Tonya Garner: Freedom Newspapers
Pheasant hunting is a family tradition for some and a serious sport for others, but either way, it’s an economic boon to West Texas and New Mexico.
Muleshoe, Arch and Ranchvale all sponsor hunting events of the prized chicken-sized game bird.
Alex Garcia of the Bailey County EMS Associates hosts an annual breakfast the first Saturday of the month-long Texas hunting season, which began Thursday.
He said hunters from every part of Texas and New Mexico are expected to take part in the opening weekend.
“The first weekend is always huge,” Garcia said. “We expect a couple of hundred people.”
Garcia said the local merchants always enjoy when hunting season begins because of the added business.
“Our local motels, restaurants and convenience stores do big business this weekend,” he said.
Pheasant hunting season is open in Texas until Jan. 7.
The New Mexico pheasant hunting season begins Dec. 9.
Pleasant Hill Fire Chief Ted Richardson said the volunteer fire department sponsors the annual event.
“We’ve been doing this since 1984,” Richardson said.
The firefighter said the volunteer fire department remains open during the four-day weekend to sell maps and permits and offer basic information and directions. The money raised benefits the volunteer fire department with expenses and equipment.
The Pleasant Hill hunt is limited to approximately 150 hunters, according to Richardson.
“We had around 700 people show up one year,” he said. “That was just way too many to control.”
Richardson said 90 percent of the participants are repeat visitors to the event.
“The spring was just right for hatching,” Richardson said. “So, this will be a good year for hunting pheasants.”
New Mexico Game Warden Wes Robertson said the areas around Clovis and Portales have the largest population of pheasant in the state. Hunters are allowed three roosters (males) per day.
Robertson said he will be busy “acting as umpire” next weekend. His responsibilities include verifying hunting licenses, checking limits and keeping an eye on the hunters.
“I’ve been a game warden for 25 years,” Robertson said. “People usually behave themselves.” He added trespassing is usually the “biggest issue.”
Arch resident Glen McAfee said he has been assisting with the community’s hunt for 15 years and expects around 200 people with hunting dogs to take part in this year’s event. The community sells one- to four-day permits ranging in price from $75 to $150. McAfee said they also sell breakfast burritos and lunch daily.
“This hunt brings in lots of revenue,” McAfee said. “We completed our community building with money from this annual hunt.”
McAfee said he acts as guide for the men who come from Texas and Kansas.
“The people who come really enjoy it,” McAfee said. “I enjoy it too, I get to meet a lot of people.” The Arch community plans to release 800 pheasant for the hunt. The hunt organizer said the adult and child who “bags” the pheasant with the longest tail feather will receive a free permit for the following year.
The pheasant is not native to the area.
According to www.pheasantsforever.com, the first successful introduction of the birds was in 1881 when Judge Owen Nickerson Denny, U.S. consul to China, shipped 30 Chinese ringnecks to his home in Oregon.
They were later released in 40 of the 50 states. Pheasants are approximately the size of a small chicken. The males are brightly colored and referred to as roosters. They emit a loud cackling sound when startled. The females are called hens and are brown or gray in color.