provided by John E. Phillips
One of the hunting sports that has been growing by leaps and bounds is predator hunting. Predator hunting serves several purposes. It’s a way to take the animals that prey on deer, turkey, rabbits, quail and squirrels to help increase the population of these game animals. Too, harvesting predators is a way to harvest fur bearers and earn extra money during this pandemic. In many states, hunting predators has a long season, and you can hunt predators at night as well as in the daytime. Mossy Oak Pro Gary Roberson of Menard, Texas, the president of Burnham Brothers Calls, has been there from early predator calling all the way up to the newest innovations in predator callers. Roberson has just written a new book, “Eyes Front: 60 Years of Hunting the Hunters,” available from Burnham Brothers that contains six chapters on rattling whitetails, 10 chapters on calling turkeys and the rest of the book on calling predators – starting with the basics and continuing to the latest information on ultrasonic callers.
I was a hide hunter during my last couple of years of high school and all the way through college. My brother Russell was the trapper, and I’d help some. However, I took my fur by calling predators in and shooting them. I also had hounds to run coons at night, and we’d take their hides, too. The most money I ever remember us making was $3,000 one Christmas break – which was when we were out of school. When we divided the money up, we had about $1,500 each and thought we were on the edge of being rich. The first job I had while in college, I made $1,300 per year, so I was making more money taking predators over Christmas break than I made at my real job at the college. I used my money to pay for my living expenses while in college, and of course, I hunted and fished for much of my food. During deer season I usually could get at least one deer per week to eat.
I didn’t get an academic scholarship, so I had to work my way through college and use the money I earned to pay for college. I graduated from Southwest Texas, now known as Texas State University. On weekends, I’d drive 80 miles back to my family’s farm, work all weekend and drive back to college on Sunday night after dark. Dad would pay us a little something for working on the weekends, and if we needed extra money to pay for school, he would do that as well. I graduated from college in four years, and during those four years, I only stayed on campus that one weekend.
I had a passion for calling animals, not only predators. I loved to rattle deer, and I got really serious into calling turkeys. An outdoor writer at that time, Bruce Brady, and the men at Mossy Oak, helped me get started in turkey calling. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve always worn Mossy Oak camouflage, and I wear it even today. When I graduated from college, I didn’t think I could make a living calling animals and making calls, so I got into the banking business. I went to work for the Federal Land Bank making farm and ranch loans (today that organization is regulated by the Farm Credit Administration). When I left Farm Credit, I went into commercial credit and became president of a bank.
About that same time, I knew Murray Burnham pretty well and would go to hunting shows and talk to him from time to time. Murray wanted to start hunting in the area where I lived. I knew all the ranchers around our family farm in this region where I’d always called and hunted predators. I lined-up Murray Burnham some hunts and most of the time would go with him. We then started hunting further west and further north together. Finally, Murray and his brother decided they wanted to get out of the call business and asked me if I wanted to buy their company. I did in 1991, and that’s how I wound up owning the Burnham Brothers. The company developed new and better calls from what we’d learned when we were hunting.