Habitat & Conservation  |  01/30/2024

National Volunteer of the Year Award Finalist: Kiley Oliphant


Kansas native found new passion for conservation as an adult

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 first volunteer we’ll highlight is Kiley Oliphant from the Marion County Chapter of Quail Forever in Kansas. 

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 Quail Forever, etc

I have been a member of Marion County Quail Forever for three years now. My history with bird hunting stems from listening and hearing all the stories from my dad, uncles and cousins. So I’ve always been around the lifestyle and thought it was interesting. Then in 2014 I met the love of my life, and he truly opened my world to all things outdoors — including hunting and fishing. He got me on this path and lifestyle that I am wholeheartedly passionate about and love to my core.  

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

We moved to a small town in Marion County and I needed something to do. I wanted to get involved in a group with similar interests and Quail Forever checked all the boxes I was looking for as a volunteer.  Meeting new people, creating opportunities for the community, making connections with other hunters, farmers, members, biologists and conservationists — as well as being the face for a nationally known organization makes for a volunteer's dream come true. 

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

I work on and run our Facebook page and Quail Forever Portal, which is a new fun adventure but will make all chapters' lives better. We put on a youth day, which is a very hands-on kind of event for our community's youth to learn about outdoor activities. They all get to handle and shoot different guns, learn to shoot skeet and archery, as well as fish. We also put on a hunter's education and safety course for anyone in our community who is interested. I love this event because it's for everyone — kids, women and men.

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? 

I honestly don't know if I even truly understand what it means. We all put in a lot of hard work and we all put in a ton of time. So being noticed out of a huge, amazing organization made up of incredible people all working toward the same goal makes me feel elated and over the moon — Bigger than Taylor Swift at a Chiefs game.

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?

I do get to see all of our work first hand come alive and be there from start to finish. Being part of a group that’s able to do that is a big reason why I’m here. I get to take part, I get to participate, I get to learn. Being able to do that makes me an even better volunteer for my group and community. This past year's Youth Day we had a kid who shot a gun for the very first time, we had three kids who caught a fish for the very first time. Seeing those kids' reactions makes everything you do and work for worth it. But the icing on the cake is seeing those kids out in public or in the grocery store and watching them relive that moment again and tell us the story of their first bird or first fish. That’s what this group is all about, retelling stories and memories, and making new ones that will last a lifetime.