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Enjoying the great Mississippi outdoors has changed

Hunting and fishing in the great outdoors is a big deal in Mississippi. People are either outdoors oriented or they’re not and, if they are, it likely plays a major role in their lives. Non-outdoorsy folks probably wonder why all these reasonably normal people get up before daylight and invest lots of time and money in pursuing their hunting and fishing obsessions.

Frankly, I don’t understand it myself. However, just like every other hunter in the state, I set my alarm back to 3:30 a.m. come opening day and leave it there until it’s time to go back to work.

We outdoorsy types put our money where our mouths are. Spending for guns, four-wheelers, ammo, outboard motors, camo clothes and the myriad other “stuff” we have to have runs into major dollars. Beyond that stuff, we spend a ton on land leases and seed and fertilizer for food plots. Plus, it takes gasoline to get there and back and we “fill ‘er up” most every trip. It would be depressing just to add up all the cost of spending time in the woods.

Then and now

In my 40-plus years of chasing whitetail deer I have seen so many changes in the sport. An old Army coat, two pair of blue jeans (before we found out that blue is the only color deer can distinguish) and a pair of leather boots (which we now know deer can smell from a quarter mile away) was all you needed back in the mid-sixties to be a deer hunter. No matter. Most everyone was running dog in those days and the deer worried more about the dogs than they did about looking for hunters.

Now days, hunters want a flat-shooting rifle that’ll pick off a deer at 400 yards. In my youth most everyone used shotguns and buckshot so the range was limited to about 50 yards or less. Effective range was a fairly moot point anyway since deer were only found in the river swamps in those days and you were lucky if you could see beyond 25 yards. And, if one were a bow hunter and pulled a 50-pound bow that’s what you did — unlike compound bows, you pulled 50 pounds and held it till you shot.

Oh, how things have changed.

Dreams and reality

The outdoor industry now offers videos, seemingly hundreds of magazines and has its own TV channel. Though I’m sure they’re written and produced to be both entertaining and informative, I wonder if all these instant gratification stories and programs are in the best interest of the sport.

What expectations do they set for novice hunters just getting interested in the sport? What about kids?

“There I was, in my old tree stand. Hadn’t been there more than three minutes when here he came. Biggest deer I ever saw. Walked right up in front of my stand, turned broadside and stopped. I dropped him with one shot from my 700 Nitro Express and was back at camp by 7 a.m. That rascal scored 697 on the Boone and Crockett scale and set a new world record. Oh well, all in a morning’s work.”

How about this for reality. I’ve hunted entire seasons and never saw a deer. Even today, with the deer population at an all time high in Mississippi, I frequently hunt all day and don’t see a single deer. Am I just a bad hunter or are we setting new hunters up for a major disappointment? Probably some of both.

Hunting offers a fantastic outdoor experience far beyond just killing animals. I’m not sure that we’re getting that message out to new, prospective hunters and that’s sad.

Getting motivated

Why do we do it? Heaven only knows. Some are attracted to the macho image of the hunter as provider of meat for the family. Well, the meat probably costs around $400 a pound once you take everything into consideration. Some like the competition of getting bigger deer than everybody else. It gives one bragging rights and a big rack to show off. Some do it to create a bonding experience with their kids. And, I’m convinced some do it because of all the nifty gadgets you can buy to help you outsmart both the wily whitetail buck and impress your friends. I suppose everyone has their own reason.

Whatever the reason, hunting and fishing provide lots of jobs and tax dollars in Mississippi. And lots of recreation for those who pursue the sport. I suppose that’s reason enough to promote outdoor sports even if us outdoors types don’t really know why we do it.

Even though I’m not always successful tagging a deer, I am always successful at enjoying the outdoor experience.

Though I may be wet, cold and a little sleepy I know that I’m going to get a full day alone with my thoughts. I’m going to experience nature on it’s own turf. At the end of the day, I’ll be a better person for having taken time out of a busy life to just marvel at God’s creation.

Thought for the Moment

Do not rely completely on any other human being, however dear. We meet all life’s greatest tests alone.
— Political leader and activist
Agnes Macphail (1890-1954)

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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