One of the most anticipated dates on the outdoors calendar rolls around this weekend with the opening of deer season.
It won't be long now. Minnesota hunters pull the trigger on another season Saturday morning.
The opening of deer season is an event steeped in tradition.
In northwestern Minnesota, the spotlight Saturday will be on Thief River Falls, which is host site for this year's seventh annual Minnesota Governor's Deer Opener.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be in Thief River Falls, Minn.
"Deer hunting season is a really big deal around here every single year, but this year, the buzz is amped up just that much more," said Laura Anderson, director of the Thief River Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's kind of a once-in-a-lot-of-people's lifetime thing to have the governor here for any event, but especially for the opening of deer season."
Pawlenty started the Governor's Deer Opener in 2003 and shot a small buck that first year. But he's come away empty-handed every year since.
Anderson said she's confident the governor will get the skunk off his back in Thief River Falls.
"We're not even worried," she said. "We've got such great game populations."
Numerous other events also are on tap in conjunction with the governor's visit. A variety of outdoor vendors are set up in the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls, and hunting-related demonstrations get under way this morning. Pawlenty will be the keynote speaker during a noon "Big Buck Luncheon" in the arena that's open to the public.
No previous Governor's Deer Opener has offered more opportunities for the public to get involved, Anderson said.
"That's what has been kind of unique this year about the event -- it's the most community- oriented event that they've had," Anderson said.
The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Explore Minnesota Tourism are the main sponsors of the Governor's Deer Opener.
Unlike the Governor's Fishing Opener, organizers aren't releasing any information about who will be hosting Pawlenty during Saturday morning's hunt until he returns to Thief River Falls for an 11 a.m. lunch and press conference at the Petro Pumper.
"We want to give him the best experience he can have," Anderson said.
Weather forecasts also look favorable -- perhaps even too nice -- for this weekend's deer opener. According to the National Weather Service, hunters taking the field in the Grand Forks area this afternoon can expect a mostly sunny sky, south winds from 10 to 17 mph gusting to 24 mph and a high temperature near 54 degrees.
Saturday's forecast for Thief River Falls calls for morning temperatures to be above freezing, with a mostly sunny sky and a daytime high near 52 degrees. Saturday also is supposed to be breezy, with a west-southwest wind of 9 to 12 mph increasing to 17 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph later in the day.
Better that, Anderson said, than bone-chilling cold and blizzard conditions.
"When we started planning this, we were thinking it could be a couple feet of snow," Anderson said. "It's going to be a wonderful day."
Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148.