Highland Baptist Church hosts wildlife expo

Published 12:55 am Sunday, September 20, 2009

NATCHEZ — The Highland Baptist Church “Blessing of the Hunt” Wildlife Expo 2009 gave guests an opportunity to both fellowship and gather information.

Thursday, several hundred outdoor enthusiasts packed the main sanctuary of the church to enjoy the third annual wildlife expo.

When the doors opened at 6 p.m., guests were treated to jambalaya and red beans and rice for dinner, and were allowed to tour the various booths set up by sponsors.

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Prominent local outdoors store Bowie’s Outfitters, as well as the television show Redneck Adventures, were among the roughly 20 booths that expo sponsors had set up in the sanctuary.

More than 50 door prizes were handed out, ranging from various goods that local sponsors supplied, to a two-day hunting trip sponsored by Redneck Adventures.

While adults and teenagers stayed in the sanctuary for the main event, parents allowed their children to go to the church’s new recreational building for their own form of entertainment.

Expo volunteer Sandy Dunn said she was excited by the turnout, which shattered last year’s record of 325 guests.

“At last count, we had roughly 500 guests, counting both the adults and the children,” Dunn said.

Youth Archery Team’s Tood Haygood talked about the archery program he’s a part of, National Archery in the Schools Program.

The program began in 2002 in Kentucky as a means of getting archery into physical education classes and after-school programs. Haygood was on hand at the expo to discuss how his Youth Archery Team had taken off at Franklin County High School, where he serves as an assistant principal.

“They asked me to talk about archery as it relates to bow hunting,” Haygood said. “But there’s a lot more to archery than hunting. It’s a good way to get girls and boys outdoors.

“It also teaches them discipline. If we can learn discipline from archery, and it translates into the classroom, we’ll have a lot less problems in the classroom.”

Also at the expo to give a question and answers session was the Mississippi and Louisiana Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Stephen Smith, conservation officer for the department, was given an opportunity to explain new rules regarding deer hunting.

Up until recently, a hunter being allowed to shoot a deer was determined by a point system, Smith said. A deer would have to be labeled at four points or above for a hunter to be allowed to shoot it, regardless of age.

Now, Smith said, being allowed to shoot a deer is determined by the size of its spread and main beam.

“West of Highway 61, a 12-inch spread and a 15-inch main beam is required,” Smith said.

“East of Highway 61, as well as roughly the rest of the state, it’s a 10-inch spread and a 13-inch main beam.”

In addition to supplying deer hunters with information, Smith also took the opportunity to give his testimony as a believer in Christ.

Smith told the story about how he struggled with cancer on three separate occasions, and said prayer from a large number of people is what allowed him to be alive today.

“(This expo) is a great opportunity for myself and the agency to distribute information at request, and also allows them to see us on a personal basis,” Smith said.

“When I was cleared of everything, I told God I’d try to tell at least one persona day my story. Coming here and giving my testimony, it was first a fulfillment to that promise, and also a way of thanking (the Highland Baptist congregation), because a lot of people here prayed for me.”