Family turns farmland into hunting business

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

SHANNON – Despite being surrounded by hundreds of acres of family-owned farmland, Jim Homan and his father, James, aren’t farmers.
However, they do grow native grasses friendly to wildlife, along with trees and fish.
Instead of growing soybeans and raising cattle, they’ve turned nearly 800 acres into a hunting preserve, the Birdshot Lodge.
“I retired and went to work,” said James, who owned and ran the Herman Homan Welding Supply store until retiring a few years ago. “We have about 585 acres here, Jim has another 105 acres, so we’ve got a lot of land we’re playing with.”
Bounded by two creeks, the property is home to whitetail deer, duck, quail and turkey. It also has a 10-acre lake for fishing. A two-bedroom guesthouse and a main lodge overlook a skeet range.
For Jim, it’s been a goal to have his own business.
The Homans batted around the hunting preserve idea before finally pulling the trigger on the project in 2009. They spoke to experts in habitat management, worked with the Farm Service Agency and signed on to participate in conservation programs.
Hunters can go on guided or semi-guided group or individual hunts at Birdshot Lodge. Several packages are available, with the prices depending on the type of hunt and whether or not lodging and meals are included.
For example, a guided half-day duck hunt costs $150 per gun. A turkey hunt is $300 a day.
Deer hunters – who also have access to several deer stands – can get a semi-guided 21⁄2-day hunt for $900 per hunter, with meals and lodging included. Bucks harvested at Birdshot have weighed between 175 pounds and 225 pounds. Several of them are mounted on the walls of the main lodge and Jim’s living room.
“And we’ve also got the lake for fishing,” James said, showing photos of largemouth bass caught in the lake.
While the Birdshot Lodge has hosted a youth hunt and several other events, the first guided deer hunt wasn’t held until recently. The Homans, of course, expect business to grow.
After all, hunting, fishing and wildlife recreation is big business.
Every five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts a national survey. The most recent report was for 2006 and issued in late 2007. It showed hunters spent nearly $23 billion, with each hunter spending about $2,000.
In Mississippi, the survey estimated there were some 304,000 hunters, who spent an average of 23 days a year hunting. They spent nearly $520 million.
The 2006 survey found that overall, 1.1 million Mississippi residents and nonresidents 16 and older fished, hunted or watched wildlife, spending about $1.1 billion. Trip-related expenditures were $324 million, equipment purchases totaled $491 million and the remaining $257 million was spent on licenses, contributions, land ownership, leasing and other items.
But Jim isn’t necessarily looking to strike it rich. Perhaps more than anything, he wants others to share his love of the outdoors.
“I’ve always wanted to share the passion we’ve had, and hunting with others,” he said. “We want them to make memories with families and friends.”
dennis.seid@journalinc.com