By MIKE CORN
OAKLEY -- Plenty of progress has been made in preparing for the inaugural governor's pheasant hunt. But Jim Millensifer knows there's still plenty left to do.
"Things appear to be going very well," agreed Robin Jennison, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks -- soon to add tourism to its portfolio.
Oakley will serve as the base of operations for the first Kansas Governor's Ringneck Classic, a weekend of hunting designed to draw attention to the Kansas hunting opportunities that abound.
The hunt, scheduled for Nov. 18 to 20 -- the second weekend of the popular pheasant season, is an idea floated early on by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Jennison and a member of Brownback's staff met last month with Millensifer and Raelene Keller, hunt coordinators.
A schedule of activities already has been put together for the weekend.
It includes a opening night buffet that will be open to the public through ticket sales that will be part of the overall fundraising efforts to pay for the hunt.
The hunting, however, begins in earnest on Saturday, Nov. 19.
That's when the by-invitation-only hunters will meet up with guides and dog handlers to head out into the field.
While the hunters will be going head-to-head against the wily ringnecks, they also will be competing against each other.
"The governor had the desire for it to be a competitive event," Millensifer said.
So the coordinators have agreed to break the hunters down into groups of four, accompanied by a guide and a dog handler, both of whom will be charged with doing some of the judging.
Beginning at 9 a.m., the guides will deliver the hunters to their first field, and keep track of when the first bird is shot and retrieved.
Rather than limit the number of shells that can be shot, the guides will be keeping track of how many shots are fired.
"So we're going to keep track of shells expended, but there's no limit," he said.
As a result, hunters can continue until 4 p.m., when they will head back into Oakley.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams, as well as the top guide, dog and landowner.
Millensifer said only 75 hunter will be invited, and most of those will be sent out by Brownback's office.
"In fact, we've been able to retain a number of invitations that will be a part of our fundraising efforts," he said.
Fundraising efforts have been going "very well," he said, for both in-kind and cash donations.
"Our objective," Millensifer said, "is to have this as a complimentary hunt."
Hunters will have to arrive in Oakley with a license in hand, he said, but lodging, meals and entertainment won't cost anything for people invited to attend.
Landowners also have been cooperative giving permission to hunt.
Millensifer, however, said he's been concerned about the pheasant population, what with the extremely dry conditions Logan County and the area have seen.
After rains, he said, the condition of the wheat has improved.
"As the wheat goes," he said, "so goes the birds."
Despite the concern, Millensifer said he's "seeing a lot of birds."