RQ Mississippi

Time and the calendar marches on for the 2010 deer season and Record Quest--but we're not quite done yet. While Record Quest host Andrew McKean was in Texas, I headed to Shuqualak, Mississippi with the hope of scoring on one of the Magnolia State's top-end whitetails. What I got, however, was so much more than that. This was truly an extraordinary Record Quest about extraordinary people, families and friends. It was about coming to the realization that everyone's definition of "Record Quest" is different and oftentimes that definition can't be counted in inches of antler. If you've never heard of Shuqualak, don't feel bad because I hadn't either until friends Marc Amos and Devlin Roussel told me back in July that they were in the process of drawing up the papers on a new deer lease. Shuqualak (pronounced "Sugar-Lock") is a town in Noxubee County, Mississippi, with a population of about 600.
Shuqualak Lumber is the town's biggest employer. The independent, privately-owned Southern Yellow Pine lumber producer is among the largest and most efficient in the South producing more than 100,000,000 board feet of dimension lumber annually.
When Marc Amos began to e-mail me his trail cam photos back in the late-summer, it pretty much sealed the deal. I was in. This is probably the photo that intrigued me the most--until I was warned off of shooting him if the opportunity presented itself. (I'm a sucker for non-typicals.)
As the photos kept coming, not-shooting-Mr. Droptine-became a caveat I figured I could deal with.
Lots of taxidermy potential here!
This fine 11-pointer actually looked bigger after it shed velvet.
There would be no passing him up.
Roussel broke the ice on the lease by taking this big-bodied six-point early in the bow season--with an assist from Jessica Cremer.
After subsequent conversations with Roussel and Amos, however, I came to the realization that although their "Record Quest" included gaining opportunities at giant deer, it was also about their kids and providing them with great outdoor experiences. Thanksgiving weekend was spent not with any selfish goal of shooting a top-end buck for themselves, but with the kids. Witness Roussel's daughter Phoebe who might look proud of her buck, but her dad was no doubt happier.
Just a week later, 12-year-old Sloan Amos scored on her first deer, making a perfect shot on this doe and her dad very happy.
Sloan dove right in to help with the skinning process.
Not to be outdone, friend 8-year-old Collier Hardy (center) put the hammer down on another doe--and dropped it in its tracks. Sister, Carlton, mom, Charlotte, and dad, Mark, couldn't have been more thrilled.
And not an "icky" was heard: Mark Hardy applies some very special make-up to Collier's cheeks.
Meanwhile, our Record Quest headquarters last week was this picturesque hunting lodge owned by Charlie Thomas.
Perhaps picturesque is an understatement.
And all the rooms are with a view.
A quick trip to the shooting bench and we were set to hit the greenfields.
Amos and Roussel put in untold time getting their lease ready for deer season. Shooting houses and tree stands dotted the property. Fields were planted with various seed mixes and fresh greens are the drawing card as winter approaches. But there's little doubt that I've been pretty much snake-bitten by the weather the entire fall. Too-warm temperatures changed viciously when an approaching front first brought tornado watches (my second spate of tornado warnings on my RQ hunts this fall) then hard freeze warnings. Mild 65 degree temps one day became 25-degree temps the next. I swore I'd never, ever see a deer.
And that's about when the swearing got a bit more serious. Our hunting group took a bit of a break to attend the official swearing in ceremony of the Honorable Marc Amos. From treestands to the Columbus, Mississippi municipal courthouse in the blink of an eye.
Marc is now a municipal court judge for Columbus. Another successful "Quest."
Marc and his proud bride Allison took a few moments to pose for pictures. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking on getting back into our stands. A hunting judge has just got to be a good thing.
The exchange of black robe for warm camo complete, Amos heads back to the woods for the afternoon sit.
A scent-free spraydown.
Roussel climbs in for the last evening's hunt.
I joined the party for the final evening's chilly vigil, but it was not to be. I had collected some venison for the freezer, but the top-end bucks managed to make themselves scarce on my Record Quest-Mississippi. Although some might have considered the hunt a bust, nothing could be further from the truth. "Hunting success can't always be measured by the size of a buck's rack"--I've spouted the axiom hundreds of times, but every so often it's beneficial to be reminded of it. I was and am better off for it.