Office With a View
Story Shannon Bardwell | Photograph Luisa Porter
At 30-something, Amy Blaylock is one of two female wildlife biologists with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The other female, Ashley Gary, has been Amy’s best friend since they were 4 years old. Amy’s father, Larry Castle, her uncle, Benny Herring, and her brother-in-law, Jason Blaylock, are also MDWFP conservationists. It would be safe to say that friends, family and conservation are Amy’s life.
Growing up in Kilmichael, Amy’s family raised cows, sheep, horses, chickens, rabbits and an assortment of cats and dogs. Early on she was introduced to hard work. Amy’s mother, Myra, was a school librarian and later home-schooled Amy and her sister, Joni. Mornings meant school and afternoons meant chores.
At 15 years old Amy landed a job at Hi-Grade Farm Supply in Winona, where she still works most Saturdays. “I can’t bear to leave the older farmers that I’ve waited on for almost 20 years,” she says.
Most mornings Amy’s day begins at 4 a.m. with a peaceful, quiet walk. She wears a wrist pedometer and logs between 10,000 and 30,000 steps daily. The only sitting she does is driving to and from management areas or sitting atop a tractor moving brush piles, bush hogging, constructing habitat or working food plots.
She is Regional Wildlife Management Biologist for the Central district areas including Trim Cane, Choctaw, Black Prairie, John Starr, Yockanookany, Nanih Waiya, Okatibbee, Pearl River, Blenville, Caney Creek and Tallahala.
It’s likely most people have no idea what goes into protecting Mississippi’s 675,000 acres of public land, with its wildlife and habitat.
On any given day Amy and her colleagues can be found harvesting timber, conducting controlled burns, performing moist soil tests, doing supplemental plantings, applying herbicides, managing native vegetation and maintaining the infrastructure of roads, buildings and equipment.
As biologists they perform wildlife health checks by collecting data through projects and surveys for deer herd health, spring gobblers and wild turkey blood surveys, checking waterfowl, quail, mourning doves and alligators. There are deer camera surveys as well as banding, tagging and radio-collaring wildlife.
Amy also oversees public education programs and events that include field days, youth dove hunts, waterfowl camps, fishing rodeos and classes on birds, bats, bees and habitat protection.
Amy is passionate about hunting. She explains, “There was a time when hunting meant survival; now it’s just good conservation. Hunting balances wildlife populations with what the land can support. It limits crop damage and curtails disease. It plays a major role in protecting highway safety. People don’t really consider that.”
Asked if her job ever got scary, Amy says, “I’m not scared of snakes, but I don’t like them. Once I exited a deer stand after dark. Halfway back I could hear wild hogs moving all around me. It was pretty scary, but I kept on going.”
If anything can be said about Blaylock, it’s just that: She keeps on going.