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Montevideo City Manager Steve Jones, left, and Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce Director Angie Steinbach are part of a team working to promote the first Minnesota Governor's Pheasant Opener and the economic development opportunities it represents to the region. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

Montevideo aims big this pheasant season

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West Central Tribune
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Montevideo aims big this pheasant season
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

MONTEVIDEO -- As certain as the colors change in autumn, so too do the faces dropping in at DJ's Sporting Goods in Montevideo.

There's always an influx of customers as pheasant and waterfowl hunters from the Twin Cities and places as far as Kansas make annual trips to their favorite stomping grounds, said Jon Dahlvang, of DJ's Sporting Goods, now part of Running's Farm and Fleet, Montevideo.

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"It's always been good,'' he said of the sales generated by out-of-town hunters to the area.

The goal now is to make it even better.

The opportunity to host the first Minnesota Governor's Pheasant Opener is not being lost on the Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the city. They're part of a partnership working to promote the event for the long-term economic gains it can provide.

It's been their aim for a long time.

"You really have to give credit to Congressman (Collin) Peterson and former Mayor Jim Curtiss,'' said Steve Jones, Montevideo city manager. The two hatched the idea nine years ago of promoting the hunting opportunities in the region in an economic development way. They hosted an annual community hunt with an eye toward someday landing a big event like this one.

The first-ever governor's pheasant opener is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to let people know about the opportunities available in the area, according to Angie Steinbach, director of the Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce.

The potential rewards are big. Upland bird hunting in Minnesota is estimated to generate $121 million in retail sales and supports more than 2,300 jobs, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More than 90,000 people hunted pheasants last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Three decades ago and more, the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area's goose season and Minnesota pheasant season brought crowds of hunters to western Minnesota.

Those numbers have dropped off in more recent years, said Jones, but could easily be revived. The Upper Minnesota River Valley area offers lots of public and private land hunting opportunities. The nearby Lac qui Parle refuge alone offers 33,000 acres of public lands.

There is also a well-established infrastructure on the commercial side. Motels and hotels in the area have long been accustomed to catering to hunters. Many welcome dogs.

There are plenty of restaurants geared to the hunting crowd, and there are hunting guides well acquainted with the area.

The challenge is to reach markets like the Twin Cities, and to stop the pheasant hunters who make annual bee-lines to the hunting opportunities in South Dakota, said Jones.

He acknowledges that it is difficult if not impossible to compete head-on with South Dakota when it comes to pheasant hunting. But a trip to western Minnesota doesn't require as much travel time, and it can offer outdoors men and women much more to do. There are lots of waterfowl and fishing opportunities close at hand too.

The partners have lined up more than 100 volunteers to get that message out there come Oct. 15 and the governor's opener. The volunteers will serve as guides and, in many cases, open their lands to the media and visitors coming for the event.

More is at stake than the chance to build the region's economy focused on hunting and outdoor recreation. Jones noted that the opportunity to hunt is often a big factor when people decide where they want to live and work.

The public is welcome to participate in all of the events focused around the opener. A community banquet with an opportunity to visit with the governor begins at 6 p.m. Oct. 15 in the Montevideo American Legion. Please contact the Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce or city of Montevideo in advance to reserve tickets at $15 per adult.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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