Column: Take a kid hunting

Published 2:36 pm Saturday, March 4, 2023

It seems like just yesterday but two years ago I sat down with Natchez resident Tucker Crisp in his home to talk about his passion for turkeys, how one goes about hunting them and how he enjoyed sharing the sport with new hunters. Admittedly, the story, like many of my outdoor stories, was a bit self-serving. 

Some of my earliest memories of the outdoors were fishing with my dad, hiking with my mom and killing my first deer the day before the sugar bowl in Pike County. I grew up in a city in Arkansas and dreamed of living the adventures of the young country boy in “Where the Red-Fern Grows.” 

It was not until I got to college at Mississippi State that I started to go fishing more and I eventually started hunting when I took the job in Natchez. 

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The silence of deer season gave refuge away from the stress of work and allowed me to talk with God away from distractions. Turkey season was coming up and I wanted to do a story to serve as a preview for other hunters and to help educate myself. Crisp was more than willing to take time and talk with me about Turkeys and how to tactically hunt them. 

When he was inducted into the NWTF Grand National Calling Championships Hall-of-Fame this weekend it was well deserved of a man who I am sure has taught many to turkey hunt. He was not the only man who helped me along. 

Wilkinson County residents Thomas Arnold and Allen Wisner offered insight and advice while also sharing their stories on alligators and turkeys. I hope people find something to help them in the woods from my outdoor stories because I know I do. 

Over in Brookhaven, Jerry Freeman has helped me tremendously by cleaning up an old field, clearing a rotting shed and planting me a food plot. Shannon Poole showed me how to de-bone deer meat this season and his brother Scott Poole carried me on a squirrel hunt with dogs this past weekend which was a lot of fun. 

One man in particular took me under his wing last year. We will call him Steve from Redlick. Steve took me hunting at least 10 times if not more on his family’s property near Redlick. Some mornings we could hear the chapel bells ringing at Alcorn State University as we waited on the Gobblers to get fired up.

Together, we walked about 100 miles moving up and down hollers and ridges. I learned a lot of things. One, I need to stop drinking coffee before I turkey hunt because I ruined our chances of getting my first tom when I needed to go constantly. Two, turkeys are very difficult but so wonderful to watch. We had a hen missing her tail feathers that took our breath away on two hunts. If you have never had a bird walk within 20 feet of your position while you try to stay perfectly still, it is a feeling like no other. 

I’m grateful for Steve for a few reasons. He is more than generous with his time, knowledge and access to hunting property. His hunts consisted of learning where to go, how to approach a bird and the why’s behind them so I can confidently take on the woods on my own. 

Additionally, he has shared stories about his family, his hunts and his past which has either offered fascinating entertainment or encouragement. His knowledge and passion for habitat management led me to undertake new projects to improve the family property I hunt on. 

Turkeys, deer and ducks have all been targets of our hunts together. I have enjoyed every one because of his mentorship which has also become a friendship. Steve will likely miss the first few weeks of turkey season as he welcomes his son to the world but he will one day be teaching his kids how to hunt. 

On behalf of myself and anyone else who has been mentored in the outdoors, thank you to the mentors for your time. Turkey season is one of the best times to hunt with a friend by your side or on the closest tree. 

If you can, take a “kid” hunting so they might be able to carry on the tradition.