Fifty branded pheasant roosters were released in Finney County in November, giving hunters "a shot at not only filling their freezers, but also their wallets,” through Samy’s Million Dollar Bird contest.

But despite the release, and hundreds of hunters registered for the chance to win $1 million, the big money bird has not been harvested, according to Ciara Crandall, marketing director for Samy Enterprises.

“There’s still time…” Crandall said, adding that the deadline to shoot the bird is Jan. 31. “They have a few more weeks to go out there and hopefully catch the million dollar bird.”

In October, Samy's Spirits and Steak House and the Clarion Inn announced the addition of the contest to the annual Rooster Roundup pheasant hunting event in October.

The businesses in Garden City — owned by Amro Samy — partnered with the Sleep Inn and the Finney County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for the contest, which began Nov. 11.

According to a press release from Samy's/Clarion Inn, the added incentive was another way to draw more hunters to the area.

Participants were required to register for the Million Dollar Bird Hunt in November, but could hunt for the bird all through pheasant season.

Participants also are required to enter their hunting license number during registration, and the million dollar rooster has to be shot within Finney County. Participants in the hunt couldn’t be related to any employee of any affiliates of Samy's Enterprises or the CVB.

Out of the 50 birds released as part of the Million Dollar Bird contest, only seven bands have been turned in so far, Crandall said, noting that when the winning bird band is turned in, the winner will be announced immediately.

Caitlin Matile, marketing director with the Finney County CVB, said the million dollar bird band number is 319.

There will also be a big celebration on Feb. 6 for the person who manages to harvest the prized bird.

“The person who harvests the million dollar bird will come in and they will have the opportunity to spin a wheel —kind of Wheel of Fortune style — and in that wheel there will be 250 envelopes. They will select one envelope, and in it will be a chance to win $1 million,” Crandall said, referring to the 1-in-250 chance that the person who bags the million dollar bird could win $1 million.

Those who are not registered for the contest can still attend the celebration as it is open to the public, Crandall said.

“Once we make the announcement of the bird being caught, we will send a party invitation out with more details,” Crandall said.

The Million Dollar Bird contest is in partnership with the 4th Annual Rooster Roundup, which six southwest Kansas counties — Ford, Finney, Stevens, Hodgeman, Seward and Grant — are participating in, Matile said.

“The 50 banded birds (for the Million Dollar Bird contest) are a part of the Rooster Roundup that the Finney County CVB does while partnering with six other communities in southwest Kansas,” Matile said.

Over 300 pheasants were banded on the leg and released in Finney County, near Garden City, in Ford County near Dodge City, in Grant County near Ulysses, Stevens County near Hugoton, in Hodgeman County near Jetmore, and Seward County near Liberal for the Rooster Roundup. If a registered participant is lucky enough to bag one of the banded pheasants and bring its band to one of the approved locations of registration, they can claim a cash prize and have a chance to win a $500 grand prize.

Entries for the Rooster Roundup are accepted through Jan. 31. More information on the event can be found at http://www.visitgck.com, or by calling the Finney County CVB at (620) 276-0607.

Roxanne Morgan, CVB president, said on Wednesday that there were nearly 150 hunters registered for the contest, but far more drawn to the area for hunting in general.

"In the county, it has about a $500,000 impact,” Morgan said of hunting in Finney County. “That includes lodging or hotel stays, liquor purchased, gas, food/restaurants, and extra-curricular activities. It has a pretty significant economic impact in our area.”

Morgan said it is unknown as of Wednesday if there has been more significant economic impact in Finney County because of the contest.

“We haven’t been able to track those dollars yet,” she said.

According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, the ring-necked pheasant may be the most popular game bird in the Kansas, with between 110,000 and 150,000 hunters pursuing the species each season.

Estimated annual harvests have ranged from a low of 425,000 to as high as 824,000 cocks since 1990, according to the KDWPT, typically placing Kansas in the top three or four pheasant hunting states in the U.S.

Historically, Kansas’ best pheasant populations were in northwest and southwest Kansas, according to the KDWPT, with north-central Kansas also producing good populations.

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.