Mississippi Authorities Searching for Missing Pair of Young Duck Hunters

by Suzanne Halliburton

A couple of young duck hunters launched their boat from a Mississippi dock in early December. They haven’t been seen since.

It’s why the local sheriff’s office had divers in the water even on Christmas day, looking for the bodies of 21-year-old Zeb Hughes and 16-year-old Gunner Palmer. The sheriff wanted to give any kind of closure to the anxious families.

The two young duck hunters launched their boat from Letourneau Landing on Hennessey’s Bayou in Mississippi. The bayou, which empties into the Mississippi River, is south of Vicksburg.

“We have unfortunately worked multiple drownings in the past where we would have more than one person drown,” Warren County sheriff Martin Pace. “Some of those have been in contained bodies of water like a lake or a pond, which is a completely different dynamic than searching in the Mississippi River.”

“I think the fact that we have multiple victims in a moving body of water that’s 100 feet deep, it just adds to the situation,” Sheriff Pace said.

Pace’s office is working the search, but the two duck hunters are from Copiah County.

Families Said Duck Hunters Were Scouting a Spot Near Island In River

On Dec. 3, the two young men launched their boat in the afternoon. Hours later, their families called police, saying they had yet to return home. Their dog also was missing.

Family members said the two duck hunters were going to scout a possible duck hunting site near David Island. The island was searched immediately. The truck and boat trailer still were parked near Letourneau. Landing. Searchers located the boat the day after the families called authorities. The boat was capsized and was floated near an island.

The mission to find the duck hunters evolved from a search and rescue mission to a recover effort. Searchers found the boat and other items. Given the expanse of the Mississippi River and how fast the water flows, it could be a near possible mission to find the duck hunters.

“As far as the recovery operation at this point, it’s I hate it say it– a needle in a haystack– but, it’s a major undertaking when we’re conducting a recover operation in the Mississippi River,” Pace said.

Pace said it’s not unusual for a body search to stretch for weeks. The search is extensive. His officers are part of it. So is the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

“Our hearts and prayers go out for the family. I understand anytime you lose anyone in your family, but especially a young person at Christmas, it amplifies the grief.”

In Mississippi, duck hunting season is from Nov. 27 – 29; Dec. 4 – 6 and Dec. 9 – Jan. 31

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