Orangeburg attorney and University of South Carolina trustee Charles Williams was awarded Quail Unlimited’s Conservationist of the Year in 1995, for his time, energy, and passion for wildlife, but he has now been charged, found guilty, and fined $75,000 for killing hawks.

One of Williams’ biggest passions throughout his adult life has been bringing back the bobwhite quail to his plantation in Orangeburg. While plenty of quail hunters complain that not enough quail exist to hunt wild ones, thanks to a multitude of reasons, Williams has spent decades following a management plan to bring wild quail back, at least on his own land.

Williams sought and followed professional land management advice, planted the proper food plots, and improved the habitat on his plantation’s 1790 acres to suit the bird known as Gentleman Bob, who once found much of the land throughout South Carolina to his liking.

For all the virtues of the bobwhite quail, one thing this game bird is not known for is its ability to adapt to many things that other birds have done well at. Habitat loss, farm chemicals, and the rise of fire ant colonies have taken their toll on the species, which travels in groups and prefers to fly even less than wild turkeys. Even wild hogs, some land managers say, eat their share of quail, whose only defense mechanism is taking flight, which it does with great reluctance.

While most quail hunters with plenty of land simply shrug at the quail’s plight, and are happy to buy farm-raised quail, put them out before a hunt, then go back an hour or so later and shoot the birds as they attempt to fly away, a few like Williams have gone through the trouble of trying to correct the problems that caused the bird’s decline.

But, Williams carried things too far. As his quail population grew, so did the number of hawks preying on his favorite species. Williams decided to kill some of those hawks, which are federally protected birds. He was charged with seven misdemeanor counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for killing the hawks without a permit.

Williams was fined $75,000, sentenced to a year of probation, banned from all hunting for a year, and must perform community service at the Centers for Birds of Prey between Georgetown and Mt. Pleasant.