By MIKE CORN
NORTON -- They came in droves, forcing ticket-takers to give up their two tables to provide seating for the overflow crowd at the Norton National Guard Armory.
Residents from Norton and Graham counties turned out en masse late last week for the third annual Kansas Governor's Ringneck Classic.
Organizer Scott Sproul, executive director of the Norton city and county economic development organization, said all 450 tickets to Friday night's event at the armory had been sold.
Proceeds from the event and a charity auction will go to a series of beneficiaries, including the Norton, Hill City and Northern Valley chapters of FFA, whose blue-coated members swarmed through the armory offering bright faces and refills of coffee, water and tea for the throng of people on hand.
Also benefiting from the hunt's proceeds will be the Northwest Kansas Classic Conservation Foundation, Norton County Hospital, Prairie Dog State Park, Graham County Hospital Wellness City and Graham County medical school scholarships.
It was a welcome relief for many of the hunters who showed up early to sharpen their shooting skills adjacent to the Prairie Dog Golf Course, where a series of trap stations were set up.
Activities at each end of the station were the busiest, with people waiting in line at the Crazy Quail station.
Organizer Jim Millensifer said it was like "crack cocaine" to the hunters.
The station was a trailer with a spinning platform with a series of clay pigeon launchers attached, sending the orange-crowned targets flying skyward in an almost erratic pattern.
Shotguns rang out as each target went up, many falling to the ground untouched.
At the other end, a five-station stair-step station with a series of five throwers brought shooters in to try their hand.
Norcatur's Ed Braun, manning the controls, signaled if the target remained live or dead, depending on the shooter's aim.
At the community event, Sproul was delighted with the turnout.
"We are very happy with the community response," he said, noting help for the event came from beyond the borders of Graham and Norton counties.
"Sheridan County stepped up and helped us with this," he said, adding other smaller communities also helped.
Aid came from Logan County, where the event was held the past two years, and from Scott County, where the hunt will go next year.
"This is the third year, and it will be going to Scott City next year," he said.