Pheasant opener deemed a success for Austin community and out in the fields

Published 9:42 pm Monday, October 14, 2019

44 roosters harvested during hunt


AUSTIN — By all accounts, this weekend’s ninth annual Governor’s Pheasant Hunt Opener was a success.

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One-hundred seventy hunters joined Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Saturday in fields surrounding Austin and throughout the area to kick off the pheasant season. By day’s end, despite wet conditions and delayed field harvests, 44 roosters were taken.

On Friday night, 457 people attended the community banquet.

But in some ways, the success of the opener was highlighted in two different fields. Gov. Walz broke a years-in-the-making drought with a rooster in the field he was walking.

“It’s been a nine-year curse at the governor’s hunt,” Walz said. “I broke it.”

Elsewhere, in a field owned by Gus Maxfield, 13-year-old Preston Schlichter scored his first ever pheasant, smiling when the bird was handed to him.

These were just a couple of the successes Austin and organizers can claim this weekend.

“Hats off to all the people that helped,” Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener committee Chairwoman Sandy Forstner said. “There’s been a lot of people involved, and I think it’s gone as well as it could have.”

The day started in picturesque form as the sun painted the landscape in a perfect fall scene. But in the field Schlichter was hunting, along with his uncle and hunter host Guy Kohlnhofer, hunter host Kirk Rolfson, and hunters Mark Norquist and Jamie Carlson, conditions quickly changed in about a half an hour.

Snow began falling, and by the time hunters were showing up around 11:30 a.m. at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center to register their take, the snow changed to thick and heavy flakes.

Combined with that, winds blew briskly over the fields, further complicating the hunt.

In the end, the group had only a scattering of opportunities, resulting in just two birds. The second was taken by Java, Rolfson’s British labrador, who caught the bird as it was running.

Yet for all of the group’s challenges, the team still found the day to be a success.

“With the snow, it was better,” Carlson argued. “The sun’s out, everybody gets their limit — it’s a perfect day, fun. But these days won’t leave my memories.”

“Every experience is fun,” he added.

Norquist agreed.

“Just being out in this beautiful country,” he said. “The winds were blowing, and it was just fun going for a walk.”

Walz reported his group came across eight to nine roosters during his time in the field and they got a couple good shots off.

In his mind, the day was another indicator on how the weekend went.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “This is why we do it.”

Looking back over the two days, Forstner said the event came together on all fronts, highlighting the community and the area.

“I think it’s gone great,” he said. “It’s been exciting and enthusiastic, not just with the hunters, but in the community.”


Fairmont to host 2020 pheasant opener

Fairmont will be the host community for the 2020 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener, Gov. Tim Walz announced Friday.

“I thank the people of Fairmont for their hospitality in hosting the 2020 Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener,” Walz said. “I look forward to Fairmont carrying on the tradition of presenting a fantastic opener next year.”

Visit Fairmont, the local convention and visitors bureau, submitted the application to host the 2020 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener. Fairmont was selected through an application process that considered available hunting land, event facilities, travel recreation opportunities and community support.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to host the 2020 Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener,” said Jason Subbert, Fairmont event chairman. “Fairmont and Martin County have a strong history of collaborating together, so we’re confident this event will be another great opportunity to showcase our southern Minnesota hospitality, habitat and hunting.”

The 2020 event, scheduled for Oct. 9-10, will be the 10th annual Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener. It was initiated by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2011. Previous host communities have been Montevideo (2011 and 2016), Marshall (2012 and 2017), Madelia (2013), Worthington (2014), Mankato (2015), Luverne (2018) and Austin (2019).