Georgia is known for a number of great things, including peaches, The Masters golf tournament, Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and former Denver Broncos running back, Terrell Davis, a graduate of the University of Georgia, and Ray Charles, a native Georgian, whose song “Georgia on My Mind” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. For wing shooters, though, the Peach State means quail hunting. “Similar to South Dakota being the pheasant hunting capital of the world, Georgia is all about quail,” said John Burrell, president and CEO of High Adventure Company. “With these birds you step into the cover and they just explode from the habitat.”
An avid outdoorsman since his childhood in Anderson County, Tennessee, Burrell, has 25 years of experience managing, developing and marketing some of the world’s top sporting destinations. In addition to being one of the most respected professionals in the outdoor industry, he’s received Garden & Gun magazine’s Best of the Sporting South award and his Acworth, Georgia-based High Adventure Company is the only four-time recipient of Sporting Classics magazine’s Award of Excellence.
If quail hunting in Georgia is on your to-do list, there are premier destinations where you can hunt to your heart’s content, one of which is Barnsley Resort, a spectacular place located in the state’s northern foothills 60 miles from Atlanta among 3,000 acres of wilderness habitat. Built for his wife, Julia, in the 1840s by Englishman Godfrey Barnsley, the original residence was modeled after an Italianate countryside manor house, complete with intricate hedgerows and an elaborate parterre garden. Though it survived the Civil War during the 1860s, it was no match for a tornado that did it irreparable harm in 1906.
Today, the grounds are home to the manor house’s ruins, its gardens and a seductive Southern estate that in 2018 was voted one of the Top Resorts in the South by Condé Nast Traveler’s readers. Here guests luxuriate in one of 150 rooms that include cottage rooms, six one-bedroom Arbor Cottage suites and 55 additional rooms at the Inn at Barnsley Resort. As if the finest quail hunting in the world isn’t enough to entice a vacation, the resort sweetens your experience like a tall, cold glass of sweet tea and amenities that include horseback riding, hiking and biking along trails with Blue Ridge Mountains views, a Jim Fazio-designed golf course that was also rated in 2018 as Georgia’s number one course and 21st in the United States by golfadvisor.com, and the Spa at Barnsley Resort. Established in 1526, Beretta, the Italian company appreciated for its artisan-quality firearms and shooting apparel, recently partnered with Barnsley Resort and High Adventure Company to create a next-level adventure. Not to miss for shooting enthusiasts is a five-stand and pair of 14- station sporting clays courses at the Beretta Shooting Grounds by High Adventure Company, where guests are welcome to test their skills armed with the latest Beretta shotguns. You can also rent one for quail hunting if you don’t travel with your own gun.
A three- to five-day trip, Burrell suggests, would allow at least one to two full days of quail hunting, as well as time at the sporting clays courses, a morning or afternoon horseback ride and perhaps a round or two of golf on the 7,350-yard course. After flying into either Atlanta, Georgia or Chattanooga, Tennessee, you and your travel companions are met at the airport, where a car service takes you to the resort.
“We keep one of the private cottages on standby for our guests at all times, so if they don’t want to be in the hotel they’re able to have privacy,” Burrell explained. “Later in the afternoon we have it set up with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres or they can go to our clubhouse. The space has multiple sitting areas with couches and big-screen TVs, and there are also intimate sitting areas outside.”
Guests convening at the clubhouse are taken aback by a unique feature, a painstakingly restored 1970’s Land Rover whose rear liftgate when opened reveals a well-stocked, slide-out bar. It is just one of the special touches visitors enjoy, along with demonstrative Southern hospitality and scrumptious cuisine. As to the hunting experience, High Adventure Company goes to extraordinary lengths to assure a safe, memorable and praise-worthy outing. Hunting parties are limited to two or three guests, plus a guide. However, if a family or small corporate group is hunting, they can travel to the courses together, but will be rotated into the field.
Typically, there are no more than 15 hunters on course at a time and with 3,000 acres of habitat, social distancing is essentially in play by default. Each hunter has a reasonable opportunity to harvest 20 quail during his or her guided full-day hunt; a half-day hunt presents the chance to garner 10 quail per hunter and guests can purchase extra birds for $9 each. Similar to Colorado’s ski season, where March is acclaimed for having the deepest powder and abundant sunshine, there is also an optimal time for quail hunting. The season runs from mid-October through March, but Burrell believes that mid-November to the end of February is the sweet spot for quail hunting. To watch High Adventure Company’s English Setters and English Cocker Spaniels work the courses is artistry in motion.
“Here, it is about having the very best dogs that money can buy,” Burrell said. “I’m so proud of pointing dogs like Lucky. He’s a dog that is going to run big and when he goes on point, he freezes. When the Cockers go in to flush, the birds are up and guns are blasting, the Cockers are steadily bringing birds back, but Lucky, he’s not taking a step until the handler releases him.”
Other spots for quail hunting in southern Georgia include Lenox River Ranch, Broadfield Sporting Club at Sea Island, Riverview Plantation, Pine Hill Plantation and Rio Piedra Plantation.
As quail hunting season draws closer you may wish to start humming “Georgia on My Mind” and then start dreaming about Berettas, bird dogs and coveys.
Beretta Shooting Grounds by High Adventure Company
800-847-0834 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim D. McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been writing about people, travel, food and wine, architecture and golf since 1986. He’s hunted pheasant at Cheyenne Ridge Signature Lodge in South Dakota, but now has Georgia on his mind.
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