Before whitetail deer and wild turkeys became the flagship species for hunters in the Southeast, bobwhite quail was king. Back when boys rolled up into the high-school parking lot with shotguns in gun racks in the back window of the truck — and no one minded — it was common to stop along the way to school and kick up a covey of quail before heading to class.
Back in those days, the “waste lands” that made the area much more rural consisted of cutover fields and farm lands. Those areas were perfect habitat for rearing quail, rabbits and other small-game species.
Unfortunately, changes in land use and urban sprawl have changed the landscape for hunters. The fields and farms that once held abundant quail and other small game are few and far between, and the small-game birds and animals have been unable to adapt to the changing landscape the way deer and turkey have.
But does that mean that upland game hunting is a thing of the past? The answer is a solid no.
What has replaced quail hunting on the lands of your relatives and neighbors is a more organized and more planned version of upland bird hunting. It’s called a hunting preserve.
Hunting preserves began showing up in the Carolinas when it became clear that quail were fighting a losing battle. A typical preserve may encompass 500 to 10,000 acres and provides guided hunts for a fee or a paid membership.
According to Mike Johnson, general manager of The Clinton House Plantation in Clinton, S.C., one of the benefits of hunting upland birds is that quail, chukar and — to a lesser degree — pheasant, prefer to hide in cover rather than fly, remaining in the vicinity where they were planted when the hunting party arrives. Pointing and retrieving dogs are used, just as in the old days of plantation hunting, to