Minnesota's new walk in program opens private land hunting opportunities to the state's outdoorsmen and women.
How nice would it be to approach a wide expanse of huntable land, ripe with shooting opportunities, and be greeted with a bright yellow sign indicating the area as "Walk In Access," available to any hunter with the proper license?
That's the case in Minnesota, where the state's Department of Natural Resources has instituted a walk in program that's helping both hunters and private land owners.
Hunters are able to find quality hunting spots in an area where swamps and marshes are disappearing. Land owners who offer up their property for walk in access are compensated $10 to $13 annually for every usable acre. No further permission is required to hunt in spaces designated with the yellow signs marked with "WIA." Land owners who take advantage of the program are typically farmers who own lots of acreage.
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Minnesota's walk in program allows for hunting a variety of game, including deer, dove, pheasant and waterfowl. It began in 2011 with 90 landowners and 9,000 acres, and quickly increased in 2012, with 140 landowners in 21 southwestern counties for a total of 15,000 acres.
The idea is not entirely new to the region: South Dakota has used a similar program for a quarter of a century, and lists more than 1.25 million acres of WIA hunting land.
Not all farmland is open for enrollment in the program; areas that are already part of conservation programs, such as the federal Conservation Reserve Program, are eligible.
The walk in access program was established to help the DNR address a growing concern: lack of hunting access in agricultural areas, which has been used as a primary reason for many outdoorsmen who say they have stopped the sport altogether.