An Exclusive Look at One of the South's Greatest Plantations
There are many aspects of life in the South that are unique to the south. But make no mistake, there is no outdoor pursuit that embodies the soul of the South like a day of quail hunting at a real Southern shooting plantation.
One might wonder how quail hunting could garner such attention as to remotely comparing it with other forms of recreation in the South. After all, the sport of quail hunting, at least as it relates to plantation shooting, is not necessarily southern at all. In post Civil War America, many wealthy industrialists from the North began purchasing old cotton plantations in the deep South to serve as getaway recreational properties during the winter months. They found large populations of Bobwhite quail on these properties and realized that they could manage the habitat of their properties to maintain huntable bird populations year after year.
As you might imagine, quail hunting was not necessarily something that most residents of the South did with any regularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was those aristocrats from the North that set the stage for what would become an outdoor lifestyle that only a fortunate few could enjoy.
Most of the successful shooting plantation properties are located north of Tallahassee, Florida and into southwest Georgia near the towns of Thomasville and Albany. It was in this area that elaborate mansions were built on properties ranging from 1,000 acres to more than 20,000 acres. Hunting took place over courses or trails cut through the beautiful tall pines and mature hardwood forest in the area. Food plots and fields provided nutrition for the birds as well as cover to protect them from natural predators.
Most of the properties transported their hunting parties in elaborate “quail wagons” pulled by a team of mules. The quail were located using pointing dogs such as English pointers, English setters and German shorthair pointers. The guides rode horses in order to keep up with the wide-ranging pointing dogs, and would raise their caps to signal a point to the wagon driver.
"Many of the large shooting plantations still exist today under very private ownership, so most of the quail hunting in the South these days is done at hunting preserves spread across the landscape."
Once the birds were pointed, proper etiquette required two hunters get on the ground. The hunters would flank the guide on the left and right as they walked in behind the dogs on point. As the birds flushed at a speed from zero to 40 + mph in two seconds, the hunters would pick a bird and try to put it in the bag. If successful with the first shot, the hunter could try to get to a second bird before the covey gets out of range. Most shooting plantations require a two shot (side by side or over and under) shotgun, usually 20 gauge or smaller when hunting quail.
As you can see, a quail hunt back in the day was very structured with rules of safety and decorum that were not to be compromised. In today’s world, that structure still exists, especially when it comes to safety. Many of the large shooting plantations still exist today under very private ownership, so most of the quail hunting in the South these days is done at hunting preserves spread across the landscape. A few locations still offer the mule and wagon experience, but most find that not cost-effective, so motorized vehicles like specially outfitted Jeeps are used to transport the hunting party.
A few notable Southern Shooting Plantations that are easily accessible to South Georgia, the South Carolina Lowcountry and North Florida
Dorchester Shooting Preserver
Located just south of Savannah, Georgia near the town of Midway, Dorchester Shooting Preserve is a beautiful 5,000-acre property that features lodging, hunting, sporting clays and more. Half-day and full-day hunts are available and there are seven lodges on the property with accommodations for up to 30 hunters. The plantation also features delicious Southern cooking as a part of each hunting experience. huntdsp.com
Red Bluff Plantation
This beautiful Southern plantation is located just across the Savannah River in the South Carolina Lowcountry. This magnificent property features more than 2,000 acres of high ground and 4,500 acres of tidal marsh. The quail hunts at Red Bluff Plantation are offered with a mule-drawn wagon to transport the hunting party through the breathtaking South Carolina Lowcountry setting. Meals and lodging in the on-site plantation mansion are available by request. redbluffplantation.com
Beaver Creek Plantation
Just a short distance from Savannah, Georgia is beautiful Beaver Creek Plantation. This remarkable property features lodging for up to 32 guests, and the quail courses can handle a maximum of 28 hunters simultaneously. The 8,400-square-foot lodge can accommodate up to 100 guests for larger parties, but can handle hunting groups of just about any size. beavercreekplantation.com
One of the original Orvis-endorsed shooting lodges in the South, Wynfield Plantation was awarded the 2005 Orvis Wingshooting Lodge of the Year, which was followed by being named one of the Top 20 Wingshooting Destinations in the World in 2006. Wynfield is best known for its fast flying-quail, great dog work and Southern cuisine. wynfieldplantation.com
Perhaps one of the best-known hunting preserve properties in the South, Southern Woods Plantation is located east of Albany, Georgia near the town of Sylvester. he plantation features a beautiful Southern lodge with a remarkable game room full of trophies taken by Gene Bishop, the original owner of the plantation. The property offers lodging for up to 60 guests who will find comfort in the 30 on-site bedrooms. southernwoodsplantation.com
Pine Hill Plantation
One of the few commercial shooting preserve operations to offer mule and wagon quail hunts, Pine Hill Plantation features quail hunting opportunities on more than 6,000 acres of tall pines, live oaks and wiregrass understudy. It provides the perfect habitat for the fast-flying bobwhite quail. The plantation features a number of beautifully appointed lodges, and hunters have their own lodging staff to take care of their every need. The plantation is located in southwest Georgia near the town of Donalsonville, and duck and turkey hunts are also offered in season by the plantation. pinehillplantation.com