BY JED PORTMAN – GEORGIA – OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2013

One of the South’s earliest hunt clubs returns

>Photos: Sea Island Shooting Preserve

The Sea Island Shooting Preserve was a 50,000-acre stretch of palmettos, pines, and wide-open fields when Bill Jones sold it in 1942. The founder of the nearby resort Sea Island, which was on wobbly ground following the Great Depression, Jones needed money to keep his business afloat. At the time, a pair of paper companies were more than happy to take the property off his hands.

In the mid-1990s, Sea Island CEO Bill Jones III heard that those companies were selling off some of their holdings, including pieces of the land that had belonged to his grandfather five decades before. And so he began purchasing and reconstructing the preserve. “They’d been logging it,” Jones says, “but it was still beautiful land.” He cleared fields, built food plots, and introduced a strict management plan aimed at reducing feral hog populations and boosting those of white-tailed deer. He erected a lodge and kennels. And last November, 5,800 acres carved from the old property reopened to the public as the Broadfield sporting club and lodge.

Broadfield is a hunting compound straight from Jones’s fantasies. It includes a five-stand, a rifle and pistol range, and two lakes stocked with bass and bream. There is a walk-in cooler for keeping game and a smokehouse for cooking it. Chef Jordan Poteat, pulled from the main resort, oversees beehives, a chicken coop, and a substantial organic garden—all of which supply the kitchens at Broadfield and Sea Island’s seven restaurants.

The Main House at Broadfield, which sleeps eight, is available for nightly rental, as is the smaller guesthouse, which sleeps four. Both come with Poteat’s full-time services. A small number of Broadfield memberships, which include exclusive rights to deer, turkey, and dove hunting, are available each year. Most of Broadfield’s visitors, however, are Sea Island guests who come out for a day, or a half day, to hunt. They come during the fall and winter to enjoy Broadfield’s five hundred acres of quail habitat, traversing the old logging roads in open buggies. Or they come for the Continental-style pheasant shoots, scheduled about twice a month. Post-hunt, guests can take their birds back to the resort, where chefs will cook them to order.

What separates the retreat from most any other bird-hunting spot in the South is the falconry program. Guests don’t just watch the birds fly. They pursue squirrel with Harris’s hawks, quail with goshawks, and pheasant with peregrine falcons that come crashing down on their prey at speeds as high as 250 miles per hour. “I think of it as extreme bird-watching,” says Jon Kent, Sea Island’s director of outdoor pursuits.

The wealth of options on this patch of land in southern Georgia means that whether you’re looking to hunt, to practice your shooting, or to watch others—predatory birds, maybe—do the hunting for you, you’re likely to find something that suits your fancy. “It’s all up to you,” Kent says. “You tell us what you want to do while you’re here, and we make it happen.”

> For more information, go to seaisland.com.