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MN Governor Tim Walz: Getting Ready For the Tradition of Deer Hunting Opener

Governor Walz will be hunting at Three Rivers Park District near Plymouth

Over 400,000 people hunt in the State of Minnesota and one of those people is MN Governor Tim Walz. Walz will be holding his Governor's Deer Hunting Opener this year at Three Rivers Park District, north of Plymouth.

The goal is to spotlight the abundance of public lands and outdoor recreation in the State of MN.

We talked with the Governor about hunting traditions and the economic benefits of hunting.

Below is a transcript of the conversation - lightly edited for clarity.

Heidi : Deer Hunting rifle season opener is this Saturday in the state of Minnesota. This is huge for our state. And joining me now is Governor Tim Walz. Thanks for being with us Governor.

Governor Walz: Glad to be with you, Heidi. And you're right. It is, it is a big, big deal. A lot of families getting deer camp opened up thoughts of some euchre games the night before and then that crisp morning to go out with high hopes of getting their deer. It’s an exciting time and you can feel it around Minnesota.

Heidi: Let's talk a little bit about the importance – you touched there on traditions, hunting traditions, but also economically. This is a huge – I'm sitting in Grand Rapids, Minnesota right now. The roads are clogged already up here.

Governor Walz: It's hundreds of thousands of jobs and it's literally billions into our economy. The outdoor activities in general - hunting, fishing, mountain biking, camping and those things, it is a big, big part of our economy. So you couple that with family traditions…. I keep saying this, hunters pay their way. We know that the equipment that we buy, the money that goes from that with the Pitman Robertson Act goes back into conservation. And so this is a this is a huge part of how we invest in the future. How we protect public lands, how we make access to these things available and create a lot of jobs - we all spend quite a bit of money come hunting season. But Minnesota's economy is really dependent on it. So it is a win-win-win all the way around from families to the conservation piece to the economy. So this exciting weekend, and I think it's important to keep telling that story: there's more to it than just the recreation side of it.

Heidi: Governor, we're not here to talk politics, but I do just want to touch on that. Sometimes in the heated election season, there are blanket statements said in things like how one party is going to take away your guns. And when we head into a weekend like this, it seems to me very obvious that we're not talking about the same thing as a hunting tradition.

Governor Walz: No. I agree with this too. I grew up with this obviously, I think maybe your listeners know pheasants are my thing, and I'm going for the trifecta. By the way, I finally broke that curse on the walleye opener, got a walleye, got two roosters limited out. Now I’ve got to get a deer. But I've grown up around firearms. You have the constitutional right to own firearms. When we talk about it though: protecting our kids in school and keeping firearms out of the hands of the wrong people – there are ways you can do that through simple background checks. Many of your listeners, we've done that when we bought our firearms, our red flag laws. We still know that the vast majority of people who die by firearms in Minnesota, by suicide, by firearms, and, you know, families can help with that.

It is unfortunate. This is the time of the silly [election] season. The blanket statements, the misinformation. And I think as, as Minnesotans the right to own firearms, as I myself do, and so many Minnesotans do, you can do that and still have an honest conversation about how do we reduce firearm deaths so that we're not the country that stands out in the world with the most people killed by firearms. We can do both.

Heidi: You talked about this time of elections, the ads that we're seeing, it's getting very heated before Tuesday's election. Do you have advice for people who might just be so turned off by what's going on About why they should actually go out and vote?

Governor Walz: I do. I was up at UMD yesterday up in Duluth, and it was a huge turnout of students. And I told them, I said, it just lifted my spirit that I think there's folks, and the [election] atmosphere could make you cynical. It could make you feel like you shouldn't participate.

And that's the worst possible thing.

Our incredible, our biggest right in this country that millions and billions around the world wish they had. It's a right to cast your vote. I think you go to the polls, you cast your vote. And I think it's important to hear from folks like me and the candidates that running I trust Minnesotans, I respect them, however they vote.

Come Tuesday night, I will respect their vote and I will do everything possible – whether it's me being reelected to help Minnesotans or if it's my opponent, I'll work to help make sure they're successful. So I think the advice is on this: try not to buy into the cynicism. Believe that it's up to us to fix that and cast your vote for who you think reflects you the best, and then honor the way it comes out.

There’s no shame in losing an election, but we can't have our system be undercut when we know that the elections are fair. Just simply honor the way they come out.

Heidi: So Governor, where will the hunting opener be for you this year?

Governor Walz: We’re going up to Three Rivers Park District, and we're really highlighting this, Heidi, that I think you're right, you’re in prime country up there. I think when Minnesotans think deer season, they might think, Northern Minnesota. But Three Rivers is by Plymouth. It's about 40 minutes or so from the urban core. And we're doing that to highlight the fact that we can get our young people involved in this. We can get them involved in shooting sports or angling in school, and then public land. So I'll be in the Three River Parks District, it is public land. It's the northern part of the cities, and show folks that this is a tradition that is carried out all across Minnesota.

Our immigrant communities are big in this tradition. I think many of your listeners may know the Hmong community has a long tradition of hunting and that gives them the opportunity to get out too. So I'll be up there I'm going to be with one of our conservation folks from DNR, and I'll give it my best shot.

Heidi: The DNR has done a great job of getting information out about how to help people get started this hunting season and, and remind you what to bring, but also some of the big things of making sure you have your license. Do you, have you have your license yet?

Governor Walz: I sure do.

Heidi: Some districts are facing mandatory testing for chronic wasting disease. How do you think the DNR is doing in terms of how to handle chronic wasting?

Governor Walz: I think they're doing the best they can, but I'm just going to be honest, Heidi, there is a lot more that needs to be done. The vast majority of Minnesotans, especially your listeners who are deer hunters, know that this is an existential threat to the deer hunting tradition. It's an extra existential threat to the economic driver of hunting. We’ve seen it decimate states like Wisconsin, and we are in a critical point on this. And there is a small but vocal and powerful group of folks in the legislature that have resisted some of the common sense things we could do to reduce the spread of this. So, you're right, though, you know, I follow the DNR sites. I stopped at one of these sites last year when they were doing the testing. They are professionals. The test takes only three or four minutes.

The deer hunters don't want this stuff to spread. Let's just be very clear about that. The Minnesota Deer Hunting Association has been fantastic, but I think the DNR is doing the very best they can. But I wanna be very clear, there's much more that could be done. And there's jurisdictional issues here inside the wire of a deer farm: It's the Board of Animal Health. Outside the Wire It's DNR. Folks who are listening know those prions exist in the soil for many, many years. And we've got to do more. And I think the time is ticking on being able to do that. So I would just encourage folks who care about this, who care about deer hunting - to let your legislators know that there's an expectation for us to follow the science and do the best we can to stop the spread of this.

Heidi: That's Minnesota Governor Tim Walz headed out to hunt this opening weekend. Thanks so much for your time today, Governor.

Governor Walz: Thanks Heidi. Take care.

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.