Photographs by Terry Allen
It’s about dogs and details at Fishing Creek Farms
When preparing for a sporting journey, my mind invariably wanders. I recall the sights and scents of previous days afield. I picture my dogs completing memorable retrieves and relive my own triumphs and disappointments. But what pleases my idle mind most is anticipating the adventure that lies ahead.
Planning creates a deeper appreciation for hunting trips and allows my imagination to run wild with unlimited possibilities. Whether chasing Huns across the high plains of Montana or flushing snipe in a Florida bog, experiences have consistently delivered me more enduring happiness than objects. And this pleasure begins the moment I commit to traveling.
Covid-19 severely curtailed my recent adventures, as it did for most hunters. So this past fall a journey north from my home in Florida provided a timely change to my pandemic routine. My destination, concealed deep in Georgia’s Oconee National Forest, was Fishing Creek Farms.
A relief upon arrival was the wholehearted welcome I received—just as I remembered it. Lodge Manager Tyla Kuhn and her team offered a greeting that only top lodges in Argentina come close to matching. Instead of hot towels and a cold beer when returning from a day in the dove field, fine bourbon and fabulous appetizers are a civilized way to celebrate the day.
I had last visited Fishing Creek in 2018, but it was evident that many enhancements had been made since. First, the accommodations had been expanded, with the addition of a conference building called The Matched Pair, which offers four delightfully appointed bedrooms, each with a private bath. Then there was The Outpost, with its distinctive pro shop and gym. However, what perhaps stood out the most was the spectacular wine pavilion that overlooks a new plunge pool.
What made an indelible impression was the continued attention to detail. From the beautifully appointed cabins, to the attentive house staff, to the Fishing Creek-branded shotguns built by Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company, every aspect of the experience had been carefully considered.
Fishing Creek is owned by construction executive and Georgia native Rob Taylor. Initially, Rob developed the property as a private hunting retreat for family and friends. Over time, however, his curiosity and desire to build grew and he added facilities. These included accommodations for staff and kennels for bird dogs—which in turn enabled him to expand the hunting opportunities to include bobwhite quail.
In 2016 Rob began allowing private groups to hunt the property’s quail courses. The feedback he received encouraged him to expand by acquiring and improving land and building a team capable of delivering his vision of a first-rate hunting experience.
Around this time the expert guiding-and-dog-training husband-and-wife duo of Scott and Tyla Kuhn was introduced to Fishing Creek. Scott and Tyla brought the experience of running hunting lodges and guiding across North and South America. In addition, their string of hard-running pointing dogs and English cocker spaniels from their renowned SunSage Sporting Dogs was a bonus.
Since opening to the public, Fishing Creek has become synonymous with quality in everything it offers—a fact that has resulted in endorsements from both The Orvis Company and Shooting Sportsman.
While the topography at Fishing Creek is typical of the Piedmont region, it surprises those who have never visited this part of Georgia. Due to iron levels in the ground, red soils paint a canvas of rolling hills and valleys. These gentle slopes provide a markedly different hunting experience than in the better-known Coastal Plain region to the south.
Certainly those expecting a leisurely stroll through flat fields of broomsedge are in for a sterner test of their fitness. Thankfully, Fishing Creek hunts Texas-style, with hunters transported by customized Polaris Rangers between points. The benefit of this is that you cover significantly more ground without having to trek up and over the many rises.
Hunting at Fishing Creek balances the physical challenge with allowing hunters to arrive at each point with enough energy to make a fair go at the birds that get up. Also, because guests are encouraged to shoot covey rises instead of pursuing singles, the Rangers provide a welcome relief as the hunt progresses.
When I was at Fishing Creek, I hunted a split-day with Rob Taylor. Under this arrangement, groups arrive for lunch, hunt that afternoon, stay overnight, and then hunt again the following morning. It is said to work well with many clients, although most groups tend to stay two or more days to make the most of their exclusive use of the property.
Having hunted previously with Rob, I knew that we’d enjoy a great time in the field. I always try to understand and tailor my hunting style to the situation. Specifically, I adjust for the quarry, topography, dogs and my hunting partner(s).
I also previously had met wingshooting head guide Scott Kuhn and Tyla, who manages the lodge. The couple had first guided me on a duck hunt in Louisiana more than a decade before, then on a pheasant hunt in South Dakota, and then when the two had moved to Fishing Creek.
Given those experiences and my familiarity with Scott and Tyla’s SunSage Sporting Dogs, I knew I was in for a treat. The Kuhns are renowned for their line of German shorthaired pointers, but perhaps they are even better known for their English cockers, which hail directly from the UK. Their passion for cockers has allowed them to develop one of the best lines in the US during the past decade.
Following a superb lunch that was more fine dining than traditional Southern fare, Scott met and briefed us on the afternoon plans. As we loaded into a Ranger and headed to the field, it was hard not to notice the effort that had gone into creating the infrastructure and excellent quail habitat at Fishing Creek.
In fact, I was admiring the canopy of grand pines and broomsedge understory when I was brought to attention by Scott’s call of “Point!” One of the shorthairs had locked up and was being backed by its bracemate.
We dismounted the Ranger and, together with Scott and one of his cockers, moved swiftly to the point. After checking our positions, Scott called, “Barney!” to send the flushing dog. What happened next is what defines Fishing Creek and explains why these hunting grounds are so popular. Barney made for the lead dog before starting to quarter feverishly, at which point a covey of about a dozen bobwhites blew skyward and made for the hardwood creek below and to our left.
Perhaps anticipating that the birds would head that way, Rob was on them quickly and dropped a sweet double. I on the other hand spent too much time admiring the dogwork and was lucky to drop a laggard out of the back of the covey.
As the afternoon progressed, a pattern of excellent dogwork followed by fast-flying quail emerged. We focused on coveys and chased a few singles. I also had been encouraged to bring my English cocker, Austin, and while the shorthairs made light work of finding and holding birds, Austin helped with the flushing and retrieving duties on what proved to be a memorable hunt.
As with all great outings, however, the end arrived too soon. So we took a final pass around the edges of the course, where we managed to locate a couple of wild coveys getting in a late feed before roosting.
Then it was back to the lodge for cocktails and appetizers around the firepit followed by another gourmet meal, fine wines and great company.
Unlike the warmth and sunshine of the first afternoon, day two brought damp conditions and an ominous-looking sky. Tyla Kuhn took a break from lodge operations and guided us on the morning hunt.
While the weather was markedly different, our second hunt was no less enjoyable than the previous day’s. The scenting conditions were excellent, and the dogs again proved to be the show’s stars. Tyla’s favored cocker, Willow, drew particular praise for her tenacious-yet-measured approach in the field.
We found numerous coveys during our three-hour morning hunt and enjoyed a fair bit of shooting success. And while there is no daily bag limit at Fishing Creek, it was apparent throughout that the experience rather than the bird count was the focus of our hunt.
At lunch Rob and I discussed why Fishing Creek had become such a popular hunting destination. Clearly the lodge team, led by Tyla, was delivering an exceptional dining and hospitality experience. I also can attest to the accommodations and facilities being second to none.
Then there is the hunting, where the undulating contours disguise the flight lines of the quail and create challenging opportunities for even the most experienced wingshots. Here early bird releases combined with intensive management efforts deliver impressive covey rises. As a bonus, there are courses at Fishing Creek that work for hunters of all physical abilities and skill levels.
And finally there is the polished-yet-truly-joyful dogwork from SunSage’s shorthairs and cockers. Scott and Tyla provide all of the dogs used at Fishing Creek, and this ensures a high-quality experience regardless of which members of the well-trained guide string you draw.
While you may arrive at Fishing Creek a stranger, you no doubt will leave a friend. The integrity of the team and the exceptional services offered make the lodge a must-visit destination. The only challenge you may face is securing dates for the following season.
For more information, contact Fishing Creek Farms.
Roger Catchpole graduated from the University of Birmingham (England) with degrees in Conservation Biology and Marketing before moving to the US, where he gained an MBA from the University of Florida. He currently lives in Florida with his wife, Michelle, daughters Rose and Eva, and their English cocker spaniels, Austin Powers and Prince Harry.