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Luverne readies for Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener

LUVERNE — The city of Luverne will be invaded by visitors clad in blaze orange in a few weeks as it hosts the 2018 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener — the last for Gov. Mark Dayton, who started the event during his first year in office.

The expectation is that Dayton will hunt this year, unlike four years ago, when Worthington hosted the annual governor’s hunt. At that time, Dayton was still recovering from a recent hip surgery.

“He has yet to harvest a bird,” noted Rick Peterson, event chairman, of Dayton’s pheasant hunting success — or lack thereof — on opening weekend the past seven years. “I think the will to succeed is pushing him … and that he will hunt.”

The Oct. 13 Governor’s hunt is open only to invited guests, among them political leaders, state agency officials and the media. After all, the hunt is as much about promoting tourism in Minnesota as it is about bagging a pheasant.

That said, pheasant numbers are up across the state this year, and Peterson said those who’ve been out scouting in Rock County have been surprised by the numbers of pheasants they’ve seen.

“That’s a really good sign — even with all of the crops still in the field,” he said, adding that while he’s optimistic, the amount of crops still in the field in three weeks may determine the difficulty of finding birds.

Rock County is home to roughly 1,600 acres of public hunting land, but only the governor will hunt on public land.

Private landowners have stepped up to offer approximately 40 parcels — grasslands, waterways and Conservation Reserve Program acres — for those registered for the hunt. While Peterson said many of the plots are under 40 acres in size, he’s pleased the hunting properties span nine of Rock County’s 12 townships.

In addition to the governor’s hunt, there will be a special veterans hunt organized by American Heroes Outdoors. Up to 12 veterans will participate in the special hunt, including a few from Rock County, according to Luverne Area Chamber Director Jane Lanphere.

Also, a women’s mentored hunt will take place on opening morning, with 11 women signed up to hunt, and five female hunter hosts to guide them — all in an effort to encourage the sport among women. Participants range from a high school student to a Rock County resident in her 70s, Lanphere said.

Nearly 30 media outlets have registered to attend pheasant hunting opener activities in Luverne, including print journalists, bloggers and radio broadcasters.

Exclusive media tours are planned Oct. 12 at both the Blue Mounds State Park and Touch The Sky Prairie, two of Rock County’s public land gems. The Herreid Military Museum, Brandenburg Gallery and History Center will also be open for tours.

Both Lanphere and Peterson are pleased with the community support rallying behind the opener. The business community is planning a “Find the Feather” contest, in which participating stores will have a pheasant feather hidden within its displays. Those who find a feather will get to register for a chance to win one of six $50 cash prizes.

“I couldn’t be happier with the support that the community and the county have shown in sponsorships and being involved on the committee,” Peterson added.

Polaris Industries donated a 2018 XT1000 Ranger side-by-side to be raffled off to help raise money for the community to plan two days of Governor’s hunt activities. In addition, there will be a gun raffle and auction during the Oct. 12 evening banquet.

While the hunt is by invitation only, there will be plenty of events open to the public — including the Oct. 12 banquet. Tickets are available for purchase at the Luverne Area Chamber (507-283-4061) for the banquet, which includes a surf & turf meal catered by the Bluestem. Social hour begins at 5 p.m. with the meal served at 6.

The public is also invited to the land dedication of the 100-acre Rooster Ridge Wildlife Management Area at 4 p.m. Oct. 12 near Beaver Creek, and the banquet after-party at Take 16 Brewing Company, where Church of Cash will perform beginning at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday events open to the public — and free of charge — include a hunter host bird dog parade at 1:30 p.m. (40 to 60 dogs representing seven to nine different breeds), followed by the Gould Brothers trick shooting exhibition at 2 p.m., all at the Rock County Sportsman’s Club. Then, Church of Cash will perform during a Pheasant Pheasta at Take 16, starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Special events are planned during the opener catered specifically to youths, with 125 sixth-graders from Luverne and Hills-Beaver Creek spending part of their school day Oct. 12 visiting conservation displays presented by local, state and federal agencies.

On Oct. 13, the Luverne and H-BC trap shooting teams will be treated to a shooting training led by the Gould Brothers.

Approximately 250 people are estimated to attend the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener in Luverne. Those who do are encouraged to take a selfie in front of a photo board that’s been created especially for the weekend, and post their selfie on social media with the hashtag #MNGPHO2018.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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