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Pheasant numbers down, hunters undeterred


With a restaurant named Pheasant Run, one might expect plenty of hunters for breakfast on the first day of pheasant season.

Sue Jordan, owner of Pheasant Run, 3201 Vine, even opened an hour early Saturday, at 5 a.m.

"Wasn't that busy," she said. "But I didn't really do a lot of advertising.

"We just thought we'd take a chance. Now, tomorrow will probably be a different story."

Ross Wichman, Hays, stopped by for breakfast before going out looking for birds.

"We're taking a leisurely breakfast, then heading out," he said.

Wichman, like many hunters, has heard pheasant numbers are down this year.

"I hear they're really low, probably be the lowest season in a long time," he said.

*  *  *

Lots of birds or not so many, it doesn't matter for Pheasants Forever, which has had a kickoff event for the past 17 years at Hays City Sportsmen's Club.

For an admission fee, which goes toward college scholarships, hunters from far and wide can attend the event, which is the day before the season starts. Last year, between 200 and 300 hunters showed up. The organization also had its second annual youth hunt.

"It's kind of a fun thing, it really is," said Shayne Wilson, the treasurer for Pheasants Forever who was busy Friday feeding hungry hunters. "The guys really enjoy it."

Hunters can get some practice in target shooting, plus eat some burgers, brats and chili.

On Friday, Steve Coulson, Overbrook, and Jim Staehli, Topeka, were part of a group getting some shooting in before heading up to Hill City to do some hunting Saturday.

Coulson, like other hunters, heard birds this year are rare. But that didn't deter him from trekking out west.

"I heard it's pretty scarce, but tradition is tradition" he said. "Come out here every year for opening weekend. Going to have to tie me down to make me miss it."

Speaking of missing ...

After getting some practice in on the range, Staehli estimated his accuracy before munching on a burger.

"Just shot a little bit, see if I can hit anything," he said.

Did he need the practice?


* * *

Ron "Gator" Nelson's farm near Cedar Bluff Reservoir is a busy place to be the first weekend of pheasant season.

Nelson and his hunting buddies -- some for approximately 35 years -- gather there on this weekend. Sure, they hunt birds. But it's more than that.

"It's a great opportunity to catch up with everybody, see how they're doing," Nelson said. "It's a lot of fun, keeps the tradition of hunting alive."

One of Nelson's hunting buddies, Lyle White, lives in Leawood but travels the world while working for an engineering firm. Even in a year in which there might not be many birds, it doesn't matter, he said.

"For me, it's walking the field with my friends on a crisp morning in western Kansas," White said. "I try to tell people I meet in other walks of life how kind of neat it is when there's frost on the ground, and walking down a row of milo or an open field.

"To me, that's just as spectacular as going to a real interesting place. Five months ago, I was in India, saw the Taj Mahal. This is as good as that."