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Hunters shoot for opening day game





'Twas the night before pheasant season and all through the Hays City Sportsman's Club, only a few dedicated hunters were stirring.

"Very slow," Shayne Wilson said Friday, as she paused only briefly from the myriad of duties she performed in setting up and manning the food stations at the clubhouse.

It was the 17th annual running of the Pheasant Season Kick-off -- an all-you-can-eat and drink event the night before opening day of pheasant season. It's all sponsored by the Smoky Hill chapter of Pheasants Forever.

And it's a big fundraising venture for the club that last year sponsored three scholarships for Kansas students attending in-state colleges.

In a normal year, the clubhouse would be overflowing and the trap fields outside would be filled with shooters.

This year, only four of the five stations at one field were filled at any given moment, and twice two hunters -- Vicki Coleman and David Clark, both from Tulsa, Okla. -- were the only shooters.

"This is his favorite day of the year," Coleman said of Clark and Saturday's opening of pheasant season. "It doesn't matter whether he gets a bird or not, we're coming."

And they've been coming to Hays for nearly 15 years now, taking in the Pheasants Forever event each year.

It's the same for Todd McFall and David Scott, two Oklahoma City residents, who head north to hunt with chapter president Dick Klaus.

While they, both in good humor, initially refuted the reports of poor pheasant numbers, they said it's important to go afield whether the birds are there or not.

This year, it's a poor forecast, and the turnout at Friday's kick-off reflected it.

"We do this every year," McFall said, shushing his dogs, nearly as anxious as he was to get into the field.

"We're fond of Hays," he said. "We stop here every year."

Where they go after that is something of a trade secret, although they are willing to say they'll hunt south and west of Hays on both private and public land.

"Out west," was all Scott was willing to give up.

They're both well aware of the reports, but they are still hoping they'll at least see a few birds, perhaps even shoot some.

They're among a group of 10 hunters from Oklahoma City who make the trip to Kansas each year.