Here are a list of people who are guides to see owls (and other species) in the northern half of the state. I'm sure there are more, but these are people I have either gone on trips with myself or know personally.
Kim Eckert 218-525-6930 (Kim leads trips for Victor Emmanuel Tours as well)
We are having an owl irruption year in Minnesota. Records are being smashed, and great gray owls are practically dripping from the trees in St. Louis County. The owl irruption of 2004 is sure to turn into a mythical tale at birding festivals down the years as old birders relive these glory days. To give you an idea, in an hour and a half period I was with a group that saw 18 owls of three different species, most within a five mile area.
Though great gray and northern hawk owls are showing up around the state in unusual places like a suburban neighborhood in St. Paul, the best place to visit is the area known as Sax Zim Bog in St. Louis County. You can find excellent maps in either "A Birder's Guide to Minnesota" by Kim Eckert or "A Traveler's Guide to Wildlife" by Carrol Henderson of the Minnesota DNR.
Even though this area is referred to as Sax Zim Bog, the surrounding towns are excellent for owl viewing (keep your eyes open for other specialties like bald eagles, northern shrikes, black-billed magpies, rough-legged hawks, gray jays and sharp-tailed grouse).
When visit this area, please patronize local gas stations and eateries and let them know that you are there for birding. I highly recommend Wilbert's Café on 53 and 52 in Cotton--very tasty inexpensive food. Also, the locals are seeing the owls on their way to work and can give you the latest reports.
Here are some tips for viewing northern owls:
If you are remotely interested in owls you must come here. If you have always thought that you wanted to visit this area, this is the year to do it. We always have a few in the area, but nothing like this. Do what you have to do (take a sick day, borrow money) but it's worth it to see so many owls in one day.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Duluth which is near the Sax Zim Bog area, I always stay at the Inn on Gitche Gumee.
Northern hawk owls and great gray owls are also being seen in Aitkin County and Pine County--especially around Hinckley which is much closer to the Twin Cities than Sax Zim Bog. There has even been a report of a boreal owl in Pine County.
Areas to drive around in Pine County:
Areas to drive around in Aitkin County:
For the latest information either join or read the archives of MOU-net (the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union Listserv)