Low bird numbers sure to hamper Ringneck Classic
By MIKE CORN
NORTON -- It's a struggle to generate a lot of interest when pheasant numbers are low -- especially when they're so abysmally low.
Even when the governor is in the hunting party.
Despite that, there are 74 hunters signed up to join in on this year's Kansas Governor's Ringneck Classic, making its debut this year in the Norton and Hill City areas. Last year, about 80 hunters participated.
"Things are going real well," said Scott Sproul, executive director of the Norton city and county economic development.
It's his turn to spearhead the governor's hunt after it spent the last two years in Oakley.
The idea behind the governor's hunt is to spread the word about hunting opportunities in western Kansas, notably pheasant hunting opportunities.
But drought the last two years has all but decimated the state's pheasant population, sharply reducing numbers and the number of birds killed by hunters.
The governor's hunt spent the last two years in Oakley before moving to the Norton-Hill City area this year. Next year, the hunt will move to Scott City, the last in the trio of communities sharing the event.
While pheasant hunting is still on the agenda, this year the focus is shifting to the sporting clay competition activities on Friday.
"The sporting clay hunt is going to big this year with the bird population the way it is," Sproul said.
He's also pinning hopes on Friday's reception, which includes up-and-coming country western singer Morgan Frazier.
Just out with "Yellow Brick Road," her first single, he said, a natural for the state of Kansas.
Gov. Sam Brownback once again is among the hunters this year, in addition to retired Miami Dolphins player Manny Fernandez, Ellaville, Ga., retired Kansas City Royals pitcher Dennis Leonard and Bill Maas, a former Kansas City Chiefs player.
Two youth hunters, selected from essays submitted, will be taking part in the activities, and will win a lifetime hunting license. The hunters are 13-year-old Ellee McDaniel, an eighth-grader at Grant Junior High School in Goodland, and 14-year-old Jacob Shafer, a freshman at Shawnee Mission West in Lenexa.
Activities begin Thursday when hunters start arriving and trap and sporting clay stations are open for shooting.
Activities begin in earnest Friday when the sporting clay tournament begins at 10 a.m.. Open trap shooting runs in tandem with the sporting clay event.
Friday's big event begins at 6 p.m. with the governor's reception at the Norton National Guard Armory. The reception includes a performance by Morgan Frazier.
Friday night's activities, including Frazier's performance, are open to the public, and tickets cost $45.
About half the tickets have been sold, but Sproul said he expects people to come in as the event gets closer.
* * *
* Arrival and Registration for hunters beginning at 1 p.m.
* Trap-sporting clay open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
* Guide, landowner and hunter reception at 6p.m.
* Governor's sporting clay tournament from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
* Open trap shooting from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
* Hunter and guide meeting at 3:30 p.m.
* Governor's reception from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., including performance by Morgan Frazier
* Governor's hunt" 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
* Awards dinner, with keynote address by Scott Linden, TV host for "Wingshooting USA" and performance by Johnny Lee, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
* Additional upland bird hunting.
* Details of the classic, as well as a complete schedule of events, can be found at www.kansasringneckclassic.com.