It’s time for a new edition of The Land Show with Dave and Johnny. On the show today with the guys Jim Mason from Southern Sportsman Lodge, Stacy-Lynn Harris, cooking’ up some holiday recipes, Jack Gabriel with Southeastern estates, Robert King with your farmland report and of course, the wild man himself, Tim Baker. So sit on back, relax and enjoy a new edition The Land Show with Dave and Johnny.
Jonathan Goode: Hey everybody, welcome to The Land Show with Dave and Johnny. Today my good friend Dave Milton is out and my good friend William Lyon from Lowndes county’s come over here to the studio in Montgomery. William, how are you this morning?
William Lyon: Man, I’m doing great, Good to be sitting here where Dave usually gets to sit.
Jonathan Goode: Well, that’s a big chair to fill right there.
William Lyon: Yeah, absolutely.
Jonathan Goode: Well, it’s great to have some Lowndes County royalty over here today. Man, appreciate you being in the studio with us.
William Lyon: Man, I’m excited about it. Absolutely.
Jonathan Goode: Well, listen. This time of the year, we were talking last year and your son Cale, I think it was last year or maybe the year previous but he had killed a monster buck. What’s going on in y’all’s woods right now.
William Lyon: Yeah. You know, that popped up on my timeline a couple of days ago. That was actually two years ago, It was a great deer he killed and he ended up this year he’s gotten his first deer with the recurve. He’s 15 years old and, when the phone started ringing well before dark, getting downtime, I knew he had shot. And boy, he was so excited. I don’t know if he was as excited as I was but he killed him an eight point. And it was really neat, just following up with him and trailing the deer. We got it processed, shout out to Jamie Lewis there on Highway 41-Alabama Deer Processors. We took it to them and they did an outstanding job. Really good summer sausage, we’ve been eating way too much, it’s good.
Jonathan Goode: I love some summer sausage and it’s great having a good deer processor but man, your family. Your other son Will, your daughter, she hunts, I don’t know if Miss Kim hunts or not but y’all got an outdoor family for sure.
William Lyon: Yeah. Kim, she does not. We don’t have enough stands for her, you know she’d be wanting to kill all the big ones.
Jonathan Goode: Well it sounds like y’all can shoot ’em out your back door, that one that Cale killed a couple of years ago was a really fine buck.
William Lyon: No doubt, I mean he propped up on the back door to shoot that one.
Jonathan Goode: You know one of the things, I like being around your son Cale, he’s 15 but he knows as much about the outdoors. He is a wood-wise young man, he really enjoys it. Everything that you can do outdoors, he loves it.
William Lyon: He really does. They’ve been actually duck hunting, doing some public land duck hunting. He’s really gotten into that. They went Sunday morning and my phone started ringing, Dad I killed two drakes. And he had a camera that he put on his head, and he brought it home, we put it on the computer and ya know it’s like the Blair Witch Project. The duck comes over and he shoots and he was so proud of himself.
Jonathan Goode: Well it would not surprise me a bit if he has his own outdoor show someday, he’s got the personality for it and the love for the outdoors.
William Lyon: He does and he loves cleaning game, he brings it in, he takes care of it. He’s cleaned my deer this year and I absolutely love it. He brought the ducks home the other day, he got ’em cleaned, he’s ready to go. He’s got a new recipe he wants to try so he’s all into it. He has a good time doing it.
Jonathan Goode: Well, I’m sure, a lot of our listeners, you have met either William or some of William’s family there in Lowndes County, real involved with the Southern Sportsmans Lodge and we’re gonna have the pleasure of talking to Mr. Jim Mason, one of the founders of Southern Sportsman.
William Lyon: Yeah, absolutely. Look forward to talking to him.
Jonathan Goode: William, I’m excited, we’ve got Mr. Jim Mason on the phone, Southern Sportsman’s Lodge over in Lowndes County. Mr. Mason, how are you this morning?
Jim Mason: Doing fine, doing fine. The weather’s better today.
Jonathan Goode: Yes sir. Well, thank you so much for being on. I know you and William are no strangers to one another and he and his Uncle David and you, y’all started a business over there some years ago.
Jim Mason: It was in 1982, I think, this is our 37th year in the hunting business.
Jonathan Goode: Okay. Anybody that’s hunted in the Black Belt, they know Southern Sportsman, you all have a great reputation over there.
Jim Mason: Yeah it’s been real good. Hunting’s not quite what it was when we started but it’s pretty good. We started in ’82 and we started with a double-wide trailer then it just took off then. It just got bigger and bigger.
William Lyon: Jim, y’all were one of the first commercial lodges in the state, isn’t that correct?
Jim Mason: Right. I think the only other one was west of Belt, it was a corporate thing ya know. We were farming and you know we wanted to keep our hunting license during the summer, during the winter time. It fit in pretty good with farming, worked pretty good cause we had a lot of hunting rifles then.
Jonathan Goode: Yes sir. How big, I guess at peak how many acres were y’all hunting over there?
Jim Mason: We were probably hunting, I imagine about 18 or 25 acres at that time.
William Lyon: Oh my gracious.
Jim Mason: We were taking 30 people a day or 28 people a day and had seven full-time guides, it was going strong then.
William Lyon: At the end of every January you were worn out weren’t ya?
Jim Mason: Yeah, we wanted to take a vacation then. They’re extending deer season into February now.
Jonathan Goode: You like that extra ten days, that’s good.
Jim Mason: Well, it’s good and it’s not good. Ya know sooner or later you need a bit of rest.
Jonathan Goode: Are you talking about your guides or you talking about the deer?
Jim Mason: Both.
Jonathan Goode: Well when somebody comes to Southern Sportsman’s Lodge I’ve visited there a few times with William and then a few of these turkey banquets and stuff that y’all host. When you walk down the hallways the pictures on the wall; It is a who’s who of folks in Alabama and a who’s who in the outdoor world. Y’all have hosted a lot of great guests there hadn’t ya?
Jim Mason: Yeah, still a lot of them, see we did the Buck Master thing for fifteen years, that’s before the celebrities came in and we’ve got other ones but yeah that’s when most of them came in. We did a thing the other day with Marty Smith with Academy Sports and it was real good. It was on ESPN Game Day and they were doing a thing about Academy Sports was a time tradition in the south with SEC football and hunting and fishing and that kinda stuff and it was a real good segment that they did.
William Lyon: That was good, I tell you I enjoyed seeing that and he did a great job with you and Dave.
Jim Mason: He was about the easiest man to talk to and easiest I ever did an interview with.
William Lyon: Is that right?
Jonathan Goode: Well until today, until today.
Jim Mason: But the verdicts probably still out on this one.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah the listeners will have to determine that. So are y’all in the middle of guiding season right now, do y’all have guests coming in?
Jim Mason: Well we got some coming in in December but December’s not as big as it used to be. You know, everybody wants to hunt during the rut and all that in January. That’s when they wanna hunt. Usually, though, you take the number of hunting days that we do in December and compare them in January, you’re still about the same ratio of deer.
Jonathan Goode: Well I know in Marion, everybody wants to be….well Perry County everybody wants to be hunting that Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, that’s where the folks swear the rut is in. I think it’s just a long holiday weekend and a lot more people spend time in the woods.
Jim Mason: Yeah that’s it, that’s the way it is but you know, it’s changed a lot. Back then, we had plenty of land. Now we’re renting from previous landowners and stuff, and those folks have gotten old and died out and they even cut them or sell land and stuff like that, it’s kinda hard to hold onto the big chunks of land.
Jonathan Goode: Right, so how many acres are y’all hunting now?
Jim Mason: About five to six thousand, something like that. But we don’t take as many people either. You know, we take 10 or 12 a day, you know, it’s pretty full.
Jonathan Goode: What would you say are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen, I mean you’ve been doing this for over 30 years now, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in hunting in the Black Belt?
Jim Mason: Well, it’s gotten expensive you know, your average probably has a hard time doing it now like you…it’s just a little different. And I don’t know, you know, they got different rules and regulations now, the bait laws and all that, I don’t know. Then you got high fences and all that, it’s just changing big time really.
Jonathan Goode: You know, I guess one of the things that we have to offer in the Black Belt that is so good, if you look like countrywide, we’ve got a January rut and you know, you have people from all over the US that chase the rut today, and they wanna come and you know, get in the woods when the deer are rutting. And that’s probably been a huge selling point for not only Southern Sportsmen but the Black Belt area in general, wouldn’t you think?
Jim Mason: Well, back then it was a deering date and the folks up North never heard of anything like that. You know, I mean all their seeing is the out then, you know they’re seeing it going out and a lot of them, the best workers and stuff like that, it was too cold, they laid off a little bit in the wintertime anyhow so they looked for a place to go home.
Jonathan Goode: Now y’all did one hunting show up in Harrisburg, PA. What year was that when y’all went up there?
Jim Mason: Like 84 and 85, it was two years in a row we went. The first year we went, 800,000 people came through in 10 days. And paid $8.00 a head to get in I think.
William Lyon: And that really built Southern Sportsman didn’t it?
Jim Mason: Well it helped, we got a lot of business in, but then the second year we saw the people that were hunting and word of mouth does more things than anything. If you do a good job, folks have a good time, they’re gonna tell people about it and then you know, that helps.
Jonathan Goode: Right, well one of the things I always enjoy, I enjoy hanging out around people that run hunting lodges and hunting guides because y’all have seen everything there is to see, with the animals and with the people. And sometimes the animals are the people, you just never know. But you get exposed to a lot doing that, don’t you?
Jim Mason: You do. If you fool with the public, you know 10% of them are hard to fool with anyhow. I mean you just gotta put up with that, that’s just the way it goes. But I’ll tell you, you know, the land around here, I’ve seen it and I’ve seen it in New York and everything else. Land is a good investment around here.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah, I like that.
Jim Mason: You know, they ain’t making no more land and they’re making more people.
Jonathan Goode: That’s a fact. That’s a fact, well, have you got any hunts that, I mean, you’ve done thousands of them through the years. Any of them that really stand out to you as really memorable hunts?
Jim Mason: Well, the main thing, the most fun you have is seeing a kid kill his first deer. You know, I’ve had some young ones that kill, I mean, you know, they kill a deer and it does you good to see ’em and they’re kinda locked in on hunting. I think it was last year we had a father-son thing either Christmas or New Year, and one of the little boys killed a doe and we had three other boys that went and watched him drag that doe out of the woods. They were having a blast. It was just fun.
Jonathan Goode: Well that is fun, I bet William got to kill his first one when he was in diapers. You probably what, 2.5 or 3 when you killed your first deer?
William Lyon: No actually, my Uncle Dave, Jim’s partner, I was sitting in his lap. I don’t remember, I was young and old doe came out in the food plot and I’ll never forget, he had an old Bull Barrel 22-250 rifle, and that doe came out, I said I’m ready to shoot. And I set it up there and that barrel was swinging around in circles up there. Dave said you just need to calm down a little bit, he said why don’t you bring that gun back in and set it up and just take a few deep breaths and you don’t have to rush this. So we pulled the gun back in. As soon as the butt hit the bottom of the box stand, I said: “alright I’m ready”. And I picked that thing back up and I was looking and he said: “I don’t know how in the world you killed that deer, that barrel was going everywhere.” And I shot and she dropped, I just hit her right in the neck and she dropped and you never forget your first one.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah for sure. Well, I’m sure y’all have introduced lots and lots of folks to the hunting woods. One of my favorite things about coming to your lodge there is the food. Y’all put on some good Southern hospitality, don’t you?
Jim Mason: Yeah we do, and I do catering and stuff like that. I like to do stuff for the church. I’ve got a church meeting tomorrow night for a Christmas party, Deacons meeting and I don’t know, there is one Saturday; a kinda family Christmas Saturday and Sunday. Then I’m doing a church thing Sunday night. We do a lot of that catering now because it fills in on the hunting. You gotta diversify a little bit. I cook butts for benefits, and stuff like that, turkeys for Thanksgiving and all that. You gotta keep a lot of stuff going. You’ve got a big place here and hunting season doesn’t last all year so you’ve gotta do something with it the rest of the time. I’ve done weddings and all kinds of stuff, family reunions.
Jonathan Goode: Well I’d drive out of my way to eat your fried chicken over there, those ladies do a fantastic job. Your fried chicken and your fried fish are about as good as anywhere around, for sure.
Jim Mason: Yeah, we do pretty good with the steaks and chicken and stuff like that, it does real good on the catering.
Jonathan Goode: Well William only invites me on fried chicken day, we haven’t been on steak day, William.
Jim Mason: Well you’ve gotta get him to steak day.
William Lyon: They are truly special, I’ll tell you, people talk about them all the time. All these corporate events Jim has and everybody is like that is the best steak I’ve ever had.
Jonathan Goode: Sign me up, I’m in.
William Lyon: You know the fried chicken, second and fourth Sundays is when Jim is doing that. And there’s churches from all over, from Selma, Hayneville, Lowndesboro, people come from all over to get some of that fried chicken.
Jonathan Goode: Yeah I guess I take for granted, a lot of our listeners are all over the state. Where is the lodge in Lowndes County? How would you describe where it’s located?
Jim Mason: It’s on Highway 80 before you get to Benton coming from Montgomery. The address is really 9022 US Highway 80 West Tyler, AL but we’re kinda on the middle line between Hayneville and Tyler. Our mail goes to Dave’s house which is a Hayneville route and the lodge is a half a mile over here and it’s a Tyler route.
Jonathan Goode: I got you, well that’s two big metropolises there for our folks in North Alabama, Hayneville and Tyler. You don’t wanna blink when you’re going through there.
Jim Mason: Well if you tell ’em we really trick em, it’s a different ball game.
Jonathan Goode: That’s right. Well, y’all have hosted a lot of big events there, you had a lot of big name folks come through, had a lot of politicians come through in the past and you just got a really well-known facility, a lodge there. And when folks, when they wanna get information about it, do you have a website or how can folks get information about Southern Sportsman?
Jim Mason: Yeah, we couldn’t get Southern Sportsman because it was taken, it’s southernhunting.com. www.southernhunting.com. Or they can call me, my cell phone is 334.412.0991. And Dave’s is 334.412.3368. And that’s the main number.
Jonathan Goode: Okay, and have you got folks hunting this weekend right now?
Jim Mason: Not this weekend, I got some the next weekend. And then we got a group between Christmas and New Years Eve. After New Years, it’s pretty much solid then.
Jonathan Goode: Do you have any openings from Christmas until the end of the season?
Jim Mason: Yeah, we got some openings then. It’s somebody here most every day but we still got places in there.
Jonathan Goode: Okay, well that sounds great and as a Christmas gift, y’all need to reach out to them. Book your significant other a hunt there at Southern Sportsman Lodge in Lowndes County. Do that. Mr. Mason, thank you so much for being on the Land Show with us today and wish you a Merry Christmas.
Jim Mason: You too, thank you too, you and William both.
William Lyon: See you, Jim, thanks, Jim.
Jonathan Goode: Man, how cool is it. I think they’re a lot of our listeners that would be envious of your growing up around Southern Sportsmans and the lodge and all that goes along with that.
William Lyon: Yeah absolutely, I’ve just been blessed to be a part of it and Jim and Dave have been partners since the early 80s and I’ll tell you what, the Mason family, they’re just great friends of ours, just salt of the earth people, just good folks.
Jonathan Goode: Well, and Ashley Mason, I got my start in radio with her, she was co-hosting Big Daddy Lawler’s show over there in Selma, so that’s how I got introduced to the Mason family. And then you’ve taken me to the lodge several times. Every time I get a chance I like to go over there.
William Lyon: Yeah absolutely. Hey, Jim living in Benton right there, have you ever seen the signs there on Highway 80 that says prayer mile?
Jonathan Goode: Yeah yeah.
William Lyon: And seen that flat right there? Nobody knew who did that and you know, everybody started, who put the signs up, you know, and anyway, Jim was actually the one who did that. And they did an article on him, it was pretty neat. We’re seeing a lot of wrecks in that stretch right there, I guess people are praying with their eyes closed. Maybe they should have one eye open.
Jonathan Goode: Pray with your eyes open people. Pray with your eyes open.
William Lyon: At least one eye open.
Jonathan Goode: Well I’m gonna try to get a link to that Academy Sports interview and put that on our Land Show Facebook page so folks can see it because that is a really cool interview.
William Lyon: Man, they have had thousands and thousands of views on that, it’s pretty impressive, pretty neat.
Jonathan Goode: It is, and I gotta say, your Uncle Dave, he’s one heck of a turkey hunter. You and Cale and I were hunting a few years ago, you took me out there on some of y’all’s property and we were set up and had a gobbler coming into us and then heard some calling on the other side of the fence line over there.
William Lyon: Yeah you know he’s got an owl hoot you can recognize it anywhere, and I just know the hoot. And I hear it and turkey gobble and you know that’s Uncle Dave and you might as well go the other way because he’s gonna be calling and they’re gonna go to him.
Jonathan Goode: I suspect, I think he killed the turkey we were hunting. He’s a doggone good turkey hunter and I mean when you’re in Lowndes County, there’s not much to do except get really good at killing all the deer and turkeys everywhere.
William Lyon: Absolutely, that’s right.
Jonathan Goode: Well that’s great, what is that website again for Southern Sportsman Lodge?
William Lyon: It’s southernhunting.com.
Jonathan Goode: Okay, and I know you’ve been involved with that for a long time. Y’all go check that out and really, I’d encourage you if you can book a hunt, it’s gonna be very competitively priced compared to a lot of the other places out there. The food is outstanding, you’re gonna get some great stories and if you need it, you can get some dirt on William Lyon here so definitely check that out.
William Lyon: Hey hey, back off.
Jonathan Goode: That’s right. Well y’all, we’re gonna take a quick break. We’re gonna hear from some of our sponsors. We’ll be back for more of the Land Show with Dave and Johnny.