(LA) Hunting for economic development


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Drizzt
February 24, 2003, 07:39 PM
Hunting for economic development

Roy Pitchford / Staff Reporter
Posted on February 24, 2003

Douglas Collier / Staff Photographer

Editor's note: Poverty and unemployment are problems in the Louisiana Delta, but residents have formed the Delta Outdoors Initiative to promote economic development through the area's natural resources.

ENTERPRISE - It is cold inside the metal barn, but the crawfish are hot and the people attending the meeting are enthusiastic.

The Delta Outdoors and Wildlife Association is an enthusiastic group anyway, and on this night the group has a visiting guest speaker.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco is praising the group for its efforts to use natural resources for economic development. She planned to go duck hunting just down the road the next morning.

The association is part of the Delta Outdoors Initiative, a plan that seeks to create economic opportunity by using natural resources along the many rivers and other water bodies of east Louisiana.

Wes Newman is acting as host for this meeting, and he is a good example of what is being done in the area.

Newman has property in Catahoula and Concordia parishes that used to be a catfish farm. He now raises crawfish and rice, but he also wants the land along the Ouachita River to be a mecca for duck hunters and fishermen.

The aquaculture of rice and crawfish ponds makes a perfect site for duck blinds.

When hunting or fishing is done for the day, the participants don't have to retire to a primitive cabin.

A comfortable house has become the lodge for the Bend of the River Waterfowl Club. Outdoorsmen can get a hot shower, enjoy a meal, sleep on a comfortable bed and even watch the latest sports scores through a satellite television system.

The television satellite reception isn't the only thing high-tech about the operation. Newman has a Web site, www.laduckhunting.com.

He also isn't too proud to ask for help and advice from people like David Neal of the Louisiana State University AgCenter, and promotional ideas from the Louisiana Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

Newman admits that much of the acreage in his neighborhood is "marginal land," but he plays to its strength and promotes it as part of Louisiana's Sportsman's Paradise.

He tells a group of visiting reporters that people have come here from all over the United States to hunt ducks there.

"We provide a place to stay and food to eat," he said. "All they have to do is hunt."

Newman and the other participants in the Delta Outdoor Initiative know their land is off the beaten path.

To get to the lodge you turn off a secondary highway and go to the end of a narrow road. No one is going to stumble on the Bend of the River Lodge by accident.

Newman is not the only person trying such an operation.

David Paulk has opened 11,000 acres of his property in Catahoula and Tensas Parishes for hunting and fishing under the name Wings and Racks. He too is ready to provide lodging and meals as part of the price.

He tells hunters the duck blinds and deer stands are ready, and all they need are their guns and ammunition.

A few miles north, just outside of Columbia, Jerry Bailey will proudly show off the Wild Hog Ridge Hunting Club Inc.

He arranges guided hunts for feral Russian and Razorback hogs weighing from 100 to 400 pounds.

Some people come to shoot a 250-pound "trophy hog." Others are looking for a "meat hog."

If they want to stay overnight, there is a camphouse with a cook on duty.

Bailey has a price schedule for any type of hunt. He tells clients to be sure their gun is sighted in properly and to bring an ice chest to carry home their meat.

All hunting is done on private land, and licenses are not necessary, he said.

In the 100-acre woods, Bailey tells reporters to be quiet and still.

"Hogs are intelligent," he says.

They are also fast, and run if they sense human presence.

Whether hunters are looking for deer, ducks or wild hogs, people like Newman, Paulk and Bailey know that these customers bring badly needed outside cash to an area that has more than its share of poverty, unemployment and underemployment.

They are willing to work hard to improve the economy of their region.

Newman said not all wildlife tourists are hunters.

The Delta is a good spot for bird watching, and if people want to pay for the privilege, folks in the Delta are happy to welcome them.

http://www.thetowntalk.com/html/940DAC1F-83CA-400A-8E0B-1A5C4A8B67D9.shtml

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Art Eatman
February 25, 2003, 12:11 AM
An aggregation of talents and ideas usually can make things better for any group of any sort at any economic level.

Here, you have the mix of landowner, hunter, birder, government and science. These can work together for the betterment of both the landowner and those who otherwise would not have access to the outdoors.

Good to see cooperative efforts like this...

Art

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