I was surprised when I heard my hometown of Heflin mentioned, along with the surrounding communities of Ringgold, Sibley and Minden. I grew up in Northwest Louisiana and was very familiar with all these towns. Unfortunately, he was talking about individuals who had made the "Bad Boy" segment for some illegal deer hunting activities. I hate to hear such individuals referred to as hunters because anyone who takes game illegally is not a true hunter/conservationist. They are simply outlaws who are only interested in what they can get. The real hunter/conservationist is more concerned with giving back to the resource so that it remains for others to enjoy everything it has to offer.
One individual who epitomized the spirit of the true hunter/conservationist was Mr. John W. Barton Sr. Mr. Barton passed away in early March at the age of 95. I don't think I have ever met anyone who was as generous as Mr. Barton was. He enjoyed the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and managing his properties so that they were productive for wildlife.
I met Mr. Barton in the late '70s when I began working for LDWF. At that time he was concerned about his deer population on Beechgrove Plantation in East Feliciana and wanted me to work with him to properly manage it. He welcomed me to do research and management work in an effort to improve growth and development of the herd. It was a biologist's dream come true. The work we did on Beechgrove provided valuable insight into the breeding activity of Louisiana deer and the plants that are preferred deer foods in the southeast pine woods.
Mr. Barton, his college buddy H.B. "Cotton" Fairchild and several other individuals started the historic Lottie Wildlife Protection Association in the Morganza Floodway. John D. Newsom was the Co-op Leader at the Wildlife Unit at LSU in the '60s, and many a budding wildlife biologist was initiated into the world of deer data collecting at Lottie. Mr. Barton really enjoyed having new hunters come to his properties and enjoy a successful deer or turkey hunt. No doubt many of the hunters in the Baton Rouge community began hunting on his properties.
Mr. Barton had a passion for wild turkey, and was involved with the creation of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He served on the board of directors for the organization, and also did a term as national president. He helped LDWF with the state restocking program by allowing the department to trap and relocate turkeys from his properties. Mr. Barton was an active hunter during the '50s, the time when our deer and turkey populations were at their lowest, and he gave generously to help with the restoration of these species. He continued to give so that the habitat and the wildlife would be around for others to enjoy.
Frequently, when I would visit Mr. Barton to discuss a wildlife issue, he would remind me that we had an event or fundraiser coming up and he wanted to contribute to it.
No, you are not going to find anyone as generous as Mr. Barton. His concern was about giving so the resource would continue for future generations; it was not about what I am going to get from the wildlife resource. His legacy of giving will be remembered for quite a while.
I am a member of the Quality Deer Management Association, and am on the board of our South Louisiana Branch. Many hunters think that QDMA is just about growing trophy bucks, but nothing is further from the truth. It is about being a responsible steward of the land and the deer resource. It is about keeping the habitat productive for the deer and the deer herd healthy. It is about quality hunting and not just shooting deer. While one goal is to develop an older age class of bucks, most of us realize we cannot really grow trophy deer, the kind that make the Boone and Crockett Record Book. But with proper management, we know we can grow quality deer and occasionally harvest a good one. QDMA is about reaching out and educating hunters. In fact, the organization has a program called REACH, which stands for research, educate, advocate, certify and hunt. It is an organization that reaches out to others and works to give back.
One way deer hunters can give back and have been giving back is through the Hunters for the Hungry Program. This program involves several agencies that work with the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and provides the Food Bank with game and fish. It is a great way for a hunter or fisherman to give back to the community. Every fall a clean-out -our-freezer day is held to give hunters the chance to provide for others who do not have the opportunity to hunt and fish.
But rather than waiting until one day in the fall, why not share the resource during the entire year? The Food Bank is always glad to accept your donation.
As I was surveying the plantings at Camp David, I realized I had an awful lot of turnips that were just going to be turned under in a few weeks as I prepare the ground for spring planting. During the fall and winter, I was distributing mustard greens and turnips to friends and neighbors. I had even given Mr. Barton a mess of greens and turnips on several occasions during the fall. Then I got the idea that perhaps the Food Bank might want them. I contacted Amy Sellers at the Food Bank and asked her if they might be interested in them. She told me they would love to have them. I met with my Bible-class members at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, and we put together a team to harvest the turnips. Istrouma has always been a church that reaches out to the community.
We met on that Saturday morning and spent half a day harvesting and cleaning turnips. When I loaded them in the truck to take them to the Food Bank, I thought we might have about 400 pounds. After dropping them off, Amy sent me an email and said it was 615 pounds. I again surveyed the fields and it was apparent there was another truck load in the field. Another harvest day was organized and our effort resulted in another 500 pounds. This activity resulted in fresh turnips being distributed by the Food Bank throughout 11 parishes surrounding Baton Rouge.
It was just another way that hunters can use their resources to give back to others.
On another note, if you missed the Louisiana Sportsman Show in Gonzales, you missed seeing some top-notch bucks killed in Louisiana and the surrounding states.
If you didn't get to enter your buck in the contest, you still have an opportunity to enter the contest at Bowie Outfitters in Baton Rouge. The Bowie Contest is similar to the Sportsman contest, with the grand prize being awarded by a random drawing of all those who enter a deer. Last year the ugliest deer in the world won the grand prize.
At the Sportsman Show a hunter who had killed a buck that was a spike on one side and had three points on the other side won an ATV. It very well could happen at the Bowie Contest, but you can't win if you don't enter.