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An Outdoorsman and a Governor, a visit...

An Outdoorsman and a Governor, a visit with Tate Reeves

By: Ben Smith - October 24, 2023

Columnist Ben Smith recaps his recent discussion with Governor Tate Reeves where the two talked everything from bag limits to outdoor stewardship.

Aside from the occasional political jab here and there, I’m not much into politics. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just not something that I want to spend much of my life worrying about. See, elected officials are put in place to serve the people, not rule them. Somewhere along the way we’ve let that get away from us, hence my lack of interest. However, given the chance to have the Governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, come and sit down to do a podcast with us was just something that I couldn’t pass up. 

So, what do you talk about when you have the Governor’s ear? The economy? Jobs? Medicaid? I’ll take none of the above for $400, Alex.

We talked about the outdoors, of course! And to be honest, I think the Governor enjoyed talking about something aside from the usual political topics for once. I’m not around him much to know, but he seemed at ease with the conversation. Almost relieved. Why wouldn’t he be?

For the last few months, he’s been dealing with the pressures of winning another election, something most of us will never experience. Of course, he chose this path in life so it’s hard to feel bad for him, but after sifting through some of the comments on his social media pages he definitely has a job that I wouldn’t want. 

The topics we covered mostly highlighted the outdoor goings-on in our state. After sharing his background in the outdoors, we jumped to a bill that was passed this year, House Bill 516. There’s no denying that we’ve had a shortage of conservation officers in the field over the last several years. We have a shortage of law enforcement, period. HB 516 aims to improve that by lowering the amount of law enforcement experience from five years to two years in order to be appointed a conservation officer. This should help alleviate the problem of having a shortage due to officers aging out or having to wait to be appointed. 

Next, we talked about one of the hotter topics in our state over the last couple of years, the backwater flood pumps. You might have forgotten, unless you live in the Mississippi Delta, but just a few years ago our state experienced near record flooding in the delta region. 687 homes were affected, and 548,000 acres of land were under water, 231,000 of that being prime crop land, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars being lost. Wildlife also suffered from the flood, either in death or displacement.

So, what’s in the works to fix this from happening again? After the Biden Administration put a halt to federally funding the pumps, a new deal has been worked out to get the project rolling again.

From there, we discussed the MDWFP encouraging hunters to kill more deer this season. Before some of you get excited, no, the bag limits will not increase, nor do they need to. We just need hunters to get closer to filling all of their allotment for the season. And, as was mentioned on the show, if you don’t have room, nor need, that many deer in your freezer, this would be a great opportunity for you to participate in the Hunter’s Harvest Program, which helps feed thousands of Mississippians. 

While we were speaking about killing more deer, the question came up about mandatory harvest reports. At the moment, we are operating under what I call the “honor system” for reporting our deer. If I’m not mistaken, a resident hunter with a Sportsman’s License can kill five total does and three total bucks per season. Without mandatory harvest reports we cannot possibly know how many deer each hunter is taking per season. I also know that just because you have mandatory harvest reports doesn’t mean that folks will always be honest. On the other hand, the threat of a potential fine, or license revocation, for failure to report might be a deterrent enough to keep most people honest.

For now, Governor Reeves doesn’t see this happening any time soon, but he appreciates the desire for better data to help successfully manage our deer herd for the future. 

The final outdoor topic we covered was the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Act, passed this year. This Act established a new trust fund that will be used to care for public lands, parks, and waterways in Mississippi. It also unlocks millions of federal dollars through matching funds. In other words, for every dollar the state of Mississippi puts up, we could get three or four federal dollars to match it. To me, that’s a huge win for those of us that require the use of public lands to do our hunting. This money will be used to maintain those properties and to ensure that they are there for generations to come. 

We couldn’t finish the show without a little bit of the normal political stuff that you see from day to day. Governor Reeves spoke about the upcoming debate and his desire to continue improving our state. I can’t speak for others, but I appreciated his willingness to talk about things that mattered to us. Sure, they aren’t as important as many of the other challenges that our state has ahead, but these were important topics for our way of life. These were topics for the present and for the future of outdoors in the state of Mississippi, and that should matter to every outdoorsman.

About the Author(s)
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Ben Smith

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Ben played baseball at William Carey University before joining the coaching staff at WCU, where he’s spent the last 16 years. He also serves as a History Instructor in the WCU School of Arts and Letters. During the Covid shutdown in 2020, he began the outdoor blog “Pinstripes to Camo”. The blog quickly grew into a weekly column and was awarded as the #1 Sports Column in the state by the Mississippi Press Association. During that time, “Pinstripes to Camo” also became a weekly podcast, featuring various outdoor guests from around the country, and has grown into one of the top outdoor podcasts in the Southeast.