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2023-2024<br />

Hunting<br />

Season<br />

Details<br />

Six Ways<br />

to Eat a Deer<br />

State<br />

Record<br />

Monster<br />

Gator<br />

Opening the<br />

Outdoors<br />

to Children with<br />

Disabilities<br />

Fishing<br />

& Family<br />

New Traditions, Trophies, & Memories

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Alligator Hunting: New Traditions, Trophies<br />

& Memories 6<br />

Fishing & Family 14<br />

Super Hunt: Opening the Outdoors<br />

for Children with Disablilties 20<br />

Deer Recipes 32<br />

Mississippi Hunting Seasons 35<br />

A Hook & Line 40<br />

An Eye For Wildlife 48<br />

The Call of an Artisan 54<br />

Woods&Water<br />


As a North Mississippi child, I rode four-wheeler trails through<br />

the woods around our rural home and ate wild muscadines from<br />

giant vines that grew near those trails. For each changing season, the woods always supplied<br />

beauties and joys I still carry in my fondest childhood memories.<br />

The Tallahatchie River was less than a mile from our home – my homeplace that stood<br />

on a hill almost exactly halfway between Oxford and New Albany on Highway 30. A creek<br />

with a fishing hole was in walking distance from our front door – a creek that always<br />

promised a catch of bream.<br />

Our family enjoyed the annual dove shoots and the excitement of watching the sun rise<br />

over the field we hoped would attract the most doves. I would crouch next to my daddy and<br />

be ready to retrieve any dove that he was able to target. In years to come, we would add our<br />

lab to the hunts which replaced my dove-retrieving assignment, but the dove shoot remained<br />

a part of my fall calendar.<br />

Because of my “woods and water”<br />

background, putting this issue together<br />

has been a rewarding experience. I’ve been<br />

able to reflect on my childhood that was<br />

blessed with God’s handiwork – up close<br />

and personal!<br />

STAFF<br />


Tahya Dobbs<br />

CFO<br />

Kevin Dobbs<br />


Mary Ann Kirby<br />

Special thanks to Joe Mac Hudspeth for<br />

his amazing deer photography on our<br />

cover and throughout this magazine.<br />


Barbie Bassett<br />


Susan Wolgamott<br />



Melissa Kennon<br />



Alisha Floyd<br />


Daniel Thomas<br />

3dt<br />

STAFF<br />


Othel Anding<br />

STAFF<br />


Debby Francis<br />

www.htmags.com / info@HTMags.com / 601.706.4059 / 200 Felicity Street / Brandon, MS 39042<br />

All rights reserved. No portion of Mississippi Woods & Water may be reproduced without written<br />

permission from the publisher. The management of Mississippi Woods & Water is not responsible<br />

for opinions expressed by its writers or editors. Mississippi Woods & Water maintains the<br />

unrestricted right to edit or refuse all submitted material. All advertisements are subject to<br />

approval by the publisher. The production of Mississippi Woods & Water is funded by advertising.<br />


4 FALL 2023


6 FALL 2023



• • • • • • • • • • • • • •<br />

New<br />

Traditions,<br />

Trophies, &<br />

Memories<br />

Ricky Flynt<br />

The American alligator is a true North American wildlife conservation success story.<br />

As the United States entered the early 1900s, alligators were heavily hunted across the<br />

Southeast for their valuable hides. There were no laws or regulations to sustainably manage<br />

America’s wildlife in that era, and alligators were no exception.<br />

By the 1950s, alligators had become a rare sight across its range, prompting the<br />

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect the species under the Endangered<br />

Species Act in 1967. For the next 20 years, state and federal wildlife agencies<br />

enforced laws to reduce poaching and simultaneously began restoration efforts.<br />

In the early 1970s, over 3,000 alligators were donated by Louisiana to be<br />

relocated to suitable habitats in Mississippi.<br />

Restoration efforts were successful. In 1987, the<br />

American alligator was taken off the endangered<br />

species list.<br />


In addition, the USFWS, granted all management authority to<br />

the states. Consequently, in 1988, the Mississippi Legislature granted<br />

management authority to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife,<br />

Fisheries, and Parks and the Mississippi Alligator Management and<br />

Control Program was initiated in 1989.<br />

During this era, biologists in Louisiana worked cooperatively with<br />

private individuals to develop successful commercial alligator propagation<br />

facilities (alligator farms) to produce commercial alligator hides<br />

which would take the pressure off illegal wild alligator harvest. By the<br />

mid-2000s, the Louisiana alligator farming industry produced between<br />

275,000-300,000 alligators per year.<br />

As populations across the Southeast rebounded, states implemented<br />

limited alligator hunting opportunities. Louisiana was the first in 1972,<br />

followed by Florida (1981), Texas (1984), Georgia (2003), Mississippi<br />

(2005), Alabama (2006), Arkansas (2007), and South Carolina (2008).<br />

Alligator hunting is still a relatively new opportunity, but it has<br />

quickly become extremely popular in the Magnolia State. The MDWFP<br />

opened Mississippi’s first alligator hunting season on September 16, 2005,<br />

along a small portion of the Pearl River just north of the Ross Barnett<br />

Reservoir. Opportunities gradually expanded over the following years.<br />

By 2013, alligator season opened, statewide, and included all public<br />

waterways which were divided among seven geographical hunting<br />

zones. Nine-hundred sixty statewide permits are now issued annually.<br />

Alligator hunting is the newest hunting opportunity in the state and<br />

there’s nothing else quite like it. Hunters who were drawn in the early<br />

years faced a huge learning curve. Therefore, the MDWFP created a<br />

mandatory alligator hunting training course. From 2005 to 2012, over<br />

5,000 hunters participated in the course. Many course participants have<br />

described it as a vital influence to promote safe and successful hunting.<br />

The training course is now provided online.<br />

8 FALL 2023

There have been many changes during the 19 years of expanding<br />

alligator hunting opportunities, but one thing has remained constant...<br />

public interest and a group of passionate hunters who were thirsty for<br />

information. Unsurprisingly, in the age of social media, a special<br />

Facebook page was launched for Mississippi alligator hunting enthusiasts.<br />

This created a network of like-minded hunters to share information<br />

about hunting techniques, equipment,<br />

safety items, regulation updates, hunting<br />

photos, processing, and trophy ideas. The<br />

Mississippi Alligator Hunters Facebook<br />

Page (MAHFP) was created by Wade<br />

Robinson of Brandon and Brad Baugh<br />

of Boyle in 2010 and has now grown to<br />

over 4,800 members. The MAHFP is<br />

recognized as a beneficial resource<br />

promoting safety, legal methods,<br />

information on regulation changes,<br />

drawing procedures, and proper care<br />

and use of the resources. It has<br />

created a comradery among alligator<br />

hunters and established a network<br />

of hunters who work together to share information and assist anyone<br />

new to alligator hunting.<br />

Alligator hunting is most often a group experience and offers a unique<br />

way for family and friends to share the outdoors. From pre-school age to<br />

age 82, from as far away as California and Canada, husbands and wives,<br />

mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandfathers and grandmothers,<br />

friends and co-workers can share the entire adventure together. Alligator<br />

hunting has also introduced many people<br />

to hunting for the first time ever. In fact,<br />

MDWFP license data indicates that on<br />

average 150-200 alligator hunters each year<br />

are first time hunting license customers.<br />

This is a vitally important statistic in an<br />

era of declining hunting license sales and<br />

hunter recruitment.<br />

Hunters often take pride in the many<br />

traditions like passing down a cherished<br />

shotgun, hunting vest, knife, or pickup truck.<br />

There is also the opening weekend social at<br />

the hunting camp, or even cut shirt tails for<br />

missed shots at deer. Many of these traditions<br />


may involve creative ways to preserve memories, like taxidermy<br />

mounts and display cases of cherished firearms, knives, fishing<br />

lures, and shirt tails pinned to the hunting club “wall of shame.”<br />

Hunters are now creating ways to utilize the benefits of their<br />

harvest beyond the traditional taxidermy mounts and delicious<br />

alligator meat recipes. Alligator hunters are preserving their<br />

memories with items constructed from alligator hides, teeth,<br />

claws and osteoderms (the boney protective plates on the back<br />

of an alligator). There are the typical items created from tanned<br />

hides, such as boots, belts, wallets, gun holsters, knife scabbards,<br />

key chains, and jewelry. Now, Mississippi alligator hunters are<br />

using social media to share extremely<br />

creative new ideas. They are using hides<br />

and bones for picture frames, letter<br />

openers, drink koozies, bow ties, book<br />

covers, gun slings, and more. These<br />

unique items evoke the conversations to<br />

share the stories of the adventures for<br />

generations to come and share the story<br />

of alligator hunting and conservation.<br />

Camaraderie has created traditions and superstition<br />

for many hunting parties. Brad Baugh of Boyle,<br />

Mississippi, always has a supply of good luck peanut<br />

M&Ms, RC Cola, and Big Red sodas on board while<br />

hunting. The hunting team of Tom Grant, also of Boyle,<br />

keeps Oreo cookies on board that are shared after every<br />

successful capture.<br />

Tina Brooks of Philadelphia, Mississippi, says,<br />

“Our boat never leaves the ramp without a supply of<br />

Gator Goobers (Cajun-style boiled peanuts).” Brad<br />

Martin and his wife Debi, of Vicksburg, have a<br />

tradition of approaching the boatramp while<br />

rocking-out to Thunderstruck by AC/DC.<br />

Ashley Harris of Canton<br />

says, “There is nothing<br />

I enjoy more than alligator<br />

hunting with my son and<br />

wife. It’s a family event<br />

that we anticipate all year<br />

long. We are hooked!”<br />

10 FALL 2023

Drew Holliman of Hernando, Mississippi, says,<br />

“The opportunity to share the experience with my elevenyear-old<br />

daughter and watch her battling a 6-foot alligator<br />

on the rod and reel all by herself...that’s a lifetime memory.”<br />

One hunter, Jimmy Greer of Gluckstadt, incorporated his wedding<br />

proposal to Elizabeth Ratcliff Greer one night during a family-filled<br />

gator hunt. Elizabeth is proud of the fact that alligator hunting has had<br />

such influence in their lives. Elizabeth says, “It has always been a family<br />

affair. It’s how Jimmy and I met.“<br />

As the former alligator program coordinator for over 20 years, I’ve<br />

been fortunate to interact with thousands of alligator hunters. It has<br />

been extremely rewarding to listen to their adventures, traditions,<br />

superstitions, and their proudest moments and memories. Yet, none<br />

have been more satisfying than a comment from an unnamed older<br />

gentleman, one late night, alligator hunting on the backwaters of the<br />

Mississippi River. He told me, “Sir, I’m 82 years old. I remember when<br />

we didn’t have any deer or alligators, much less enough to hunt them.<br />

This alligator hunt has been the most exciting thing I have ever done<br />

in my life. And, to boot, I have my<br />

son and my granddaughter here to<br />

experience it with me. Thank you<br />

for this opportunity.”<br />

Those are the kind of moments<br />

that make a career in wildlife<br />

management and conservation<br />

worthwhile.<br />

Ricky Flynt of Brandon, MS is the former<br />

MDWFP alligator program coordinator<br />

(2003-2023)<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 11


of a fish hook<br />

12 FALL 2023

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 13

14 FALL 2023

Fishing<br />

& FamilySarah Rein<br />

As a writer, you are sometimes asked to<br />

write about topics that are familiar to you.<br />

The questions come easily, the verbiage is<br />

not new. And then, occasionally, you find<br />

yourself writing about a world that is<br />

completely foreign to you.<br />

On the subject of crappie fishing (which I<br />

initially mispronounced and left my husband<br />

snickering at me), I am quite the novice. But,<br />

if you ever find yourself researching unfamiliar<br />

territory, I hope your guides will be as<br />

patient and informative as Dan and Hayden<br />

Jeffries were to me.<br />

After I began some initial digging into the<br />

sport, it did not take me long to realize that<br />

this father-son duo from Brandon is a big<br />

deal. In fact, their names were plastered across<br />

most of the sites I clicked on. Though not as<br />

well-publicized as bass fishing tournaments,<br />

crappie trails can be found at the state level<br />

from Oklahoma to Ohio to Florida to our own<br />

Mississippi. And that’s not to mention the<br />

national level trails boasting grand prizes in<br />

the tens of thousands.<br />

Unbelievably, in the six years since a<br />

friend took them crappie fishing for the first<br />

time, Dan and Hayden have won twenty-six<br />

tournaments, including four state championships.<br />

Hayden, a twenty-two year old with<br />

a calm demeanor and pleasant smile<br />

shares, “I have been fishing almost<br />

since I could walk. But once<br />

we were introduced to<br />

crappie fishing,<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 15

16 FALL 2023

we just really pursued it for enjoyment….as a<br />

hobby at first. We decided to fish our first<br />

competitive tournament at Ross Barnett four<br />

years ago. For a few years, we would just<br />

enter that one annually. Then, we got the wild<br />

idea of chasing the state trail.”<br />

We pause so his father, Dan, can explain<br />

the lingo to me. Clubs have tournaments<br />

every month on a different lake in Mississippi<br />

and “chasing the trail” means following the<br />

tournament route. The Jeffries began that on<br />

the state level in 2020 and entered their first<br />

national tournament in September of 2021.<br />

They came in 10th out of 104 boats - a big<br />

confidence booster which propelled them to<br />

their second place win at the next national<br />

tournament a month later.<br />

I’m still not sure I had wrapped my mind<br />

around the staggering success these men<br />

experienced until Hayden off-handedly<br />

mentions that in 2022 they won three<br />

national tournaments and a total of $220,000.<br />

Upon further investigation, I discovered that<br />

this is akin to winning the Triple Crown in<br />

horse-racing and, as far as the Jeffries know,<br />

has never been done before.<br />

Hayden, who is one course shy of<br />

completing his business administration degree<br />

and works as a full-time fishing guide at other<br />

times of the year, usually heads to a tournament<br />

location early in the week to scout<br />

things out, practice, and find the big fish.<br />

Dan and his wife Katie then join Hayden<br />

closer to the weekend where Katie acts as<br />

“team mom,” booking VRBO’s and making<br />

sure everything is in order.<br />

This family hobby-turned-career is the<br />

product of decades of investment Dan and<br />

Katie have made in the lives of their three<br />

sons, of whom Hayden is the middle. Dan<br />

shares, “When the boys were two, growing<br />

up, I did everything I could to keep them<br />

busy and outside. We hunted, fished, and<br />

played every sport you can think of. In fact,<br />

when all three boys were playing tournament<br />

baseball, Katie and I often felt like we were<br />

just passing each other in the night.”<br />

Those sacrifices appear to have paid<br />

huge dividends—and not just in wins and<br />

prize money, although both men smile when<br />

we discuss how successful their partnership<br />

has been. By listening to them talk, it is<br />

obvious Dan and Katie took their responsibility<br />

as parents seriously and truly enjoy<br />

the sons they have raised. ”Finding the time<br />

to prioritize hobbies as a family, getting<br />

outdoors together more, and directing our<br />

childrens’ energy into productive avenues…..<br />

these are things that I, as a young parent,<br />

am glad to be reminded of,“ Katie continued.<br />

As Hayden encourages,<br />

“Just get out<br />

there and try<br />

something new.<br />

Get<br />

outside<br />

and<br />

enjoy.”<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 17

18 FALL 2023

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 19

Opening the<br />

Outdoors<br />

20 FALL 2023

to Children<br />

with Disabilities<br />

Susan Marquez<br />

For someone who loves the outdoors<br />

as much as Alan Mumbower does, the<br />

opportunity to take someone hunting<br />

is a no-brainer. Alan worked for the<br />

Mississippi Department of Wildlife and<br />

Fisheries, and when a call went out for<br />

volunteers to take children with disabilities<br />

hunting, Alan jumped at the chance.<br />

Thinking it was a one-time thing, Alan helped children<br />

with disabilities go deer hunting in 2006. “It was an event called<br />

Wheeling Sports, and it was sponsored by the National Wild<br />

Turkey Federation,” he says. “The main thing was to get kids<br />

with disabilities outdoors and into nature.”<br />

The event continued, and over the years the name was<br />

changed to Super Hunt. Open to children ages 6 to 17, and their<br />

families, the event grew each year. “The events are held on<br />

private land,” explains Alan. “We work closely with landowners<br />

who dedicate their land, time, energy, and effort for an entire<br />

weekend so that these families can have a wonderful outdoors<br />

experience.”<br />

When Alan left the Wildlife and Fisheries Department in<br />

2018, there was no one to continue the Super Hunt. “I took<br />

the event with me when I left, and a group of volunteers saw<br />

the opportunity to form a board of directors and start a<br />

not-for-profit organization to continue this work.”<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 21

22 FALL 2023

Southern Outdoors Limited is a non-profit organization<br />

that focuses on getting children with disabilities outdoors.<br />

“We also want parents to take a breath from their day-to-day<br />

routine. What we do isn’t just for the kids. Entire families<br />

benefit from this.”<br />

In 2019 a turkey hunt was added. “We also do an alligator<br />

hunt, which is really fun,” says Alan. ‘We do that for kids who<br />

have aged out. It’s getting outdoors in a different way. They go<br />

out in a boat at night. They love it.”<br />

A summer introductory day is held each year with several<br />

activities including fishing, shooting, hayrides, games, and nature<br />

walks. Alan says that many of the participants started when they<br />

were six, seven, or eight years old and now they are getting into<br />

their teen years. “Once they do it, they keep coming back. It’s<br />

just something very different from what they do on a daily basis.<br />

Getting outdoors<br />

in nature has a healing<br />

effect. I can’t say enough<br />

good things about it.”<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 23

24 FALL 2023

Alan says the organization works to get the word out<br />

through the school systems. “Many of our kids know about us<br />

because a teacher or school counselor told them and their<br />

parents about us. And of course, people learn about us via word<br />

of mouth, mostly from others who have participated. I wish we<br />

had a big advertising budget, but all the funds we get go directly<br />

into the program. We are a 100% volunteer program.”<br />

This year’s Super Hunt will be held October 27 through 29.<br />

You don’t have to be a hunter to help out. Volunteers are needed<br />

to welcome kids and their families, help with registration, serve<br />

food, help with parking, pass out the gifts, set up and tear down,<br />

help with transportation, and help kids fish. Volunteer guides<br />

are needed for the weekend. Guiding for the event helps<br />

establish relationships and memories in one weekend that will<br />

last a lifetime, regardless of the success of the hunt. Those who<br />

have done it say being a guide is a life-changing experience.<br />

“Interacting with the kids<br />

and their families is what<br />

it’s all about,”says Alan.<br />

All children participating must have a medical form from a<br />

doctor that describes their disability. “That’s so we, as non-medical<br />

personnel, will know how to handle each child. Our events are<br />

focused on the participants and their safety and enjoyment.”<br />

Volunteers are encouraged to register online at<br />

www.southernoutdoorsunlimited.org.<br />

Additional questions can be directed to<br />

info@southernoutdoorsunlimited.org<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 25

Woods&Water<br />


We appreciate all of our<br />

readers and advertisers!<br />

26 FALL 2023

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 27

28 FALL 2023


Susan Marquez<br />

What started as a business selling bumpers to body shops has<br />

grown into a multi-location business that provides truck owners<br />

with options to personalize their vehicles in a myriad of ways.<br />

Rick’s Pro Truck was founded by Rick Estel in 1988. “My dad<br />

would drop off bumpers to body shops, and while there, he would<br />

pick up the wrecked bumpers and refurbish them,” says Justin Estel,<br />

Rick’s son. “Then he’d sell the bumpers he fixed back to the body<br />

shops.” That business model worked fine, but Rick saw that there<br />

was an opportunity to do more.<br />

“He built a store on I-55 South,” says Justin. “There was one<br />

salesman and one installer. Back then they did mainly toolboxes,<br />

drop-in bed liners, bug shields and dent visors.” During the early<br />

1990s, the fad was to add painted fiberglass running boards, and<br />

Rick’s Pro Truck did a lot of them. But as fads tend to do, that one<br />

faded out. But Rick’s Pro Truck continued to grow.<br />

By the mid-‘90s, Rick had purchased land on Lakeland Drive.<br />

“When we opened in 1996, there wasn’t much else out that way.” But<br />

as the area grew, so did Rick’s Pro Truck. “Around that time we also<br />

started a wholesale business,” says Justin. “That grew like crazy, and<br />

the retail side kept growing as well.” The warehouse was moved to<br />

the back of the Lakeland location in 2000, and it continued to grow.<br />

As the company expanded, the wholesale side of the business was<br />

moved to Brandon. The retail side was busier than ever, evolving into<br />

suspension lifts, spray-in bed liners, and any number of accessories to<br />

make your truck your dream truck. From tires and wheels to running<br />

boards, vent visors, hood protection, grills, lighting, front bumpers<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 29

and more, Rick’s has the parts and a professional<br />

staff of installers. The commercial<br />

division of the company is RPT, which opened<br />

in 2017 in Pearl. That division is more focused<br />

on fleet vehicles, with customization including<br />

specialized beds and refrigeration units.<br />

Yet another location of Rick’s Pro Trucks<br />

opened in Gluckstadt in 2019. That location<br />

offers all of the same services, but in a convenient<br />

location for those who live in Madison<br />

County. “We put a big focus on UTV accessories<br />

for side-by-side vehicles,” Justin says.<br />

“There are a lot of hunters in this area.”<br />

The Gluckstadt location has many items<br />

that appeal to a broad range of folks, including<br />

Bayou Classic cooking supplies. “People who<br />

have big crawfish boils love these products,”<br />

Justin says. “The store also sells a large<br />

selection of Maui Jim sunglasses for both men<br />

and women. One of the latest editions to the<br />

store are Young Electric Bikes USA. The<br />

E-Flow is foldable and can fit in pretty much<br />

any car or SUV for easy transport or storage.<br />

It has a top speed of 28 miles per hour and has<br />

a 90-mile range. Rick’s is also a Cajun Kooling<br />

dealer with systems designed for the home or<br />

patio. A simple remote control helps keep<br />

mosquitos away while keeping the area cool.<br />

30 FALL 2023

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 31

Venison Cheesesteak<br />

• 2 Tbsp. butter (divided)<br />

• 1 green pepper (sliced)<br />

• ½ sweet onion (sliced)<br />

• 4 oz. mushrooms (sliced)<br />

• 1 lb. venison steak (sliced ⅛” thick)<br />

• 4 tsp. olive oil (plus more for cooking)<br />

• 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce<br />

• 2 dahses liquid smoke<br />

• ¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper<br />

• 4 slices provolone cheese<br />

• 2 hoagie rolls<br />

• 2 Tbsp. mayo<br />

• salt<br />

Thinly slice the venison and place in a ziploc bag<br />

with olive oil, Worcesershire sauce, liquid smoke,<br />

and black pepper. Let marinate for one hour.<br />

Set broiler on high. Add 1 tablespoon butter to<br />

a saute pan over medium heat and add green<br />

peppers when melted. Let green peppers cook<br />

for 5 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Remove from<br />

skillet, saute the onions and mushrooms until<br />

tender. Set aside peppers, mushrooms and onions<br />

and add the second tablespoon of butter to the<br />

skillet. Set heat to medium-high. Add venison and<br />

spread out evenly in the pan. Let cook until the<br />

underside is seared, then flip and repeat. Continue<br />

cooking until meat is no longer pink and is nicely<br />

browned. Taste for salt and lightly salt as needed.<br />

Lightly toast the interior of the hoagie rolls in a<br />

separate skillet, toaster, or under the broiler.<br />

Assemble the sandwich by adding half of the meat<br />

into each hoagie and topping generously with<br />

pepper, onions, mushrooms, two slices of cheese<br />

and a smear of mayo. Place sandwiches briefly<br />

under broiler to melt the cheese, approximately<br />

for one minute. Be sure to watch the sandwiches,<br />

as they will burn quickly.<br />

Bacon Wrapped<br />

Tenderloin with<br />

Garlic Cream Sauce<br />

• 6 thick slices bacon<br />

• 2 venison tenderloin roasts (¾ lb. each)<br />

• 2 tsp. olive oil, divided<br />

• ¼ tsp. onion powder, divided<br />

• kosher salt and ground black pepper<br />

• 2 Tbsp. butter<br />

• 1 (8 oz.) package sliced cremini mushrooms<br />

• 2 cloves garlic, chopped<br />

• 1 Tbsp. chopped green onion, or more to taste<br />

• ½ cup heavy whipping cream, or more to taste.<br />

Preheat the oven to 375. Arrange bacon slices on a<br />

slotted baking pan. Bake in preheated oven until<br />

partially cooked but still flexible, 6 to 8 minutes.<br />

Brush tenderloins with olive oil and season with<br />

onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Place side<br />

by side and wrap together in strips of partially<br />

cooked bacon. Place into a roasting pan. Roast in<br />

oven until bacon is browned and an instant-read<br />

meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part<br />

of a tenderloin reads at least 145, about 1 hour.<br />

Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat.<br />

Add mushrooms and garlic; cook and stir until<br />

mushrooms are soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in green<br />

onion. Stir in cream and cook, stirring often, until<br />

heated through. Serve sauce with tenderloins.<br />

Tips<br />

Every deer will produce different size tenderloins<br />

and every butcher is different in cuts of venison.<br />

Some butchers will cut tenderloins into steaks like<br />

filet mignon, others will leave the tenderloins like<br />

small roasts (which I believe keeps the meat<br />

tender and won’t dry out). For best results, use an<br />

instant-read meat thermometer and adjust<br />

cooking times accordingly.<br />

Venison Stroganoff<br />

• 1½ lbs. venison steak (sliced ¼” thick)<br />

• ¼ cup butter<br />

• 8 oz. sliced bella mushrooms<br />

(or substitute wild mushrooms)<br />

• 1 large onion (thinly sliced)<br />

• 4 cloves garlic minced<br />

• ¼ cup brandy<br />

• 1¼ cup beef broth (divided)<br />

• 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce<br />

• ¼ cup flour<br />

• 1 cup sour cream<br />

• Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste<br />

• 12 oz. bag of egg noodles<br />

Melt butter in saute pan set over medium heat and<br />

add mushrooms and onions. Stirring occasionally,<br />

saute until onions are tender and beginning to<br />

brown, add minced garlic and cook for an<br />

additional 2 minutes. Remove onion, mushrooms,<br />

and garlic from the skillet and add sliced venison.<br />

Set skillet to medium-high and sear the venison<br />

until browned. Add brandy to the skillet and<br />

deglaze the pan by scraping any burnt-on bits<br />

from the bottom of the skillet so they incorporate<br />

into the liquid. Add 1 cup of beef broth and<br />

Worcestershire sauce, cover the skillet and reduce<br />

heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.<br />

Prepare the egg noodles according to package<br />

instructions while venison simmers.<br />

Add remaining ¼ cup of beef broth to a dish with<br />

flour, mix to combine until there are no lumps.<br />

After venison has simmered for 15 minutes, add<br />

mushrooms, onion, and garlic back to the skillet<br />

along with the flour mixture and sour cream.<br />

Stir to combine and serve over egg noodles when<br />

everything has sufficiently heated through.<br />

32 FALL 2023

Chicken Fried Venison<br />

• 2 lbs. venison steak (steak from the hind<br />

quarter or shoulder recommended)<br />

• ½ cup cooking oil<br />

• 1½ cups buttermilk<br />

• 2 large eggs<br />

• 2 cups all-purpose flour<br />

• 2 tsp. baking powder<br />

• 1 tsp. baking soda<br />

• 2 tsp. salt (plus more for seasoning venison)<br />

• 1 tsp. ground black pepper (plus more for<br />

seasoning venison)<br />

• ¼ tsp. ground sage<br />

• ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper<br />

Cut steaks into individual portions, approximately<br />

¼ - ⅓ pound each. Pound flat and tenderize with<br />

a meat mallet. Season with salt and pepper. Mix<br />

wet batter ingredients (buttermilk and eggs) in a<br />

dish and combine all remaining dry ingredients<br />

(flour, baking soda, baking powder, and seasonings)<br />

in a separate dish. Dredge venison in dry<br />

mixture, shake off excess. Then dredge in wet<br />

mixture, letting excess drain off. Return venison<br />

to the dry mixture for a final coating. Set on a wire<br />

rack while breading the remainder and preparing<br />

to fry. Add cooking oil to a 9” skillet and heat to<br />

325. Add breaded venison, working in batches,<br />

and fry 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown.<br />

Add more oil for each batch if needed. Remove<br />

from oil and let drain on a clean wire rack.<br />

Steak ’N Gravy<br />

• 4 (4 oz.) venison steaks<br />

• 1 cup all-purpose flour<br />

• 2 Tbsp. ground bay leaves<br />

• 1 pinch salt and pepper<br />

• 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided<br />

• ½ onion, chopped<br />

• 6 fresh mushrooms, sliced<br />

• 1 Tbsp. minced garlic<br />

• 1 (10.5 oz.) can beef gravy<br />

• ¼ cup milk<br />

Cut all fat and gristle off the meat, and pound<br />

each steak out with a meat tenderizer until they<br />

are thin but not tearing. In a shallow bowl,<br />

combine flour, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Dredge<br />

steaks in the flour mixture until evenly coated.<br />

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy skillet<br />

over medium heat. Saute onions until soft and<br />

translucent. Stir in mushrooms and garlic, and<br />

cook until tender. Remove from skillet and set<br />

aside. Heat remaining oil, and fry each steak for<br />

2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.<br />

Return onion mixture to skillet. Stir in gravy and<br />

milk. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40<br />

minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.<br />

Country Gravy<br />

• ¼ cup flour<br />

• ¼ cup butter<br />

• 2 cups milk<br />

• fresh ground pepper (to taste)<br />

• salt (to taste)<br />

The gravy can be prepared while the venison cooks,<br />

or you can keep the venison warm in a 225 degree<br />

oven while you prepare the gravy separately. Melt<br />

butter in a small saucepan set over medium low<br />

heat. Sprinkle flour into the melted butter and<br />

Venison Fajitas<br />

• 2 tsp. seasoned salt<br />

• ¼ tsp. garlic salt<br />

• ½ tsp. black pepper<br />

• ½ tsp. cayenne pepper<br />

• 1 tsp. dried oregano<br />

• 1½ lbs. venison, cut into 2 inch strips<br />

• 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil<br />

• 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 2 inch strips<br />

• 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 2 inch<br />

strips<br />

• 1 medium onion, cut into ½-inch wedges<br />

• 12 fajita size flour tortillas, warmed<br />

Combine seasoned salt, garlic salt, black pepper,<br />

cayenne pepper, and oregano to make the fajita<br />

seasoning. Sprinkle two teaspoons seasoning over<br />

the sliced venison. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate<br />

for 30 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a<br />

heavy frying pan. Cook bell peppers and onion<br />

until starting to soften, then remove. Pour in<br />

remaining oil, then cook venison until browned.<br />

Return pepper mixture to the pan, season with<br />

remaining fajita seasoning, and reheat. Serve with<br />

warmed tortillas.<br />

whisk for 2 minutes. Slowly dribble milk into the<br />

saucepan a little at a time, while continuing to stir.<br />

Ensure the milk is fully incorporated before adding<br />

more, to prevent lumps. As the gravy thins out<br />

more milk can be added at once. Continue until all<br />

milk has been added. Bring the gravy to a simmer<br />

to thicken and add salt and pepper. As the gravy<br />

gets to your desired consistency it is important to<br />

be tasting for salt. Too little salt and the gravy tastes<br />

bland. Add more salt until it tastes salted, but not<br />

salty. Serve gravy topped over chicken fried<br />

venison.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 33

Whether you're hitting the links,<br />

exploring the woods, or cruising the<br />

neighborhood, choose Ben Nelson<br />

Golf and Outdoor to ride in style.<br />

www.bennelson.com<br />

34 FALL 2023

2023-2024 Hunting Seasons<br />


Areas west of I-55 and north of I-20 plus areas<br />

south of I-20 and west of U.S. Highway 61.<br />


All private and open public lands<br />

in Alcorn, Benton, Desoto, Marshall,<br />

Tate, and Tippah counties.<br />


Areas south of U.S. Highway 84<br />

and east of MS Highway 35.<br />


All areas except the Delta, North Central,<br />

and Southeast Deer Management Units.<br />

White-Tailed Deer<br />

Bag Limits<br />

Antlered Buck Deer The statewide bag limit on antlered buck deer is one buck per day and<br />

three per annual season. One of these three may have hardened antlers that do not meet the<br />

unit legal antler requirements on private land and Holly Springs National Forest. For youth<br />

hunters fifteen years of age and younger, hunting on private land and authorized state and<br />

federal lands, all three of the three buck bag limit may be any antlered deer. Antlered buck<br />

bag limit in the North Central Deer Management Unit (DMU) is one buck per day and four<br />

per annual season. No antler restrictions apply to this DMU. All four bucks may have any<br />

sized hardened antlers.<br />

Antlerless Deer Private Lands The statewide annual bag limit on antlerless deer is five.<br />

The antlerless bag limit for private lands in the North Central DMU is ten antlerless deer<br />

per season. Antlerless deer are male or female deer which do not have hardened antler<br />

above the natural hairline. Only two antlerless deer may be harvested from the Southeast<br />

Unit. There is no daily bag limit on antlerless deer in the North Central, Hills, and Delta<br />

units. Only one antlerless deer per day may be harvested in the Southeast DMU.<br />

U.S. Forest Service National Forests The bag limit is one per day, not to exceed five per<br />

annual season except in the Southeast Unit, which is two per annual season.<br />

Legal Weapons<br />

Youth Gun Youth may carry and use any firearm with which they can safely hunt, and in<br />

compliance with other applicable laws, rules, and regulations.<br />

Archery Longbows, recurves, compound bows, and crossbows. There is no minimum<br />

or maximum draw weight. There is no minimum arrow length. Fixed or mechanical<br />

broadheads may be used.<br />

Primitive Weapons Weapons legal for use during the primitive weapons season are all<br />

archery equipment and primitive firearms. “Primitive firearms,” for the purpose of hunting<br />

deer, are defined as single or double-barreled muzzleloading rifles of at least .38 caliber;<br />

OR single shot, breech loading, metallic cartridge rifles (.35 caliber or larger) and replicas,<br />

reproductions, or reintroductions of those type rifles with an exposed hammer; OR single<br />

or double-barreled muzzleloading shotguns, with single ball or slug. All muzzleloading<br />

primitive firearms must use black powder or a black powder substitute with percussion<br />

caps, #209 shotgun primers, or flintlock ignition. “Blackpowder substitute” is defined as a<br />

substance designed, manufactured, and specifically intended to be used as a propellant in<br />

muzzleloading or other black powder firearms, excluding modern smokeless powder.<br />

Metallic cartridges may be loaded with either black powder or modern smokeless powder<br />

(cartridges purchased at sporting goods stores). Telescopic sights are allowed while hunting<br />

with any primitive firearm during the primitive weapon seasons. A telescopic sight is defined<br />

as an optical sighting device with any magnification. During any open season on deer with<br />

primitive weapons after November 30, a person may use any legal weapon of choice,<br />

including pre-charged pneumatic weapons (air guns or bows), on private lands only, if the<br />

person is the title owner of the land, the lessee of the hunting rights on the land, a member<br />

of a hunting club leasing the hunting rights on the land, or a guest of a person specified<br />

above. If the person is required to have a hunting license, the person must have a primitive<br />

weapon license, sportsman’s license, or a lifetime sportsman’s license.<br />

Gun There are no caliber or magazine capacity restrictions on firearms. Primitive weapons<br />

(as defined above) and archery equipmentmay be used during gun seasons.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 35




A legal buck is defined as having EITHER<br />

a minimum inside spread of 10 inches<br />

OR one main beam at least 13 inches long.<br />

How to estimate a 10 inch inside spread<br />

Estimating a 10 inch spread is accomplished by observing a buck’s ears in<br />

the alert position. When in the alert position, the distance from ear-tip to<br />

ear-tip measures approximately 14 inches. If the OUTSIDE of each antler<br />

beam is one inch inside the ear-tip, the inside spread is approximately<br />

10 inches.<br />

How to estimate a 13 inch main beam<br />

To estimate a 13 inch main beam, the buck’s head must be observed from<br />

the side. If the tip of the main beam extends to the front of the eye, main<br />

beam length is approximately 13 inches.<br />


A legal buck is defined as having EITHER<br />

a minimum inside spread of 12 inches<br />

OR one main beam at least 15 inches long.<br />

How to estimate a 12 inch inside spread<br />

Estimating a 12 inch spread is accomplished by observing a buck’s ears in<br />

the alert position. When in the alert position, the distance from ear-tip to<br />

ear-tip measures approximately 15 inches. If the OUTSIDE of each antler<br />

beam reaches the ear-tip, the inside spread is approximately 12 inches.<br />

(Therefore, if the outside of both antler beams reach the ear tips, the buck<br />

is legal). *Due to body size differences in the Delta Unit, ear-tip to ear-tip<br />

measurements are slightly larger compared to the other units.<br />

How to estimate a 15 inch main beam<br />

To estimate a 15 inch main beam, the buck’s head must be observed from<br />

the side. If the tip of the main beam extends between the front of the eye<br />

and the tip of the nose, main beam length is approximately 15 inches.<br />

10” Inside<br />

Spread<br />

12” Inside<br />

Spread<br />

13” Main<br />

Beam<br />

15” Main<br />

Beam<br />

INSIDE<br />

MAIN<br />


Delta 12” OR 15”<br />

Hills 10” OR 13”<br />

Southeast 10” OR 13”<br />

North Central<br />

Any hardened antler<br />

36 FALL 2023



Archery<br />

Youth Season<br />

( 15 and under )<br />

September 15 - 17<br />

September 30 - November 17<br />

November 4 - November 17<br />

November 18 - January 31<br />

Legal Buck Only. Special permit, mandatory reporting,<br />

and CWD sampling required. Private Land Only.<br />

Either-Sex on private land, open public land,<br />

and Holly Springs NF.<br />

Either-Sex on private lands and authorized state<br />

and federal lands.<br />

Either-Sex on private lands. On open public lands,<br />

youth must follow below legal deer criteria.<br />

Antlerless Primitive Weapon November 6 - 17 Antlerless Deer Only on private lands.<br />

Gun November 18 - December 1 Either-Sex on private land and Holly Springs NF.<br />

( with dogs ) Legal Bucks only on open public land.<br />

Primitive Weapon December 2 - 15 Either-Sex on private land, open public land,<br />

and Holly Springs NF. Weapon of choice may be<br />

used on private land with appropriate license.<br />

Gun December 16 - 23 Either-Sex on private land and Holly Springs NF.<br />

( without dogs ) Legal Bucks only on open public land.<br />

Gun December 24 - January 17 Either-Sex on private land and Holly Spring NF.<br />

( with dogs ) Legal Bucks only on open public land.<br />

Archery/ January 18 - 31 Either-Sex on private land and Holly Springs NF.<br />

Primitive Weapon<br />

Legal Bucks only on open public land. Weapon of choice<br />

may be used on private land with appropriate license.<br />


Archery September 15 - 17 Legal Buck Only. Special permit, mandatory reporting,<br />

and CWD sampling required. Private Land Only.<br />

October 14 - November 17<br />

Either-Sex on private and open public land.<br />

Youth Season November 4 - November 17 Either-Sex on private lands and authorized state<br />

( 15 and under ) and federal lands.<br />

November 18 - February 15<br />

Either-Sex on private lands. On open public lands,<br />

youth must follow below legal deer criteria.<br />

Gun ( with dogs ) November 18 - December 1 Either-Sex on private land.<br />

Legal Bucks only on open public land.<br />

Primitive Weapon December 2 - 15 Either-Sex on private and open public land.<br />

Weapon of choice may be used on private land<br />

with appropriate license.<br />

Gun (without dogs) December 16 - 23 Either-Sex on private land.<br />

Legal Bucks only on open public land.<br />

Gun (with dogs) December 24 - January 17 Either-Sex on private land.<br />

Legal Bucks only on open public land.<br />

Archery/Primitive Weapon January 18 - 31 Either-Sex on private land. Legal Bucks only on open<br />

public land. Weapon of choice may be used on private land<br />

with appropriate license.<br />

February 1 - 15<br />

Legal Bucks only on private and open public land.<br />

Weapon of choice may be used on private land<br />

with appropriate license.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 37

migratory game birds<br />


September Teal September 9 - September24 6 18<br />

September Canada Geese* September 1 - September30 5 15<br />

Woodcock December 18 - Jan. 31 3 9<br />

Snipe November 14 - February 28 8 24<br />

Gallinules September 1 - October 1 15 Singly or in aggregate 45 Singly or in aggregate<br />

Common & Purple November 23 - December 31<br />

Rails September 1 - October 1 15 Singly or in aggregate 45 Singly or in aggregate<br />

Clapper & King November 23 - December 31<br />

Rails September 1 - October 1 25 Singly or in aggregate 75 Singly or in aggregate<br />

Sora & Virginia November 23 - December 31<br />

Mourning & September 2 - October 15<br />

White-winged Doves October 28 - November 26 15 Singly or in aggregate 45 Singly or in aggregate<br />

(North Zone)** December 30 - January 14<br />

Mourning & September 2 - September 24<br />

White-winged Doves October 7 - November 5 15 Singly or in aggregate 45 Singly or in aggregate<br />

(South Zone)*** December 23 - January 28<br />

Crows November 4 - February 29 No Limit No Limit<br />

Ducks, Mergansers, November 24 - November 26<br />

and Coots**** December 1 - December 3 See below**** See below****<br />

December 9 - January 31<br />

Geese: Canada, November 10 - November. 26 Canada Geese 5 Canada Geese 15<br />

Snow, Blue, Ross’s, December 1 - December 3 Snow, Blue, & Ross’s 20 Snow, Blue, & Ross’s No limit<br />

White-fronted, and Brant December 9 - January 31 White-fronted 3, Brant 1 White-fronted 9, Brant 3<br />

Youth, Veterans, & Active February 3 - 4, 2024 Same as regular season Same as regular season<br />

Military Waterfowl Days<br />

October 1 - November 9<br />

Light Goose November 27 - November 30<br />

Conservation Order***** December 4 - December 8 No Limit***** No Limit*****<br />

(Special Permit Needed) February 1 - February 2<br />

February 5 - March 31<br />

*September Canada Goose season is closed<br />

on Roebuck Lake in Leflore county.<br />

**DOVE NORTH ZONE - Areas north of U.S.<br />

Highw ay 84 plus areas south of U.S. Highway<br />

84 and west of MS Highway 35.<br />

***DOVE SOUTH ZONE - Areas south of<br />

U.S. Highway 84 and east of MS Highway 35.<br />

****The duck daily bag limit is a total of six<br />

ducks, including no more than four mallards<br />

(no more than two of which may be females),<br />

one mottled duck, two black ducks, one pintail,<br />

three wood ducks, two canvasbacks, and two<br />

redheads. The daily bag limit for scaup is one<br />

scaup per day November 24 - 26, December<br />

1 - 3, and December 9 - 17; and is two scaup<br />

per day December 18 - January 31.<br />

38 FALL 2023<br />

The merganser daily bag limit is a total of 5<br />

mergansers, only 2 of which may be hooded<br />

mergansers.<br />

The coot daily bag limit is a total of 15 coots.<br />

The possession limit is three times the daily<br />

bag limit for ducks, mergansers, and coots.<br />

Shooting hours for all migratory game birds<br />

are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset,<br />

except for the Light Goose Conservation Order<br />

(see below).<br />

*****The Light Goose Conservation Order is a<br />

special opportunity designed to reduce the<br />

population of overpopulated snow, blue, and<br />

Ross’s geese when no other waterfowl seasons<br />

are open. This order allows for expanded<br />

methods of take that are not allowed during<br />

regular waterfowl seasons. To participate in<br />

the Light Goose Conservation Order, hunters<br />

need a valid Mississippi hunting license, state<br />

waterfowl stamp, and a free Light Goose<br />

Conservation Order permit number. Hunters<br />

can obtain a permit number by visiting<br />

mdwfp.com/waterfowl.<br />

Light Goose Conservation Order Methods:<br />

Shooting hours are from ½ hour before sunrise<br />

to ½ hour after sunset. Only snow, blue, and<br />

Ross’s geese are eligible for harvest. The use<br />

of electronic calls is allowed. The use of<br />

unplugged shotguns is allowed. There is no<br />

daily or possession limit for snow, blue, or<br />

Ross’s geese. Hunters must use non-toxic shot.<br />

Hunters must possess a valid Mississippi hunting<br />

license and a Mississippi state waterfowl stamp.<br />

Light goose conservation order hunters do not<br />

need a federal duck stamp.

Spring Turkey<br />


Youth March 8 - 14 One adult gobbler or one gobbler with a six-inch<br />

(Private and authorized state<br />

or longer beard per day, three per spring season.<br />

and federal public lands.<br />

Hunters 15 years of age and younger may harvest<br />

Youth 15 and under)<br />

one gobbler of choice (any age) per day,<br />

three per spring season.<br />

Spring March 15 - May 1<br />

Non- Resident (Public Lands) March 15 - 31 One adult gobbler or one gobbler with a six-inch<br />

or longer beard per day, three per Spring season.<br />

*Non-residents Turkey Hunting on Public Lands: Non-residents cannot hunt any public land in Mississippi between March 15 - 31 unless drawn<br />

for either a Non-resident Public Lands Turkey Permit or WMA Draw Hunt.<br />

Small Game<br />

Youth Squirrel* September 23 - 30 8<br />

Squirrel - Fall Season September 30 - February 28 8<br />

Squirrel - Spring Season May 15 - June 1 4<br />

Rabbit October 14 - February 28 8<br />

Bobwhite Quail Novemebr 23 - March 2 8<br />

Frog April 1 - September 30 25 per night<br />

Raccoon July 1 - September 30 1 per party per night<br />

Opossum, Raccoon, and Bobcat<br />

September 30 - October 31<br />

Food & Sport<br />

November 1 - February 28<br />

Food, Sport, & Pelt<br />

5 per day - 8 per party<br />

No Limit<br />

Trapping November 1 - Mar. 15 No Limit<br />

*On private lands and authorized state and federal lands<br />

only in those areas open for squirrel hunting.<br />

S<br />

quirrels are considered a nuisance to people with bird feeders, as they always seem<br />

to have an uncanny knack for getting into places they shouldn’t. Their specialty<br />

is finding shortcuts, such as jumping directly onto suspended birdfeeders from trees.<br />

Squirrels can leap 10 times their body length. They have long, muscular hind legs paired<br />

with short front legs made for gripping in order to make these death-defying jumps.<br />

Padding on their feet also helps to cushion their landing. They can also turn their<br />

ankles 180 degrees, which helps them to face any direction<br />

when climbing, even straight down a tree trunk!<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 39

A Hook & Line<br />

Susan Marquez<br />

40 FALL 2023

There is an old proverb that says, “Give a man<br />

a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to<br />

fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Tommy Moss<br />

of Brandon has been fishing ever since he can<br />

remember. “I have a photograph of me when I was<br />

nine years old and my little brother was five years<br />

old, holding a stringer of fish in Destin, Florida.”<br />

Tommy grew up in south Jackson and<br />

graduated from Wingfield High School. He<br />

recalls the years he worked at a Tote-Sum store<br />

in Jackson. “The man who owned it took me out<br />

fishing when I was a teenager. We went to the<br />

Ross Barnett Reservoir not long after it was built.”<br />

In the 1970s, Tommy says he fished in a few bass<br />

tournaments before the late Jim McKay from<br />

Brandon got him into crappie fishing. “That was<br />

25 years ago. I have fished in a lot of crappie<br />

tournaments since then.”<br />

Tommy started fishing with Brad Calhoun,<br />

who serves as a Rankin County supervisor. “We<br />

started tournament fishing together. Brad and I<br />

fished the American Crappie Trail, which covers<br />

five or six states in the southeast. We have done<br />

different tours over the years, and had a couple of<br />

sponsors; Lucas Oil, who did our boat wrap, and<br />

B’n’M Poles. They are in West Point, Mississippi,<br />

and they are the leader in the crappie pole industry.”<br />

The sport of fishing is ever-changing, and<br />

Tommy has seen many of those changes during<br />

his lifetime. “It’s especially true with bass and<br />

crappie fishing. Electronics play heavily into that.<br />

To so many of the young fishermen out there, it’s<br />

like playing a video game.” Tommy says he is a<br />

little concerned that because the electronics<br />

available now are so good that it may contribute<br />

to a dwindling fish population around the state.<br />

“Mississippi has four of the top five crappie lakes<br />

in the United States: Grenada Lake, Enid, Sardis,<br />

and the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Arkabutla is also<br />

excellent for crappie fishing.” The thrill of the<br />

weigh-in is still what excites Tommy, who says that<br />

winners are decided by 1/100th of an ounce.<br />

“That is, in itself, super exciting!”<br />

Tournament fishing can get expensive. “It has<br />

evolved to folks fishing out of $25,000 to $35,000<br />

boats, plus the electronics, gas, and travel costs to<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 41

tournaments can all add up.” But the prize money is<br />

incentive enough to keep fishermen in the game. “That<br />

may be why there are so many fishing teams in schools<br />

now. A lot of young people are getting into the sport.<br />

Those programs are impressive. They must have an adult<br />

sponsor to go out and supervise the students while they<br />

are fishing. The schools now have big tournaments, and the<br />

students travel, and advance up the ladder. There are a lot<br />

of scholarships available for those who do well.”<br />

Tommy has spent a good amount of time teaching<br />

fishing techniques through B’n’M Poles and Bass Pro<br />

Shops. “For one week every year, there are fishing<br />

seminars taking place at 75 to 100 different locations.”<br />

Tommy has also taught fishing at the Mississippi<br />

Natural Science Museum.<br />

As a member of the Magnolia Crappie Club, Tommy<br />

says he is seeing more and more husband-and-wife<br />

fishing teams as well as a good number of fathers and<br />

sons. “The Crappie Club has chapters in a lot of southeastern<br />

states. Our club is the oldest – we have been in<br />

existence over thirty years.” The Magnolia Crappie Club<br />

fishes ten tournaments a year at local lakes and reservoirs<br />

around the state. They also work closely with the<br />

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.<br />

“They do studies on growth and numbers, and we push<br />

them to do more.”<br />

Tommy says his favorite thing about fishing is being<br />

out on the water at sunrise. “It is always different, but it is<br />

always pretty and peaceful. I try to be the first one there,<br />

about thirty minutes before sunrise.” He enjoys fishing in<br />

the Ross Barnett Reservoir, Grenada Lake, and in the<br />

oxbow lakes off the Mississippi River. “I also have a<br />

friend who has a place at Eagle Lake that I like to fish.<br />

I probably fish three or four days a week.” He says that<br />

over the years, he has fished from Mexico to Alaska and<br />

many places in between.<br />

Retired from working in the grocery business as an<br />

executive for Jitney-Jungle, Tommy has been married to<br />

his wife, Linda, for 51 years. “She doesn’t really like to fish,<br />

but she loves eating what I catch!” Tommy says he goes<br />

deep sea fishing two or three times a year, and he takes<br />

his family to Destin for a week each year in June. He and<br />

Linda have two daughters, ten years apart. “I have two<br />

young grandsons coming up, ages three and five, and<br />

I’m going to introduce both of them to fishing!”<br />

42 FALL 2023

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MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 43

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Woods Harvests<br />

State Record<br />

Monster Gator<br />

on Yazoo River MICHAEL GILES<br />

Don Woods made a long cast and felt a<br />

thump on the end of his rod as he retrieved his<br />

gator lure back toward the boat. Woods, from<br />

Oxford, snapped the rod back with all the<br />

strength he could muster and drove the steel<br />

hooks deep into an alligator. The alligator dove<br />

for the bottom and started pulling the boat<br />

across the Yazoo River like a mini submarine.<br />

“It was obvious that this was no ordinary<br />

gator,” said Woods. “Our team was familiar<br />

with the Yazoo River and some of the holes<br />

that alligators like to use so we cruised down<br />

the river before dark hoping to locate a large<br />

gator. I was hunting with my cousin Will<br />

Thomas, along with Tanner White and Joey<br />

Clark, and we saw several 8-foot and 10-foot<br />

gators but none we wanted to hunt so we kept<br />

searching.”<br />

Woods and team were hunting on the<br />

opening day of the Mississippi alligator season<br />

on the Yazoo River, in the west central alligator<br />

zone, when they hooked up with a massive<br />

alligator.<br />

Chaos ensued as the enraged gator came<br />

up snapping and slashing the water as it tried<br />

to free itself from Woods’ line. Suddenly the<br />

gator dove down and put it into high gear like<br />

a torpedo, tearing up reels and breaking rods<br />

in the process.<br />

Alas, this alligator wouldn’t go down<br />

without a massive battle with the team. Several<br />

times two of the hunters had the Yazoo leviathan<br />

on their rods at the same time but each time he<br />

mangled their gear and escaped.<br />

“We almost quit several times,” Woods said.<br />

“Will said he didn’t know if we had enough<br />

equipment left to land the big gator after he’d<br />

stripped the gears out of a reel and broken<br />

several of our rods.”<br />

“It was really a blur after we hooked up<br />

with the gator around 10pm that Friday night.<br />

We’ve caught a lot of 10-foot to 12-foot-long<br />

alligators but this one beat them all.”<br />

“Surreal is what it was,” said Woods. “But it<br />

was a lot of fun in the end.”<br />

With most of their equipment torn up and<br />

muscles aching from the struggle with the<br />

massive gator, they had to dig deep and resist<br />

the desire to quit and go home for the night.<br />

“We caught him several times only to lose him<br />

before we could land him,” Woods said. “But<br />

we stayed close and let the boat drift in the area<br />

where he was at until we saw him again. We<br />

actually drifted by him and Tanner and me<br />

both started casting and working the bottom<br />

trying to hook him again.”<br />

“Wham!” Woods’ rod snapped down as the<br />

gator felt the sting of the steel treble hook once<br />

again. The tired angler suddenly had a surge of<br />

adrenalin as he battled this prehistoric reptile.<br />

“It was about 2:30 a.m. when I caught him the<br />

last time and he dragged us across the river<br />

again,” said Woods. “About 30 minutes later,<br />

the alligator finally surfaced and Tanner cast<br />

past him and hooked him and we had two<br />

lines on him.”<br />

Although the gator was wearing down, he<br />

was still causing mayhem for the tired anglers<br />

as it fought wildly after spotting the boat. This<br />

time the massive beast came up snapping at<br />

them as they tried to control him and bring<br />

him alongside the 14-foot aluminum boat.<br />

It was nip and tuck for sure and one<br />

mistake could’ve meant serious injury or even<br />

death. The hard part of the battle was getting<br />

control of the gator and then wearing him<br />

down enough to hold him close to the boat<br />

long enough to make a killing shot.<br />

“It seemed like it took forever to get the<br />

noose around the gator’s head,” Woods said.<br />

“He was fighting hard and his head was almost<br />

too wide to get the noose around him, but we<br />

finally did.”<br />

Woods had a PVC pipe with a line on it<br />

that allowed him to finally slip the line around<br />

the alligator’s head so that they could secure<br />

him and hold him long enough to put him<br />

down. Alligator hunting rules state that<br />

alligators must be hooked securely before they<br />

can be shot so that they won’t sink and be lost.<br />

If they are not hooked securely then more<br />

alligators might be harvested than tags that<br />

were prescribed for the special hunting season<br />

which provides a way to control the gator<br />

population without harvesting too many.<br />

Nothing beats tenacity and perseverance<br />

and Woods, and the team finally wore the<br />

gator down and held him steady just long<br />

enough for them to dispatch the beast.<br />

“Boom!” As Woods pulled the trigger the<br />

shotgun roared, and the leviathan was finally<br />

finished.<br />

46 FALL 2023

“Surreal<br />

is what<br />

it was...”<br />

The huge gator measured 14 feet 3-inches<br />

from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail and<br />

weighed 802.5 pounds.<br />

Former Alligator Program Coordinator<br />

Ricky Flynt, who worked with the alligator<br />

program for 20 years, joined the new coordinator<br />

Andrew Arnette at the Red Antler<br />

Processing and Hunting Store in Yazoo City<br />

to measure and weigh the massive gator. “The<br />

previous state record alligator was 14-feet and<br />

.75-inches,” said Flynt. “The new state record<br />

gator was only one of three alligators harvested<br />

in our state longer than 14 feet and it went 14-3.”<br />

“After Woods brought the alligator to the<br />

Red Antler Deer Processing Store, one of the<br />

store employees noticed a tag on the gator so<br />

Don called me and sent a picture to find out<br />

the significance of it,” Flynt said. “I could<br />

hardly believe it when they told me about the<br />

tag on the gator. That gator was a nuisance<br />

gator that Tracy Tullos and I caught back in<br />

2007 south of Vicksburg from a small pond. It<br />

was 10-feet ,11-inches long when we caught<br />

and tagged it and relocated it 29 miles up the<br />

Yazoo River.”<br />

Flynt still had all of his alligator data, so he<br />

looked it up and amazingly, that gator had<br />

grown 40-inches in the last 16 years.<br />

“They actually caught the alligator 22½<br />

miles from where we turned it loose,” Flynt<br />

said. “That’s one of the most important things<br />

that I enjoyed the most, tagging those gators<br />

and then getting information back on them<br />

from hunters even years later. Hunters who<br />

report back to us are so important to biologists<br />

because we get a world of information about<br />

the gators—where they came from and where<br />

they’re harvested.”<br />

If you are interested in the Mississippi<br />

alligator harvests and past records, check out<br />

the link about alligators at www.mdwfp.com/<br />

wildlife-hunting/alligator-program/. There are<br />

several links including harvest records from<br />

the early alligator hunts, as well as the Mississippi<br />

alligator hunting records.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 47

48 FALL 2023<br />

Getting to Know Wildlife Photographer<br />

Bubba Brantley

When did you first become<br />

interested in photography?<br />

Around 2005. My boys had started riding motocross<br />

and I would go to the tracks with my point and shoot<br />

and try to capture them riding. That wasn’t working out<br />

too well until a friend of mine let me borrow<br />

her DSLR and after that I was hooked.<br />

How did your interest turn<br />

to outdoor wildlife shooting?<br />

I have always had a love for the outdoors through<br />

hunting and fishing. At the start of my photography<br />

career, I would go out in the yard and chase birds,<br />

squirrels, frogs and anything that would stand still long<br />

enough to get pictures. And it just turned into a challenge<br />

to get a good shot of any animal that I could find.<br />

What’s your favorite season<br />

for shooting wildlife?<br />

Fall is my favorite due to the changing of the landscapes,<br />

creating natural backdrops with incredibly vibrant colors.<br />

Not to mention cooler temperatures make the animals<br />

more active and available to photograph.<br />

What’s the biggest obstacle<br />

to getting great outdoor shots?<br />

Having the perfect lighting at the instant it’s needed.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 49

What was your most memorable moment<br />

photographing in the “wild?”<br />

For years I had wanted to capture a good image of an<br />

alligator, and had several encounters, but never one I was<br />

happy with. Many years back, we were at Mayes Lake and<br />

had been told of this alligator that would lay on a cypress<br />

log. Up until then, I had not seen it. That particular day we<br />

pulled up and there it was. I got so excited that I could<br />

hardly get my camera out of the case. I was shaking!<br />

If something affects you in that way then you know<br />

you’re doing something right.<br />

Why would anyone want to wade in a<br />

river of alligators just to get a picture?<br />

The pursuit of the perfect image makes you do crazy things.<br />

Have you ever been in danger<br />

while photographing wildlife?<br />

Several years back, we were in the mountains and<br />

came over a hill and came face to face with a black bear.<br />

She pursued of for a brief moment.<br />

I think it was a bluff charge, but still very frightening.<br />

What’s a key piece of advice for anyone<br />

wanting to be a wildlife photographer?<br />

Wildlife photography, in a lot of instances,<br />

requires early mornings, late evenings, and much patience.<br />

It takes lots of time in the field.<br />

50 FALL 2023

Do you have an all-time<br />

favorite photograph?<br />

So many come to mind but, but I can narrow<br />

it down to two. The alligator already mentioned,<br />

and a beautiful wood duck. Guess you can say<br />

I was at the right place at the right time.<br />

Do you have plans for a book?<br />

I would love to create a book of my favorite images.<br />

I print a yearly calendar with some of my favorites<br />

taken throughout that particular year.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 51

52 FALL 2023

A Place to Gather<br />

Susan Marquez<br />

Veterinarians Bill and Jennifer Sullivan love the outdoors,<br />

and they have a fascination with shorebirds. “We like to study<br />

the migration of waterfowl such as sandpipers, black leg<br />

stilts, spoonbills and dowitchers,” Bill says. The couple lives<br />

on the north shore of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, where Bill<br />

says they see all kinds of shorebirds from their back yard.<br />

Bill also enjoys hunting, and for some time he kept an eye<br />

out for a property where the family could have a getaway to<br />

hunt, fish, and relax with their three children.<br />

He found just the right spot ten years ago in Humphries<br />

County, near Isola and Inverness. “It’s on the bootheel of the<br />

county, near the border of Sunflower County,” he explains.<br />

Most people would have passed on by without giving the<br />

place a second thought. Built as a farm shop for a catfish and<br />

row farming operation, the metal building had concrete floors<br />

and one section was just gravel. Old farming equipment was<br />

housed in the building. But Bill looked at the building and land<br />

and knew he could transform it into something his family<br />

could enjoy for years to come.<br />

“I’m not much of a loner,” he says. “I like being around<br />

other people. So we asked friends of ours if they’d like to go<br />

in with us.”<br />

Four families are now part of 4 Winds Refuge, a place<br />

where they gather together, hunt, fish, and play games. “It’s a<br />

place we all have in common,” says Bill. “We all honor God in<br />

everything we do, and we know what each other is thinking.<br />

We have the same worldview. Our kids have four daddies to<br />

teach them what’s important by living that out in front of them.<br />

Living in close proximity and spending time together creates a<br />

strong and special bond.”<br />

The three other couples who have the hunting camp with<br />

the Sullivans are Melissa and Ken Bailey, Henry and Kelly<br />

Cook, and Tommy and Tiffany Couch. “There are twelve<br />

children who have grown up at the camp, half of whom are<br />

now married. There is one grandbaby so far,” says Bill.<br />

The farm shop required a lot of work to house the four<br />

families. “After we worked on those floors, removing the<br />

grime of 30 years of farm equipment, we essentially turned<br />

the barn into a Yeti cooler. We blew four inches of insulation<br />

on all the walls and ceiling and added windows.” The barn<br />

now has four apartments, one for each family. There is a large<br />

shared common space that is tied to the dining area which<br />

features a 22’ table that Ken built from lumber salvaged from<br />

an old tobacco warehouse in North Carolina. “We love<br />

gathering around that table, sharing meals and sharing our<br />

lives with each other,” Bill says. There are two large TVs<br />

downstairs that are perfect for watching football games.<br />

Guest suites upstairs allow others to come join them at<br />

the barn. “We love having guests. We do retreats here,<br />

ladies’ gatherings, mens’ Bible studies, and we have had a<br />

birdwatching organization from Oxford come use the barn.<br />

It’s just a perfect place for people to gather.” The guest suite<br />

has a big game room that is ideal for card games and puzzles.<br />

Bill says there are “a lot of moving parts” to the camp.<br />

“Some weekends we’ll have a guys’ trip up and do the he-man<br />

work, like bush hogging and land management. There are<br />

water wells and irrigation to tend to and other chores, but<br />

we enjoy doing it.”<br />

Bill says he enjoys spending time walking the property and<br />

enjoying the connection with nature. “I’m kind of a nerd in that<br />

respect. I’m an invertebrate biologist and I’m fascinated by the<br />

life cycles in nature. From the water plants to the animals, I love<br />

to observe it all. It’s a good opportunity for all of us to escape<br />

our daily lives and slow down. We worship our creator here.”<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 53

54 FALL 2023


The Call<br />

of an<br />

Artisan<br />

Camille Anding<br />

“Come over and critique<br />

this duck call I just made.”<br />

That was a friend request to Josh Raggio<br />

that set Josh on an unchartered journey.<br />

He recalls that visit - something about the sawdust, the smell of<br />

wood in that workshop that caused Josh to think, “I gotta try this.<br />

I can make a duck call.” And he did!<br />

Perhaps it was his love of the woods and being a “wing hunter”<br />

that helped initiate Josh’s creative juices, but it didn’t take long at his<br />

new hobby for word to spread. His intentions were to make duck<br />

calls for some family members and a few friends, but the quality of<br />

his “musical instruments” closely mimicking duck language soon<br />

attracted strangers wanting to order.<br />

The orders increased to the point that Josh’s hobby turned into<br />

a part-time job. The work wasn’t easy – it was time consuming with<br />

long hours on his feet accompanied with extra back pain.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 55

It was five years into this exhausting work schedule that pushed<br />

Josh to make a major decision. Why not turn his hobby into a full<br />

time profession and walk away from his position in the corporate<br />

world with Puckett Machinery that included a significant salary,<br />

company truck, gas card, and insurance benefits? It would be a<br />

serious decision.<br />

Josh remembers the first few weeks of investing all of his work<br />

time into duck calls. His wife, Ann, was a stay-home mom to their<br />

one- and five-year-olds, Jett and McRee. So Josh was fully aware of<br />

his role as the sole breadwinner.<br />

Josh’s craftsmanship continued to gain momentum via friends<br />

and word of mouth. Magazines added to the list of people taking<br />

note of “that duck call guy.” Articles about Josh’s uncommon talent<br />

appeared in Garden and Gun, Porch and Prairie, Delta Magazine,<br />

Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, and Mississippi Magazine. Josh’s<br />

duck calls were becoming a sought-after art piece.<br />

Just as Josh had always been fixated on quality in creating his duck<br />

calls, his long-time dream of opening a man store with a masculine<br />

theme for hunters and woodsmen became his next fixation. His<br />

excitement grew as he saw a dream nearing reality.<br />

The search for quality craftsmanship in all of the lines he planned<br />

to carry in his store began. “I wanted items that were unique and<br />

different,” he affirmed. But was there time for this? The demand for<br />

his duck calls continued. As a husband and father, he would never<br />

neglect time spent with family. Later, he would add time as a<br />

sporting clay (skeet) instructor at Mississippi College.<br />

www.RaggioMercantile.com<br />

56 FALL 2023

Over the next five years the dream grew to a priority and was<br />

made to fit into the Raggio schedules. In August of 2022, Raggio<br />

Mercantile at 112 West Main Street in Raymond, Mississippi, opened<br />

for business.<br />

Arrive at Raggio Mercantile where rhythm and blues music is<br />

playing from Turtlebox speakers (items available in the store).<br />

The tone is set for a man’s shopping mecca.<br />

An electric bike is parked near the entrance,<br />

another one of the uncommon items<br />

available in the store.<br />

Step into Josh’s man cave of the extraordinary<br />

and unique. The aroma of Josh’s own<br />

line of candles immediately introduce you<br />

to what your eyes and touch are about to<br />

experience. There’s an entire section of<br />

Raggio soaps, lotions, and Raggio Manfume, plus a selection of<br />

exclusive coffee, popcorn, jams, and caramels.<br />

The displays are marked by the skill of Raggio’s artistry – an<br />

ability to offer such a wide variety of items without looking crowded<br />

or unorganized. There are handmade leather items, canvas bags,<br />

handmade knives and a humidor holding a selection of specialty<br />

cigars. Blue Delta designer jean samples give the customer the chance<br />

to feel and select his color of choice. Raggio’s is<br />

the only place in central Mississippi to offer the<br />

twelve measurements<br />

that make this jean<br />

the most customfitted<br />

available.<br />

A variety of devotional books geared for men are on another<br />

display table. One of Josh’s good friends is making news with his line<br />

of Lite Boots – the cardboard-light kind. Josh proudly offers this line<br />

in his store.<br />

Stately prints of Josh’s duck calls hang along one wall – an added<br />

feature Josh offers to the purchaser of his duck calls who want the<br />

one-of-a-kind art piece to be pictured in another<br />

art form. Ann has added an attractive line of<br />

jewelry for those ladies who shop with their<br />

husbands.<br />

Uniqueness, quality, and collectability<br />

distinguish the items in Raggio’s Mercantile.<br />

This treasure-trove building, which stood as a<br />

drugstore for fifty years, has taken on new life.<br />

From the merchandise section, you can look<br />

through windows at the back of the store into Josh’s workshop –the<br />

actual place where the “duck call guy” constructs his now famous<br />

duck calls. According to the materials, inlays, and carvings, the<br />

price can range from $550 to $5,000. His two-year backlog on<br />

orders confirms his artistry and demand for his gift of replicating<br />

duck language.<br />

Small-town Raymond, Mississippi? Miles off the beaten path?<br />

Prices reflecting one-of-a-kind quality craftsmanship? None of the<br />

above have clouded Josh’s expectations for Raggio Mercantile. “I do<br />

see a shift in consumer shopping at Amazon and Walmart to shop<br />

local and shop small,” Josh says of the future.<br />

A visit to this destination will give you a new perspective on<br />

small-town treasures and artisans that turn dreams into reality.<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 57

Find Yourself<br />

Outdoors<br />

The Mississippi outdoors isn’t just a place for leisure; it’s a sanctuary of solace,<br />

a classroom of life lessons, and a treasure trove of biodiversity.<br />

The Mississippi outdoors provides a refuge from the demands of our fast-paced<br />

lives. Whether it’s a relaxed hike through a nearby park, a weekend camping trip, or<br />

a day spent fishing in a quiet river, nature offers a therapeutic escape. The crisp air,<br />

the melodies of birdsong, and the breathtaking beauty of our natural landscapes<br />

soothe our souls and help us recharge. Numerous studies emphasize the role of<br />

nature in reducing stress, enhancing mental well-being, and fostering a profound<br />

sense of happiness.<br />

Beyond its therapeutic benefits, the Mississippi outdoors can be a classroom, and<br />

nature, a teacher. Delve into the hidden wonders of the outdoors, observing how every<br />

living and non-living element are interlinked. From hidden wonders to the fascinating<br />

behaviors of wildlife, nature imparts valuable lessons. By immersing ourselves in the<br />

great outdoors, we gain a deeper understanding of our environment and our place<br />

within it.<br />

Nature also reminds us of the critical importance of conservation. Mississippi is<br />

blessed with a rich tapestry of plant and animal species, each playing a unique role in<br />

our ecosystem. The outdoors is where we witness the delicate balance of life, where<br />

every organism has a part to play. Protecting these diverse habitats and their inhabitants<br />

is vital for our planet’s health and our own. Conservation efforts, both large and<br />

small, contribute to the preservation of our natural heritage for future generations.<br />

Access to quality outdoor experiences is essential. State parks, wildlife areas, and<br />

public waters offer an array of recreational opportunities for all. Whether it’s hiking,<br />

birdwatching, hunting, or fishing, nature’s wonders are accessible to everyone. Efforts<br />

to make outdoor spaces inclusive, especially for individuals with disabilities, ensure<br />

that the great outdoors is truly a place for all to enjoy.<br />

In addition to personal experiences, the outdoors fosters community bonds, and<br />

shared memories. Family picnics in the park, group hikes, or fishing trips with friends,<br />

strengthen connections and create lasting impressions. The outdoors bring people<br />

together, and its beauty becomes a shared source of inspiration.<br />

The Mississippi outdoors is a precious resource that enriches our lives in countless<br />

ways. It heals, educates, and inspires us. As we embrace the great outdoors, we embrace<br />

the essence of life itself, forging deeper connections with our environment and<br />

each other. So, I challenge you to find yourself outdoors and explore,<br />

learn from, and cherish the wonders of nature, ensuring that the<br />

beauty of the Mississippi outdoors remains an enduring part<br />

of our lives and our legacy to future generations.<br />

Lynn Posey<br />

Executive Director<br />

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks<br />

58 FALL 2023





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expertise than Southern AgCredit. Whether you’re<br />

looking to finance land for hunting, fishing, or just<br />

living, we’ve got you covered. So, if you’re ready to<br />

hunt on your own land, call us today.<br />

SouthernAgCredit.com | (800) 449-5742<br />

MISSISSIPPI Woods&Water 59

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