Local quail hunters will have an opportunity to shoot birds with celebrities Friday and Saturday at area plantations as part of the Quail Albany Foundation Celebrity Conservation Hunt. (File photo)
ALBANY — Organizers of this weekend’s Quail Albany Foundation Celebrity Conservation Hunt are facing the kind of “problem” planners of such events love to have.
“Since word has spread throughout the community that the focus of the Celebrity Hunt is on this area, not some national organization, the response has just been amazing,” Quail Albany President Bill Bowles said Monday as he and other supporters of the local and national Quail Forever organization took care of final details for the influx of visitors to Albany and area plantations. “As a matter of fact, we’ve had so many tremendous auction items donated, we may not be able to auction them all off.
“We have a professional auctioneer — Tom McGinnis of Iron Horse Auctions — who will run the auction, and what they like to do is come in and set up the order of the auction based on the value of the items. They’re having a fit. … There are so many tremendous items they’re having a tough time figuring the order. That’s a nice problem to have, but it just shows the interest of our community. We’ve never had this many (auction) items before.”
Another prime example of community interest is in the number of veterans who have signed up to compete in the second QA golf tournament at Stonebridge Country Club on Wednesday.
“Last year, we had 80 participants in the tournament and 27 veterans,” Bowles said. “We already have 28 veterans signed up to play this year as of early this morning. That’s a good sign.”
Entrants are also lining up to take part in Thursday’s Celebrity Sporting Clays Tournament at the Flint River Skeet and Trap Club and for the opportunity to join celebrity hunters Friday and Saturday for quail shoots at area plantations. Local favorites Relapse will perform Friday night a live auction, while country music singer Mark Wills will headline a concert Saturday at the Albany Civic Center that will also include special guests Gannon Adams and Leah Seawright.
One of the premiere events of the weekend is Thursday’s Bruners Landowners’ Appreciation Evening, which will be held at Stonebridge.
“That’s a very special event because we honor and thank the landowners of the participating properties,” Bowles said. “Without their involvement, we couldn’t have the Celebrity Conservation Hunt, and we like to take the opportunity to recognize and thank them.
“This year we have some special things planned for our landowners, and we’re also going to take the time to remember two people we lost during the year who have meant so much to this event in Albany: Ralph Bruner and Terry Morrell. Both meant so much to conservation in our region, and we certainly feel the loss of those two gentlemen.”
Among the plantations that will be part of this year’s celebrity hunt are four Orvis-endorsed properties: Wynfield Plantation, Quail Country Plantation, Southwind Plantation and Rio Piedra Plantation. Other participants include Magnolia Plantation, Southpoint Plantation, Little River Plantation, Red Pebble Plantation, Southern Woods Plantation, Tallawahee Plantation, Agri-B Plantation, Whisperwood Plantation, Chokee Plantation, Flint River Farms Plantation and Hammack Farms.
Six of the plantations — Magnolia, Tallawahee, Chokee, Whisperwood, Flint River Farms and Hammack Farms — are private.
“That shows you the quality of folks in our region,” Bowles said. “The commercial plantations could realize benefit from allowing hunting on their land. There might be return trips in the future. But the private plantation owners have gotten involved because they care about conservation of quail habitat and they want to be involved in this event.”
Among the auction/raffle items available at the 2014 QA Celebrity Conservation Hunt are hunts and fishing excursions in Saskatchewan and the Bahamas, prints of artwork created at the request of Queen Elizabeth, various quail and turkey hunts at locations all over the world, a fishing trip with an Orvis guide, custom-made knives and jewelry, a Mercury outboard motor, and three guns donated by Beretta USA that are not yet available to the public.
“They just unveiled these guns, and they’ve donated them specifically for our event,” Bowles said. “People who get them will have an opportunity to have them autographed by Olympic skeet shooting champion Vincent Hancock or Graham Browne, who is personal bodyguard to Britain’s Royal Family.”
Tickets for Saturday’s Civic Center concert are on sale at the venue’s box office for $20.