- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP) - With nearly all the corn crop still standing in southwestern Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton will face some challenges as he pursues elusive ringnecks Saturday during the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener.

Worthington is hosting the fourth annual event Friday and Saturday. There’s a good crop of birds in the area, the Worthington Daily Globe reported Thursday (https://bit.ly/ZgC3rx ), but the extensive cover may make them hard to find.

Scott Rall, president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever, said that while opening day may not provide a great snapshot of the number of pheasants available, he’s confident Dayton and the other guests will find a “good number” of birds.

“I am seeing now more birds this time of year than I did last year at the same time,” Rall said.

About 400 people are expected at Friday evening’s banquet. Following an early-morning breakfast Saturday, hunters will depart to private land throughout Nobles County.

Darlene Macklin, director of the Worthington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it takes a lot of volunteers to host the event, and at least 75 people have stepped up. They include Worthington School District Superintendent John Landgaard, who’s leading more than a dozen volunteers who signed on to process the pheasants.

“It’s not the glamorous part of the hunt,” Landgaard said with a laugh. He said his three kids are among those who “don’t have a choice” about volunteering.

After the hunt, Dayton will help dedicate the new Worthington Wells Wildlife Management Area, a 147-acre land acquisition by Pheasants Forever and other partners that will allow hunters and other recreational users to make a 12-mile loop without leaving public lands.

The Department of Natural Resources expects Minnesota hunters will bag an estimated 224,000 pheasants statewide this fall. The DNR says the population is about the same as last year, but a long-term downtrend trend is expected to continue because of the loss of grassland.

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Information from: The Daily Globe, https://www.dglobe.com

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