Quail hunting is a haunting past time. Having being bitten by the bird bug, it’s all I think about. The sort of peace I find walking through the woods, watching dogs work, and seeing coveys rise is something I look forward to all year.
Backwoods Preserve is a hunting outfit just outside of Thomasville, GA – smack dab in the middle of the Red Hills Region. In operation since 1980, Ben and Robert Braswell provide a traditional quail hunt: complete with outfitted buggies and a horseback option. Besides the outstanding quail hunting, a huge value add with Backwood Preserve is their proximity to Thomasville – which makes for a great weekend. For those looking to strictly hunt, there is also lodging and clay shooting available on site.
Mrs. RCS and I scheduled a morning hunt with Ben in early January. We drove down from Atlanta on Friday afternoon, arriving just in time for dinner in town. We enjoyed cocktails and dinner at The Cheese Shop, Sweet Grass Dairy’s restaurant in town. After loading up on cheese, dinner, and a couple Manhattans, we made our way to our hotel in town. We were scheduled to be at Backwoods at 9AM the next morning, so we unpacked and hit the sack.
The next morning, we got ready, packed up, and headed into town for a hearty breakfast and coffee before the hunt. Backwoods Preserve operates on Myrtlewood Plantation, which is ~3 miles outside of town. Needless to say, we didn’t have any issues with the commute. We met Ben, Austin and Jerome just across from the stables, and started loading up to go.
Ben, Austin, Mrs. RCS and I had a great conversation as we were getting ready for the hunt. They wanted to know what we wanted to get out of the hunt, as well as our comfort level on horseback, with guns, dogs, etc. Mrs. RCS and I have plenty of experience with shooting shotguns and gun safety and we both have experience on horseback. She hadn’t quail hunted in over five years, so she was itching to get going.
We met the dogs – all English Pointers and a flush dog (Ava), and the horses. Mrs. RCS was on Shooter, and I was on Bandit. Ben rode point with us, and Austin and Jerome handled the dogs and the buggy. We loaded up and got going down the trail.
This was my first time hunting quail on horseback, and it’s a great feeling. You’re watching the dogs work and waiting for a point, then you dismount and quickly prepare to shoot. To think that this was the de-facto back in the day is a fulfilling feeling, like you are riding in history. Riding horses is a great opportunity if you have the chance, and these guys make it an easy option.
We rode up to the first point, and got ready to go. The weather was absolutely perfect for quail hunting. There was two inches of snow on the ground a few days earlier, so the air was brisk and still, and the sun was bright. This was our first quail hunt of the year, so we were anxious to approach our first covey. My goal for the day was to shoot well, and for Mrs. RCS to get her first quail.
Nothing gets your heart racing like walking up on a point…watching such well trained hunting dogs is as pleasurable as shooting at quail.
After an hour or so, Mrs. RCS was in a groove. She felt very comfortable with the experience, but she was ready to get a bird. After dismounting and heading towards a point, it lined up perfectly for Mrs. RCS to get her chance. The covey was on her side, and it was slightly downhill. Ben and I looked at each other and nodded. This would be her chance.
Squeak held his point and Mrs. RCS got into position. Ava’s flush yielded three quail exploding upward. Mrs. RCS brought the butt of her 28 gauge Silver Pigeon to her shoulder, took aim, and on her first shot, she folded the quail in a burst of South Georgia snow. Not letting the excitement get the best of her, she held her composure and got a good shot at a second quail, just missing, but watching it land just down the field. She breached her shotgun, and looked back at Ben, Austin and me with a smile from ear to ear. We were all cheering in excitement, congratulating her on an excellent shot. Squeak retrieved the Bob White, and we all celebrated this momentous occasion.
The day continued and and the hunting never let up. We chased birds all through the Georgia Long Leaf Pines, loving every minute of it. We enjoyed spending time in nature, really enjoying seeing all the wildlife. We saw quite a few does, as well as hawks flying overhead, daring us to leave any quail. You couldn’t tell that this region had snowed over a few days before. These quail were very active flyers. They would test any hunter.
We made our way back at a leisurely pace. At no time in the day did we feel rushed or hurried, instead letting the natural pace of the quail hunt be our stopwatch. Chasing quail is a tiring task, but one that is worthwhile. We shot well, bringing home quite a few birds. Mrs. RCS ended up with three birds, which made her season. Ben and Austin were both great with Mrs. RCS. Even though she has hunted before, they were very attentive and supportive, making her comfortable throughout the hunt.
A quail hunt with Backwoods Preserve is a great opportunity to quail hunt in the Red Hills region. The prices are very competitive for a hunt, and the horseback option is a great way to get your better half to join. Mrs. RCS absolutely loved it.
Being so close to Thomasville makes it an easy weekend. Come down on Friday, hunt on Saturday morning, then enjoy Thomasville on Saturday afternoon. Paint the town red on Saturday night, and head back on Sunday morning. Thomasville is an underrated gem of Georgia. The downtown area is like Athens but without the college students. There are blocks and brick streets of shops and restaurants that meet anyone’s tastes. We enjoyed spending a couple hours in town filling our bellies at George & Louie’s and stopping in some great stores and boutiques. We had to get back to Atlanta on Saturday evening, so we grabbed a tall coffee and headed north.
On a personal level, I can’t say enough about Ben, Austin, and Jerome. They were all gentlemen, and went out of their way to ensure that we had a great experience. We shot well, which is great. However, looking back on the hunt, the opportunity to spend the morning outside with my wife and such good guys is an experience I’ll never forget.
Learn more about Backwoods Preserve on their website, and follow them on Instagram. Ben said they have a few open slots this season, so give him a call and see if you can’t get down there for a South Georgia quail hunt.