Southern Legends Plantation great for smaller parties

By BRENNAN LEATHERS

Hidden away off Georgia 309 South between Fowlstown and Attapulgus, Southern Legends Plantation bills itself as an affordable, laid-back hunting experience for small groups of people.

The plantation, “a South Georgia shooting preserve and hunting lodge,” is home to quail, turkey and deer hunting. The owners of the plantation are Ronnie Boyce and Gerry Goodson, both of Tallahassee, Fla., who acquired the property in 2006.

“We saved up all the money we could and borrowed some to buy this property with the dream of turning it into a quaint and private hunting lodge,” Boyce said. “Our goal is to offer hunts that cater to small groups of people where everybody knows each other. We want to make them feel at home.”

On either side of the property are two spring-fed creeks that come together about a mile from the hunting lodge. Near the creeks are many white oak trees, which drop acorns that deer seem to prefer, Boyce said.

Turning into the plantation via its concrete entrance, visitors are greeted by dogs, some of whom are trained to hunt quail. Past the rocking chairs on the porch and into the lodge, visitors find a comfortable living room, kitchen and bedrooms for several people to stay overnight in.

Most of the lodge’s wood furniture and its kitchen cabinets were made by Goodson, a brick mason by trade who is also very skilled with woodworking.

Just off the living quarters is a large room that serves multiple purposes in hosting meetings, lodge meals and the firearms safety classes that Boyce occasionally instructs. The room is also home to two large televisions, which hunters can watch sports on. Keeping with the lodge’s Southern theme, the dining area and meeting space is nicknamed “The Confederate Mess Hall.”

Boyce and Goodson admire several men who they have dubbed “Southern Legends,” including Confederate General Robert E. Lee, General Theodore Brevard (who settled after the war in Tallahassee), former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, and several notable wildlife and outdoors figures. Naturally, the lodge is adorned with portraits of all of the “Southern Legends.”

Other furnishings include several mounted animals that were killed on the plantation, including a wide-racked nine-point deer and a large bobcat.

Other notable locations adjacent to the lodge are the kennels for the plantation’s bird dogs and a 200-yard rifle and pistol range where beginners and experts alike can practice their aim, either with fixed targets or clay targets launched into the air by a machine. The pistol range has a shooting bench and shed that were built to withstand hurricane season, as well as provide students in Boyce’s firearms class supports on which they can rely on to help them aim in the early going.

There are even electrical hookups for guests who bring their recreational vehicles, such as for a holiday season hunt.

The plantation has also hosted several hunting dog field trials in recent years.

Another interesting aspect of the property is that it was once home to a large moonshine still; some rusted metal remnants of the still and related equipment are still visible near one deer hunting spot.

Boyce said he and Goodson, who both have construction experience, have made an effort to make the plantation as accessible as possible to people with physical disabilities. There’s a ground-level shooting house near the ruins of the moonshine still dubbed the “Moonshine Stand,” as well as easy-to-climb single and double deer stands and turkey blinds.

“We’ve cleared some of the sagebrush off of the quail hunting courses, so that people who have knee or leg problems can still take part,” Boyce said.

Even the quail stage coach, which is pulled by a Jeep, has low step-ups that make it easier for hunters to board. The stage coach has cupholders, storage space for guns, drink coolers and other equipment and can carry up to eight hunting dogs in side-mounted kennels.

On a recent fall day, Boyce invited two friends from Tallahassee, Wayne Sowell and Ken Kling, up to the plantation for a mid-day quail hunt. The group set out on the quail hunting courses and in a short time were able to bag several birds for their trouble.

It was then that Boyce got to show off the bird hunting dogs he is so proud of.

Taking the lead was “Cocoa,” a brown Labrador whose primary role was to flush the quail out of the brush they were hiding in after one of the pointer dogs had located a bird by its scent.

Each of the dogs has a special locator collar that emits and receives audible tones that the dogs are trained to react to, depending on what the tone is. The dogs can be made to heel or return to the hunting party when Boyce sends a tone, or the hunt master could locate the dogs or determine if they were pointing at prey by keeping a listen out for noises made by the collar.

Upon Boyce’s signal, Cocoa crashed into the brush and soon after, one or more quail would quickly fly out of its hiding spot, giving hunters only a few seconds to fire at them. But with some skill and luck, some of the birds were felled by shotgun pellets and Cocoa or one of the pointer dogs would retrieve the dead bird and return it to the hunting party.

Southern Legends Plantation is home to about 16 dogs, most of whom are trained hunting dogs. Cocoa and another Labrador named “Cody” are even capable of helping hunters locate wounded turkey or deer that sometimes move away from hunters. Other dogs include a large German short-hair pointer from San Diego, Calif., named “Lola,” and a small English Setter named “Sara” who is also a skilled quail hunter.

There’s also “Morning Thunder,” or “Thunder” for short, an American Kennel Club registered German short hair pointer; “May,” a small female liver pointer; and “Buster,” a liver and white pointer that came from another plantation in poor health and was cared for by Boyce until he was able to go hunting again.

“After a hunt, sitting outside enjoying the evening and chewing the fat is pretty ‘dog-gone’ good in our book,” Boyce joked.

Boyce is retired from a law enforcement career and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. He is a certified National Rifle Association Firearms Instructor.

Goodson has experience in both the residential construction and commercial masonry construction. He also specializes in custom woodworking.

Together, Boyce and Goodson offer several half-day, full-day and overnight hunting packages during the turkey, deer and quail seasons.

For more information, interested parties can visit the plantation’s web site at www.southernlegendsplantation.com or call the plantation at (229) 246-6427.

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