Thursday, November 10, 2005

Celebrity Hunt at Galena Plantation
• Entertainer visits county

By SUE WATSON
Staff Writer

Country music entertainer Gary Morris, a member of Celebrity Hunt at Galena Plantation now in its second year, was in Holly Springs last week to promote wildlife conservation and Conservation Buck Challenge.

Celebrity Hunt is a fundraising activity organized by Bill and Joan Fitch to raise money for the National Field Trial Championship at Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tenn., now in its 107th year.

Proceeds will also go to support the Bird Dog Foundation Hall of Fame there and to the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, a relief effort for victims of Hurricane Katrina devastated by the August storm.

Morris has been in Mississippi and Tennessee promoting Conservation Buck Challenge and the hurricane recovery fund. He was among many entertainers who performed at Mississippi Rising, a fundraiser held at Ole Miss two weeks ago to raise money for Mississippi Hurricane Recovery, a fund organized by Governor Haley Barbour.

Morris was doing more than participating in a quail hunt for celebrities at Fitch Farms last week. He has become a promoter of wildlife conservation and passing on the tradition to the next generation.

He was more impressed with the food and hospitality at the plantation than anything else.

Mississippians are quick to take in a stranger, he said.

Morris met Bill Fitch through Charles McKellar whom he met at the Memphis Expo a few weeks ago and McKellar brought him down for a “sneak view of the place.”

Morris became noticed on a national scale when he was invited to perform on Broadway in “La Boheme” and “Les Miserables.”

His rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings” won the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Song of the year awards. Afterward, Morris did some television and filming in Hollywood. Today he performs for corporate clients, is an advocate for hunting and conservation and the founder of Conservation Buck Society. He operates Mountain Spirit Lodge, a retreat for executive clients in Colorado.

Conservation Buck Challenge raises scholarship money for kids who want careers that will take them outdoors.

Morris said only one in 10 hunters today are under age 40.

“We need to bring more kids into the fold,” he said.

Young members who take a buck and get their picture taken are given $100 by Conservation Buck Challenge.

Morris said hunters play a key role in conservation and health of deer populations by keeping the buck/doe ratio close to 50:50.

The other key to conservation is licensing and taxation of hunting and fishing gear. Both put money into the states’ wildlife management practices.

Getting youth to become wildlife enthusiasts and sportsmen and women helps perpetuate conservation practices, he said.

Morris crisscrossed Tennessee twice since August promoting Conservation Buck Challenge, sang at the Mississippi Rising concert and is on tap to sing the National Anthem at the Ole Miss vs. LSU game.

He took his first deer on Black Creek in Wiggins as a youngster. The most recent deer Morris harvested was taken in a bow hunt in Tennessee two weeks ago.

First Lady Marsha Barbour became the first Mississippian to become a member of the Conservation Buck Society in August, Morris said. Last year, Gov. Barbour and Marsha participated in Celebrity Hunt at Galena Plantation. They were unable to attend this year because of the governor’s busy schedule in organizing recovery efforts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Media coverage of this year’s Celebrity Hunt included journalists with Mississippi Outdoors magazine, Channel 3 Mid-South Outdoors film crews, the DeSoto Times and Commercial Appeal, and a photographer with the National Rifle Association, a sponsor of Celebrity Hunt.


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