How to Hunt the Southern Way
If you were to take a poll of folks who live in the south to determine what they like most about living below the Mason Dixon line, you will likely get many different answers.
Some will talk about the weather, while others will cite how friendly the people seem to be or how delicious the food can be. Some might talk about how delightful the outdoor lifestyle that can be enjoyed most of the year.
The life of southern gentry is alive and well in countless plantations across the south. The large tracts of land, some encompassing a thousand acres, provide perfect habitat for sporting birds, such as quail, grouse and mourning doves. Many of the plantations are privately owned, but some are open to the public. One place you can experience some of the best winged hunting in the country is at Turkey Hill Plantation in rural South Carolina.
Many of the plantation properties that were developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s remain in the possession of the families that started them. In most instances those properties are private and accessible by invitation only. Fortunately there are many plantations in the South that do allow public access, and most offer adventures in addition to hunting.
If you’re looking for the “soup to nuts” offering that include hunting, fishing, lodging meals, etc. there are a couple of examples close by where “living the plantation lifestyle” can become reality. Places like Turkey Hill Plantation (turkeyhillplantation.com) in the South Carolina Lowcounrty north of Ridgeland, and Gillionville Plantation (gillionvilleplantation.com) just west of Albany, Ga., are working plantations (farming, timber, hunting, etc.) that offer guests the chance to live the lifestyle of the property owner.
Turkey Hill Plantation was founded by New York banker Jeremiah Milbank in 1939 when he purchased more than 19,000 acres from the Savannah River Lumber Company. The property is still owned by the Milbank family. The Big House, which is one of three lodges on the plantation, was designed by noted architect Willis Irwin. It features Irwin special touches like pickled cypress paneling, fireplace surrounds, Federal style moldings and an oval dining room. The Georgia revival style home has six double bedrooms and a number of single bedrooms to accommodate up to a dozen guests.
Turkey Hill is best known for its bobwhite quail hunting, and just getting a “ticket” on the quail wagon for a day is very difficult. The plantation stays booked up for the entire quail hunting season (November-early March), so if you think you can make a call to schedule a hunt for tomorrow, you’re going to be disappointed. If you are lucky enough to visit those hallowed grounds by membership or as an invited guest, you will truly experience what the plantation lifestyle is meant to be.
Gillionville Plantation property has remained in the ownership of the same family for almost 100 years, and those thousands of meticulously managed wildlife habitat are managed for the wild quail.
Gillionville Plantation actually offers a shooting membership during the wild quail season (mid-November through February) which is structured much like a resort timeshare. Each membership is based on a group of eight, but members may bring up to 10 people. While at Gillionville, the members and their guests are afforded the same service, exquisite meals, lodging and hunting as the actual owners of the property. Members select their week (Monday arrival with departure Saturday afternoon) and are afforded that same week each year that they hold their membership.
Make no mistake, this type of access can be pricey, but the opportunity to “own” the plantation for a couple of days or even one week a year is certainly enticing for those who can afford to pay.