On a misty fall morning just after sunrise, a “bird buggy” loaded with hunting dogs and shotguns creeps through Broadfield, the 5,800-acre sporting club and lodge in Woodbine, Georgia maintained by the exclusive Sea Island resort. Wending its way around ancient live oaks, frilly palmettos and monumental pines, the open vehicle eventually stops, so hunting guide Chuck Dean can let loose his remarkably efficient birddogs. A beautiful black Labrador retriever tracks and flushes out a covey of quail hiding in the underbrush. Shotguns pop. Birds drop from the sky. Lunch is in the bag.
For seasoned shooters and novices alike, quail hunting at Broadfield can be a mystical experience. The isolated compound—carved from the original 50,000-acre Sea Island Shooting Preserve sold off by Sea Island founder Bill Jones in 1942—is a pristine nature preserve where you can spot deer and wild turkeys, or fish from lakes stocked with bass and bream. If you think “quail-huntin’” is a country pastime involving mud-splattered trucks and cases of cheap beer, the level of pampering here will seem almost deliciously absurd. Where else can you commune in silence on a primordial, moss-draped landscape, assisted by a staff worthy of “Downton Abbey”?
If the thought of firing a shotgun leaves you well-nigh petrified, Sea Island has its own shooting school, where you can hone your marksmanship before you even set foot in the wild. Once you’re deep in the heart of forest, property manager Lee Barber and his guides do everything they can to make you comfortable: suiting you up with a vest, a shotgun and a safety demo. You’ll stop by the five-stand for a practice round or two of clay shooting.
If you’re lucky enough to have Dean as your guide, you’ll find him to be a patient, soulful and introspective man. He commands his well-behaved assistants—English pointers and setters and the black Lab that does the flushing—with a curious vocabulary of chants and yodels that only a man and his dog could understand. For the inexperienced, hunting at Broadfield is a genteel introduction to the sport.
While visitors may stay over at Broadfield’s rustic accommodations, most tend to sleep at The Cloister, a luxurious, Spanish-style hotel back on Sea Island, then journey out to the countryside at the crack of dawn for the shoot. If you don’t have wheels, you can arrange to have a chauffeur in a Lincoln Town Car zip you out to the farm.
If you have an appetite for the gustatory pleasures of wild game, be sure to sign up for Broadfield’s hunt-to-table experience: a culinary session with chef de cuisine Caleb Smith. At Broadfield’s open-air mess hall, Smith—who looks more like a “Moonshiners” candidate than a chef at a world-class resort—has a real nice touch with the bird. Southerners have long licked their lips over crispy fried quail, smothered with peppery gravy and paired with buttery biscuits. But Smith, who grows organic vegetables at the camp and has access to Broadfield’s own bacon and honey, takes that classic to soaring new heights. From deep-fried quail doused with bacon marmalade and pickled pearl onions, to grilled pheasant over a salad of Georgia pecans and greens, radishes and grape tomatoes that you pick and wash yourself, it is a menu that celebrates and elevates the bounty of this region.
After a brisk day of stalking through the woods, you will find yourself back on Sea Island—ideally stretched out on a massage table at the spa at The Cloister—with the memory of Smith’s sweet-tangy lacquered bird dancing in your head. An exercise in rural decadence, hunting at Broadfield is a refined experience that lingers long after the shoot.
Where to Stay: The Cloister at Sea Island
Must Do: The Broadfield Hunt-to-Table Experience
What to Bring: A thermos of coffee, a jacket, sunglasses and bug spray.
Fun Fact: Broadfield also offers Continental Pheasant shoots and a falconry program.
For more information, visit seaisland.com/outdoor-nature/broadfield.