Ain’t Mississippi great? This weekend the Mississippi Wildlife Federation hosted the 35th annual Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza which turned out to be fantastic. Being a first timer to this event, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been to plenty of trade shows for baseball, but never one for the outdoors. Kind of a shame coming from someone that proclaims to be an avid outdoorsman. Now that it’s over, I can’t wait to go to another one.
From the time that I walked into the doors of the Clyde Muse Center I was like a kid in a candy store. If you could dream it up, it was there. The extravaganza had everything, and more, than any outdoorsman could ever want. Like deer hunting? The ‘Ganza had the Magnolia Records folks there scoring deer killed throughout our state. Big fisherman? There were multiple different bait manufacturers and rod companies there. Alligators your thing? Members of the show “Swamp People” were among the celebrities there to hang out and talk to people. Turkeys? The ‘Ganza was your chance to meet, and hang out, with the legendary Preston Pittman, as well as NWTF Mississippi calling champion Travis Ham. Are you weird and like snakes? No problem. The guys from the show “Rattlesnake Republic” came all the way from Texas to set up an enclosure full of nope ropes for your viewing pleasure.
There were plenty of activities for the kids to do, as well. I loved watching kids climb into a trough and learn how to grab catfish with their hands. There were sections where they could shoot BB guns and bows, and a booth where they could practice flipping a jig into a can. The Fetch-n-Fish exhibit was a major hit for kids watching the High Flying Retrievers. Mississippi Therapy Animals had plenty of cute pets to ooh and ahh over. And if you were lucky, you made it through without your kid forcing you to let them get their face painted and a balloon turned into the shape of a rifle. The ‘Ganza is truly a family event for all to experience.
There were enough outdoor apparel and equipment vendors there to fully clothe and equip all of the hunters in Mississippi. Every aisle you went down there were multiple people selling camo, or some sort of outdoor apparel. Muddy Water Camo, Easymoney Hunt Company, and Hurricane Marsh were all some of my favorites from the weekends. If you wanted a pair of new boots, Lite Boots had you covered with the absolute lightest pair of boots that you’ll ever put on. My oldest daughter even talked my tightwad self into a new pair for this season. If you needed new game calls, there were plenty of options, as well as hunting blinds and stands. Speaking of calls, Joshua Carney, owner of Son of the South, was there entertaining everyone with his ability to sound like practically any animal you can think of…with only his voice. Josh is alone worth the price of admission!
And of course, the best thing about the extravaganza was the Pinstripes to Camo booth (no bias intended). We enjoyed telling our story and meeting all of the people that came by. Matt reeled folks in with the most unique buck that I’ve ever seen. I can’t tell you how many times we told the story of his “Barnacle Buck”. All of the fun aside, at the end of the day all I wanted to do was get in the outdoors. So, that’s what I did.
By the end of the day on Saturday, I was “peopled” out. I was staying at my cousin’s house in Bolton that sits along the Big Black River, and we decided that it would be a good idea to sink some bait in hopes of catching a big catfish. I chaperoned while he caught bait in a couple of sloughs along the river. We didn’t catch a whole lot of bait, but I’ll say it wasn’t for a lack of effort. I’m pretty sure he was soaked in sweat before we ever made it to the river to fish. One thing we did catch, though, was the biggest bullfrog that I think I’ve ever seen. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t take it with me the next day for the folks at Magnolia Records to score. I’m almost positive it would have made Boone and Crockett.
With our bait in a bucket, we headed down to the river. Earlier rain dampened the ground and made the air so thick you could cut it with a knife. Carefully navigating down the bank of the Big Black to avoid any snakes or alligators, we finally got our lines in the water. Now it was time to sit back, relax, and wait. As good as our conversations about life were, my soul was filling up with the night sounds of the river. The frogs and crickets, coupled with the rippling of the river were music to my ears. Breaking the outdoor song, the sound of a bell ringing caused us to jump to our feet. Fish on!
I grabbed the rod and began to crank on the reel. Every so often the fish would rip drag and take off. Not knowing Brandon had the drag set on, I really didn’t know how big the fish was. He made his way down to the water’s edge and the excitement in his voice told me this was a good fish. Soon, the fish was in his hands and headed up the bank to me. We’d just landed a near thirty-pound catfish, my largest ever on a rod and reel. Thinking that it couldn’t get any better, another bell rang. Brandon grabbed the rod and reeled in another large blue cat, this one weighing a little over twelve pounds. This was exactly what I’d been needing.
We released the fish and decided to call it a night. After loading up the Ranger, we headed back to the house with our chests stuck out. I think I smiled all of the way back. As busy as my summer schedule has been, this trip couldn’t have happened at a better time. The good news is that the kids are back in school, summer is winding down, and alligator and deer season are just around the corner. We are getting close to one of my favorite times of the year.
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