A few people have recently asked me just what exactly is the Minnesota Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener (GDHO). Good question. What started out as an attempt by Governor Tim Pawlenty back in 2003 to celebrate the state’s deer hunting heritage has morphed into many different things as it is now celebrated today. In fact, you could say the event continues to grow each year and is a definite work in progress. And that’s the good news.
Still, the event has much to accomplish in terms of getting the word out so citizens throughout the state—both hunters and non-hunters alike—can truly appreciate the heritage, as well as the vital economic impact deer hunting plays in Minnesota.
Case in point: The companion sportsman celebration headed by our state’s executive-in-chief is the Minnesota Fishing Opener. Want to learn more about that event, check out the website HERE. It’s not quite so easy to learn about the GDHO, but it should be. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the Minnesota Tourism need to have a similar website dedicated to showcasing this wonderful event.
I should disclose that when it pertains to the GDHO I have a slightly different perspective than most. Back in 2006 I had the distinct pleasure of being Governor Tim Pawlenty’s hunting guide as he celebrated the 4th annual event deer hunting on my farm. You can read more about that experience HERE.
So, what should you know about how Minnesota annually celebrates its deer hunting heritage as an official event? How about I show you in pictures along with some commentary.
Governor Tim Pawlenty is not only the keynote celebrity present at this event, but he also commands a great deal of media attention.
Here Gov. Pawlenty was getting set-up for his weekly radio program broadcast on WCCO-AM Radio out of the Twin Cities.
Drawing from the Governor's celebrity status the event is given media attention by outlets throughout the upper Midwest.
Essentially, having the Governor of Minnesota at the event ensures the message about the important role hunting plays to the state gets heard in all corners of the state.
While portions of the event are for credentialed personnel, with each passing year it seems a growing percentage of the events are open to the public for their participation.
This year I was really impressed to see the outreach of the event to area school children. Three different schools in the Little Falls, MN area participated with almost 250 children learning various facets of outdoors education.
For instance, here was a local trapper who talked about furs and the importance the fur industry is to our state.
His presentation showed the school kids how developing an appreciation for the outdoors can extend beyond deer hunting. The children learned some quick fur lessons and got plenty of hands-on discovery to encourage a deeper interest in our state's wildlife populations.
In many ways, trapping and hunting go hand-in-hand with the each other as part of a wildlife manager's tools to help control wild populations.
Other areas of education for the school children involved brief learning opportunities about outdoor safety.
To accomplish this, conservation officers from throughout the state gave short talks about the importance of playing safe in the outdoors.
Did you know more hunting accidents involve falls from trees rather than someone accidentally pulling the trigger? It's true...and for many of the children they got a first-hand opportunity to see how climbing a tree is safely accomplished.
The children also get to see the conservation officer as a teacher, and not just someone who writes citations for violating game laws.
Yes, the Minnesota Governor's Deer Hunting Opener is much more than a fancy banquet with a litany of speakers promoting the virtues of deer hunting. The event is also about sharing and further developing our hunting passions with the next generation of hunters.
Whether it is introducing children to archery or some other fun element of the outdoors, the GDHO has constantly been evolving over the years to enlighten and entertain people of all ages.
The GDHO is also a great reminder how not everyone plays by the rules. Here the Wall of Shame trailer has on display some of the more notorious wildlife violations showing the resources that were stolen from all of us by folks who choose not to play fair.
On display is the confiscated property taken away from criminals, not honest law abiding hunters. In Minnesota if you break the rules you likely will get caught.
Here is a prime example of how a thief got caught during the fall of 2009. This world class 8-point buck made international news during the past year.
The Minnesota DNR worked long and hard to make this pinch and the trophy rack now serves as an example of how wildlife can be an attractive target to thieves looking to exploit trophy-sized game animals.
Here's another picture of that same rack being held by my friend, Todd. Without seeing it in person it's just hard to get a full appreciation for the rack's massive size.
The GDHO also celebrates famous deer taken legally by Minnesota's hunters. In this picture is the 32-point Minnesota record-class buck taken in Camp Ripley during the fall of 2009.
Of course, what's an event without a banquet serving good food and entertainment.
This year actors from the popular Deer Camp The Musical performed a comedic show to help poke fun at our deer hunting culture.
Other speakers included Minnesota football great--well, he might be a legend in a few minds--Bob Lurtsema. Not exactly sure why Lurtsema was part of the event other than to add more celebrity to the happenings. Just like Gov. Pawlenty, celebrities like Lurtsema, as well as other dignitaries were paired with hosts who served as guides for the next morning's deer hunt.
We were all hoping T-Paw would use this opportunity to announce a run in 2012 for the Whitehouse, but our hopes were dashed as he stuck to the business at hand--deer hunting.
Gov. Pawlenty never misses an opportunity to spend time with kids. Here he signs a cap for a youth while briefly discussing her passion for the outdoors.
Here's T-Paw with my hunting buddy, Todd Rost. I put this in here for no particular reason other than Todd now owes me lunch the next time we go out. HaHa!!
In closing, this was Governor Tim Pawlenty’s 8th and final GDHO as a new governor gets sworn in next January. The presumptive Governor-elect, Mark Dayton, has gone on record stating he plans to continue this great GDHO tradition during his term.
As Governor Pawlenty stated at his final banquet—(in Minnesota) We live here, we hunt here, this is our legacy. Pass on the torch to the next generation by passing on the love of hunting.
Indeed, the underlying purpose for the GDHO celebration is to underscore the important role deer hunting plays to the culture of those who live to enjoy Minnesota’s outdoors.
©2010 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.