Deer photos a tradition well worth continuing

Published 9:17 am Thursday, January 7, 2016

Those of you who are old enough might remember one of the most beloved reporters to ever grace the halls — although he’d probably say deface them — of The Vicksburg Post, Fred Messina.

Fred was quite the character. He once famously made a phone call to someone for a story, then told them to hold on for a minute so he could “Write down your name so I know who I’m talking to.” In the 1970s and 80s, readers opened their newspaper to see Fred pointing a .357 magnum at them in his column mugshot.

Fred passed away in 2007, but if you look at the top of this column you’ll see that his legacy lives on.

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During his heyday, Fred started a tradition of running pictures of hunters and fishermen with their trophies. If you grew up in Vicksburg, having your picture in Fred’s “On Target” column was probably up there with driving and having your first kiss on the list of life’s milestones. I have my name in the paper almost every day, but the day in 2006 when he ran my picture with a 9-pound bass that I caught was a career highlight.

I’m aware that seeing grinning children posing with dead deer is not everyone’s cup of tea. Besides the fact that some animal lovers are opposed to it on merit, some of the pictures we get are downright gruesome. To be honest, some of them still haunt me years later. We don’t publish the worst of those.

The vast majority, however, are more palatable and publishing them is a tradition worth continuing. Hunting is an activity shared by parents and children. It’s a time when they can bond. Even though I’m not a hunter, I can appreciate that and see the value in it.

Publishing the “deer photos” is an extension of that. For a child, taking their first deer is a waypoint in life to celebrate. It’s one we’ll continue to celebrate in these pages for years to come.

So please send us your hunting stories and photos. We prefer email — our address is — but if you want to drop them off to our office at 1601-F North Frontage Road, that’s fine too. If you’d like to go the extra mile and write a short story about it, we might even publish it. Just keep it around 375 to 450 words, please.

Thanks to all of those who have sent in pictures and stories this hunting season. Let’s keep Fred Messina’s memory, and this wonderful tradition, alive by keeping them coming.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer. He can be reached via email at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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