James Gentry of Meridian has a philosophy about the deer-hunter psyche.
“You can tell the true hunters from the average ones by what they do in July and August,” Gentry said. “The folks who really put the time in the summer, working for the winter, those are the hard-core hunters. The ones that sweat clearing and preparing food plots, cutting lanes, moving old stands or building new stands, and enjoy doing it in the miserable conditions … that’s who I’m talking about.”
Count Gentry among them. He manages around 6,000 acres in three different hunting camps, trading his hard labor for a discounted membership price in all three clubs. With a degree in forest management, he’s perfect for the role. Gentry works one area each weekend beginning in July, rotating them over the next few months to have them ready for the weekend warriors who’d rather pay him than do the work themselves.
“There’s a few members in each that will come out and help, but mostly the rest just pay the no-show fees, and that’s okay, too,” he said. “The fee money goes right back into the ground, the stands and the other preparations. I guess you could say we need those guys, too. Without them, the membership fees would be higher for all of us.”
The next generation
With two sons rapidly growing into the footsteps of their father’s hunting boots, Gentry has several good reasons to put in the hard work. Plus, he loves being in the woods.
“My twin sons are 8 years old and are ready to stop being observers and start being shooters,” he said. “Affording memberships in enough quality clubs where the four of us, my wife included, can have a chance to harvest quality bucks, isn’t easy for a working man.
“The work I put in heading up the management of these clubs was the way I came up with to help make those ends meet. My dad was a forester, too, so I learned early the way of the woods from him. Now, I’m hoping to pass that respect for the habitat and nature on to my boys.”
What to do this month
In July, Gentry does more planning that actual physical labor, though there’s plenty of the latter, too.
“For example, I study the records from the year before as to what areas were successful at each club and why, and, if I can decipher an answer, I try to copy what worked in other areas, or at least enhance that condition in the successful areas to make them even better,” he said. “Maybe it’s what we planted. Maybe it’s the amount of cover. Maybe it was stand-site selection. Maybe it was how traffic was routed.
“I can do that at night. During the day, I’m out bush-hogging the plots and the lanes and inspecting stands. But it’s not all work and no play. There’s a side benefit at two of my three clubs — hogs.”
Gentry calls pig patrol the fun part of the summer routine.
“While I’m working or cruising the properties, I look for hog sign,” he said. “When I find a hot area, I figure out how to thin the herd. This year, I’m hoping my boys each get a chance to put a pig or two down. If we get some piggies — or maybe a good sow or two — we’ll eat well and save one or two for the big cookout on the opening day of the season.”