Visiting Alabama plantation was fun experience

By William Hand

“Your idea of big and my idea of big are two different things.”

These were words spoken by Lee Watson, who along with Mike Abrendt, was able to work with the state of Alabama to set up management programs on the Great Southern Outdoors Plantation in Union Springs, Ala. Lee Watson spoke these words to the owner and manager of Great Southern Outdoors, Rex Pritchett.

Rex Pritchett asked Lee, right before the plantation was open to the general public over 15 years ago, how many 180 class bucks do I have? Lee responded “zero.” Lee also told Rex that he did not have any 170 class bucks and maybe one 160 class buck.

Rex was beside himself in a bad way and asked Lee, “How am I supposed to open the plantation to the general public tomorrow and not have any 170 and 180 class bucks.” That is when Lee responded with, “Your idea of big and my idea of big are two different things.”

You see, Lee Watson realized that most deer hunters have never killed a 180 class buck, let alone seen one. He knew that the majority of hunters considered a 120 to a 130 class buck an outstanding trophy. He was absolutely right.

Mr. Rex Pritchett was polite enough to invite me to his plantation a couple of weeks ago to have my own experience and to learn his story. Great Southern Outdoors is famous for its huge whitetail population, and has a ratio of 1.4 does to every buck. Just imagine, seeing as many bucks as you see does. This is a phenomenal ratio.

The plantation lies in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt region, where the soil is perfect for growing and eventually harvesting deer. The soil is nearly jet black, full of nutrients and requires little to no fertilizing.

When I arrived I was greeted by Ginger Curry, the foundation of the operation. She handles everything from the books all the way to supervision in the field. About half an hour later, Mr. Pritchett arrived with his son, Hunter, and we all sat down and became acquainted with each other. Soon after, Mr. Pritchett and I jumped in the truck to roam the plantation.

My father has taken me deer hunting since I was 4 years old, so I know the importance of sharing the experience with family. Mr. Pritchett says that 95 percent of his business is family. As we cruised through the trails, Mr. Pritchett was taking me through the history of the plantation. He informed me that, between the years of 1986 through 1999, only does were killed and bucks were left alone. This is how the 1.4 ratio came to be.

I asked Mr. Pritchett, “How did you come up with this ratio.” He told me that every year he only allows 150 hunts, but every hunt is catalogued. Every hunter is asked after the hunt to state how many bucks, does, and hogs were seen and at what time. Mr. Pritchett uses specific days from the previous year to estimate how many deer will be seen on that day in the current year. Through all of these statistics is how the 1.4 ratio originates.

Mr. Pritchett and I rode through three of the four zones that make up the 6,000-acre plantation and he showed me different hunting scenarios and food plots unique to each zone. Mr. Pritchett also shared a secret with me on how to confuse a turkey between two plots. The secret was a great way to get a second chance, in the same hunt, at that prized gobbler. Nightfall finally hit, but before we headed back for dinner we were able to spook a doe.

Back at the plantation, head chef Marie Jones cooked arguably the best baked chicken and green beans I have ever put in my mouth. Keep that to yourself people; I do not need my mother to know that.

When we finished eating, Mr. Pritchett and I kicked back and relaxed in the recreational building, full of beautiful animal mounts, pool tables, and a bar named the Liar’s Den. Mr. Pritchett and I talked for a couple hours about some of the other hunting activities available, aside from whitetail hunting. Great Southern Outdoors offers hog hunting, fishing on an 80-acre lake, as well as bobwhite quail hunting.

Every year, Great Southern Outdoors has a quail hunting tournament called the Sweet Home Alabama Quail Tournament, which generally consists of four teams of four that compete via a point system. From what I hear, though, you better be on top of your game because Mr. Rex Pritchett is going to throw the group a few curveballs to make it interesting.

I went to see Mr. Pritchett before deer season, so unfortunately I was not able to get in the stand, but I did get to experience the beauty of the plantation. The staff was generous and made you feel like you were at your own home. I look forward to going back and getting the opportunity to pull that trophy buck off his land.

My ultimate goal is to bat for the cycle. If a hunter tags out at GSO, then they receive a free hunt the following season. To tag out at GSO, you must harvest one mature buck, two does, and two hogs. This is to help the plantation keep the ratio which has made it such a great place to hunt — just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

I want to thank Mr. Pritchett for inviting me to his plantation and showing me a true form of Southern hospitality.

I am going to leave you with the wise words of Mr. Pritchett, “If it’s not fun for the hunter and the employees, then we don’t do it.”

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