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MOGA boosting outdoor tourism in the Magnolia State

Rolling into its 10th year, the Mississippi Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA) is ramping up efforts to promote outdoor tourism in Mississippi.

“Mississippi outdoors has so much to offer, and we’re doing our part to promote from within,” said MOGA president Tommy Allen.

Mississippi sportsmen annually spend $671 million, and the ripple effect is $1.2 billion on the state’s economy, said Dr. Sam Polles, director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP), who pointed out that sportsmen support more jobs in Mississippi than Ingalls Shipbuilding — 12,258 jobs vs. 10,000 jobs.

“The eco-tourism business in Mississippi is absolutely unlimited,” said Tim Carpenter, owner of Eagle Lake Lodge and Outfitters. “I’m such a proponent of Experience Mississippi. A lot of people were born here, but I selected Mississippi to live in because it has enriched my life. I know if people experienced what I did, they’d be here tomorrow.”

Formally established in 1996, a core group of mainly outfitters and guides, including Allen and Carpenter, began meeting with the state tourism department two years earlier to promote the state’s outdoor industry and establish guidelines “to make it best of the best,” said Allen. “The collective goal of our membership is to deliver high quality outdoor experiences to our clients in a professional, ethical and legal manner.”

Today, MOGA has 50 members representing the hunting of deer, duck, geese, quail and turkey, sporting clay operations, equestrian venues, exotic animal hunts and the fishing of all game fish in Mississippi.

“The association is an incubator for members,” said Allen. “We try to give guidance on game laws. We host seminars on business practices. We’ve built a strong network and some manufacturers provide members a chance to buy products at a better rate. We’re in the process of getting association insurance for our members. We do what we can to help.”

The MOGA Web site features information about association members and hunting and fishing seasons in Mississippi. Hunting and fishing licenses may be purchased online, and free copies may be ordered of the “Mississippi Outfitters Directory,” “Mississippi Hunting Guide” and “Hunting in Mississippi” video.

Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, recently established a task force with MOGA representation to promote Mississippi from within, explained Allen, “and we’re hoping to take things to a higher level.”

In the works: a MOGA television show promoting outdoor recreation in Mississippi that would showcase various sporting opportunities and keep viewers abreast of need-to-know changes in laws and regulations.

MOGA also works in alliance with the Mississippi Charter Boat Captains Association, a 100-member organization formed in the early 1970s, and the Mississippi Exotic Wildlife Association, a 40-member state chapter established last year to work closely with Safari Club International in monitoring legislation affecting landowner rights.

“At MOGA, one thing we’re watching concerns proposed changes in the duck season,” said Allen. “Because the duck population has dropped — so many juvenile birds are being killed in the northern states without the chance to reproduce and there are predator problems in the prairies and in Canada — there’s been some talk about cutting back days in the season or setting bag limits. Not this year, but maybe the next or after that. The more days we have to operate our business, the better, and some sportsmen figure their schedule around a 60-day season. So rather than cutting the season from 60 to 45 days, it would be easier to cut the bag limit amount. We’re keeping an eye on that one.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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