Outdoors group wants certified guides|[2/17/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

Saturday, the Mississippi Outfitters and Guides Association will hold its first meeting designed to make association certification more significant.

Tim Carpenter, owner of Eagle Lake Lodge and secretary-treasurer of MOGA, said the association was organized in 1996 as a self-regulatory group to increase and maintain the integrity, professionalism and expertise of outdoor recreation outfitters and guides and to keep customers coming back to Mississippi. It also is designed to allow its members to learn from each other.

Increasingly, Mississippi is a destination for out-of-state hunters, fishermen and nature observers willing to hire competent local guides.

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“The guy that tells you ‘Meet me at the gas station and send me $100,’ we want him out of the business,” Carpenter said.

The meeting Saturday at the Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond begins with registration at 8 and will wind up about 4:30 p.m. The order of business for the morning session will be the business of MOGA, including the election of officers and speakers.

During the afternoon, Carpenter said, MOGA will put on the first of its voluntary continuing education classes.

“Our idea is for a five-year program with guides and outfitters taking two classes a year for a total of 10 units,” he said.

The cost for MOGA members will be $120 per unit and for nonmembers $150 per unit, Carpenter said. Ten units will be required for certification.

The purpose of the classes will be to upgrade the skills of guides and outfitters in both operating their business and their outdoor skills.

Carpenter said the courses will be broken down into a number of classifications such as small business operation. Included in this group of classes will be sales and marketing, taking services to the public, administration and promotion of the business.

Other classes of courses are business ethics, courses about game species and habitat management, ecotourism, food service and safety and health and safety.

Carpenter said MOGA classes are not pitched just to the person who wants to set up a duck camp in the Mississippi Delta but seeks to draw members from all forms of outdoor recreation from the Gulf Coast charter fishing service, to that duck camp operator, to someone guiding bird watchers on hikes in northeast Mississippi.

With the courses required for certification, it will assure the customer of a minimum quality of service and outdoor experience.

He said MOGA will be working with Mississippi State University on the classes and on surveys to determine the economic impact of recreation tourism in Mississippi. The university has already done a survey on what it costs to operate an outdoor-related business. Plans are in the works for another survey of what customers spend from leaving home to returning..

As an idea of what the outdoor recreation industry – hunting, fishing, birding, boating, canoeing – can do for Mississippi, Carpenter said at one meeting he attended, a speaker said bird watching alone brings $30 million into the state.

Carpenter said anyone wanting more information about MOGA and Saturday’s meeting can call him at 279-6210.