Create a Hunting Tradition with Someone You Love

Embracing Hunting Traditions in South Georgia at Rio Piedra Lodge

This field note commemorates a hunting tradition in the pines of South Georgia at one of our favorite lodges for this hunter and huntress.

The sun rises and sets with the smell of seasoned oak in the air.  Still dark outside, the crisp cool morning air greets us. Early for this time of year in the pines of South Georgia, but much appreciated. As I enter the main lodge of Rio Piedra, I am enticed by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, bacon, and sausage. The sounds of a crackling fire and a busy kitchen prepping morning breakfast for the hunters that soon will enter the lodge.

It’s walls are decorated with stunning oil paintings, some by David Lanier.  They depict scenes of nature and traditions still taking place in this magical gem hidden away in quail country.  Various mounts of wood ducks, pheasants, and other game bring forth memories of my hunts passed. Every time I walk into this lodge, I can’t help but feel like I’m home away from home.  

Back outside the lodge, the faint orange and red light on the horizon gives away the easterly direction. I hear the excitement of dogs also enthused about the cool weather and anticipation of the hunt.  And now in the distance, I can hear one faint whistle and then another. The Bob White, sounding through the pines that has called us here.

I walk into our room to finish getting ready.  My dog’s tail is wagging a thousand miles an hour. We have made this our tradition and he has been here before. He knows something exciting is about to happen. We enjoy our coffee while we gear up for the day.  I open our gun cases and assemble our Caesar shotguns. My wife finishes her ensemble with our Field Traditions Clare Haggas “It’s a Dog’s Life” scarf, a statement piece of British hunting tradition apparel.  

Although she has hunted quail before, this was her first full day.  At our good friends’ insistence during another hunt, she was persuaded to try and shoot.  Fate, luck or skill, she connected on a double her second attempt.  Competitive as she is, she was hooked and immediately started shopping for shotguns.   To my good fortune, her first gun did not fit her but it did me perfectly.  In a male-dominated sport, I am amazed at how many men don’t try to get their wives into shooting.  My wife did not grow up with guns or hunting but has carried a camera for years.  She has loved nature and good dog work from the sidelines.  I am very fortunate to have my best friend now as my hunting companion as well.  I love that my wife now says, “Let’s go hunting”.  

We left our room ready for the day greeted by a line of white jeeps, guides, and dogs.  Our guide’s name is Mark, a born and bred southern Georgia boy with pointers and cockers at the ready.  I load my Lab into the jeep and stow our guns as we set off into the pines.  The first section we hunt is covered in hard seeds of various native plants.  Above us, were towering majestic long-leaf pines iconic to this region.  Our guide had experience in land management, along with a family lineage of raising bird dogs and hunting.  My curiosity was digging at the natural features of our surroundings.  

With my English lab at my heel, my wife and I got into position and Mark gave me the okay to send my dog.  I position and sent him in for the flush. A single Bob White on our right side, my wife’s 28 gauge makes quick work and we have one in the bag. The rest of the morning hunt was bountiful and my wife made most of her connections. 

After a fun-filled morning and a delicious lunch. Our bellies were full and coffeed-up, ready for the second half of the day.  We wait for our ride on the porch, rocking our chairs looking over the perfectly maintained pine land. I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to be hunting on this property with my wife. The rest of the afternoon was filled with explosive coveys, beautiful dog work, and the enjoyment of the field.  

The sun finally laid low in the sky and we called it for the day.  I was ready for a drink and had a cigar on my mind.  We raced back to the lodge already telling tales of shots and bird counts.   As we pulled up you could smell the outside fire going and a few hunters had gathered for a cocktail outside.  I fed Caddy and he was more than happy to lay down next to us facing the outdoor fireplace.  I grabbed a drink for my wife and I and sat down to light up a cigar and enjoy the moment. There is something about a great day in the field, followed by an evening in front of a fire, drink in hand and a moment to reminisce the day with your friends old and new.  The lodge staffing is delightful and we enjoyed several appetizers; duck sausage, fried quail legs and various cheeses.  They were all amazing, especially the quail legs (the chef did provide me the recipe to my delight).  

I finished my cigar, a few cocktails, and talked with some of the other guests all from different state and various backgrounds.  It never ceases to amaze me how hunting and the enjoyment of nature pulls folks from all walks of life together.  It is a common thread.

Freshened up, dogs in bed we headed for dinner at the lodge.  Our table ready and waiting, we were greeted by Sam and Beth asking us about our day.  A perfect end to the day and the meal was fabulous.  Not many of us get to hunt places like this on a regular basis, but if you are fortunate enough, it’s well worth the trip. 

Back home now, hunting a piece of public land approximately several miles from my home. My lab at heel and my Brittany ranging in front of me.  This property has limited quail and is seemingly getting smaller and smaller with the progression of residential communities, shopping centers and the like.  I can’t help but travel back to those vast tracks of land of the Red Hills of Georgia. 

The beauty of a hunt or time in the field does not end with the hunt or excursion, but lasts as long as the memory.  Make hunting traditions, get in the field and take someone you love or care about.  The connection with nature will spread like a fire that regenerates the land and will leave you wanting for more.

Long live the hunt!

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