Michael Pearce

Tourism groups hope contest brings more Kansas pheasant hunters

The Wichita Eagle

For decades, a colorful rooster pheasant has been one of the most prized animals on the Kansas hunting scene. Now, three tourism groups hope making some of those birds worth actual prizes may lure more sportsmen afield.

From Friday through December 31, hunters are being invited to hunt Finney, Ford, and Hodgeman counties to participate in the Rooster Round-Up, a contest sponsored by the Dodge City, Garden City and Jetmore convention and visitors bureaus.

“For years we had a longest tailfeather contest but we quit when the pheasant population really dropped,” said Jan Stevens, Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau director. “We’re trying to create some excitement about pheasant hunting since the pheasant population has started to comeback.”

After several years of drought dropped the western Kansas pheasant population to the lowest levels in more than 50 years, this year’s wetter spring and summer brought better conditions. In most areas, the pheasant populations have improved but still remain well below historical averages. Stevens said they’re hoping to give area populations a boost.

She said each of the three tourism groups will be releasing 50 captive-raised rooster pheasants within their counties. Each bird is fitted with a band on one leg with an identifying number.

“They’ll all be released where the public can hunt or near where the public can hunt,” said Stevens, referring to the thousands of acres of Walk In Hunting Areas within the region. “We’re trying to be as fair about it all as we possibly can.”

Hunters do not need to pre-register or pay a fee to enter into the contest. Those who shoot a tagged bird are asked to present it to one of the tourism offices or send in the tag by mail. The appropriate contact information will be listed on the inside of the leg bands.

Prize winners will not be announced until after the Dec. 31 end of the event. Stevens said prizes, and the leg bands, will be shipped to the winners if they can’t be picked up at the appropriate convention and visitors bureau office. Each tourism office is responsible for the 50 prizes they’ll be offering.

The top prize is a Mossberg 500 shotgun valued at more than $400. Other prizes include stays at local hotels and motels, meals at area restaurants and cash. All who turn in a leg band will aget a special Rooster Round-Up cap. Any prizes not awarded this year will be reserved for future events.

Stevens said tourism officials are curious to see how many of the legbands are returned, and from where. For decades wildlife biologists have stated that such released birds have poor survival instincts when released into the wild, and that most quickly parish. Nor are they a guraantee of good hunting.

Several groups at last weekend’s Kansas Governor’s Ringneck Classic failed to find many of the birds that had been released for the invitational hunt held to promote the natural resources of western Kansas.

For more information on the Rooster Round-Up go to visitdodgecity.org.