As far back as Casey Fitzgerald can remember, his dad Haskell Pack Jr. was always fishing, hunting, trapping, camping or otherwise enjoying some outdoor activity. Casey remembers his first hunting trip with his dad; he was about 6 years old, and it was a pheasant hunt with his dad and uncle. Casey was so small that he was actually lost in a big patch of tall weeds for a long time before they found him. By contrast, he remembers his dad’s last hunt ever; it was a goose hunt with Casey and some other family members. By then his dad was so sick and weak that he kept falling down, but he wouldn’t give up until the hunt was over. Haskell Pack Jr. passed away shortly after that hunt.
Deer hunters brag about the size of their buck’s antlers, fishermen brag about the weight of their fish and pheasant hunters brag about the length of their pheasant’s tail feathers. Five years ago in conversation with some friends, someone tossed out the idea of starting a “longest tail feather” contest in Haskell’s name to honor his long commitment and enjoyment of the outdoors. Casey ran with the idea, and this year, in conjunction with the Hodgeman Co. Economic Development Council, they are celebrating the fifth year of the Haskell Pack Jr. Memorial Longest Tail Feather Contest.
Here’s how the contest works. It begins the opening day of KS pheasant season, November 12, 2016 and ends the last day of pheasant season, January 31, 2017. There are four drop-off points where the entire pheasant with all feathers still intact must be taken. Those locations are Pawnee Valley Lodge in Jetmore, CPS Crop Production also in Jetmore, Horse Thief Reservoir 9 miles west of Jetmore and at Pride AG in Hanston. At the drop off point, a volunteer will fill out a form with the hunter’s contact information, then the hunter will pull out what they consider to be the longest tail feather on their bird and deposit it into a container with their contact info. Hunters over 16 years old must show their hunting license when they register their feather. New this year will be a youth category for hunters 11 through 17 years old, and hunters under 16 must present proof of hunter’s education when registering their feathers. When the season ends, all entered feathers will be judged against each other by Casey himself to determine the winner in both categories. The adult winner will be awarded a new Mossberg 500 shotgun, and the youth winner will receive a lifetime hunting license.
Besides celebrating his dad’s love of hunting with the longest tail feather contest in his name, Casey strives to honor his dad’s love of the outdoors by keeping his family involved in the outdoors as well. His oldest son Alex, who’s 14, hunted pheasants with Casey for the first time last year. Casen who’s 11 and John who’s 10 both enjoy shooting, camping and fishing and will follow Casey into the field soon enough. Casey’s wife Susan has taken hunters ed. and hunted deer once, and enjoys fishing and camping. Three years ago Casey also started and maintains an outdoor page on facebook called “Family Outdoor Recreation.” It’s a page open to the public where all things outdoors can be promoted and discussed.
What a great way to pay tribute to someone’s commitment to the outdoors, even better when that someone is your father! My son and grandson both like the outdoors and both like to fish, but not hunt. My LACK of fishing prowess is legendary, so I doubt anyone will ever, in good conscience be able to pay tribute to me as a fisherman. I do hope though that after I’m gone I’ll leave a legacy as someone who loved the outdoors and who loved all of God’s Creation. And as I’ve said before, it all boils down to our kids!…Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]