One night last week I boarded an airplane is Savannah, Georgia where it was sunny in the low 80s with light breezes. My destination was “home” – near Minneapolis where it had just finished snowing and ice storming. The temp when I landed after midnight was dropping to the single digits.
“Why? Why? Why?” I kept asking myself on the trip home which was stretched by airline delays, tracking down my gun case, a s-l-o-w shuttle van, then having to chip the truck out from under a half inch of ice at the Park n Fly lot.
Much as I’d like to have been turkey hunting, that wasn’t the mission this time. Instead the North American Hunter TV production team was on its annual pilgrimage to a warmer climate to tape the “Pro’s Pointers” and “Matthews’ Minute” segments for the upcoming season on Versus.
Sponsors prefer the show’s tips share with you the latest greatest gear and product updates for the fall hunting season ahead, most of which aren’t available even in prototype form until right about this time of year. With the weather not at all conducive to outdoor taping here at home we hit the road to tape these in bulk – enough to cover all 16 original episodes – during one free-for-all week each early spring.
This season we hit the gold mine in locations. It’s one we should have thought of long ago because we’ve hunted there a number of times for other projects. Our host this year was Dorchester Shooting Preserve in Midway, Georgia just a half-hour drive from Savannah. For five sunrise-to-sunset days, Chuck Gaskin and his crew flung the gates open allowing us to use the rifle/handgun range, archery range, sporting clays course, clubhouse, pro shop and everything else we needed. Our good Dorchester friend and guide Dee French even took the crew for a couple hours of quail hunting on their immaculate courses.
Expanded grounds and a brand new clubhouse/pro shop facility offer the ultimate in Southern hospitality. And the food … wow! The biscuits alone are worth the price of admission … and top them with Dorchester’s private label cane syrup — MMMM… MMMMM…MMMMMM! (I made so many sounds of delight and pleasure at each day’s lunch they wrapped up a bottle and sent it home with me!)
The real story at Dorchester, though, is the quail habitat they’ve built from scratch. What they’ve achieved should take the breath away from any upland devotee. This is quail cover right out of the paintings from the turn of the 20th century and the writings of Nash Buckingham. At Dorchester they’ve thinned expanses of pine forest, burned and tilled, and planted tall grass cover. They’ve carefully managed it through controlled burning, surface tilling and over-seeding. It’s simply spectacular bobwhite cover.
The only places I’ve ever seen even close to what Dorchester has created are strictly private, guards-at-the-gate plantations in West Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Even the chance to tour one of those places comes by hard-won invitation only. The chance to hunt one of them is once-in-a-lifetime priceless.
That’s the beauty of Dorchester. This is a hunting preserve in coastal Georgia that can be hunted as a member or on a day fee basis. Anyone can experience this slice of wingshooting history.