Area should capitalize on hunting

Published 8:34 am Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What excitement The Tidewater News experienced during Sunday’s Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association Eastern Big Game Contest in Courtland.

Two hunters from Suffolk — Delaine Babb and 12-year-old Dustin Heard — set new state records for whitetail deer taken in 2009 in Southampton County. Not only was it exciting for the hunters, but to realize that Southampton County has this caliber of deer.

Delaine Babb told The Tidewater News he never expected to kill a big 8-point, let alone one that would set a new state record. Hunting at Davis Ridley Hunt Club in Courtland, he bagged the deer on the last day of the season. It scored a 199 0/16.

Even more exciting was to hear that Dustin Heard set a new record. Although his achievement was announced during the ceremony, the seventh-grader was not aware that he set a state record until The Tidewater News spoke with him afterward. He gave a smile that lit up the room.

It was fun hearing his story about killing the 15-point deer from his tree stand. Dustin’s father had told him about seeing the deer earlier, and when Dustin spotted it, he counted the points on the antlers to make sure it was the same one. He said he almost fell out of his tree stand after taking it down with one shot.

The big game contest featured 204 trophy-size deer, of which 75 came from Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

Recently, local economic development efforts have identified tourism as a potential revenue generator. Hunters will pay big bucks to hunt the big bucks. J&J Guide Service in Ekalaka, Mont., gets $4,500 for a five-day guided whitetail or mule deer hunt. In Pike County, Ill., Harpoles Heartland Lodge charges $2,550 for a five-day archery hunt and $4,200 for a three-day rifle hunt.

Hunters share a passion that’s sometimes hard to understand for non-hunters. They also will come up with the money to get the chance to go after a big deer.

Plus, when hunters come to the area, they spend money at restaurants, gas stations and on souvenirs.

Now, local hunters may not want to see outsiders harvesting their deer, but a community needs to take advantage of its resources as a means of prospering.