This month's featured Mississippi Hunting Camp takes me back 44 years to Oxford when Bobby Stewart introduced me to "The Great Outdoors."

For many years, Bobby and I ran birddogs for quail while also hunting rabbits, deer, ducks and squirrel as well as fishing, running trot lines and gigging frogs. Bobby's young son Mike would accompany us on many of our forays into the nearby woods and wilderness.

When Mike was about 12, he and I were duck hunting together in some flooded woods where we both got exhausted from pulling our waders out of the waist-deep gook. Finally, we made it back to a creek that had a high hill and dry ground on the other side where we could escape. Unable to cross the deep running water, I felled a small tree with several rounds of high-brass 5's over the creek to the bank, enabling us to crawl across to safety, where we lay on the ground for several minutes, heaving for breath.

Today Mike is a sprawling 6-foot retired law officer who, along with wife Cathy, owns and operates a fascinating operation near Oxford called Wildrose Kennels, a premier imported British and Irish Labrador operation where Drake, the world famous mascot of Ducks Unlimited, is kenneled, a high tribute to the reputation Mike has achieved in the dog-training world.

Mike invited me to come up last October for a special event held at Wildrose where 30-plus bird hunters from around the United States and the United Kingdom would participate in The Wildrose Double Gun and Retriever Classic, a three-day "Olde Tyme" hunt, wearing the olde English hunting clothing and using a variety of old and new guns, including "double guns" (shotguns) as they hunted pigeons, the original prey of bird hunts in England and Europe. I immediately accepted and penciled the dates in my calendar.

When I drove past the attractive stone-gated Wildrose entrance and onto the gently rolling hills, I encountered Mike and his hardworking staff working the various dogs, each on a short leash. When I exited my truck at the main kennels, I saw dozens of dogs inside their respective pens.

What surprised me was that despite all the activities going on around them, not a single dog was barking.

Standing outside the kennels, I asked Mike which dog was Drake. He told me to wait there as he walked down the long row of kenneled dogs and opened the gate to one pen. Then he turned around, walked back and stood by me, without a single dog jumping on its pen or barking.

Then, he called out: "Drake, heel!"

Only then did a sleek black male Lab trot out of his pen and down the aisle (without any other dogs barking or jumping on their pens) to circle behind us and sit upright beside Mike's left leg. With my mouth agape, I felt I had just witnessed a miracle.

"Mike, if I had not seen that, I would not have believed it," I said.

I later learned from Mike that he adheres strongly to the same training techniques espoused by television's popular "The Dog Whisperer" program under which dogs are gently, but firmly, trained into the desired behavior, a huge departure from the old "beat them into submission" approach.

Mike told me that his approach, like the Dog Whisperer's, is that Mike is the pack leader and that dogs that misbehave are punished by being separated from the rest of the pack. I looked out and saw two or three leashed to trees a bit away from the kennels. The forlorn looks on the faces of the separated dogs said it all as they watched the others in the pack going about their daily training with loving, but firm, handlers.

Over the next three days, I watched, took notes and shot photos as around 30 hunters were divided into gunners and pickers: gunners being the ones who would be doing the shooting and pickers being the ones whose dogs would be judged on their retrieving skills.

Many of the hunters and guests wore the garb from yesteryear, including the colorful "flash," which held the hunters' socks up and pants in position. In the following days, the participants were rotated using a musical peg system. Gunners were instructed not to shoot below a 45-degree angle or toward any other gunners, pickers, dogs and especially judges! (I noted they didn't mention writers or photographers!) Gunners were awarded "M" for miss or "H" for hit, and were also given style points.

A number of trapped wild pigeons were held inside remote-controlled traps that were released trap by trap as the hunters walking in a straight line approached them, catapulting pigeons into the air, without anyone knowing which direction they would fly, simulating real field conditions.

Gunners and pickers were scored on their skills, and prizes were awarded at the final banquet. Wife Betty and I attended the banquet and greatly enjoyed getting to know some wonderful sportsmen and women from outside the Mississippi norm.

While at Wildrose, I met professional outdoor photographer Chip Laughton from North Carolina, who has been the "official" photographer for Wildrose for years. The outstanding photography you see on this page is his work.

For autographed book copies of Mississippi Hunting Camps ($81) or Tales of Old Rocky Hill ($18), mail check/money order to Bill R. Lea, P. O. Box 321023, Jackson, MS 39232.

To schedule Lea to visit your camp, call 601-502-4720 or email