In many states, finding a place to hunt can be problematic because public land is in short supply or nonexistent.

Not so in Minnesota.

Consider: The state’s Wildlife Management Area system is the envy of the nation. Hunters can tromp over 1,500 WMAs covering more than 1.3 million acres. They are especially popular for pheasant and waterfowl hunters.

Another 4 million acres of state forest and 4.5 million of federal forest are available, as are 2.8 million acres of county forest. Deer and ruffed grouse hunters especially appreciate those lands.

And there are thousands of acres of federal Waterfowl Production Areas and refuges in Minnesota.

Sure, some of the public lands get hunted hard. But there’s virtually no excuse for a Minnesota hunter to say he or she has nowhere to hunt.

The DNR website helps hunters find all of those public lands. Go here.

Access to private land

Minnesota’s walk-in access program, which was launched in 2011, will offer hunters access to 249 sites covering nearly 26,000 acres of private land this fall.

The program has been well-received by landowners, who are paid to allow public access to their lands, and hunters. Pheasant hunters, in particular, covet the acreage, which often is blanketed with prairie grass.

But paying for the program has been an issue since inception. A federal grant will carry the program to 2018. And state money could support the program for two years after that, said Scott Roemhildt, DNR grassland programs coordinator.

Current funding sources include a $5 surcharge on nonresident hunting licenses, donations of $1, $3 or $5 made by hunters when they buy their deer and small game licenses, and a $3 validation that is required to access the WIA lands.

But long-term funding remains elusive.

Officials are hoping the 2018 federal Farm Bill will include money to sustain the walk-in program here and in other states.

The DNR publishes an atlas showing the location of the lands, and the sites also can be viewed online here.

Doug Smith