Tales of big cats continue to be told

Published 5:05 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Panthers are the talk of the town this week and for good reason. A man in Bogue Chitto said he saw one on his property on Lee Drive marking the first sighting reported to a newspaper in Mississippi since one was seen in the Washington community north of Natchez in 2019.

Several more stories of large wildcats have rolled into the sports desk email this past day. The closest one comes from a man in Sontag. He said he was out bow hunting a few years ago and had a harrowing experience.

At the time he was new to hunting and only his compound bow out into the woods. Around 5 p.m. he heard a noise which made his hair stand tall and sent chills down his spine. Brian Barnett was in for a frightening experience.

“The only thing I could compare it to was a CAT when it’s mad but multiply the volume by about 100 times. I called my son in law immediately and told him to bring a shot gun and come get me,” Barnett said. “As I was waiting for him to come get me, I heard it a 2nd time, but it had gone from about 100yds away from me to about 50yds.  I called my son in law back and told him to hurry up.  About 5 minutes later, I heard footsteps in the thick brush behind me.”
Adrenaline would have coarsed through his veins as he waited. His heart raced as his mind thought about the possibility of a cat climbing up the tree. Barnett said he knew he would have just one shot at a possibly moving target with his compound bow. They were not good odds.
“Luckily for me, it got about 10 to 15 yds behind my stand, and I guess it smelled me because next thing I knew, it took off like lighting in the other direction.  A few seconds later, I heard it let loose a scream once more and it this time it was a couple hundred yards away from me,” Barnett said.  “I literally jumped the 15 feet or so to the ground out of my tree stand and ran to my truck. I’ve heard bobcats in the wild and this was much much louder than any bobcat I’ve ever heard, and whatever was walking behind my stand sounded large.  If that wasn’t a cougar, somebody’s pet tiger had gotten loose, because that is the only cat I have ever heard that was that loud.  To this day, I don’t go bow hunting without my pistol on my side.”
While there have never been an official recorded sighting by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks of a black panther, typically a large wild cat with a melanistic coat, it has not stopped the telling of stories. Large cats once roamed Mississippi and the Southeast United States before settlement by the Europeans according to an article published by the MSU Extension Service.
Bruce Gray with Brookhaven Real Tree Landpro along with co-worker Keith Kavitz and friend John Bass recorded a podcast episode on Outdoor Addictions discussing black panthers and stories they had. The podcast episode will come out sometime next week.
One thing Kavitz mentioned on the podcast was all of the incredible things people are able to witness out in the woods. It could be a pink, yellow and blue painted sky at sunrise with a moon setting on one side, or sparkling frost on plants and birds singing. He still gets a rush of adrenaline when a deer steps out.
Logically, there are a few reasons why people see large wild cats they think might be panthers. It could be an actual black panther or the adrenaline, lighting and appeared size make it look like a large wild cat when it could just be a bobcat or house cat. Perhaps there is enough restored habitat one could wander in to Southwest Mississippi.
The romanticism behind panthers in our community folklore could play a factor in the rumored reports of sightings. Gray shared one story on the soon to be released podcast where he thought he saw a panther and upon further inspection determined it to be either a bobcat or a house cat.
If you have seen anything neat in the outdoors, harvested game which was special to you in some way or caught the fish of a lifetime we would love to share your story so just email hunter.cloud@dailyleader.com.

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