In less than a decade the Cornell-Nilo relationship has been reversed. Where once the university assisted John Olin in setting up his medical program, Olin is now assisting Cornell with valuable research and experimentation undertaken at Nilo.
While Nilo Kennels was becoming the best-managed Labrador breeding and training center in the country, the adjacent land called Nilo Farms was becoming the best-managed game preserve. At about the same time Pershall came to Nilo, Olin Industries hired a staff of trained conservationists, and the 522 acres of rolling farmland near Alton were converted into rich game-bird cover, heavily planted with alfalfa, wheat, soy beans, lespedeza, sweet clover and corn to create a balanced system of crop rotation. Food patches of sorghum and millet, which provide additional cover as well as food, were spotted every four or five acres. Timber and shrubs were planted in scattered clumps to cut down soil erosion and serve as gathering points for pheasants after a shoot.
THE CRUSADE BEGINS
As soon as suitable habitat was established, the land was stocked with pheasants and mallard ducks and, for experimental study, with a variety of semi-exotic birds like Coturnix quail and chukar partridge. Then Nilo Farms was ready to carry out John Olin's most cherished crusade: the education of sportsmen and game-management agencies to the potentials of wildlife preserves in a diminishing outdoors—a concept which had few supporters in the '40s and early '50s.
The job was not an easy one. Hunters in general were reluctant to try preserve shooting because they believed it artificial. Game departments looked with little enthusiasm on the additional supervision and enforcement that would be expected of them and with suspicion on the actual benefits to wildlife which might ensue. When Olin invited representatives of both groups to visit Nilo and see how the operation worked, they came, but with misgivings. They left with an education.
Under Nilo Farms' staff, they were instructed in planting and planning of habitat, in scientific principles of rearing and harvesting game birds, in the long-range benefits to the surrounding country which artificial propagation of wildlife would ultimately reap, and in the value of trained hunting dogs to conservation. Olin, meanwhile, propagated the faith in other ways. He stomped across the country, cornering any and all who would listen to his cause. At field trials he sloshed through mud and rain to hand out literature on preserve shooting. When he found an interested sportsman he enlisted him in the crusade; when he found one in doubt he refused to stop talking until the doubts had vanished. On business trips he would suddenly disappear to address a conservation or sportsmen's club on the role of preserve shooting in modern conservation. He was never too busy to speak to one more game official, one more sports reporter or one more man in the field.
More and more his exhortations fell on receptive ears. The number of private and public preserves grew steadily across the country. This season there are 1,207 shooting preserves operating in 38 states, an increase of 451 since 1954. In 13 of these states, the game departments have regular instructional programs patterned after the program at Nilo Farms, which itself has expanded considerably since the 1954 merger of Olin Industries into the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation.
The most recent area to join the booming preserve movement is Hawaii. When game department officials in the territory sent word of their interest to Nilo this summer, one of the Farms' conservation experts hopped the next plane west. In a week he had scoured the islands, studied the native wildlife and mapped out a preserve plan for Hawaii.
Olin's conservation ideas are so effective that they have been applied even beyond the boundaries of preserve shooting. States like Georgia, long famous as one of the finest quail-shooting regions in America, have been shown that by bulldozing large growths of live oaks (which, once upended, provide excellent game-bird cover and protection during the three years or so they take to rot), then scientifically planting these areas with natural foods, they could sizably increase basic quail populations in spite of hunting pressure which had tripled in that many years.
Thus, in less than a decade, Olin has seen the value of his belief in better dogs and better hunting dramatically proved and accepted. But he still has one outdoor ambition which as yet is unrealized. He has never hunted in Africa. Aside from the-sport itself, he has a typically Olinesque reason for wanting to make this trip.