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Montevideo gears up for return of Governor's Pheasant Opener

MONTEVIDEO -- It's not exactly the Vikings home opener in a new stadium, but for the community of Montevideo it's nearly as exciting, and as important.

Hunters will take to the fields in the Montevideo area on Saturday for the sixth annual Governor's Pheasant Opener. It's the second being hosted by Montevideo, which played host to the first in 2011. Tribune file photo
Hunters will take to the fields in the Montevideo area on Saturday for the sixth annual Governor's Pheasant Opener. It's the second being hosted by Montevideo, which played host to the first in 2011. Tribune file photo

MONTEVIDEO - It's not exactly the Vikings home opener in a new stadium, but for the community of Montevideo it's nearly as exciting, and as important.

All eyes will be on the community Saturday as it hosts the sixth annual Governor's Pheasant Opener. Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson will be among the elected officials taking to the fields around Montevideo for the start of the state's pheasant season at 9 a.m. Saturday.

"It's going to be a really, really good time,'' said Angie Steinbach, assistant city manager of Montevideo. She has been coordinating many of the activities for the opener, a role she also played when Montevideo hosted the inaugural Governor's Pheasant Opener in 2011.

The Vikings home opener was an opportunity to showcase the new US Bank Stadium for a national audience. Montevideo is looking at the Governor's Pheasant Opener as an opportunity to showcase all that the area has to offer for pheasant hunters and all of those who enjoy outdoor recreation, according to Steinbach.

And in this case too, it provides Montevideo with a national audience. That was one of the benefits the community discovered after hosting the inaugural Governor's Pheasant Opener.

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The community saw a "big, reverberating effect'' from the ongoing digital presence the event provided, Steinbach said. News articles, videos and blogs continued to pop up on phone and computer screens whenever anyone searched pheasant hunting in Minnesota.

Over 20 different media outlets, including print, broadcast and online, are expected to be represented at the activities Friday and Saturday, according to Steinbach.

With this opportunity at hand, the number one point the community wants to emphasize this weekend is the availability of public lands for hunters. There are 47,004 acres of public lands open to hunting within a 25-mile radius of Montevideo, thanks to a mix of wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas, and walk-in access areas. The Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, with over 33,000 acres of the total, has long been a state magnet for pheasant hunters.

The community will also be introducing visitors to opportunities provided by the Minnesota River, amenities such as the off-highway vehicle park in Appleton, and the area's lodging facilities that are focused on serving sportsmen and women.

The events get underway Friday. They include the dedication of the Mills Creek Gun Range north of Montevideo in the afternoon, followed by a community banquet in the evening.

It's all about pheasants Saturday, as the Watson Hunting Camp hosts the governor and dozens of dignitaries. Dennis Larson, of Montevideo, and Chuck Ellingson, of the Watson Hunting Club, helped line up local hunters to serve as hosts for the hunting parties, as well as private landowners willing to open their lands to them. In all, Larson estimates the various hunting parties will have over 50,000 acres of land to flush pheasants.

Ellingson is optimistic about their prospects to bag birds. While there remains a lot of corn yet to be harvested in the Montevideo area, many of the lands to be hunted are bordered by soybean fields that have been cleared. Pheasant numbers are up from last year in the area as well.

"It should be good,'' Ellingson said.

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