ALBANY -- Let the hunt begin, celebrity style.
Celebrities from the entertainment and sports fields converge on Albany today to take part in a different kind of field with the 24th annual Quail Unlimited Celebrity Quail Hunt.
"It's a very, very large sense of pride for the entire local hunting community and I certainly hope and feel that the citizens of Southwest Georgia feel the same way," said Bill Bowles, who is Quail Unlimited president and also general manager of Arlington's Quail Country Plantation. "I can really say that the response and support from the local community has been amazing.
"It continues with each and every day and we continue to receive positive phone calls from people reaching out and showing their support. I believe the event this year will be absolutely nothing short of first class, maybe the best we've had in Albany."
Bowles, who became Quail Unlimited's president in November, places special emphasis on this event for more than one reason.
"I don't place a special emphasis because it's me being the president or this being my first year," said Bowles. "I place an importance on this because it's important to all of Albany and to the plantation community of Albany and to all the businesses that benefit economically from this being a national event coming into our community. Albany's home and I'm proud of home and proud of this great state of Georgia."
Three prominent former college football coaches will take part in the hunt -- Vince Dooley, who coached Georgia's football team to the 1980 national championship along with six Southeastern Conference crowns; Pat Dye, who coached Auburn to four SEC titles and once served as an assistant at Auburn's rival Alabama under Paul "Bear" Bryant, and John Majors, who coached Pittsburgh to the 1976 national title.
Then, Majors led Tennessee to at least a share of three SEC championships.
"I think that's amazing to have them here," said Bowles, who graduated from Auburn. "These men are outdoor enthusiasts and they have stepped up to help this conservation organization and lend their support, and it is appreciated by myself and every single person associated or involved with Quail Unlimited and I'm sure it's appreciated by Southwest Georgia and Albany. To have all three of those guys here is amazing and it makes me smile."
Southwest Georgia's Bobby Dews, a longtime Atlanta Braves assistant who currently serves as a major-league consultant to the team, will join the hunt, along with ex-Brave Ryan Klesko and MLB umpire John Hirshbeck. Albany's Bill Stanfill, a member of the Miami Dolphins' 1972 undefeated championship team, will be here, as will Georgia football sideline reporter Loran Smith, who contributes sports and lifestyles columns to The Herald.
And of course, the state's most prominent celebrity, Gov. Sonny Perdue, will join the hunt.