Want to try quail hunting? Georgia has some beautiful southern plantations that cater to every level of hunter, but shooting isn’t the only reason to visit.
Not being from the South, I did not grow up in a hunting culture, and have never been hunting in Georgia, or anywhere else for that matter. But I have been in the state long enough to appreciate its rural beauty, and Southern traditions.
The allure of the land, a heritage of a traditional Georgia quail hunting plantation, and a chance to see bird dogs at work is what drew me to Southwest Georgia and Quail Country Plantation. The wing shooting, well, that was more of an afterthought.
Getting to Quail Country Is Easy
The three and a half hour drive from Atlanta to Arlington Georgia in the heart of the plantation belt where Quail Country Plantation, is located goes through a whole lot of nothing. Best to fill up right after Columbus, you won’t find exits full of chain restaurants and retail after that.
You will pass cotton fields, pecan groves, and maybe some timberland on your way to this area of the state that boasts some of the best quail hunting plantations in Georgia. It’s the perfect amount of time to shed the busyness of the city and ease into a slower pace.
If it’s your first time bobwhite quail hunting, here’s what you can expect.
Quail Hunting Season
Most people come to Quail Country Plantation for the wing shooting. Quail hunting season runs from November to February, but on private plantations like Quail Country Plantation, the season is extended a month on either end.
Quail Hunting in South Georgia – What to Expect
LeeAnn Dalrymple is the third generation to welcome visitors to Quail Country Plantation. Her grandfather Tommy Newberry, a farmer, started the retreat as a way to make extra money in winter. For $25 a day you could hunt or fish, and that included a home-cooked meal.
Newberry passed the business down to his daughter Kay. Kay and her husband Paschal “Doc” Brooks built the current Quail Country lodge in 1995.
Now Kay and Doc’s daughter, LeeAnn serves as the primary steward. LeeAnn and hunting manager Danny Doster welcome guests with gracious southern hospitality. (and you’ll still find Kay around too)
Rooms at Quail Country. The rooms at Quail Country are comfortable with two double beds and private baths. Drop your belongings and head to the cozy den with fireplaces on either side, deep leather sofas, taxidermy animals, and card tables waiting for the next poker game. There is a pool table and other games next door to the Lodge in the Pavilion.
Meals at Quail Country. The food at Quail Country was very good and there was a lot of it, but my favorite part of dining was the company.
While eating at the family style tables we got to know Anna Van Nostrand and her gregarious daughter Hailey Jo. Anna is well known in quail hunting circles and a spirited evangelist for women and shooting. She was quick to welcome us into the sport.
We also met Irwin Greenstein, the publisher of Shotgun Life. Although he is an experienced shooter, he was very gracious, patiently offering tips and explaining the lifestyle. He also gave us some killer suggestions on what to do in his adopted hometown of Thomasville, which was our next stop.
Get Outside. The hunting lodge is comfortable, but the real attraction is the outdoors. Nestled behind the lodge, past the massive live oaks and pine forest, is a beautiful 75-acre lake with colonies of trees growing right up from the water.
We walked out on a boardwalk over the lake right at sunset and the reflection of the trees on the black, but clear water was breathtaking. At night, the stars come out in full force to light up the sky above. The whole scene made me breath a bit deeper, and exhale a bit more.
Quail Hunting Dogs
The dogs were my favorite part of the hunt. We had four in kennels on the back of the buggie. Chip, Tess, Lucy Bell and Bossy were the German short hair and English pointers.
Apollo, an English cocker spaniel and the flusher sat up front. Only three dogs came out at a time, two pointers and the flusher. The rest yelped and cried in the back like spoiled preschoolers who have been told to wait their turn.
The Pointers. As soon as their paws hit the ground these guys were off. At first I thought they were just randomly sprinting around like any city dog would do after being set free from confinement. However, these guys weren’t playing.
We saw a quail head into some brush just before the dogs passed. The wild jerky movements and dashing about stopped in an instant as Tess’ nose picked up the scent. Her head turned toward the bird’s hiding place and in one swift movement, she became a statue.
The Flusher. Now it was Apollo’s turn. He excitedly moved into the brush flushing the bird and getting it to fly into the air. As he did, the pointers were off, ready to find their next query.
The Commands. The soundtrack the dogs worked to was as much a part of the experience as seeing them perform. The crunching of the brush beneath our feet, the swishing of the wiregrass as the dogs dashed past, the smell of the longleaf pine forest.
All accented by the occasional southern drawl of our guide Mike’s commands. Heya, Heya. Careful, careful. And the one we heard a lot. No bird, no bird. Even if you aren’t a shooter, being out in the fields is something to experience.
Don’t Interfere with the Dogs. It was my first instinct to pet the dogs when they were released from the kennel, but etiquette says don’t be too friendly. Remember, the dogs have a job to do and treating them like you would your pet interferes with that job. Let the trainers and dogs do what they do.
Quail Hunting Gear – What you need, what you don’t
Other than a gun and shells, which you can rent at most public quail hunting plantations in Georgia, there’s not a lot of required equipment. However, you probably do want to invest in a few things just to be more comfortable, and if you’ve forgotten anything, you can get it at the Orvis endorsed shop at Quail Country.
Brush Pants. The wiregrass and broom sage thickets that provide cover for the quail can pierce your clothes as you walk through the fields. Special quail hunting clothing such as field pants (or brush pants) have a layer of protection to keep your legs from getting poked. You can also wear gaiters or chaps over your pants.
Boots. Tall boots can also help protect your legs; at a bare minimum you must have close toed, supportive shoes that are waterproof. You may think that goes without saying, but I can’t tell you how many people I see hiking rugged, muddy terrain in flip-flops. Another must is bug spray – depending on weather, you may need it some days more than others, but you’ll definitely want it handy.
Safety. Ear and eye protection is a good idea too, but it needn’t be fancy, sunglasses and foam earplugs will do. You’ll likely also want a hat to keep the South Georgia sun off your face. An orange hat, or vest is recommended so you will be easy to see. And know that it can get cold, so be prepared for the temperatures during your visit.
Clothing. The quail hunting clothing you don’t need are the fancy shooting shirts with the orange shoulder pads. This is more a look than functional.
Any old orange vest is good for visibility, but there is no need for a hunting vest. If this is your first go round, the guide will likely have the kind with the pocket for the birds.
How to Quail Hunt
Safety. The biggest thing to know about how to quail hunt is quail hunting safety. We viewed a safety video before our hunt, and since I was renting a gun, I received a personal safety lesson on my firearm too.
Out in the field, our guide Mike reiterated everything again, and made sure we followed the rules.
Riding in the Buggie. From the lodge we took what looked like supped up golf carts outfitted with dog kennels on the back out to the fields. The buggy ride was almost as fun as being searching for quail (almost).
We sat in seats above the driver giving us a great bird’s eye view of the plantation fields. As we got closer, you could hear the dogs yelping with excitement, ready to go.
Experienced Guides. At Quail Country Plantation groups can consist of four people, but for safety reasons, only two people hunt with an experienced guide at one time. If you have a family of five like me, you can all go out at once, but know your hunt time per person is less – which was fine with me, I just loved being out there.
Quail Habitat. The Longleaf pine forests of South Georgia are what attract the quail. They look for bugs and other food sources on the ground and in bushes, and protect themselves under the wiregrass brush. Quail Country maintains the quail population, for the most part, these are not wild birds.
The Mechanics of Shooting. Your guide will help as much, or as little as you want with the mechanics of shooting. Our guide Mike was so patient; you could tell he was a former teacher. He made sure we had a proper stance, told us where to aim and offered helpful advice.
I’ve shot clays before and although I enjoyed it, after a while the gun got heavy, and I did not like the kickback. At Quail Country, I used one of their rental rifles. It was a 20 gauge Ceaser Guerini over and under, with a 28 inch barrel.
If you know what all that means, you probably don’t need this post. If not, the gun was about 5 lbs, and although I didn’t shoot as much as I did with the clays, it never got heavy and when I was standing correctly, really had minimal to no kick.
Between the nice gun and Mike’s tutelage, I bagged three quail!
Best Time to Bird Hunt. Quail hunts at Quail Country Plantation last around 2.5 – 3 hours. You can go in the morning or afternoon.
All the guides on our hunt agreed that a crisp (not cold) autumn morning is the best time to hunt. The dew on the ground makes it easier for the dogs to smell the birds, and they don’t get too hot running around.
We had such a good time out in the fields that I want to take my boys back next season.
Thank you to Quail Country Plantation for hosting our stay, as is common in the travel industry. We were so excited to experience our first hunt at this special family owned establishment.