By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Kansas has struggled to get on Outdoor Life's annual list of what they like to call the best hunting and fishing towns in the United States.

Only Russell made it on the list this year, coming in at No. 18. That's out of 35 cities.

It might be the first time Russell has made it, although other Kansas cities have been on the list -- when there were as many as 200 listed. But they included the likes of Great Bend, coming at 163 out of 200. Junction City was 173rd and Atchison was 181.

The Outdoor Life list initially was only partly the result of outdoor opportunities. About two-thirds of the weighting was a result of the outdoors, while the rest stemmed from population, growth, income and housing costs.

Pheasants Forever, however, has taken the list a step further, relying only on outdoor activities, such as area bird counts, annual harvest, availability of public hunting and local Pheasants Forever chapter activities. It only includes 25 cities, five of them from Kansas.

The PF list is "by no means scientific, but a fun exercise in day dreaming about next fall," the list's author, Anthony Hauck writes. "Hopefully, you're lucky enough to live in one of these pheasant country towns, and if not, have the chance to visit often."

Northwest Kansas fared well in Hauck's list:

Coming in at No. 4 is Oakley. "Conveniently located on Interstate 70, which bisects the Sunflower State, getting to Oakley is only the beginning: more than 350,000 acres of publicly accessibly hunting lands, and pheasants, quail and prairie chickens in northwest Kansas awaits."

No. 16 is Russell. "You'll find pheasants and quail in the heart of the Smoky Hills around the town that Outdoor Life named one of the 35 Best Hunting and Fishing Towns in the U.S."

Hays is No. 18. "Lodging in northwest Kansas is at a premium. Hays is the largest town in the northwest region of the state and serves as a great overnight location with more than 1,000 motel rooms."

It's only natural that Bird City be on the list, coming in at No. 25. "The origin of the town's name actually has nothing to do with pheasant hunting, but it lies in northwest Kansas pheasant country, so it's worth it."

Finally, Dodge City is No. 21. "This famous frontier town serves as the gateway to more than 180,000 acres of publicly accessible land in southwest Kansas."

Hauck said the spots are great starting points for autumn pheasant hunting adventures, "but this is a conversation starter."