Almost Heaven Plantation

almost heaven plantation

Scott Keown lifted his hat, signaled the advancing quail rig to halt, and arranged me and my colleague, Mr. Sullivan, on either side of a briar-choked corner. “Snap ’em shut, gentlemen,” he said. Ahead, Keown’s setter Clyde stood rapt, his feathery tail a beacon amidst the tangle. We moved forward together, passing Clyde as the first bobs jumped and banked left. A handful more buzzed up to follow. Mr. Sullivan’s 28 barked, but I couldn’t pick a bird from the swarm and watched as they buzzed between the pines, settling a few hundred yards ahead. Keown replaced his hat, called to the rig for a pick-up dog, and turned to me. “Should we count it?” he asked. 

I was baffled. 

“As a covey,” he clarified. “Based on what you’ve seen, should that group of fifteen or so get recorded as a covey?” 

With that framing, I determined it should not go on the official count; the coveys we’d seen that morning had numbered in the twenties at a minimum, with several exceeding 40 birds. What we’d found was part of a bigger whole. 

“Good man,” said Keown, leashing Clyde and walking back to the rig to drop off Mr. Sullivan’s bird. 

Keown is the guide and official covey counter at the Orvis-endorsed Almost Heaven Plantation, in the heart of the South Carolina Lowcountry. While many argue that Thomasville, Georgia, is the cultural and geographic center of bobwhite hunting in the Southeast, those who have hunted the Lowcountry pines just north of Savannah have a case to make. It’s all classic bobwhite country, the bigger tracts collected behind fences in private plantations, the likes of which are every bit as refined—and productive—as anything in the Red Hills.

The quail hunting at Almost Heaven is similar to what would be experienced on a private plantation. 

Almost Heaven Plantation is unique for offering an experience typically inaccessible to the public, benefitting from a location amidst untold acres of contiguous wild-bird habitat. Owner Warren Hylton; his daughter and Executive Vice President of Operations, Morgan Hylton; and Keown have created something exceedingly rare: a hunt that looks and feels identical to that encountered on a private plantation. In the 13 years since the Hyltons bought the 2,000-acre property, extensive cutting, burning, feeding and planting have enabled quail populations to thrive in classic habitat. A typical half-day hunt will avail guests of a dozen or more coveys, with hundreds of birds encountered in just a few hours.

Almost Heaven is a full-service lodge, with 10 private rooms in the Plantation Inn, a banquet hall and a sprawling common building where groups gather and meals are served. Depending on the season and availability, guests can also take part in wild-duck hunts, flighted-mallard shoots, dove shoots and trophy bass fishing.

But bobs are king here, and success is measured in signature fashion. Upon finishing the morning with a final covey and three birds down, Keown and the Hyltons shook hands all around, and Warren Hylton asked Keown how it had gone. “Fourteen coveys, Mr. Warren,” said Keown with evident pride. The number brought to bag seemed to all just an afterthought.

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