7/27/2018 12:02:00 PM
By Pepper Taylor
On any given day right around dusk, one can drive by the Eidt residence and hear the clanging of corn kernels against tin and the faint sound of an old man singing “King of the Road.”
Though most hunters would assume that such loud noises would send deer, or any animal for that matter, heading for the hills, on this particular evening a doe slowly pokes her head out of the edge of the tree line. Within minutes, seven more deer make their way into the open area, just a few yards from the Eidt home, inching closer to the little old man in his golf cart.
Hidden beneath a dark green cap sits Charlie Eidt, a 90-year-old Natchez native who has quite the hobby. Known as the “White-tailed Whisperer” by family and friends, Eidt calls up everything from deer to doves outside of his home almost every afternoon in hopes of capturing each animal on his camera. For more than a decade, these animals have been coming up to Eidt, and he has the photos to prove it.
Many years before he had a camera in his hand, Eidt roamed the hills, bluffs, and lakes of the Mississippi River with his father, hunting and fishing for anything he could get his hands on to eat. He recalls the first big animal that he ever killed was a gobbler. When Eidt was “about 3 or 4 years old,” while riding with the windows rolled down in a pick-up truck with his father, a gobbler almost flew through his passenger door window. Eidt and his father hopped out of the truck with the gobbler flopping around because of its injuries from the impact. With his father’s guidance, Eidt shot the turkey three times with his “97-cent Daisy BB gun’’ to put it out of its misery (the bird had lost an eye from what appeared to be an old gunshot wound).
Eidt hunted everything from deer to ducks to squirrels for almost 70 years. He even could recall swimming out to the middle of the Mississippi River in the cold once on a goose hunt with his father to retrieve a wounded Canada goose.
Eidt, who served with the 93rd Seabees Battalion during World War II and later as a pressman and postal employee, did not get into wildlife photography until he was in his 70s. That was when, because of health setbacks, he was no longer able to climb a deer stand, hold up a gun, or get in a boat to go fishing. Eager to find another way to see and admire wildlife, Eidt began placing trail cameras around his property to get a glimpse of animals roaming around the area. He was so excited by what he saw on his trail cameras, he decided he could take even better photos of the deer, turkeys, and raccoons if he did it himself.
Eidt began with a small, digital camera, but as he progressed, he invested in nicer cameras that allowed him to capture crisper images at longer distances. Though his camera has a zoom feature, Eidt never seems to need it. The deer come up to him, looking for the corn and rice bran he throws out for them almost every evening.
Though they come close enough, Eidt said has never touched any of the deer. He claims that his talking and singing to them reassures them that “everything is going to be OK.”
“You know, all my life I used to sneak around in the woods quietly, and sometimes I’d go down there for two weeks and wouldn’t see a deer,” Eidt said. “Now I come up here and be loud, and they just show up … If you don’t keep talking to them, they’ll leave.”
For hours, Eidt sits in his golf cart admiring the beautiful creatures before him, talking and singing to them as they graze, constantly snapping photos that will then be intricately printed, labeled, and sorted the following day. Despite having lost feeling in both of his hands, Eidt still manages to snap incredible photos of small bucks in velvet feeding alongside turkeys, indigo buntings perched on a branch, or two does fighting on their hind legs with bellies bulging out, awaiting the arrival of their fawns.
While there are stacks and stacks of printed photos throughout his home, Eidt said, “I only print around 10 percent of all of the photos I take.”
Today, Eidt has taken more than 15,000 photos, with thousands delicately printed, labeled, and stored in numerous boxes throughout his house. Each printed photo comes with a description on the back, which often includes a humorous comment by Eidt.
Though he has endured two heart attacks, a stroke, open-heart surgery, a back operation, and a broken leg within recent years, Eidt will let nothing hold him back from doing what he loves: spending an evening photographing wildlife.
“This culminates my day when I get to be out here for an hour and a half or two hours and sit right here with them,” explained Eidt. “I can either do this or go crazy.”
Pepper Taylor is a writer for Mississippi Outdoors.