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The Dart: Tracking down feathered fun

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Rex Archer works with his dog Smoky, training him to stay on point by using a rag on a string Friday evening outside of his Vidalia house. Archer had trained more than 200 hours with Smoky before taking him on a hunt.

Editor’s note: The Dart is a weekly feature in which a reporter and a photographer throw a dart at a map and find a story where it lands.

VIDALIA — Rex Archer had just wrapped up a hunting trip Thursday when The Dart landed on Palm Street, but neither the work — nor the fun — was complete for his dogs.

Archer traveled to a hunting camp just south of Topeka, Kan., for a two-day pheasant hunt with three friends and his dogs, Jake and Smoky. A native of Kansas, Archer said he tries to make the trip at least three times a year.

“That’s my hobby, bird hunting,” Archer said. “I was raised in Emporia, Kan., so I’m familiar with it. It’s a totally different state than this one.”

Taking 51 pheasants was nice, but Archer also said it was good to see the Kansas sunset.

“The sunset is amazing,” he said. “You can see for 60 miles (in Kansas). You can’t see nothing around here.”

Archer, 69, moved to Vidalia in 1973 to work at Otasco, a tire and supply company based in Oklahoma. Though he has not lived in Kansas for almost 40 years, he said he still makes sure to keep up with the family tradition of bird hunting.

“My dad, Oscar, was a big bird hunter,” Archer said. “I’ve been hunting at Ravenwood Lodge for almost four years now. Right after Thanksgiving, we’re going to have our big family hunt.”

That will include his son and his grandson and granddaughter, which makes it four generations of Archers that bird hunt. Archer said his granddaughter, Katie, has a bright future with bird hunting.

“She’s into it big time,” Archer said. “She loves to shoot them birds.”

This past week’s trip was the first Archer has made to Kansas this year, and he said the weather didn’t exactly cooperate the whole time.

“It got too hot for the dogs one day, about 85 degrees,” Archer said. “They wore out quickly.”

Jake and Smoky are 7 and 3, respectively, and Archer said he trained both of them himself.

“That’s my fun, making them do what I want them to do,” he said.

Working with the dogs year-round helps them stay at the top of their games, Archer said.

After the Thanksgiving trip, Archer said he will probably go one more time in January.

“I hope I get up there and see some snow,” Archer said.