On Friday, Oct. 11 they celebrated and Saturday, Oct. 12 they got down to business.

On Friday, Oct. 11 they celebrated and Saturday, Oct. 12 they got down to business.

Gov. Mark Dayton and a throng of pheasant hunting enthusiasts converged on the small southern Minnesota city of Madelia for the hunting opener weekend for the third annual Governor's Pheasant Opener.

Madelia – which hosts the state's longest running annual pheasant celebration and tabs itself as the "Pheasant Capital of Minnesota" – was the third city chosen to host the event which was initiated by Gov. Dayton back in 2011.

Madelia is home to the Department of Natural Resources Farmland Wildlife Population and Research Group. The office is in charge of pheasant studies, brood counts and habitat information for the state of Minnesota.

The city itself is surrounded by 8,600 acres of public hunting land within 20 miles of city limits.

Friday night's festivities featured shotgun shooting events including sporting clays, trap and duck flurry during the afternoon. Top notch exhibition shooters from Benelli, Beretta and Winchester took part in a "Best of the best tournament," and the governor's reception and banquet was also held.

Saturday morning a large group hunt was put together that would have included Gov. Dayton except he is still recovering from a hip injury he suffered in June. So, he did not participate.

Dayton was on hand for the morning breakfast put together by the Madelia VFW/American Legion and the dedication of a new parcel of hunting land.

Across the state, thousands of hunters took to the field despite the blustery conditions in support of pheasant hunting which is a huge boost to the state's economy.

More than 500,000 residents and non-residents are expected to hunt in Minnesota and will spend an estimated $725 million dollars according to a 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

According to the survey, direct expenditures by hunters in Minnesota include $400 million on equipment (guns, ammo, clothing), $235 million on trip related expenses (food, lodging, transportation) and $90 million on other expenses (land leasing, etc.).

Pheasant hunters got some good news Friday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the region's Waterfowl Production Areas to hunting after closing them due to the federal government shutdown.

WPAs are important public hunting areas for waterfowl and pheasants alike.

The city of Worthington has been chosen to host next year's event which is scheduled for Oct. 10-11.

"For more than 50 years, I have enjoyed pheasant hunting in Minnesota," said Dayton. "Over the past three years, we have enjoyed terrific openers, thanks to the tremendous work of our hosts in Montevideo, Marshall and now Madelia."