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Dayton pledges first governor's pheasant opener in Montevideo area

In this undated photo, then gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton concentrates as he squeezes the trigger during an annual trap shoot competition. Dayton, the gov.-elect, says he plans to hold a pheasant hunting opener in the Montevideo, Milan and Watson area of western Chippewa County. Tribune photo by Don Davis

MONTEVIDEO -- There were plenty of campaign promises made last fall, but here's one that still has people in a corner of western Minnesota excited.

Candidate Mark Dayton pledged last fall to hold Minnesota's first Governor's Pheasant Opener if elected. At the same time, Dayton told a group of hunters Oct. 23 that he would host the first in the Montevideo, Milan and Watson area of western Chippewa County.

"A huge deal,'' is how Dennis Larson of Montevideo described the opportunity it represents.

Larson is among a group of Chippewa County hunters who have been hosting a "VIP hunt'' the past several years.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and local state legislators have been regular guests of the hunt.

The event is designed to acquaint elected-office holders with hunting opportunities and issues in the area. It has traditionally included opportunities for both goose and pheasant hunting.

Larson said they've long been hoping to attract the governor to the event to help bring attention to what's available, and now have that opportunity.

He was among those present when then-candidate Mark Dayton stood before the group in Montevideo and made his announcement.

Larson said many often over-look the hunting opportunities in the area. Yet there are lots of private and public lands in the area that offer great opportunities to pursue pheasants.

It's not just pheasants that make the area a destination for hunters. A governor's pheasant opener will also be the perfect time to get the word out about opportunities for waterfowl and turkey hunting as well as fishing in the area, noted Larson.

Nick Haggenmiller, community development director for the city of Montevideo, said having the public spotlight on the area can only help promote business opportunities.

There are plenty of businesses -- from restaurants and sporting goods stores to hunting camps, motels and camping grounds -- that cater to hunters in the area.

It's way too early to know how much attention a Governor's pheasant opener might attract, or how it will be managed. Larson said local promoters of the event know that the Governor-elect has a full and demanding agenda ahead of him. They are planning to wait until the Governor and his yet-to-be appointed staff have put other, more pressing matters behind before initiating contact.