Sublette — With grain fields rolling across the pool table-like landscape as far as the eye can see, the farming country around Sublette is the epicenter of Kansas pheasant hunting.
This breadbasket for gaudy upland birds lies about 500 miles north of Dallas. Numerous Texas hunters pay for a guide like Jeff White to put them into fields flush with birds. In Kansas, said White, it's still possible for a nonresident hunter to knock on doors and gain permission to hunt farming lands.
"The best odds of finding a free place to hunt occur after Thanksgiving," said White, a Kansas native. "A lot of farmers save their early-season pheasant hunting for their family and friends. After Thanksgiving, it's a lot easier to get permission."
Nobody is 100 percent successful when it comes to knocking and being granted permission, White said. You may have to try several farmers. It helps if the hunting party includes at least one youngster.
"Farmers are more likely to let you hunt if you've got your son or a nephew along," White said. "People in this part of the country remain very strong on family traditions."
Another possibility for pheasant hunters on a budget is the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks program Walk-In Hunting.
The state game and fish department essentially leases land from farmers and makes it available to hunters.
"The Walk-In Hunting lands are not the cream of the crop for pheasant hunting, but they do provide access to hunting areas, and it is possible to have a pretty good hunt," said White. "What I would look for is a CRP field next to a grain field. It helps if there is some water nearby."
The CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields utilize native grass. Pheasant use them for nesting cover in spring and summer. In the fall and winter, the fields become loafing cover and roosting cover. Birds are often visible early and late in the day as they move between CRP and grain fields.
After a couple of years of drought, southern Kansas enjoyed a wet, cool summer. Favorable weather resulted in an excellent pheasant hatch.
According to White, this could be the best Kansas pheasant season in 10 years.