More lands to hunt through walk-in access program

Beginning Friday, Sept. 1, hunters can access 26,700 acres of private land across 46 counties in western and south-central Minnesota through the Walk-In Access program.

“Finding land for hunting can be a challenge,” said Scott Roemhildt, Walk-In Access coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Walk-In Access allows hunters to access high-quality private land and makes it easier for landowners to allow that access.”

The Walk-In Access program pays landowners to allow hunter access. Hunters with a $3 Walk-In Access validation may hunt during legal hunting hours, during open hunting seasons from Sept. 1 to May 31. No additional landowner contact is necessary.

More than 230 sites across 46 counties are available through the program. Bright yellow-green signs have been placed on Walk-In Access boundaries.

Hunting seasons open Sept. 1 for mourning doves, crows, snipe, sora and Virginia rails. Hunting seasons open Saturday, Sept. 16, for several small game species including squirrels and rabbits. The Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 14.

Maps of all Walk-In Access sites are available electronically at mndnr.gov/walkin. Printed atlases can be found across the 46-county area at DNR license agents, DNR wildlife offices and county soil and water conservation district offices. Atlases are also available by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367.

“Walk-In Access works because hunters respect the land and that respect encourages landowners to enroll their land,” Roemhildt said. “We are glad to talk with landowners who are considering the program. We hope to grow the program to 30,000 acres by 2018.”

Parcels enrolled in the Walk-In Access program must be at least 40 acres in size with high quality cover. Most land is also enrolled in private land conservation programs. The next enrollment period will begin in January 2018.

The Walk-In Access program began in 2011 and is currently funded through 2018 with a three-year grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other funding sources come through a surcharge on nonresident hunting licenses, a one-time appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature in 2012, and donations from hunters.