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Panther Tract

Panther Tract: Wild Boar Hunting in the Mississippi Delta

Melody Golding
Introduction by Hank Burdine
With recipes from John Folse
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Panther Tract
    Book Description:

    Hunting wild boar is a keenly held tradition in the Mississippi Delta. Fraught with danger, it challenges the hunter, observer, wildlife enthusiast, and landowner alike. Panther Tract is an insider's observance of extraordinary hunting, southern hospitality, camaraderie, and the love of dogs, horses, and hair raising excitement. The over 160 photographs are representative of a "day at the hunt," starting at dawn and ending well after dark. The tales center on vivid hunting experiences, both at Panther Tract, a large wilderness paradise in Yazoo County, owned by legendary southern gentleman Howard Brent, and in other locations in the Mississippi Delta. The narratives come from men, women, doctors, lawyers, judges, businessmen, politicians, farmers, sharecroppers' sons, and even a Hollywood screenwriter.

    Melody Golding's photographs focus on the Delta landscape and on the people and animals involved in the hunt. Portraits of the hunters, and their interactions with one another and their dogs and horses, fascinate. An award-winning photographer and an expert horsewoman, Golding brings a knowledgeable and critical eye to these images. The stories she collects range from traditional often humorous hunting tales to more serious accounts of the history of hog hunting in America. Hank Burdine, a Mississippi native and hunter who has written for many statewide publications, lends a broad vision to the history, statistics, and lore of hunting wild hogs. An appendix features hunt recipes by Chef John Folse and philosophy on the stewardship of harvesting the hog. A colorful and diverse assemblage of beautiful photographs and tales, this book reveals a treasured regional tradition.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-927-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-5)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 6-7)
  3. A Note to the Reader
    (pp. 8-8)
  4. Preface
    (pp. 9-14)
    Melody Golding
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 15-49)

    The Italian Christopher Columbus thought the world was round. He persuaded the queen of Spain to fork over enough doubloons to finance a trip in 1492 to prove it. But scientific research was not the reason for theNiña,Pinta, andSanta Mariato head west into the setting sun. Ole Columbo was trying to get to Asia in order to open up the spice trade by boat in a more direct route than going around the dangerous Cape Horn at the bottom of Africa. Spices were in high demand in those days, for without refrigeration, meats spoiled in a...

  6. Panther Tract
    (pp. 50-52)

    The Mississippi Delta was once a primeval swamp. It abounded with wild panthers, bears, deer, alligators, bobcats, raccoons, monstrous rattlesnakes, and water moccasins. Its lakes were filled with huge catfish, alligator garfish, bass, bream, and crappie. The virgin forests were home to gigantic oak, gum, elm, hackberry, cottonwood, sycamore, and cypress trees. Canebrakes were found along waterways and sloughs so dense and thick that a man could walk into them only by hacking his way with the help of a heavy bush knife.

    At the lower end of the Yazoo–Mississippi River alluvial floodplain that we call the Delta lies...

  7. My Friend, Howard Brent
    (pp. 53-53)

    Comedian Jerry Clower once was asked, prior to a show, if he needed any special equipment or props for an upcoming performance. Clower replied, “All I need is a microphone.” Howard Brent shares many attributes with the late Mr. Clower, but instead of needing a microphone to be able to perform, all Howard Brent needs is people.

    Ever since that first group of cavemen took up their clubs to go hunt for food as a group, hunting has been a social affair. Like his primitive ancestors, Howard Brent enjoys the fruits of his hunting, but his real passion is the...

  8. Panther Tract Stew
    (pp. 54-55)

    I have been told that the Great Flood of 1927 wiped out all of the big game in the Mississippi Delta. By the 1950s laws were passed, such as making it illegal to kill does, and game began to return. The herds of deer grew, and then by the late 1970s and 1980s the biologists recommended taking one doe for every buck harvested and also began aging the bucks. This turned out to be a good thing.

    After the ’27 flood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made cutoffs where the river coiled into horseshoe bends. Forming almost a “U”...

  9. A Family Affair
    (pp. 56-59)

    I was born down in Carroll County by Greenwood. I’ve been hunting since I was nine months old. When I was a baby, Mama had Melvin and Tommy, and Bubba was a blue baby—nowadays they call them preemies—and she couldn’t take care of Tommy, Bubba, and me, so Daddy just put me in his hunting sack and carried me coon hunting. We’re all one year apart—it was five of us. I remember going hunting in Boils Lake Swamp when I was four, that I can remember. We didn’t have but one little ole horse and a couple...

  10. My First Hog Hunt
    (pp. 60-61)

    My first hog hunt at Howard Brent’s Panther Tract was an experience from another era! We arrived on a stormy morning, hoping for the skies to clear. The skies did cooperate and we celebrated with many Bloody Marys and hors d’oeuvres on the porch, pretending to be grand dames from a time gone by.

    The first inkling of what the day was to bring came when the master of hog hunting, who was to orchestrate the hunt, drove up in a truck that resembled a plumber’s truck. This leader for the day looked like someone from the movieDeliverance—overalls,...

  11. Hogs, Mules, and Horses
    (pp. 62-64)

    It was one Thanksgiving and we were down there going hunting on Francis Domino’s place and he told us to go kill us some deer off of his place. It’s a small place and so I told my brothers when we got there we had to be real quiet so we didn’t scare the deer off.

    My brother had a little three-hundred-to-four-hundred-pound mule he took along. When we got there we were walking along and I crossed a big ditch and so did my other brother and he climbed up in a tree on the other side of the ditch....

  12. Hog Hunting in Silver Earrings
    (pp. 65-95)

    Well, my motto is “Even if you don’t know how to play the game, at least show up looking good.” Dressed in black from head to toe—boots, chaps, shirt, saddle, rhinestone belt, down to my black bling headstall and breast collar—I was riding my gorgeous black show horse with titles out the wazoo, and yes, my silver earrings. Needless to say I have never been hunting, of any kind. So “clueless” would have been an understatement, except for the fact that I knew I could ride a horse well and enjoyed “fast and furious” from time to time....

  13. Oscar Meyer, Smith & Wesson, Lennon & McCartney
    (pp. 96-99)

    Shotgun loaded, gripped by my side, I move through the darkness. I’m in my bare feet, soles soft as ducks, my toes tracking laserlike through the pile carpet. Silence is crucial. So when my knee slams into the corner of the coffee table, I do not say ouch, but I do think: gaaaaaaahaaaaa. In this life-and-death moment, I must utilize my pain—process it differently from how I would the pain of, say, nicking myself while shaving. Here, now, in the wilds of my apartment, in the middle of the night, I convert my pain to strength, as calories convert...

  14. A Lifetime of Hunting
    (pp. 100-102)

    I am from Lexington, Mississippi, and I have been hunting all of my life. I’ve been hunting since I was five or six years old—big enough to go to deer camp with my daddy up at Steele Bayou between Valley Park and over here by Redwood.

    I started hog hunting, let’s see, probably in about 1980. I was catching cows and breaking horses for a living and had a bunch of Catahoula curs—I always had a place in Mississippi where somebody wanted me to go catch cows with my dogs. When the cow market sort of went bust,...

  15. Wild Boar Hunting Along the Mississippi River
    (pp. 103-105)

    The context of these true stories is on and around Indian Point, which encompasses the hunting clubs of Merigold, Beulah Island, and Caulk Island, all located in Bolivar County, Mississippi, and Desha County, Arkansas. These hunting clubs are located on the east side of the Mississippi River south of Rosedale, Mississippi.

    In the 1800s there were two main settlements along the river in this area. One was Prentiss in Mississippi, and Napoleon was across the river in Arkansas. These small towns acted as trading posts and stopovers for the paddle wheel boats along the river.

    During this period of time...

  16. Two Hogs, One Bullet
    (pp. 106-106)

    It was Monday, July 13, at about 10:30. My dad, my papaw, and I were at Caulk Island riding around in the yellow hunting vehicle. There are high seats in the back and I was in the middle seat. I had a .308 bolt action in the gun holder by me. I also had a knife and a .357 pistol. We were riding around looking for deer in the big field where I killed my eleven-point buck in December. We drove in the big grassy field; the ground was hard and the grass was yellow. I told my daddy to...

  17. Horns and Hogs
    (pp. 107-109)

    I’ve been hog hunting since 1979, about thirty years. It’s too much trouble to hunt with a knife; you have to get too close. So, I always use a gun. Mike Braswell is who I always hog hunt with. I started hunting with my uncle and Mike’s daddy-in-law, who had been hog hunting since the sixties, and we took it up from them. We wanted to hunt hogs. It’s fun! We went through a lot of dogs before we got a good pack, and we use all kinds of dogs. We don’t use catch dogs, per se. They get killed...

  18. Hogs and Eyeballs
    (pp. 110-141)

    The door of the cabin swung open and the hunter welcomed us into his home. Our eyes adjusted to the dark after the bright May sunlight. The room was small, with a stone fireplace. The stuffed head of a boar, old and grizzled, with grey tips on his hair, hung on the wall next to the fireplace. The air reeked of wood smoke. The hunter was tall, very tall. He wore blue jeans, boots, a green canvas shirt. He showed us to a trailer behind the house where we would spend the night. We took all of our gear into...

  19. Shootout at the OK Corral with the Dragon Slayer
    (pp. 142-142)

    I was hunting wild Russian boar on the legendary Caulk Island Hunting Plantation as a guest of Alex Grisanti with another guest, Doc Sloas. We were driving the lower Mississippi River bottom Jeep trails, when suddenly, at the same time, we heard hogs squealing and Alex’s dog went to baying. Doc and I rolled out of the Bronco after the dog toward the hogs. We busted through a cane thicket and there they were—eight or ten big hogs running everywhere. I had Alex’s Marlin .45-70 and Doc had his HK91 .308 and we went to killing pigs like it...

  20. Hog Hunting in a Dry County
    (pp. 143-144)

    In May 1981, my two nephews, a couple of friends, and I drove to the Mississippi hill country for a hog hunt at a private camp. The Belmont Stakes was that weekend, and we listened to the race on the radio while we drove. We all listened as Summing took first place. Along with my hunting gear, I had packed a little whiskey but just enough for myself, not realizing how much of my whiskey I would have to share. Needless to say, we ran out of whiskey on that first evening. Then we found out it was a dry...

  21. The Hogbusters
    (pp. 145-148)

    This is a true hog huntin’ story.

    We all met at 7:00 a.m. on the first Saturday in February. The year was 1965. I was ten years old. James Crossing, Mississippi, was a big part of my life. Situated about thirteen miles south of Greenville, Mississippi, on Highway 1, James is where the infamous Jesse James and his gang purportedly crossed the Mississippi River. My grandfather, “Red” Merideth, owned and operated the country store at James Crossing. The levee, bordering the banks of the muddy Mississippi, was visible from the front steps of Paw Paw’s store, to the west about...

  22. The Great Mississippi Boar Hunt
    (pp. 149-150)

    When we were in India in the 1970s I remember seeing old paintings of the Moghul rulers, and later the English colonialists, spearing wild hogs from horseback. In the bookRaj, a Scrapbook of British India, 1877–1947, Charles Allen notes, “Pig-sticking—more properly the spearing of the male wild boar with ‘hog spears’—was a peculiarly Anglo-Indian sport that flourished in the plains of upper India. It was a risky business, demanding cool nerves and a high degree of horsemanship.”

    Now we fast-forward twenty years to a presentation on Tuscany by Patsy Ricks, the noted Jackson teacher/guide and expert...

  23. Hogs and Bears
    (pp. 151-152)

    On February 20, 2010, we awoke to a pleasant morning about forty-two degrees. We were on a hunting club off of the Mississippi River. Along with me were my hunting buddies: Billy and Charles Stone, Billy Mitchell, David Ubanks, Justin Davis, Tres Hienz (twelve years) , and Jeff Loveless. After breakfast, we suited up the dogs with tracking collars, cut vests, and cut collars, loaded the Rangers, and were off to a day of hog hunting. On our way to our hunting spot we found a good hog wallow with fresh tracks on the edge of a cane thicket. So,...

  24. Mississippi Huntin’
    (pp. 153-156)

    Wild hogs are hunted throughout the United States from Georgia to California, with a special love of the sport existing in the Deep South. My love affair with this species began in a swamp just north of the Ross Barnett Reservoir on public hunting land known as the Pearl River State Wildlife Management Area. This area of pine flats and flooded backwater from the Pearl River is open to the public for hunting and is managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

    While disco tunes were topping the charts on the radio in 1978, bow hunting for...

  25. My First Wild Boar Hunt
    (pp. 157-187)

    For the last twenty years, I have been very fortunate to be a member of the Caulk Island Hunting Club located between Lake Whittington and the Mississippi River north of Greenville, Mississippi.

    We really did not know what “hog hunting” was all about, however, until about ten years ago. This land, about eleven thousand acres, is probably the most “hog infiltrated” land along the Mississippi River from Memphis to Vicksburg! In the dark days we would sit on a deer stand and count twenty, thirty, forty hogs each morning and in the afternoon in the large fields we would see...

  26. A Louisiana Visitor
    (pp. 188-189)

    I received an invitation for my first hog hunt. It seems these hogs are descendants of European boar that escaped from the Spanish conquistadors and now are a nuisance to farmers. I had no idea what to expect or what was expected of me and waited with great anticipation for the big event. I woke up early while it was still dark and quite chilly, loaded the walking horses, quarter horses, and even a thoroughbred, and drove off to a farm of several thousand acres that butts up to a state forest. The prerequisites for the ride are a pair...

  27. Horses and Hunting
    (pp. 190-190)

    I have been hunting for about ten years. I’m usually right by Justin Braswell when I hunt, and I started hunting at Delta Wildlife. One time, when I was about twenty years old, I fell off my horse. They say that I fell asleep because I was nodding my head and that’s why. I was young and inexperienced and always hunted with Mr. Wick and Mr. Braswell because nobody else would take me and I wanted to ride horses. And nobody else would go with them but me!

    Once, we were going to get a hog the dogs had bayed...

  28. Lionel—A Child’s Story
    (pp. 191-192)

    Some boars become so big that they become larger than life and achieve mystical proportions. Such a boar lived and still exists in Yankum. Actually it’s deep in the heart, the interior of Yankum. Now two things: Yankum does exist at the Merigold Hunting Club and this boar has a name, Lionel. He was named potentially for the “king of the jungle,” the lions of Africa, or maybe the old Lionel train sets we used to have as children because trains are big. This is about Lionel the Great Boar Bush Hog that exists inside the forest of Yankum.


  29. Hog Hunting
    (pp. 193-194)

    I have been going hunting with my dad since I was really little, like around eighteen months old. I shot my first deer before school one morning, when I was in kindergarten. I started hunting hogs with my dad a few years back, mostly stalk and shoot in the woods behind our house.

    Last winter, when I was seven, I started hunting hogs with dogs at Caulk Island. My pappaw and his buddies had been doing this for years, so had my dad, but this was the beginning of my adventure.

    Together, we had assembled some pretty good dogs. My...

  30. Caulk Island Hogs!
    (pp. 195-197)

    Growing up hunting on an island in the Mississippi River, I heard many stories about hunting wild hogs and the difficulties in pursuing them. Hunting hogs on the island always seemed to elude me, with Christmas holidays ending and new semesters of school beginning. I always resolved that if given an opportunity to hunt with my father and his friends, I would grasp it.

    The invitation for my first island hog hunt came in my freshman year at Ole Miss. My father called and explained that it would be a great deal of hard work, but the reward was worth...

  31. Three Hog Stories
    (pp. 198-198)

    Three years ago we were hunting an extra-large boar that had long hair and weighed about 350 pounds. He was huge. We tracked him into some very thick bushes. There were six of us hunting together and three dogs. The dogs had the hog bayed up in the thicket. He was mad and fearless and ran out charging at us. He ran past the dogs and so I grabbed him by his back legs and flipped him over on his back. One dog grabbed him by the ear and one other guy ran in and slit his throat with a...

  32. A Wild Hog Hunt
    (pp. 199-200)

    It is hard to make this sound real, but it is, we promise and swear.

    One fall day we were invited on a wild hog hunt with instructions to bring our horses and weapons and ride along with the professional hog hunters, or “do as you will,” so to speak. This wild hog hunt was to take place on forty-five hundred acres of flat Delta land owned by Howard Brent west of Yazoo City, Mississippi. Since we have always believed in walking the walk and talking the talk, in that order, we slicked down our horses, washed our three-quarter-ton Chevy...

  33. The Hogs, Dogs, and Hunter Hit the Catfish Pond!
    (pp. 201-201)

    We were hunting on horseback at Panther Tract. It was getting late in the afternoon so three of us decided to head back toward the camp house. It had been a great day of hog hunting in the Mississippi Delta and we thought it was coming to an end. All of a sudden, we spotted a 250-to-300-pound wild hog crossing the road about three hundred yards in front of us.

    Robert McConnell, who was riding with us, took a quick shot at the hog with his rifle but missed. We yelled for the guys to bring the dogs to where...

  34. Tusks and Teeth
    (pp. 202-240)

    “The planters of the South, more than the citizens of any other section of the Union, indulge in the manly excitements of the chase; they are, without exception, excellent horsemen and have a thorough knowledge of woodcraft.” So statedHarper’s New Monthly Magazinein October of 1885 regarding the men that rode to the hounds in pursuit of the black bear in the thick and very dense canebrakes of the Mississippi Delta. According to Paul Schullery in his bookThe Bear Hunter’s Century, the aristocratic flair of the southern gentlemen enabled them to hunt with “the British formality of the...

  35. Tom’s First Hunt
    (pp. 241-242)

    Somewhere, sometime back in the mid-1980s, I was contacted by Thomas McIntyre, editor ofSports Afield Magazineat that time. You see, Tom needed a favor. He had been given an assignment to write an article on wild hog hunting with dogs, and he thought I might know of someone in Mississippi who could arrange such a hunt. Tom and I had hunted together for years all across North America, and I deemed him to be a good friend.

    Chris Marley, a prominent Delta farmer in those years, had become totally infatuated with hog hunting using dogs. His group was...

  36. The Wild Boar Hunt
    (pp. 243-244)

    In 1934, when the Natchez Trace was nearly finished, wild boars from Russia were imported to mix with our few and not-as-wild hogs. They were imported again in the 1950s and boar hunting was considered a new sport for Mississippians. Hogs from Louisiana and Arkansas were “imported” to improve our stock.

    Pigs aren’t native to North America. Hernando de Soto brought the first pigs to America on his trip in 1539. He needed Indian guides, as he was searching for the mighty river and there were no maps. He sponsored a feast and invited the Indians to be guests, as...

  37. Home from the Hill
    (pp. 245-245)

    In the summer of 1959, I was twelve and I was having supper with my family (of seven) when the phone rang. My father answered it and when he returned to the table, he was very excited. He announced, “That was MGM Studios and they want me!” Now, he was a very handsome man, a dead ringer for Clark Gable, mustache and all, but this seemed unlikely. The movieHome from the Hillwas being made in Oxford, Mississippi, that year. It starred Robert Mitchum, Eleanor Parker, George Peppard, and George Hamilton. In the movie, Col. Hunnicutt (Mitchum) sends his...

  38. Twenty Years of Hogs
    (pp. 246-246)

    I’ve been hog hunting for probably twenty years. One time we went hunting across the river and my brother-in-law, who isn’t much into hunting or the outdoors, joined us and brought two of his friends. We bayed some hogs up and Stephen and I got down off our horses and caught the hog and shot it with a pistol. The dogs had bayed up another hog and it was a big sow. A sow will bite you. By the time we got to the sow the dogs let go and she came right at us and I grabbed her by...

  39. My Most Memorable Hog Hunt
    (pp. 247-248)

    The hog hunt I remember most occurred several years ago at Black Bayou Hunting Club located just north of Greenville, Mississippi, inside the Mississippi River levee.

    Jimmy Donahoo, a close friend of mine, invited me and about fifteen other men on a hog hunt at Black Bayou. Deer season had just ended and Black Bayou, at that time, had a large population of hogs.

    The hog hunt began, as most of them do, the night before. We had a wonderful meal followed by numerous hunting stories that were certainly exaggerated by the amount of alcohol that was consumed. Every time...

  40. Hog Trap
    (pp. 249-250)

    Hunting in Mississippi has always been a passion or even a way of life for me. As a young child, I experienced the excitement and anticipation prior to the fall hunting season. Over the years, the majority of my time in the woods was spent in pursuit of the whitetail deer in the Mississippi Delta. Several years ago, we started to note signs of the presence of wild hogs in the area. It did not take long to see my first hog. I was excited about the possibility of harvesting one of these strange-looking creatures. They should be an easy...

  41. Deer Hunting for Hogs
    (pp. 251-253)

    I have seen grown men crawl on their hands and knees, run to try to keep up with a pack of dogs, ride horses through undergrowth taller than their horses, strip down and swim ditches and bar pits (a borrow pit is a small lake created when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the levee system along the mighty Mississippi River), and forego meals and spousal responsibilities to participate in a hog hunt. I am not one of those individuals who is overcome by a passionate desire to hunt hogs. My hunting passion is watching my black Labrador retriever,...

  42. Boss Boar
    (pp. 254-254)

    I was invited to go on a hog hunt at Panther Tract. It was a perfect morning. We had a light dusting of snow after a half inch of rain. On the hunt was my dad, Ricky Lowery, my best friend, Steve Radcliff, and many others. Jeff Cremeen and Brandon Yeager came with Steve. Jesse Bates and his son, Martin, came with me. Steve and I hunt together a lot. We hunt three dogs and a pup most of the time. On this morning Steve brought his dog, Molly, and a pup and I took my two dogs, Bo and...

  43. The Year’s Last Hog Hunt
    (pp. 255-258)

    Howard postponed the hunt until Sunday because of the forecasted rain. That was okay with me because the sack of oysters and the Gulf shrimp I had just bought and iced down would easily last one more day. We were all looking forward to a great feast the night before the last hog hunt of the year. There would be much camaraderie and fun and good hunting. We weren’t going to let a rain front spoil our fun.

    We all gathered Saturday night and the party began. Oysters were being shucked while the shrimp étouffée bubbled on the stove. The...

  44. Wild Boar Recipes
    (pp. 259-264)

    The international success of Chef John Folse’s Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, spawned the incorporation of several other properties. Chef John Folse & Company Manufacturing, in operation since 1991, is one of the few chef-owned food manufacturing companies in America producing custom-manufactured foods for the retail and food service industry. Other divisions include Chef John Folse & Company Bakery, White Oak Plantation, Bittersweet Plantation Dairy, and Chef John Folse & Company Publishing. He hosts an international television series through PBS and a radio cooking talk show, and is the cofounder and namesake of the culinary institute at Nicholls State University.

    Folse has...