Retired educator Andy Cantrell has found time to pursue a long-standing request to write stories about his pastime as a turkey hunter. His first book titled “Paying Your Dues” has just been released. Readers wanting to find out the back story behind the nearly 20-pound gobbler pictured behind Cantrell will have to wait for the next book, however.

When Andy Cantrell was in college at Mississippi State University in the early 1990s, his writing instructor challenged him to write a book someday. In addition, his father, Jerry, and some other turkey hunters have asked him to write one on and off for the past 15 years.

“To be honest, there was just never enough time to get it completed,” he said.

Cantrell started the process about six or seven years ago when he was an administrator with the Amory School District.

“I would come home in the afternoons and spend anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour thinking about various hunts and making notes,” he said. “When I changed jobs and started commuting to Tupelo, I put my thoughts about a book on the back burner.”

After a fulfilling career in public education that spanned nearly 26 years, Cantrell retired from the Tupelo Public School District last December.

“This opened the door to take care of some unfinished business – my first book,” Andy said of “Paying Your Dues.”

He has been involved in turkey hunting since 1985.

“The sport of spring turkey hunting has changed so much since then,” he said. “Writing this book was a way for me to honor some of my friends and family while promoting the sport. I wanted to share some of the ways that I found success so that others might pick up a tip or two that will help them next spring.”

He also cites plenty of examples in the book of what not to do in certain situations.

“It’s a trip down memory lane that covers the growing pains of hunting an eastern wild turkey,” he said.

Andy has been fortunate to kill several turkeys.

“It’s the ones you don’t kill that take up residency in your long-term memory,” he said. “I still think about hunts from 30 years ago and shake my head in disbelief. If anyone needs another hill to climb or another challenge in life, try Mississippi public land turkey hunting in the spring. Just be prepared for the emotional swings it can provide. As I’ve heard some turkey hunters put it, it’s the highest of highs and lowest of lows.”

Andy said he is tickled with how the book project turned out in the end.

“My wife, Kendal, did an outstanding job with the overall book design,” he said. “If you are a seasoned turkey hunter or just starting out and wanting to learn, it’s a must read.”

For those who do not hunt at all, he said readers will be entertained. He has plans for a sequel.

“Once ‘Paying Your Dues’ was sent to the printer, I realized my hunting journal was full of documented hunts that still needed to be shared,” he said. “I decided there was no way this one book could tell the complete story.”

Cantrell has already received some reviews from authorities on the subject, including Mackie Thornton, who is a law enforcement captain retired from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

“As tight-lipped as most veteran turkey hunters are, I’m surprised he’s sharing so much information,” he said. “No matter what stage in your turkey hunting career you’re in, you won’t be able to put this book down.”

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