Outdoors

With Black Wolf Hunting Club, Eric Morris tries to introduce sport to more African-Americans

Sommari Muwwakkil celebrated with his daughters Eshante (from left), Inkera, Sommyia and Mikhia after shooting a pheasant last weekend at the Harding Gamebirds hunting preserve in northern Missouri. They participated in a hunt organized by the Black Wolf Hunting Club to introduce more blacks to hunting.
Sommari Muwwakkil celebrated with his daughters Eshante (from left), Inkera, Sommyia and Mikhia after shooting a pheasant last weekend at the Harding Gamebirds hunting preserve in northern Missouri. They participated in a hunt organized by the Black Wolf Hunting Club to introduce more blacks to hunting. The Kansas City Star

Moments like this are what Eric Morris had in mind when he founded the Black Wolf Hunting Club.

He set out with the goal of attracting African-Americans to hunting, an ambitious goal considering that federal surveys show that less than 5 percent of all participants are black.

But there he was, standing in a field with shotgun in hand, watching a black family that he recruited have the time of their lives.

“There’s a huge perception that blacks don’t hunt,” said Morris, who led a group of hunters at the Harding Gamebirds hunting preserve in northern Missouri. “I know that’s what the surveys say. But look at this.

“This is proof that blacks can have a great time hunting. We just have to give them the opportunity.”

Through the Black Wolf Hunting Club, Morris and others attempt to provide that opportunity. They organize trips to preserves, where participants pay to hunt pen-raised birds, and introduce blacks young and not-so-young to hunting.

For many, it’s a unique experience. They weren’t brought up with hunting, as they were with fishing, Morris said. Not feeling comfortable in rural settings, a lack of access, prejudice, the lack of role models — those are all excuses Morris has heard from fellow blacks as to why they don’t hunt.

Morris, who now lives in Platte City, didn’t face those barriers. He grew up in Alabama and taught himself to hunt.

Now he helps others discover the excitement of the sport. And days like the one that took place last weekend remind him that he is on the right track.

Sommari Muwwakkil; his wife, Neshaun; and his four daughters Inkera, 17, Eshante, 16, and Mikhia, 12, were all carrying shotguns. His youngest, Sommyia, 6, was tagging along.

This was one of the family’s first hunts, and judging by the the smiles, it was a special day.

“I had a life-long desire to go hunting,” Muwwakkil said. “I was brought up in Kansas City, and I didn’t know where to get started.

“Some landowners don’t trust African-Americans, and they aren’t going to give you access. And some of the public areas get hit so hard that it’s tough for a beginner to get out.

“So I really felt lost.”

But that changed, he said, when he met Morris.

After Morris gave a talk to a youth group, Muwwakkil approached him and asked him questions about getting started in hunting. Morris invited Muwwakkil to participate in a hunt, and he jumped at the chance.

Last weekend, Muwwakkil was back, along with his wife and his girls. So were Demetrick Thomas and Cedric Lee of Leavenworth, also new to the world of gamebird hunting.

Workers at Harding Gamebirds stocked pheasants and chukars in the thick strips of cover, then guide Jim Sparks released his chocolate Lab, Sarge, and his two English setters, Pete and Sid. It wasn’t long before the bird dogs picked up the scent and were on point.

Hunters flushed the birds and took turns shooting, keeping safety in mind. Shots rang out, birds fell and happy hunters watched in awe as the dogs retrieved the game.

One of Muwwakkil’s daughters, Eshante, was among the successful.

“At first, I didn’t know how I would like this,” she said. “I was scared of shooting at first. I though the kick from a shotgun would hurt.

“But we started by shooting at clays (targets).Then when I went hunting, I loved it.”

She paused and laughed. “I think the boys are jealous that they don’t get to go,” she said. “They call me a hunting beast.”

Thomas, a major in the Army who is stationed at Fort Leavenworth, also is happy that Morris recruited him.

“I had deer hunted back home in South Carolina, but I had never been bird hunting,” he said. “It takes some getting used to.

“In the Army, we’re taught to be on target. Here, you have to lead them.

“But once you get used to it, it’s a lot of fun.”

That’s the kind of reaction Morris seeks. He has a passion for introducing blacks to hunting, even if he has to do it one person at a time.

“Seeing these kids come out here and have a great time, that’s special,” he said. “If we could get more blacks to come out and at least give hunting a chance, I think we could change the way people see things.

“I think there is untapped potential there.”

To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to bfrazee@kcstar.com.

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