I never will forget the day I received a call inviting me along for a hunting trip. I felt the excitement swell inside my chest.
As a young man still in his teens, this was an opportunity I never anticipated having. I learned during the call our church men’s group had organized a hunting trip for wild hogs in Mississippi. We were not guided, but did have a piece of property to start on. None of us had ever taken a wild hog so we were all very set on the accomplishment of doing so, and each of us were cheering on the next.
We were unfamiliar with the area, but we received advice from locals that had been helpful up until the one day were eating supper at the local Shoney’s after a long day of hunting. A couple of locals overheard our conversations of the days hunt and approached our group telling us of an area where they knew there were lots of hogs, and suggested that may be our best chance of being successful in harvesting a wild hog. Of course all of our attentions had been taken from our plates of food.
Our thoughts and anticipations grew through their generosity of information. So after directions to this new tract of land had been secured, we finished our meal and headed back to motel for some much needed rest. The thoughts of giant sized wild hogs filled my head as I drifted asleep. The next morning we awoke, grabbed a hardy breakfast and we’re off to the new property. We arrived and it appeared to be somewhat of a low land area that seemed very promising.
We divided into hunting groups and coordinated where each group would be hunting so there would be no issues of safety. I recall that being a Missouri boy that grew up hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozark Mountains, the terrain was unlike anything I had ever witnessed, but all the more it held a majestic feel. The land was relatively flat with Oaks, Cypress and Palmetto’s scattered about. I still remember as I took each step further into the unknown how greatly my anticipation grew.
My group hunted hard until about noon that day and we decided to head out to our truck to take a break, and planned to return for a evening hunt. As we approached the roadway we were met by a Wildlife Officer and I observed a couple of our other groups standing around as well. I assumed that we were just being checked routinely for license and ECT. & I was not alarmed.
Before I could be asked, I struggled to get my nonresident license ready that I had saved so hard to get as a teenager, but had also received a little help from my parents to make up the difference I was unable to get by working odd jobs. I then politely offered my license to the Officer and that is when he began to explain to my group that we were hunting on a Wildlife refuge that did not allow hunting and the fine would be $10,000 a person.
He continued to explain we would not be allowed to leave the state until the matter was satisfied. He also attempted to make light of the situation by stating, “Y’all can sell your trucks and 4 wheelers with trailers to raise the money.” I dug deep but, I still could not find the same positivity in this that the Officer seemed to have. We all explained the same story and how the locals had sent us there. Our excitement had been so high, but all of a sudden It was as if we had all the air let right out of us.
We all stood and waited for the other groups to exit the woods which would also include the Pastor of our church. The Officer was polite and we discussed local fishing methods, as well as his favorite crappie and bass fishing gear in the mean time while everyone waited. Eventually everyone including the Pastor exited the woods and received the same previous news we had received. I have to say after all these years, I have still never seen a look quite the same on my Pastor’s face as I did at that very moment. The Wildlife Officer then explained that someone had reported that a large group from out of state was poaching deer on the wildlife refuge.
He then explained to us that he didn’t believe that we had driven six and a half hours from a state that had a healthy deer population to poach deer in his state. He also recognized that the locals we talked to had set us up for failure and he let us go with no fines. Looking back alot could have been done to prevent this from happening, but technology is much more advanced now than it was then. Satellite maps and phone apps were not available to us in those times, however this is a memory I will never forget. Somehow as my years have advanced, I have come to cherish this memory and I definitely will never forget that trip.
By Buddy Mullins