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Hunters flock to Austin for Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener

AUSTIN, Minn. (FOX 47) – Roll out the orange carpet for hunting season.

Today, the city of Austin hosted the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener for the first time.

“For pheasant hunters, this is Christmas morning,” said Governor Tim Walz.

However, there were concerns ahead of the opener that unharvested crops, wet fields and lower numbers of pheasants could pose a problem.

“Conditions are never going to be perfect. Weather is not ideal this morning. There’s still a lot of crops in the field,” said Pheasants Forever Mower County president Jamie Surdy. “We’re still optimistic though. We’ve had a lot of our local folks out scouting these spots and they’re seeing birds.”

So what exactly makes one a good pheasant hunter?

“The most important part of having a successful hunt is having quality hunting dogs,” Surdy said.

The Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener kicks off the season in a fun way while celebrating Minnesota’s hunting heritage.

“It’s a big part of our tradition. It’s a big part of our economy,” Walz said. “Outdoor activities and tourism are $15 billion in Minnesota. Creates a lot of jobs and of course a lot of great memories.”

It also gives the host community a chance to highlight the area’s hunting and recreational opportunities as well as other attractions in town.

“This is an area that feeds the world. There’s Hormel but there’s so many other industries too,” said Walz. “For me, it’s about telling the rest of the state ‘Come visit Austin.’ You don’t need to go a long way to have a great time.”

While today’s hunting land was private, made available by landowners, Austin will soon have a new public hunting space. On the west side of town, 143 acres are being restored to their natural habitat as part of a new wildlife area.

“I think that’s another great example of how Austin area recognizes that by protecting our birds, by protecting our habitat, it makes for a better quality of life for people in the community,” said DNR commissioner Sarah Strommen.

The quality of hunting turned out to be pretty good as well, as many hunters brought birds to the nature center for measuring. Even the governor was successful.

“This activity for many of us goes back to when we were little,” Walz said. “We learned this sport at the knees of our dads and uncles and it’s great to be out here.”

After the hunt, the fun continued with live music at the Austin Holiday Inn.

For those who decided to not brave this morning’s cold or simply were not lucky, there’s still plenty of time. Pheasant hunting season continues through sundown on the 1st of January.

Alex Tejada

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