A “Welcome to Camp” celebration kicked off the 2019 Minnesota Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener Thursday evening in Fergus Falls.
Deer hunters primed for the nine-day firearms season, which kicks off Saturday, were on hand first in the Bigwood Event Center and later in the Z103 Bar and Grill, to take part in raffles, games and entertainment.
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen was the top member of the state government present. Strommen was appointed to the position on Jan. 7 by Gov. Tim Walz. Strommen oversees a staff of 2,700 from the DNR headquarters in St. Paul.
Strommen is no stranger to deer hunting which she proved by touching on two very important aspects of deer hunting - the special magic of the season - which annually draws approximately 500,000 hunters into the woods and fields of Minnesota and the family aspect - which brings out hunters and non-hunters and creates a holiday atmosphere and a lot of memories.
“Come Saturday, we’ll all be a part of something bigger,” Strommen said.
Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer, representing the host city, talked about his own hunting experiences and passing them along to his son. Schierer also talked about the thrill of hunting with Minnesota’s governor.
Barb Keller, the DNR’s big game program leader, brought out the fact that hunting has a $465 million impact on the economy annually.
After addressing the threat posed by chronic wasting disease (CWD) to Minnesota’s deer herd, Keller pointed out another threat - the fact that by 2030 one-fifth of all Minnesota deer hunters will be over 65. The DNR is trying to combat the aging of the state’s deer hunting fraternity with a youth hunting season and the efforts to bring females into the hunting ranks.
Following a 10 a.m. “Big Buck Brunch” at the Bigwood on Friday, which will include talks by Walz, Strommen and dignitaries of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Explore Minnesota, other activities are planned. Capping off the three days of bringing attention to the outdoors will be a trip into the woods of Otter Tail County and then lunch at 11 a.m. with Walz at Mabel Murphy’s and a recapping of the first morning of the firearms deer season.