What business executive does not harbor a secret wish to play Huck Finn for a day?
Part of the marketing strategy at Tara Wildlife Inc. in Vicksburg is to help movers and shakers shift gears during corporate retreats. Guests are encouraged to “get lost” in 20,000 acres bordering the Mississippi River, said Sidney Montgomery, marketing director.
“After working at a fast pace, getting back to nature gives you a new perspective,” Montgomery said. “The atmosphere is great for that here. In the evening, you can hear coyotes and boats on the river.”
Tara Wildlife is located in the Eagle Lake community, about half an hour north of Vicksburg. About 40 groups of business teams “representing the whole spectrum of Mississippi business,” will stay at the retreat this year, he said. But guests aren’t just from Mississippi.
Juan Carlos Wasmosy, president of Paraguay, was a recent guest whose main interest was “learning more about conserving the wetlands,” Montgomery said.
“From bird watchers to foreign dignitaries, we see visitors from all walks of life,” he said.
Tara Wildlife Inc., founded by conservationist Maggie Bryant on 16,500 acres of family-owned bottomland hardwood, started in 1986 as Tara Hunt Club, a private lodge. Known primarily for its success rate for bow hunters — 111 Pope & Young bucks on record — Tara Wildlife recently expanded with the lease of an additional 3,500 acres adjacent to the property.
In addition to specializing in trophy whitetail bowhunts, Tara Wildlife offers turkey, duck, and small game hunting and fishing. Canoeing, bird watching, wildlife tours and nature walks are also on the menu.
“We have a lot of requests for corporate dove hunting,” Montgomery said.
Superb skeet and sporting clay courses have been designed, and summer camps emphasize instruction in firearms safety for teenagers, he said.
“Part of our philosophy is allowing people access to the outdoors that otherwise would not have the opportunity,” he said. “That’s why we work with children’s groups so much, to allow all folks access to 20,000 acres.”
Norman Sisson, director of online services for the state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, was one of a group of 20 who attended a state chapter board of directors retreat two years ago, and is also a volunteer for JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Skills).
“Tara (Wildlife) donates a youth turkey hunt every year to JAKES,” Sisson said. “We have a drawing to see which one of our young people wins it. Other (businesses) contribute clothing and equipment, too, so one deserving young person who might not otherwise have the chance to experience it gets a pretty good prize.”
Sisson’s hobby, carving award-winning scrimshawed wingbone turkey calls, has been inspired by “the call of the outdoors,” Sisson said. “It’s nice to have an inspirational place like Tara (Wildlife), surrounded by nature, upon which to draw creativity.”
Vicksburg native and Chef Sandy Barber prepares daily meals, and serves up —- what else? — deer when in season. Rustic cypress lodges houseguests.
Bryant, chairperson of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, received accolades for her conservation efforts, including the Governor’s Award for Conservation in Mississippi. Now in her 60s, Bryant lives in Virginia on a working horse and cattle farm.
Plans are on the drawing board for a new conference center next fall, Montgomery said.
— By Lynne Wilbanks Jeter
MBJ Contributing Writer