As a boy, I often heard that Mexican bobwhites had been released in west Tennessee (my home state) in the 1940s. My older hunting partner then, Dale Lock (Ramer, Tenn.) said, “Those Mexican bobwhites have gone and ruin't our partridge shootin'.” Not even the Yankee General Sherman elicited as many venomous remarks from the old-timers as did Mexican quail.
Dale, at least once during every hunting trip when the dog was pointed, said, “Be ready for thunder from the ground.” And it was thunder from the ground that I found myself hunting at Fitch Farms' Galena Plantation — located in the rolling hills near Holly Springs, Miss. — during the first week of March. There were not any of those Mexican bobwhites, but plenty of native and released birds, flying around the beautiful landscape.
Owner W.O. (Bill) Fitch rightfully decided in 1974 that he was fed up with the corporate rat race and wanted his children to grow up in a rural environment. Therefore, he slowly bought 7,000 acres, and Fitch Farms came into being.
He and his lovely wife, Joan, created more than just a place of abode; they designed a private reserve for the conservation of natural resources and wildlife. In the process, they fashioned a quail haven where hunters could come and share their dream. Of course, this did not upset the deer or the turkey, which have also increased under their management.
While W.O. was busy transforming the countryside into a hunting paradise, Joan went about the restoration of old buildings at the Galena Plantation. She brought in other buildings, such as General Nathan Bedford Forrest's log cabin. If you want to stay overnight, you can relax in one of four restored buildings.
Now folks this is no ordinary upscale corporate hunting club, because W.O. takes great pride in his dogs and his land, and he loves to tag along and watch.
Perhaps more importantly, his dogs are trained and handled by Randy Downs of Booneville, Miss. He is a two-time Dog Handler of the Year and won the National Field Trial Championship with Fitch-owned “Hitchhiker” in 1992. He has qualified one or more of Fitch-owned dogs in the National Championship for the past 17 years.
The minute you drive up you will be greeted by W.O., with a cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth. He is quite a historian on bird dogs and field trials.
I hunted with my good friend Bud Scott, his lovely wife, Jackie, and her brother, Tommy Bonds. We took the easy way and rode in a mule-drawn wagon with old reliable Harmon Manmon “heeing and hawing.” His sidekick, Billy Jones, added much humor to our adventure. If you are up to it, you can hunt on horseback.
It was not long before the hard-charging pointer chiseled to a standstill in a thicket about 100 yards away. Randy's scouts — Roy Howell and (another) Billy Jones — raised their hats, a sign that action was waiting.
A covey flushed with whirring wings; a few fell; then the bragging started, at least for those who had bragging rights. The hunt continued in this fashion for a couple hours before we headed back to a restored commissary building where Lou Howell had prepared a gourmet meal of wild game and five-star desserts. I had not hunted quail for some 47 years. Watching Randy's pointer work, point, and retrieve flawlessly was a special treat for me.
If you have an interest in experiencing an action-packed quail hunt or just getting away from the concrete jungle, Fitch Farms can be reached on the Internet at www.fitchfarms.com.
Wayne Capooth — outdoorsman, writer, and physician — has hunted extensively in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas for 50 years and has written four books. On the Internet, go to www.waterfowling.org. e-mail: [email protected]