Challenges aside, hunters still relish Kansas season.

Pheasant hunters have their work cut out for them this time around.

Adverse weather conditions combined to create what's expected to be another subpar season in southwest Kansas.

The ongoing drought contributed to a pheasant breeding population down sharply this year. A shortage of moisture can result in less habitat cover and insects needed for good pheasant production.

Before the season opened Saturday, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism reported pheasant breeding populations dropped more than 35 percent from 2012 to 2013 across their range in Kansas, resulting in less adult hens in the population to start the 2013 nesting season.

But the cloudy outlook won't necessarily erase all the good in an annual hunting season that runs through January in the Sunflower State.

The opening of pheasant and quail season has been one of the more anticipated days of the year for avid hunters in the state. The ring-necked pheasant, considered a culinary delicacy, always creates the most buzz, and generally results in more than 100,000 hunters pursuing the birds each year on Kansas turf.

Many out-of-state visitors head here to try their luck. Even though it's supposed to be a down year, the population of pheasants and other upland birds traditionally has Kansas placed among the best places to hunt in the world.

That said, regulars on the hunting scene no doubt were disappointed by this year's forecast. They want everyone involved to have a reasonable shot at bagging their limit.

At the same time, anyone who's an old hand at pheasant hunting knows the experience is just as much about the tradition and camaraderie as any scorecard related to the number of birds downed.

In Kansas, pheasant season prompts special dinners and events throughout communities, and this region has been no exception. As a valued part of Kansas' heritage and an age-old tradition passed on from generation to generation, the experience is one that should never fade away.

Let's hope all involved enjoy a safe, fun pheasant hunt this year and end up experiencing a bit more success than Mother Nature apparently intended.