Quail Unlimited, founded in Edgefield nearly three decades ago, was at the brink of financial failure in late 2009, but 2010 holds promise for a comeback that will make the organization stronger than ever, according to its new president.

"Yes, there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel," said Bill Bowles of Albany, Ga., who took over in late November after the retirement of co-founder Rocky Evans who had served as president for 28 years and the subsequent dismissal of an interim president.
The depth of the financial bind QU found itself in became public in early November when the headquarters staff in Edgefield was given two-week furloughs because there was not enough money to meet the payroll. The national headquarters office and warehouses on 75 acres of land near Edgefield were listed for sale with an asking price of $650,000.

Bowles, managing partner of Quail Country Plantation in Arlington, Ga., and a member of the organization's 20-member board, was asked to investigate the organization's finances. He found major problems but did not see any fraud as had been reported by some publications.

The problems included an accounting system that was not functioning properly, plus a huge debt owed to many Quail Unlimited chapters across the country.

Although local chapters keep 60 percent of the money they raise, the money first goes to the national office and is then re-disbursed.

"We didn't have a little problem," Bowles told the Albany Herald. "We had a big problem – a more than six-figure problem."

He said some mistakes were made using the money that chapters had sent to Edgefield for operations instead of sending it back to the chapters in a timely fashion.

While there has been speculation that Quail Unlimited would move from Edgefield and possibly out of South Carolina, Bowles said the organization will remain in Edgefield.

"We are currently looking at other properties that can be leased for a lot less money than the mortgage debt service on the building we are currently in," he said. "It is also important to remember that there is a great staff in Edgefield with many, many years of experience."

Bowles said several things have to happen to solidify the comeback and stabilize the future.

"We need to sell the building and property and repay the money owed to others from the sale, most importantly, our great chapters that are owed money."

From the standpoint of raising money, nothing may be more important than the annual Quail Unlimited Celebrity Conservation Hunt held in Albany, Ga., he said. The hunt will take place Jan. 28-30, and many celebrities who regularly attend plan to pay their own way.

While the combination of the sale of the building and land and a successful hunt in Albany will not totally take care of long-term future needs for Quail Unlimited, Bowles said it will take care of the short-term financial needs to allow the organization some breathing room and provide time to implement the new organizational structure and a sound business plan to govern the organization from now on.