Opening day sees few hunters, pheasants




High winds, warm temperatures and low pheasant numbers made for a light opening day of pheasant hunting season on Saturday.

Tim Telinde, of Tallgrass Outfitters of Garden City, said he saw a few people out hunting Saturday but didn't bother going out himself due to the wind and heat.

"Second of all, the bird population's just isn't there. I mean, I'm sure there are pockets here and there. I've seen a few. I'm not willing to go out and kill the few that we have," he said. "Too dry, too hard on the dogs. This has been the typical opening weekend the last five years now."

Telinde said he has talked to a few other hunters who also did not plan to go pheasant hunting this year, including a group of old Army buddies that had been making an opening day hunt an annual tradition.

"This is the first year we didn't do it. In fact, a bunch of them went prairie dog hunting," he said.

Bruce Kahoe, of Edmond, Okla., has been coming to the Garden City area, where his in-laws live, for more than 20 years. He said the pheasant population has been bad the last two or three years.

"We went out last year and walked and walked and walked. Didn't see anything," Kahoe said.

Jerry Dechant, who farms in the area, also noted the drop in bird numbers.

"I didn't even get my gun out. The birds are down, way down," Dechant said. "I cut 2,000 acres of corn, and there was more deer than pheasants. And there were only six deer."

Ongoing extreme drought wreaked havoc with pheasant breeding habitat over the past year, which likely will result in a significant drop in population, according to the Kansas Wildlife and Parks upland bird forecast.

The KWP statewide summary for pheasant indicates breeding populations dropped by nearly 50 percent between 2011 and 2012, which resulted in fewer adult hens this nesting season. The southwest Kansas populations were hit particularly hard by drought, with a 72 percent decline in breeding population.

According to the KWP southwest Kansas forecast, numbers haven't rebounded from extreme drought, which will hurt hunting this fall. The state forecast predicts hunting will remain "well below average" in the area, though Haskell and Seward counties showed some improved reproduction compared to other counties.

An early wheat harvest this year also likely played a role in reducing the numbers of nests and successful broods, and intense heat and lack of rain in June and July exacerbated the situation for chick survival for all upland game birds, according to the KWP website.

Pheasant and quail seasons are open through Jan. 31, 2013.

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