WaKeeney, Oakley, Scott City top the list

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

WaKEENEY -- Three northwest Kansas communities are quietly in the running to host what could be a weekend-filled pheasant hunt for celebrities and high-ranking corporate officers, as well as government officials.

The communities are WaKeeney, Oakley and Scott City.

All three have been contacted by the state's Travel and Tourism Department, which will be folded into the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks on July 1 if the Legislature doesn't object.

So far, there's been no indication anyone will be objecting.

Travel and tourism officials in the respective cities were contacted several weeks ago, asking what type of motel and restaurant facilities would be available.

On Monday, Jason Hawman passed along word of the interest to Trego County commissioners, telling them if they're interested in hosting the hunt, they might want to step up and let state officials know.

WaKeeney Travel and Tourism director Cathy Albert has been aware of that interest, and passed along the information to state officials.

But the state's decision to conduct the hunt on the second weekend of pheasant season -- Nov. 19 this year -- could present its own set of problems.

"Anymore the second weekend is almost as sold out as the first weekend," Albert said.

She checked with the three main motels in WaKeeney and found two are full, with a waiting list. A third had 43 rooms, which wouldn't be enough to accommodate the 50 to 75 people who are expected to take part in the event.

Likely, there will be additional people helping to put the event together, including staff from KDWP and the tourism department.

But, she said, she thought WaKeeney might be able to split the accommodations with Ellis, which has a new motel.

Albert said the plan currently calls for a dinner Nov. 18, a Friday when everyone arrives, and breakfast the following morning.

Lunch would be brought out into the field on the Saturday, and another dinner would be planned for that evening.

At Oakley, Jim Millensifer provided a range of information to the tourism department about its city.

"To the best of my knowledge, the decision has not been made," he said, adding he thinks the tourism officials were hoping to find out if enough rooms existed for everyone attending. "I would guess the decision will probably be made in the next few weeks."

Oakley has slightly more than 200 rooms at six motels, including one that just was completed last year.

A hunter himself, Millensifer said the pheasant season just completed was much better than a year earlier, in terms of both birds and economic benefit to the region.

"It was a great season this year," he said, basing that on the number of motel rooms rented and restaurants busy with hunters. "It was a major improvement over 2009."

Western Kansas, Millensifer said, is something of a well-kept secret in terms of its pheasant hunting, what with a good supply of birds, above average bag limit and a ready supply of land accessible under the Walk-in-hunting-area plan.

"If they are willing to put in the work, they can shoot roosters," he said.