Any astute economist at the local and state level realizes the value of the revenue generated by outdoors recreation. Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, water sports, canoeing, birding, nature photography, eco-tourism, ag-tourism and all the other related outdoors recreation is a huge money producer for the State of Mississippi. I have heard this value calculated at over the $800-million level each year with in excess of 40,000 related jobs. Some people get it, some don’t.
The Kickoff Campaign
Gov. Kirk Fordice got it. I suppose it was mainly because he loved to duck hunt and work his own Labrador out of the duck boat. I was fortunate enough to duck hunt once with the Governor and his economic development sidekick, Jimmy Heidel. That was up at Panther Tract as the host of Howard Brent. That signed photograph still hangs in my office.
Much of the discussion around Howard’s finely set dinner table each evening was how to capitalize on the rich outdoors recreational opportunities available in Mississippi. It was easy for me as an outdoors writer also working in economic development at Hinds Community College to pitch the case. As I said, Fordice got it. He really got it.
Proof of that came quick. It was not long after that duck hunt that the Governor pressed the tourism division of the then State Department of Economic Development, now the Mississippi Development Authority, to start promoting the state’s outdoors recreation.
Whatever happened to that mission I’m not quite sure? Even in the latest tour guide just released there is no mention of hunting or fishing. I saw one photograph depicting birding.
Others That Get It
A while back I saw a neat ad placed by the Greenville/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. It squarely targeted fishing with a picture of a big bass in the ad. It mentioned that Greenville/Washington County had been named by Outdoor Life as one of the best places in the United States for hunters and fishermen. That kind of promotion puts their outdoors recreational opportunities right on the forefront.
It doesn’t take a long look at their website at www.visitgreenville.org to get a sense of all the wide varieties of outdoors opportunities that exist in this sector of the Delta. The web page is broken down into outdoor activity sections including state parks, RVs, camping, bird watching, waterfowl hunting, game hunting and fishing. There is also a listing for the outfitters in the region to contact for specific types of hunting and fishing.
Vast Outdoor Options
Actually all the Greenville/Washington County CVB has to do is sit back and invite people to come visit the area. The natural resources in the region rather speak for themselves. With the Mississippi River nearby and having created so many great fishing oxbow lakes like Lake Ferguson, Lake Lee and Lake Washington it is easy to recognize the vast outdoor opportunities in the area.
Washington County is well positioned for great hunting, as well. It is known as one of the better duck hunting regions of the state with plenty of open waters, duck nesting and roosting areas and surrounding waterfowl feeding areas.
The area is rich in game hunting as well including fantastic trophy-class white-tailed deer hunting. Certainly most all of the Mississippi Delta is known for its deer hunting, but Washington County is right in the middle of the regional deer habitat.
With forested areas, plenty of water resources, native wild game foods, along with farm crop residuals, the county is perfect for growing and hunting big bucks.
Slipping along the woodland edges are good numbers of wild turkey, too. It’s the same with all types of small game including hunting sites and opportunities for squirrel hunting, chasing rabbits, maybe even some quail. Dove hunting can be some of the best wingshooting in the whole country when all the conditions are right. As far as outdoors recreation, the Greenville/Washington County has it all.
Prime Hunting Areas
True enough Mississippi as a state has a ton of great fishing and hunting site. Between rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds, our fishing is tops. This is the same with hunting options given we have nearly two million acres of public hunting lands in the state. The deal is though this Delta region has a whole bunch of great hunting areas.
Tops on the list is probably the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge just east of Glen Allan off Highway 1. Over the years some exceptional whitetail bucks have come off this federal property. The Leroy Percy Wildlife Management Area is near Hollandale. The Stoneville WMA is just north of Greenville. These are three good hunting areas all open to the public.
All in all, the Greenville/Washington County CVB has the right idea. It takes advantage of all the resources in the area from blues music, great food, historic sites, museums, and everything else, but also the outdoors recreational opportunities and the money it brings to the area. Maybe somebody up there heard about Kirk Fordice’s plan.