Lifestyles, businesses and heritages are things that sometimes get passed from generation to generation. I remember as a kid my dad having a passion for the outdoors that included hunting and fishing. With six boys and two girls to feed, some of that passion was destined for sustenance, but mostly, it was for pleasure.
I’ve passed that passion to my son Wesley and am passing it on to my grandchildren.
Enter Todd Jackson, of Hodgeson Road, in Gonzales. Jackson is in his early 50s and has two children with his wife, Missy. He got his start in life hunting with his grandfather, Bernie Hodgeson, and his uncle, Carroll Hodgeson, when he was 5.
The Hodgeson family settled on a land grant, a plantation with several thousand acres that was just on the outskirts of present-day Gonzales before Louisiana became a state in 1812; hence the name Hodgeson Road. There is still over 400 acres of Hodgeson family land there today. The Hodgeson family men hunted and fished for sustenance.
Jackson got his start hunting squirrels, coon, rabbits and deer with his granddad and uncle.
“I made lots of money selling coon hides back in the day when I was a teenager with our dogs,” Jackson said.” I hunted rabbits with my Uncle Carroll a lot. Even when he got Alzheimer’s, we still took him into the woods up into his early 70s.”
His granddad started him off still hunting for squirrels, but hunting with dogs was their passion.
“We had coon dogs, beagles to hunt rabbits, deer dogs. Heck, we even had fox dogs to run foxes at night. Man, that was pretty cool to come up that way.” His son Gavin is having the same opportunity that Todd had.
Gavin Jackson is a 17-year-old junior at Ascension Catholic High who has his eyes set on a chemical engineering degree at LSU when he finishes high school. But Gavin is following very closely in his father’s steps when it comes to the outdoors.
“I knew since I was 5 or 6 years old that hunting and training dogs is what I wanted to do” Gavin said.” I really like to squirrel hunt with dogs because there’s a lot of action, you don’t have to be quiet and the social element just rounds out the fun. You can take part in this kind of hunting at a very early age, so it’s easy for kids to do.”
He doesn’t remember it, but Gavin’s first time in the woods was in a sack draped around his dad’s neck, so he started pretty young going into the woods. “I don’t remember when I first started going into the woods, but I do remember following my dad and the dogs in the woods.” As a matter of fact, he killed his first turkey at 5 years old with a .410 shotgun. Gavin killed his first squirrel and deer at the same age with the same gun.
Gavin grew up like most boys, playing sports for fun and competition. “I played basketball and ran cross country and enjoyed them both, but they just didn’t hold the excitement of hunting and training those dogs.”
A look inside his bedroom lets you know that he’s not quite like the average teen. There are no photos of Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr. There is a picture of Taylor, but it’s not Taylor Swift. It’s Taylor the squirrel dog and the competition they won.
All of the game the Jacksons kill is eaten, but they really love the sport — so much so that Todd and Gavin raise their dogs for hunting and competition. The duo raises mountain curs for squirrel and coon hunting. The dogs compete in the Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association field trials.
Gavin won his first competition hunt at 9, pitting Taylor against 43 other dogs. The OMBCA qualifies a dog as champion when a competition hunt is won. The dog must add another 150 points by placing second or third in other hunts. Once a dog is crowned a champion, they can progress into a grand champion by competing against other champions.
They own a grand champion trained by the younger Jackson — Gavin’s Lil Annie, a 6-year-old, is their only grand champion. Lil Annie is one of only two female dogs to win this competition. Her mother, Gavin’s Taylor Creek, is a 10-year-old that has won the titles of OMBCA Daytime Champion (squirrel hunting) and Night Champion (coon hunting) — not an easy feat. Gavin has 21 hunting competition wins under his belt that include two Louisiana state hunts along with state competition wins in three other states.
With that kind of gene pool to work with, the Jacksons have turned their hobby into a pretty good business of breeding, training and selling squirrel dogs. They fetch a healthy $600 or so for a pup and upwards for a trained dog. As a matter of fact, they’ve been offered $17,000 for Lil Annie and turned it down.
It’s great to see a young man so focused in his passion for hunting and training dogs and his eyes set on an engineering degree. His parents must have done a good job. Louisiana has been blessed with bountiful outdoor opportunities. Pass yours on to somebody.
Lyle Johnson covers sports for The Ascension Advocate. He can be contacted at email@example.com or ascension @theadvocate.com.