Two years ago at a spring conference in Topeka, Lea Ann Seiler, Economic Develop Director for Hodgeman County heard a presentation about a very successful zombie paintball hunting endeavor in Oregon and she came home hooked on the idea as a fund raiser to help with projects at Horse Thief Reservoir. Now I’ve never understood the whole “zombie” craze myself, but it’s a craze nonetheless, and all things zombie are hot right now. A book about zombies from Hastings Book Store gave Seiler some basic background in “zombieology” and Horsethief Wild West Zombie Paintball was born.
A grant available at the time provided only half of what was needed to purchase the two “zombie eliminator” trailers complete with air-powered paintball guns and light & sound systems, but the Horse Thief Reservoir board believed in her vision enough to give her the additional funds needed to order the trailers. By then it was already July and all attempts she made to order the amount of paintballs and other equipment needed by fall “zombie season” were met with dead ends. She was about to give up on the whole idea when she heard about Anderson Farms that runs a very successful zombie paintball hunt just a few hours away in Colorado. The folks at Anderson Farms invited her to spend a day with them, and she came home brimming with useful advice and information, plus they used a little of their clout to get her the glow-in-the-dark bio-degradable paintballs she needed on such short notice.
They advised Seiler not to buy new equipment for her zombies to wear, so she spent the next two months prowling goodwill stores and garages sales for baseball helmets, hockey masks and welding hoods, and asking farmers for their old greasy, grimy, worn-out overalls and coveralls.
They also told her to incorporate into the hunt as many things as possible that made noise when hit by paintballs. Several empty fifty-five gallon steel drums were labeled TNT and placed around on the course. Fifty metal baking sheets purchased at a Dollar Tree store are worn under zombie outfits and emit a loud clang when paintballs hit them.
Another suggestion was to ask cosmetology schools for their old practice heads to be used in building spooky mannequins for the hunting course. The cosmetology school at Dodge City Community College has donated “used heads” both years. The first year, Seiler returned home from the college with her Ford Focus full of used heads. She said “All the while I was hoping I was not in an accident that would force me to explain my passengers!”
Finding zombies to be “hunted” turned out to be the next challenge. That first year a few kids volunteered but they struggled to find enough. But as “hunters” went through the course the first year and found out what a hoot it was, many expressed an interest in being a zombie the following year. Seiler followed up on that and this year the zombie crop was large. Among them are a local veterinarian, a member of her economic development board and a couple local fire fighters. It was assumed from the start that the target audience for zombie hunting would be teens, but Seiler told me “We’ve also hosted 50th and 60th birthday parties and Bible study groups.”
The course is set up in a field near Horse Thief Reservoir west of Jetmore. Each “zombie eliminator” trailer is equipped with ten paintball guns powered by air from onboard air tanks, a row of strobe lights around the bottom of the trailer and a rockin’ sound system that belts out coyotes howls and other ghoulish noises. The whole thing happens after dark and the rules are simple; shoot the zombies! Each hunter gets two hundred glow-in-the-dark bio-degradable paintballs, that’s two thousand per trailer, and on hunting nights twelve to fifteen trailers “hunt” the course. A tractor pulls each trailer load of “hunters” to the first stop on the course where a guide on the trailer gives instructions to the hunters and helps them test their guns, then the strobe lights and sound system are turned on and the hunt begins. Each station has at least one live zombie that appears out of the darkness and several other demonic-looking mannequins and other potential targets like the TNT drums and an old wrecked car that suddenly starts blinking its lights.
This year alone nearly six hundred fifty hunters have chosen to hunt zombies with Horsethief Wild West Zombie Paintball. And why not; there is no closed season on Kansas zombies, there are no bag limits and no possession limits, you can hunt them with anything, anytime and anywhere, (and Wild West Zombie Paintball even furnishes the paintball guns) What Kansas hunter can refuse an opportunity like that…Yet another way to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]