Organizers say buzz is building as Stettler prepares to host the first Canadian Badlands Pheasant Festival next month.
The five-day festival, running from Oct. 15 to 19, is expected to bring hundreds of hunters to the area as 3,000 pheasants are released across the County of Stettler.
Festival committee chairman Darcy Pollock said the event also represents an effort to introduce the species to the area, as a minimum of 300 pheasant hens will be released afterward to encourage breeding.
“Hopefully, slowly we can start to grow a wild bird population in the area,” he said.
Pollock said registration for the event has been “slow” so far, but added that word is spreading and phone calls are coming in every day.
In addition to the hunts, other events will be offered throughout the festival, including a banquet on Friday, Oct. 17, held at the Agriplex and featuring raffles, door prizes, auctions and dancing. Tickets to the banquet are $40 each.
Pollock said planning for the festival began when the Town of Stettler was approached by the Canadian Badlands Tourism product development committee.
He and others were invited to join a committee to organize the event, which he said will help to attract outdoorsmen to the region.
“The County of Stettler has some fantastic hunting opportunities,” said Pollock, noting that the region is recognized for its white-tailed and mule deer, elk and moose.
Hunters can also find antelope further south in the area towards Byemoor, he said, adding that hunting outfitters draw visitors to the district from across North America and even Europe.
According to the September newsletter of the Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development, the festival is expected to draw upwards of 800 people to the Stettler area.
In a press release, Barry Morishita, vice-president and product development chair for Canadian Badlands Tourism, said the event would attract “new visitors to the region and (bring) real economic value to Stettler.”
Three hundred half-day hunts are being spread out over the five-day festival; as of Tuesday morning, 183 of those spaces were still available.
Hunters can register in teams of up to four, and will have the opportunity to hunt with accredited instructors and guides. Dogs and ammo will be included with the registration fee.
A limit of eight birds per hunt has been set, although hunters may pay extra at the time of registration to have more birds released and increase their odds of success.
Hunters who register also have the option of paying an additional $25 to adopt a hen, which will be released in the County of Stettler following the festival.