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Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener brings praise to Otter Tail County

Gov. Mark Dayton visited with deer opener attendees in Fergus Falls last Friday, including Richard Martin of Park Rapids, left, and Jason Stucky of Royalton, right. Tom Hintgen/FOCUS

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was in Otter Tail County last Friday to kick off the 2013 Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener.

He spoke following a luncheon at the West Otter Tail County Fairgrounds, where several events were held.

“Deer hunting is a tradition for many families throughout Minnesota,” said Dayton. “We also recognize the importance of deer hunting to tourism and enhancement of our quality of life.”

The governor, who is recovering from a hip ailment, did not hunt, but many state employees who accompanied him on the trip went hunting over the weekend. Several area landowners stepped up and volunteered to host visiting hunters.

Other speakers on Friday, prior to Dayton, were Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA); Hal Leland, mayor of Fergus Falls; Larry Martin of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fergus Falls office; Jon Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism; Denis Quarberg, state president, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association; and Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Otter Tail County is a good steward of the natural environment in this area of west central Minnesota,” said Leland.

That comment was echoed by Doug Huebsch of Perham, who attended the deer opener luncheon and serves as chairman of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.

Many speakers emphasized hunter safety, as well as the economic impact of deer hunting.

“The Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener helps us spread the word about deer hunting and tourism in Minnesota,” said Edman.

“Each year, close to 500,000 deer hunters take to wooded areas throughout Minnesota,” according to Landwehr. “If you stop and think, those numbers would fill 10 stadiums of 50,000 each. That’s a lot of people.”

He added that deer hunting is about much more than just the hunt.

“It’s about building of family relationships and friendships each deer season,” he said. “A goal is to continue to get kids, who represent new generations, excited about the great outdoors.”

The speakers said support of non-deer hunters is appreciated.

“Deer hunting is part of our culture and part of who we are,” said MDHA executive director Johnson. “This is the time of year to truly enjoy the deer hunting experience and to make lasting memories.”

The Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener was last held in Otter Tail County in 2005, when then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty hunted near Perham.

Dayton said Friday that it was well and good to see the governor’s opener return to this area of west central Minnesota.

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent