Habitat & Conservation  |  02/05/2024

National Volunteer of the Year Award Finalist: Scott Rall


Nearly 40 years of service to The Habitat Organization

This year, for the first time, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever will recognize a national “Volunteer of the Year.”

The award celebrates the very best the organization has to offer — the members and volunteers who optimize the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever mission, who seek to protect and grow our wildlife habitat, and who help ensure our heritage continues for generations to come. 

We have chosen eight finalists (Four Pheasants Forever and four Quail Forever) for the award. The winner will be announced at the upcoming National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, which runs March 1-3 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are dynamic conservation organizations, fueled by the dedication of volunteers,” said Tom Fuller, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s vice president of chapter and volunteer services. “The Volunteer of the Year award seeks to honor individuals who have made a profound impact on our mission. Our volunteer network is a vibrant community of passion and talent. This annual award is a celebration of the remarkable accomplishments of these volunteers, and is intended to inspire others to join the movement for upland conservation.”

Over the course of the next four weeks we’ll get to know each finalist, and celebrate their accomplishments in the world of habitat conservation. The next volunteer we’ll highlight is Scott Rall, from the Nobles County Chapter of Pheasants Forever in Minnesota.  

Let’s start by just telling us a little more about yourself. Your history with bird hunting and conservation, how long you’ve been a member of Pheasants Forever, etc

Our Pheasants Forever chapter is number #14 and started in 1984, just two years after the national organization was started in 1982. I got involved almost right away, and have now been volunteering with the chapter for 39 years. I was a general member for a long time, and took over the presidency of the chapter in 2005. I was a young adult-onset hunter as a result of a Pheasants Forever committee member showing me the enjoyment of hunting with a dog. I currently have an A-team of 4 black labradors and am a passionate amateur dog trainer.  I have helped scores of other dog owners train their own dogs. I am a life member of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, and recently became a Patron member of Pheasants Forever. 

What initially spurred you to get involved with your local chapter? 

When I joined the chapter, it was not long after that my son wanted me to take him hunting.  There was virtually no public land for us to utilize, and my chapter had just purchased the first parcel of land nationally for public use. It was this acquisition that spurred me into creating more opportunity for dads and moms to take their kids hunting. Since that first acquisition, we have added 45 more parcels for public use. Of those, I have been involved from the ground up on 35 of them. We have been named the Pheasants Forever National Habitat chapter of the year three times under my stewardship — in 2010, 2014 and in 2021.

Talk about the work you and your chapter have been doing over the course of the last year. 

In the past year we have added two more parcels of public land totaling 228 acres, and have three potential projects in the works for this year. We were also the first chapter in the state to “adopt” all of the Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in our county through the Department of Natural Resources “Adopt A WMA” program.  We spend many days afield removing fences, managing invasive trees and noxious weeds — in addition to all sorts of general maintenance efforts. 

We also support numerous activities designed to get kids unplugged from an electrical outlet.  Pollinator events, wildlife tours and different partnerships including with the local Future Farmers of America chapter.  Many of our activities attract up to 50 participants on a regular basis. 

I do all I can to promote hunting and give experiences to new hunters. Throughout the year, I invite people to come hunt in Nobles County, letting them know I’ll give them the best advice I can to help them be successful.  Our CVB has permission to give out my personal cell number if someone calls about pheasant hunting.  I also let new hunters use my personal conservation property so that they can possibly harvest their first pheasant or deer.  No hunter ever forgets their “first” and it’s an honor to help be part of that.

There are nearly 140,000 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members, and eight total finalists for Volunteer of the Year. What does it mean to be nominated for this award? 

Much if not most of all of the efforts expended for conservation activities fly under the radar. I understand this and am totally OK with it.  I get up every day with one high elevation goal — to leave the planet just a little better bit off then when I found it. This has been the foundation of my 39 years of effort on behalf of Pheasants Forever. Every week I go on a wildlife ride, regardless of the season. As I drive around and can see the impact we have made in our area, it gives me all the satisfaction and motivation I need to do more. I’m more motivated today then I have ever been. 

Being nominated for the Volunteer of the Year is a rare and humbling experience. I work very hard and have for a long time; but so do many other dedicated volunteers. Being nominated, win or lose, is like getting the best “Thank You” card in the mail you could ever get.

One of the most profound aspects of volunteering for Pheasants Forever is you can see and touch the work. It’s not abstract, or done in some far away place. When you accomplish a habitat project, you can stand in the dirt and witness the progress firsthand. Same is true for outreach — you get to see new people discover the world of conservation or watch a bird dog work for the very first time. What’s it feel like to sit back and watch your work come to fruition?

Seeing our efforts come to fruition makes me reflect on the fact that these successes are not a result of just my efforts. We have a committed group of more than 35 dedicated volunteers that also do a lot of heavy lifting. I might give more time than most but, in the end, it is the total efforts of the group, when properly motivated that gets the work done.

One of my very favorite experiences of working on behalf of PF for 39 years is when a young kid comes running up to me in the grocery store to tell me with the greatest of excitement that he shot his first rooster with his dad last weekend on the super special spot I directed them to. Miles of smiles on new hunters faces, be they young or older, make all of the time, effort, energy toil and sometimes frustration all totally worth it.

The other most satisfying experience is when we get to put up a new “Pheasant Run” sign. We have signed each or our acquisitions with a Pheasant Run #1, Pheasant Run #2, etc. sign. These were made by my dad.  He was 70 years old when he made the first 20 of these, at that time we were currently on Pheasant Run #13. By the time he finished the first 20 of them, I asked him to make another 20.  This got us to Pheasant Run #40. By the time he finished the second batch we were on Pheasant Run #35. I asked my dad yet again to make another 20. This would put us up to Pheasant Run #60.  We are erecting Pheasant Run 45 and 46 this summer. My 90-year-old father is in now such poor health that he is no longer able to make these signs so he taught one of other volunteers the process. I’m 63 now, and as I look back at how my dad and many others have been with me helping Pheasants Forever for all of those same 39 years it gives me a warm glow inside. Each and every one of these land parcels is going to be around forever. I don’t know if I will live long enough to erect the Pheasant Run #60 sign, but is certainly my intention of doing so.

I started with Pheasants Forever when I was 24 years old. I have been blessed with good health and to have been successful in my life and career. The one constant in my life that has lasted longer than anything else I have ever done is my dedication to Pheasants Forever, conservation and the personal mission of leaving the planet just a little better than I found it.

National Volunteer of the Year or not,  I’m in a very good place.