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Welcome Hunters Banner

Welcome Hunters banner

Hunters visiting Hays, Kansas, are greeted by welcome messages all over town. Residents appreciate sportsmen who bring in guns and ammunition, and leave with much slimmer wallets. Spending by hunters constitutes a healthy share of the town's income for the year.

This "Welcome Hunters" banner snapped in the wind at a Hays gas station just before the opening day of pheasant season in November, 2006. The town displayed many signs thanking hunters for their patronage. Some hotels had even set aside special bird-cleaning zones. Clearly the town was looking forward to a successful hunting season.

Although the banner's design is dominated by a deer, hunters in western Kansas generally direct their attention to game birds in the fall. Tens of thousands of hunters from around the United States come to Kansas for the pheasant season. Kansas ranks in the top three or four states for pheasant hunting, and Hays is happily situated in the bird's prime breeding grounds. The agri-tourism industry has filled this niche by offering guided hunts, comfortable lodges, and plentiful meals. The economic impact of Kansas' game bird hunting in 2001 was valued at over $121 million in retail sales, more than half of it from residents of other states.

Kansas pheasant hunters, 1940s-1950s

The opening of Kansas' pheasant season had been moved up to the first weekend in November for the first time in 2006, the year this banner was printed. Quail season opened the following weekend, and prairie chicken season the weekend after that. The reasons for the change were economic, as earlier opening dates in neighboring states previously had attracted hunters to spend their dollars elsewhere. "Opening day is a tremendous marketing tool," explained Mike Hayden, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, in defending the earlier opening date. "In the past, I think our late pheasant opener has hurt us. We've always been the last state to open. A lot of times, hunters spend their discretionary income in other states and they just don't have the money or time left to come here by the time we open." The new strategy was effective, because in 2006 hunters bagged about 600,000 pheasants in Kansas.

Ring-necked pheasants (so-called because of a ring of white feathers around the males' necks) are native to Asia. They were introduced to Kansas in 1906. The species quickly adapted to the region, and Kansas' first pheasant hunting season opened in late 1917. Kansas is well suited to pheasants because its grain crops provide plenty of food, while grasslands offer cover for nesting. Because wheat provides excellent habitat, the quality of Kansas' wheat crop often is linked to the number of game birds in any given year.

Another reason Kansas is a pheasant powerhouse is the high number of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federal project to retire environmentally sensitive land from agricultural use. Kansas has the nation's fourth highest number of acres enrolled in CRP. Much of this land is returned to native grasses or wetlands, thereby providing excellent habitat for game birds.

This "Welcome Hunters" banner was collected by museum staff at the Cerv's Conoco station in Hays. Station owner Russ Pfannenstiel had posted it the previous day in preparation for an influx of hunters. Pfannenstiel's banners are provided by the local Budweiser beer distributorship because hunters purchase not only food, fuel, and lodging, but also post-hunt libations. The banner is in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

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Entry: Welcome Hunters Banner

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: October 2009

Date Modified: June 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.