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Montevideo, Minn., ready to roll out a grass carpet for Governor's Pheasant Opener

Montevideo Mayor Debra Lee Fader, center, welcomed Congressman Collin Peterson, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton to the area when they participated in last year's community hunt. (Submitted photo courtesy of Angie Steinbach)1 / 2
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MONTEVIDEO -- Mayor Debra Lee Fader has lots of experience at welcoming hunters to Montevideo.

She and her husband, Brad, own the Sportsmen Inn, a 23-room motel that promotes itself as a "hunting and fishing headquarters.''

This weekend will be a tad different, she admits, with Gov. Mark Dayton hosting the first-ever Governor's Pheasant Opener in Montevideo.

"It's just going to be a great event for our area,'' said the mayor. A native of Bloomington who has fallen in love with the beauty of the Upper Minnesota River area, Fader said the opener is the chance to let the world "see it through our eyes.''

Not to mention the eyes of media people from all over Minnesota. Angie Stienbach, director of the Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce, said the event is shaping up to be everything the community could ask for in terms of promoting the region's outdoors opportunities. Her guest list of media coming for the event includes reporters from media outlets in Warroad to Worthington, major metro newspapers, and outdoor television personalities such as Rod Schara.

The competition is coming too. Among the media expected are reporters from South Dakota, which prides itself on its pheasant hunting opportunities.

The governor will be sharing the spotlight with plenty of other elected officials as well. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.; and legislators including House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and State Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, are among those expected.

The governor is promoting hunting on public lands in the area. He will hunt on public lands while guided by Dave Trauba, manager of the 33,000-acre Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The governor also wants to thank the state's military veterans, and has asked the sponsors to invite veterans recently returned from deployments in the Middle East. Steinbach, whose husband Jon is currently deployed in the Middle East, had no trouble complying. Some 20 veterans and their guests are already among the 300 people expected for a community celebration banquet following Saturday's hunt.

The day gets started with a breakfast at the Watson Hunting Camp, located near the Lac qui Parle refuge. Chuck Ellingson, of the Watson Hunting Camp, said he has been guiding hunters in the Lac qui Parle area since 1996. The camp offers a restaurant, lodging and guided hunting for pheasant, goose and other waterfowl, and archery deer. It hosts clients from California to New York, he said.

Ellingson is optimistic about the governor's prospects of harvesting a pheasant. While there's no doubt that pheasant numbers are down this year, the Lac qui Parle area offers a large amount of grasslands and conservation lands that still hold decent pheasant populations, he pointed out.

"It's still going to be a good hunt,'' he said.

It should be a good time too, and not just for pheasant hunters. Steinbach said the community is working to use this opportunity to showcase all of the other opportunities to be found in the community. Its downtown offers a variety of unique, specialty shopping opportunities, along with a growing Latino business sector.

The Montevideo area also offers lots of opportunities to learn about the region's American Indian heritage, and visit historical sites.

Steinbach said one of the region's most important attributes is its small-town hospitality, and she is confident that the many guests coming for the opener will experience it. More than 100 landowners have come forward to offer their lands and to host visitors on hunts. "The community has worked so well at this,'' she said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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