Rarely do I get the opportunity to unplug, so this was surely an enjoyable evening to unwind. The lodge inside consists of leather furniture, hardwood floors and paneled walls, a very elaborate cabin in the woods to be sure. The majestic property spans acreage of unspoiled land, smack dab in the middle of Glades County, which I had never visited before. I thought the silence might be oddly uncomfortable for this city girl but sure enough, it was downright pleasant. I enjoyed one of the most relaxing nights of sleep I’ve had a while. There was no need to set an alarm for the morning. The scent of freshly-brewed coffee and crisping bacon was enough to make anyone want to rise out of bed and get dressed. Phil has been the preserve manager at the lodge for the past three seasons. He said that since it’s a licensed preserve there is no limit to the amount of quail hunters can keep. He also mentioned that 20 years ago there weren’t so many wild hogs on the property, but now they have become such a nuisance there’s no limit on those either. All hunts come with an experienced guide and bird-hunting dogs. About 1,000 yards away from the cottage, you could hear the dogs – English pointers, Brittany breeds, spaniels and setters – howling and ready to get out into the field and do their job long before the sun came up. After breakfast Phil met up with Nic Smith, our hunting guide, and they briefed us on some safety tips. Then it was off to the wobble deck. It was there we had the chance to practice shooting clay decoys for accuracy. The wobble trap fires clays at a variety of angles and heights. The release trap resets itself automatically after each shot so the shooter is never sure which flight path the clay will take. I hit two for eight, not too bad for someone who’s only fired a gun at a still target. Years ago, I had the chance to shoot a rifle and a .45 caliber handgun at a shooting range, but that was the extent of my experience with firearms until this trip. An added bonus along the way was viewing the magnificent whitetail deer around one of the many feeders for turkeys and deer. At about 8 a.m. we hopped into a small vehicle, a custom-made open air Jeep with tires that could plow through any terrain, and headed to the preserve. The back of the vehicle was stocked with eight small cages to transport the dogs to the fields. Once they were boarded into the cages they howled with excite- Above left, Preserve manager Phil O’Bannon. Above right, Phil O’Bannon, hunting guide Nic Smith and hunter Ralph Allen.
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