Situated in the Jackson Metropolitan area along the banks of the scenic Pearl River between bustling Lakeland Drive and the sprawling Barnett Reservoir spillway lays a 4,000-acre wildlife oasis that is threatened by modern society's insatiable urge to urbanize every remaining acre of unspoiled wilderness.

Hog Creek Hunting Club's 40 members, their families and friends are still reeling from a one-two punch to the gut the club has encountered in the past year.

First gut punch: The paper company to whom Hog Creek pays a sizable annual lease payment began clear-cutting nearly all standing hardwoods on the land right in the midst of last year's deer season. Besides ruining the hunting season the members had so eagerly anticipated, the ugly debris scattered on the formerly scenic river bottom land left the woods looking like a war zone.

Second gut punch: The various and widely conflicting Twin Lakes development proponents and their changeable "Plan-of-the-Day" strategies would either flood the current campgrounds, make them a designated wilderness area or not affect Hog Creek at all. Thus far, no one at Hog Creek knows for sure what will happen with that situation, so the members are left hanging, wondering what to do about rebuilding their roads and stands.

Enough said about the bad news.

Here are just a few of the many positive things to say about Hog Creek Hunting Club: How would you like to belong to a 4,000-acre riverside hunting camp less then a 20-minute drive from home if you live in the Jackson area? One that's got deer, hog, turkey, bass, bream and squirrel.

Most Hog Creek members have a cabin or other sleeping accommodations on site, but many simply make the short drive to and from their nearby homes. They can get in an early Sunday morning hunt and still make the 11:00 church service. Their family members can drive the family sedan all the way into camp on a well-maintained gravel road for a visit and later be back home in a matter of minutes.

When I asked the members why they belonged to Hog Creek, nearly every one mentioned the convenient location, and considering today's high gasoline prices, that nearby convenience can also add many dollars annually to the family budget's bottom line. My visits to Hog Creek didn't take much out of the Lea budget either since I live less than one mile from the camp's entrance gate.

Several years back, I had a brief hunting visit to Hog Creek with former member John Whitehouse, a local insurance agent, and was looking forward to a longer return visit at the invitation of Mike Davis, a USDA employee whose office is also within spitting distance of the gate into Hog Creek. Mike is a savvy hunter with many trophies to his credit.

During my stay at Hog Creek, I was the houseguest of Mike's cousin and weapons expert Mark Webb who had just set up his new camper trailer. Also making me feel right at home were camp president James Burns and Mike's son John Michael.

The first morning, Mike put me in a ladder stand along the beautiful banks of the Pearl River. As I studied the ancient terrain, my imagination couldn't help but envision the European explorers sailing up this river in the 16th and 17th centuries. They gave the river its name not for the clarity of the water but due to the pearls they found inside the mollusks in its murky waters.

My small percentage of Choctaw blood also made me wonder what my Indian ancestors thought of these strange invaders with their iron-plated armor, flint muskets and strange language.

From my growing up years in Jackson, I also recalled that before the reservoir was built around 1960, this swampy area was home to a vast array of critters, which at that time included some panthers and an occasional black bear.

My mental wanderings were brought back to the present when I saw a small deer coming up the trail to my right, but it was only a young doe that played peek-a-boo with me before trotting briskly on by.

While I waited, I re-read my notes concerning Hog Creek: 4,000 acres of land; moderately priced dues; 15-inch-minimum antler spread or 18-inch main beam; an elevated camp meeting room with members providing their own quarters and a skinning shed with running water.

I would come to learn that since there is no main bunkhouse, most members visit each other outside their various sleeping quarters, fellowshipping from place to place or hollering across to each other as they sit under the stars around various campfires. To me, Hog Creek was modern enough to be comfy, yet old-fashioned enough to give one the feeling of "roughing it."

At the annual cookout/awards meeting the following January, my gracious host Mike Davis received the Hunter of the Year Award, and appropriately named Hunter Miller received the Youth Hunter of the Year Award plus a nice check. That night, most of the families mingled around the outdoor fire pit in the cool evening air, sharing good food and warm fellowship.

Later on, Mike relayed a funny story to me that happened during the spring turkey season. Seems that two members, Dorian McIntyre and Ed Street, were turkey hunting the river bluffs when they heard a hen turkey coming down below, evidently walking alongside the riverbank.

When they quietly snuck up and peered below, they were startled to see two turkey hunters walking the sand bar with a string tied around a hen turkey they were using to call in any nearby courting tom!

Dorian and Ed weren't exactly sure whether these guys' tactics were legal or not, but they decided to have some fun with them. They began answering the hen's calls themselves on their callers as they moved along the elevated bluffs. After playing with the hunters on the sandbar for a while, they began slowly backing away, leaving behind two lathered-up turkey hunters who were still calling and craning frantically, trying to get that big tom to come down the bluffs.

As it is at most hunting camps, humor and pranks are some of the reasons we do what we do!

My heart went out to all the fine hunters and their families at Hog Creek who love their camp and its convenient location. Even though their morale, naturally, sunk low when all the conflicting rumors made headlines in the newspapers and on the local evening news, these fine folks are beginning to recover from the initial shock and go on with their way of life at Hog Creek.

After last season's clear-cutting, it will take several years for the browse to reemerge, which will necessitate moving all the current stands, hopefully where the developers backed-up water won't drown them later on.

Autographed copies of Bill R. Lea's excellent new book, Mississippi Hunting Camps, are available by sending a check or money order for $81 ($75 plus $6 shipping) to Bill R. Lea, P.O. Box 321023, Jackson, MS 39232. Copies of Tales of Old Rocky Hill are also available at the same address for $33 (hardcover) or $18 (paperback).

To contact Lea about visiting your hunting camp, call him at (601) 502-4720 or email him at billrlea@yahoo.com.