By: Don Kirk
“Wild quail are tough to find in numbers these days, but great shooting is available at the growing number of pay-to-shoot preserves of the South.”
Like many southern sportsmen, quail is what I cut my hunting teeth on. Thanksgiving Day my dad and his brothers assembled for a day long hunt that was as much of a tradition as turkey and dressing. Looking back on it, I can not help but wonder how I took for granted those many coveys of quail that we kicked skyward then. Changes in farming techniques, the South’s widening urbanization, and the blanket protection now afforded to hawks that were once shot on sight have all contributed to today’s diminished population of once plentiful coveys of wild quail. In many areas such as my home in eastern Tennessee, the standing crop of quail on opening day is at such a low level that is now hardy worth hunting them..
Luckily for Dixie’s wing shooters, the love gunning for the “prince of game birds” has began an explosion of pay-to-hunt quail shooting preserves throughout the region. Once regarded by southern wing shooters as little more than back pasture shooting galleries, today’s modern quail hunting preserve operators go to great lengths to provide shot gunners with a quality, old time southern quail hunting experience.
“At White Oak Plantation, we go to great lengths to create a the ambiance and flavor of old fashioned, Dixie bobwhite hunting,” says Robert Pittman, owner of that 15,000 acre establishment located in the heart of Alabama’s legendary Black Belt near Tuskegee. “Between them, our top quail hunting guides, Marion and Red, have over 60 years of experience at putting hunters on these birds. They use only the highest quality bird dogs. Hunters are carried in open wagons identical to those used 100 years ago on plantations when hunting quail. At White Oak Plantation we use flight trained and ready, liberated quail. Such high quality bobwhite typically flush and fly much the same as wild quail.”