puppy worn out from three days of Pheasant Fest on it, so here it is again. Next year’s Fest will be in Omaha. Plan on it. Phil Bourjaily