By Loren Lindler
In rural Georgia, traditions are plentiful and cherished for generations. Whether its recipes passed down or just time spent with family, traditions have strong roots in the South. If you were to ask someone who lives in south Georgia, quail hunting has deep traditional roots in rural Georgia, and Southern Woods Plantation in Sylvester, Georgia, is no exception when it comes to carrying on tradition.
An idea that sparked from tradition, Gene Bishop began the works of Southern Wood Plantation, creating an experience for quail hunters. Bishop turned to a friend, Benjie Deloach, and the men quickly became immersed in getting Southern Woods Plantation up and running. Deloach had served as a guide for most of his life, so naturally, the men were a great team. To this day, Deloach is still very involved and continues his love of quail hunting and carrying on the tradition..
Since starting their business in 1993, they've been providing world-class quail hunts to hunters from all 50 states, and even some from other countries. No matter if the hunters are locals or if they traveled from across the world, each hunter is sure to get a taste of rural Georgia at Southern Woods Plantation.
Spanning over 4,000 acres, the land Southern Woods sits on was once an area covered with Georgia Pines, with no horse barn, fence, or lodge. After building the lodge and horse barn, the team was ready to start hunting. In 1996, they began booking their first hunts and have yet to slow down. What started out as a six-room lodge, and hunting quail with two mules and horses, the team has turned Southern Woods Plantation into a rural Georgia resort. Today, they boast 40 rooms, each with two beds and a private bathroom, allowing them to sleep 80 people. They run 16 to 20 Jeeps each day with 20 courses, and two hunts each day granting hunters the experience of a lifetime.
Southern Woods Plantation has a lot more to offer than just hunting. They've got a number of their own traditions, especially when it comes to meals. Each day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the hunters gather and eat a family-style meal. When gathering around the table for laughs and a home-cooked meal, hunters are sure to leave the table with a full heart and stomach.
Southern Woods Plantation has become quite the gathering place for celebrities, including Darylel Singletary, Vince Dooley, Mitchell Tenpenny, and a number of songwriters, all hoping to experience and find some inspiration from this little piece of rural Georgia.
In order to provide this exceptional experience to guests, Southern Woods Plantation has nearly 30 full-time employees. The team at Southern Woods has become more than just a team but became their own family. Many have been with them for over 15 years.
Deloach's daughter Renee started working at the plantation keeping up the books and management. She started her career working in a hospital as a nurse helping breast cancer patients. But, after she had her son, she started working for the plantation and helping wherever she could. In 2014, she began working full-time at the plantation, following in her dad's footsteps striving to carry on with their family's legacy.
Renee explained, "it was not in my plans at all to work here. Growing up, and living at home with my parents, they would always keep me on standby to run errands. But, if I ever got in trouble, I would be cleaning bathrooms, changing beds. But it was never like punishment."
As she transitioned from her career in nursing to the Plantation, it was certainly a big change. "It was a weird transition going from the hospital to this - much more laid back and family-oriented," she explained.
As Renee went back to her roots to work alongside her family, she quickly realized how important it was to work as a team with them. "It takes an army - it takes a village. Everyone that works here is like family. We're truly like family," she said.
Renee mentioned, "if you hunt with us once, you will hunt with us again," which is a testament to their hospitality and carried on traditions of excellence.
With roots in rural Georgia, Southern Woods Plantation has created a destination for hunters around the globe to experience not only a high-class quail hunting experience but a little of what rural Georgia has to offer as well.