Fishing from a pier at Eagle Lake
~The Vicksburg Post
The place to be....
Once again, Kristine at Outdoor Bloggers Summit (OBS), has given us another challenge in writing about preserving and defending the great outdoors. Being a Vicksburger all my life and an avid deer huntress for the past 24 years, Vicksburg is one of the best places to be for avid hunters and anglers to live. Recently there was an article that was in the paper about being a sportsman in my hometown. In its June/July issue, Outdoor Life Magazine shines the national spotlight on the area's outdoors resources, ranking Vicksburg 145th on its list of the top 200 towns in the United States for sportsmen. For Vicksburg native, Louis Lambiotte, says that each year passes with more than four season changes.
“There’s dove season in September, bow season in October, waterfowl season from November through January, then there’s turkey season in March, bass fishing all summer and then you’re right back into the fall hunting season,” said Lambiotte. “It’s definitely a passion for me — I love to fish to relax, and I get so excited about hunting I’ll actually lose sleep over it.”
With its prominent position on the Mississippi River and its close proximity to the Delta — as well as an abundance of nearby wildlife management areas and oxbow lakes — locals such as Lambiotte have long known that Vicksburg is one of the best places in the country for avid hunters and anglers to live.
“Vicksburg is really a hub city for hunting and fishing,” said Eddie Buckner, owner of Delta Outfitters on U.S. 61 North, formerly Hadad’s. “We have the best of both worlds. We have the Delta to the north and the hills to the south. We have very liberal hunting seasons, good public and private hunting grounds — and on top of that, we have great fishing opportunities with all the oxbow lakes. It’s pretty hard to beat.”This is just the second year Outdoor Life Magazine has ranked the top 200 towns in the country based on quality of life statistics, access to hunting and fishing locations, variation and quality of species and gun control laws. Just two other towns in Mississippi made the list — Pascagoula at 123rd and Greenville at 190th. Vicksburg slipped from the 112th spot last year, mostly likely due to tougher quality of life criteria, which accounts for 40 percent of each town’s final score.
“We changed the equation a little bit this year when it comes to the quality of life categories, and doubled the weight of three of those categories,” said Outdoor Life Senior Editor John Taranto. “The way our equation is set up, you’re going to see a lot of Western cities on the list, where the cost of living and unemployment rate are relatively low and the number of species and trophy potential are very high.”
Lewiston, Idaho — a town of 31,000 bordering Washington — received the No. 1 distinction on the Outdoor Life list. The entire list with calculations of all the criteria is available online for download at outdoorlife.com. While Vicksburg received less than desirable marks for quality-of-life issues such as population growth since 2008 (-2.8 percent) and its unemployment rate (8.7 percent), it scored a 9 out of 10 for the state’s gun laws, a 7 for fishable species, an 8 for proximity to public accesses and a 6 for trophy potential.
Joe Campus of Pensacola, Fla., has been coming to the Vicksburg area about twice a year to hunt deer and waterfowl with local friends since the mid-1990s. He also owns land in Alabama, but said the hunting and fishing is better around Vicksburg.
“We kill some nice deer in Alabama pretty regularly, but every time I’ve gone to Vicksburg I’ve killed a really nice deer,” Campus said. “And hunting mallards among the timbers in the Delta on a sunny day — that’s as good as duck hunting gets for me. There’s just something about the Delta and that whole area around it that sets it apart from everywhere else.”
According to the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the deer population is estimated at 1.75 million — giving Mississippi the highest deer-per-acre density in the country. Only Texas has a greater number of deer. Vicksburg and the Delta also are located on the Mississippi Flyway, a north-south migration route used by about 40 percent of all North American waterfowl and shorebirds.
About 20 percent of the state’s roughly 3,000,000 residents are regular anglers, according to a 2006 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public accesses abound in the Vicksburg area, beginning with downtown’s City Front landing for the Yazoo Diversion Canal, which provides access to the Mississippi River. Public landings on Eagle Lake, Lake St. Joseph, Lake Bruin and Chotard Lake are within a short drive of the city. About a half-dozen state wildlife management areas comprising more than 60,000-acres are within 30 miles of Vicksburg, as are the 60,000-acre Delta National Forest, the 65,000-acre Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge and the Panther Swamp NWR. All provide abundant opportunities for public hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and wildlife viewing.
Also located near the Eagle Lake community, about 30 minutes northwest of the city, is Tara Wildlife, one of the nation’s premiere turkey and deer hunting destinations. The private wildlife conservation boasts 12 miles of Mississippi River frontage and 17,200-acres of oxbow lakes and bottomland hardwood forests.
“Each state basically has a 60-day season, but if you hunt in Mississippi and Louisiana you can hunt 72 days instead of 60,” he said.
Along with all the seasons Lambiotte looks forward to each year, hunters in the Vicksburg area can also partake in crow, rabbit, squirrel, bobcat, opossum, raccoon and frog hunting. Last year, Warren, Yazoo and Issaquena counties were among just seven in Mississippi opened for private land alligator hunting, and they’ll be among the 13 counties eligible for this year’s season — which will be Sept. 18 through Oct. 4.
There has been a steady rise in interest in hunting and fishing - as well as a rise on spending for the outdoors - especially among women and children.
Nearly every business in and around Vicksburg, from the many manufacturers to the five riverboat casinos, have been deeply affected by the national recession, leading to hundreds of employee layoffs and some plant closures. However, Buckner said the outdoors supply business he purchased two years ago has thus far been recession-proof. Ultimately, he feels the abundance of natural resources and public accesses in the area — as well as a rich heritage of hunting and fishing among its residents — are providing his business the insulation it needs to prosper during hard times.
“My numbers have gone up considerably from last year,” he said. “I think it’s due to a number of reasons, but mostly I think people just need to have an escape from their daily lives, and hunting and fishing is that escape for a lot of people. When you’re out hunting or fishing, you can forget about all your worries in the world. I think people will always value that here — hunting and fishing are just a way of life in the South.”
What more can I say about living here in Vicksburg - I'm defending and preserving my hometown and having the great wild outdoors at my doorstep!