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Posted on Thu, Aug. 26, 2004

Good hunting can be bought

Every once in a while it's nice to give yourself a treat and hunt in a place where the hard stuff is taken care of and all you have to do is get up in a stand and wait for a deer to show up. There are dozens of deer hunting establishments in Mississippi that range from bare-board hunting cabins where you're left pretty much alone, to luxurious lodges where your every whim is catered.

Now, paid hunting isn't cheap, but it has real advantages if time is a factor in your life or good public hunting isn't close. The scouting, food plot planting, setting up stands, places to sleep and meals are all taken care of.

You don't end up driving dozens or hundreds of miles to a secret spot and find out that the only bridge in is out, or someone has beaten you there. Most of these pay-for-hunting operations have worked for years with wildlife biologists making sure the deer have adequate and nutritious food and stay healthy. Deer on these properties are generally bigger than average and often have antlers that are far superior to others in that area.

Most of the hunting operations around our state offer the same basic package: stands in likely places overlooking food plots, drop off and pick up service, skinning and chilling of your critter and a comfortable room and meals. To get the chance to take a true trophy, deer hunters need to concentrate on two areas. The biggest deer consistently come from the Mississippi River Delta and the Black Prairie. The Delta follows the meanderings of Ole Muddy and the Black Prairie is a section that runs about halfway across the state in the middle, beginning at the Alabama-Mississippi border.

These two operations, Lifetime Hunts LLC and Tara Wildlife, will provide an idea of what hunting lodges are all about.

Lifetime Hunts LLC - Brookson Plantation, which hosts Lifetime Hunts near Macon, is a working cattle ranch as well as a great place to hunt. The plantation has more than 9,000 acres of prime land with a mixture of mature hardwoods, pines and fields. Stands are placed in likely locations where deer browse at field edges with views of game trails and along the Noxubee River, which runs 12 miles through the property.

"Hunting here is great. I come every chance I get," said David Hawkins of Morton. "The deer are huge and healthy. I can't remember a time when I didn't see two or three bucks that would make anyone proud. But the main reason I hunt here is the Russian boars. They are smart and exciting to hunt, and they taste much better than pork from the grocery."

Guides take hunters out to the stands in the morning, pick up the animals, cape the deer, gut and prepare the meat for a butcher shop. There is a large walk-in cooler on site so deer can be thoroughly chilled before heading home.

An added benefit of hunting with their operation is the overabundance of wild Russian boars that run wild on the farm. Not only can you harvest a champion buck, you can also take home a big pig. (Two hundred-pound wild hogs aren't at all unusual.)

The highest scoring typical buck taken in Mississippi came from this plantation. Its Boone and Crockett score was 182 and seven-eighths. Since much of the operation is now managed for hunting there is certainly the possibility of taking a larger animal.

The lodge is new and comfortably decorated. It has several double bedrooms with baths and a large community dining and living room with lots of big, soft recliners. The food is excellent and the guides grew up in the area, so they know the best places to put a hunter.

There are skeet and rifle ranges so you can check the accuracy of your gun or relax with a round of skeet after taking your deer and hog.

Most hunters come for three days, although longer stays can be arranged if the lodge isn't booked up. There is a good Web site that provides information on the area, has pictures of the accommodations and critters and tells about the hunting. To contact them, call (662) 726-9223 or check out their Web site at

Tara Wildlife - For a bow hunter, Tara Wildlife is about as close to perfect as hunting gets. The property includes 17,200 acres in Mississippi and Louisiana that run along the Mississippi River north of Vicksburg. These are some of the most fertile lands in the world. Their biologist estimates that a deer can make a living on only seven acres in the Delta, while the same deer would need 14 acres or more in most areas of the state.

A combination of management for deer and other wild animals, great soil and carefully controlled hunting has led to the harvest of 267 Pope and Young rated bucks since 1995.

The land is a broad mix of bottomland hardwoods, oxbow lakes and wooded islands. Some of the land goes under water when the river is high or there's a lot of rain. Stands are hung in a variety of locations and may be moved because of weather or other conditions. Hunting takes place in Mississippi and Louisiana, but a Mississippi hunting license is good for all areas in the property.

Tara was founded by Maggie Bryant, a visionary woman who wanted to provide a place along the river that would give folks an idea of the importance of river bottoms. She also works tirelessly to educate people on the Mississippi River watershed.

The lodge is big and comfortable. In off seasons it is used for corporate retreats and meetings. A wildly successful nature camp is held for students each summer. Rooms are semiprivate and the food is excellent.

Most hunts are three days. If a hunter gets a deer early there is a sporting clays range, fishing in a pond behind the lodge or, in the big river, canoeing and wildlife tours.

Tara also has a Web site where you can get a good idea of the operation by viewing or you can call (601) 279-4261 for a brochure, booking hunts and more information.

Paid hunting may not work out to be the cheapest way to put venison in your freezer, but if time and trophy are factors, a hunting lodge may be your best choice.

Jill Easton is a freelance writer from Long Beach. Reach her at

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