Grand National Quail Club
Bobwhite quail and Oklahoma's early history go almost hand in hand. The little brown and gray speedster is mentioned frequently in chronicles of the pre-statehood era and of the historic Cherokee Strip, Chisholm Trail and Indian Territory. In spite of heavy market hunting during the early 1900's, the bobwhite prevailed, and the rolling wheatlands and cattle country of Northwest Oklahoma continued to offer some of the finest quail hunting available anywhere in the United States.
The excellent hunting conditions and the size and wildness of the area's bobwhite strain was not long in being recognized by discriminating followers of "Gentleman Bob." As the sport grew, the region also became known for its fine bird dogs - strong, long-legged, big-running pointing breeds that would brave the dense plum thickets and knew how to handle these native birds.
What had been the place of unique opportunity and the favorite sport of Oklahomans soon became a mecca for "hunters in the know" throughout the country. An ever-increasing number of avid quail hunters traveled long distances to be on hand opening day. Enid, located in the heart of this vast area, became a favorite destination and was referred to by many as the "Bobwhite Capital of America." Field trial competition flourished, and the seeds of a national championship quail hunt had been sown long before the Grand National was conceived.
The idea itself emerged from a most unlikely setting in the fall of 1966. Around a campfire on a cold fall night high in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, more than 1,000 miles from Enid, United States Senator (then Governor) Henry Bellmon sat chatting with Dr. E.E. Chambers of Enid and Chuck Palmer of Oklahoma City about the famed One-shot Antelope Hunt in which they had just participated. Governor Bellmon observed that Wyoming's antelope were almost as plentiful as Oklahoma's quail, and he wondered, "Why couldn't Oklahoma have a celebrity-type quail hunt?"
Those few words, spoken half in thought, gave birth to an idea that soon would be established as an annual event and tradition in its own right. Back in Enid, Dr. Chambers and Chuck Palmer picked up the idea and worked through the winter developing ideas, objectives and a basic framework. In April 1967, Dr. Chambers called a meeting of a dozen prominent Northwest Oklahoma ranchers and sportsmen where they laid out their ambitious plan to hold a national championship quail hunt beginning in November of that year. The idea received quick endorsement, and the Grand National Quail Club was formed, initially with less than 20 members. Dr. Chambers was named the first President, and Chuck Palmer was elected Hunt Director.
Tragedy almost erased the Grand National before it started. Dr. Chambers died in a flaming plane crash in New York City on September 16, 1967 -just eight weeks before the scheduled start of the first hunt. But the Grand National was an idea whose time had come, and it was not to be denied. Congressman Happy Camp, Irvin Bollenbach and Bruce Wallace stepped in to pick up the strings and to assist with the complex organization of such an event. When the 1967 quail season opened on November 20, 1967, the Grand National Quail Hunt made its debut as an instant success.
From that small beginning, the Grand National has grown into a classic - the leading invitational celebrity hunting event in the United States. The Grand National Quail Club today is limited to 150 dues-paying members, all of them business and community leaders from Oklahoma and all of whom contribute heavily of their time and resources, provide escorts, hunting areas, dogs, transportation - even guide and score hunts - simply to assure the success of the Grand National.
The Past Shooters of the Grand National also total about 400 persons, each a celebrity, in his own right. The membership roll includes a broad spectrum of personalities ranging from top-name Hollywood celebrities to leaders of business, industry and government. About 25 new shooters are invited to participate in the Grand National each year and may subsequently return as members of the Shooters' Council. Participation in the Hunt is by invitation only, and each participant is personally invited by the Governor of Oklahoma.
The Grand National is truly a state/community effort consistent with the proud tradition of Oklahoma and its genuine, friendly, progressive people. For the nation's top wing shots and most avid quail hunters, the Grand National represents the pinnacle. There is nothing else like it - no other place where a participant can join with a select fraternity of sportsmen and celebrities dedicated to the enhancement of the long-standing game bird hunting traditions of America.