Southern Gentleman

On the Trail for Quail

By Jason Frye  |  Photography courtesy of Little Q Ranch

Fall means prime hunting time in the fallow fields of Mississippi.

When November dawns in Mississippi, it’s best not to be a quail on the wing in that soft morning light. You’ll cut too fine a silhouette and the beating of your wings as you explode into the sky will draw too many eyes in your direction because November means quail hunting season.

Each and every one of you fine Southern Gents who hail from Mississippi, went to school in Mississippi, or find yourself transplanted into that fertile soil knows this. There’s something to the chill in the air and the sight of stubbled cornfields that lets you know it’s time to oil up your shotgun, don your shooting vest, grab the dog, and head out into the frosty morning to bag a few birds.

​I grew up in West Virginia, hunting on the 160 acres or so my parents own, and all it took for me to disappear into the woods was a short walk across the yard, then I’d return hours later with the pockets of my hunting jacket bulging with squirrel, pheasant, or grouse. It wasn’t until years later that I hunted quail and from that first statuesque pause-and-point from the dogs I wondered why my dad didn’t clear out a dozen acres for quail hunting. Then I remembered that flat land is as precious and rare in West Virginia as mountains are in Mississippi and I settled in to hunt.

As it turns out, Mississippi is a fine place for birding. I’d heard the tales of epic duck hunts on the Delta, fishing and shooting trips along coastal marshes and creeks, and day-long quail hunts in winter fields that always concluded with a feast and a bottle of something to warm you from the inside out making its way around the group. But I’d heard these things said around barbecue pits late at night when that bottle might not be the only thing passed from hand to hand, and I figured they were just that: stories to tell around the fire, something to recall while making yourself just a little bit more of a hero than you really were.

Turns out I was wrong. And it turns out that Mississippi is loaded with land where you can quail hunt, family land and hunting preserves alike.

​Just a few minutes east of Oxford, Square Books, and the University of Mississippi, Little Q Ranch Quail Hunting Preserve gives you the chance to bag birds throughout hunting season (from November through March). Guides and some mighty fine bird dogs join you in the field for a half-day or full-day of hunting. You’re just about guaranteed to bring home at least one bird as guides allot 12 birds released per hunter for half-day hunts and a full two-dozen on daylong hunts.

Now, not everyone wants a guide, and some of you Gents might want to see how well training has been going with your dog and that’s fine at Little Q, where you can arrange a half-day self-guided hunt. You’ll still get that dozen birds per hunter, but after that it’s you, your hunting companions, and your four-legged friend.

​If Oxford is a haul and you’re making this an overnighter, Little Q has the Tin Can Lodge, a little spot where up to 10 folks can spend the night and get their fill of quail hunting. You can bring your own shotgun, or you can rent one at Little Q; shells and other gear are available to purchase if you need it.

A little further north, in Holly Springs, Fitch Farms has more than 8,000 acres of field and woods where you can hunt quail, white-tailed deer, and turkey. But it’s not your typical hunt. It’s a bit more old-fashioned, a little more elegant, more Southern Gentleman-ish than many expect. It’s a beautiful place, but one where it feels a little out of place to spend the day with your phone in your hand, so you won’t be checking your email. Instead, you’ll pull the phone out to snap a few shots of the hunt, the haul, or your meal for bragging rights and Instagram.

Fitch Farms keeps it rustic by getting you into the field the old-fashioned way: on horseback or by mule-drawn wagon. Once you’re there, expert guides and championship bird dogs do half of the work — finding the birds and letting you know where they are — then it’s up to you, just point and shoot. It’s never that simple, though, which is why you start your day with some time at the shooting range, where wobble traps will make those clay pigeons a little more challenging and prepare you for the day.

You can spend the night at Fitch Farms, and you should. If you do, your hunt will start off with evening cocktails and dinner, a night in one of their restored Civil War-era cabins and lodges, breakfast, a hunt, lunch, and cocktails before you depart. Leave the bird-cleaning up to them — guides and staff will clean and pack up to 12 birds per hunter — and leave the driving to Fitch Farms too: they’ll pick you up and drop you off at the Memphis Airport. They keep all the things you need for a successful hunt on hand: firearm rentals, hunting license sales, clothing, gear, and shells, all right there where you need them.

So, Southern Gents, show of hands. Who’s ready for a day in the fields?

Read more in DeSoto Magazine

Read the full story.
See more great photos.