A warm and windy Saturday across much of the state greeted thousands of Minnesota pheasant hunters.
The Mankato Free Press reported that hunters decked out in blaze orange who gathered as part of the Governor's Pheasant Hunting Opener indicated that they were anticipating a good year for pheasants, helped by a relatively mild winter.
On his website, Gov. Mark Dayton noted that he has enjoyed pheasant hunting for 60 years in Minnesota. He sent the group of hunters and their dogs off during a kickoff breakfast in Mankato, but he was unable to take part in the hunt due to ongoing issues following surgery on his hip.
Congressman Tim Walz, however, bagged two roosters while hunting with a group near Good Thunder.
"My season is off to a perfect start — I nailed every bird I saw," quipped Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, who hadn't seen a rooster Saturday morning.
KEYC noted that the state has stepped up its efforts to preserve habitat to build and protect the pheasant population on both public and private land.
During an afternoon event, officials dedicated land recently added to the O.A. Vee Memorial Wildlife Management Area. The 52 acre parcel includes some wetlands and grasslands. Restoration work there has improved habitat for pheasants, waterfowl, song birds and other wildlife.
"Conservation efforts should be long term, so it won't just be a flash in the pan. We should be able to sustain an increasing pheasant population over time," Landwehr told the station. "Most pheasants come off of private land so we need to work with farmers and producers to create more habitats."
Pheasant hunting season runs through Jan. 3.
The Associated Press noted that the 2016 Governor's Pheasant Opener will be held in the western Minnesota city of Montevideo, which was the site of the first governor’s opener in 2011. Montevideo was selected through an application process that considered hunting land in the area, event facilities and community support.