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Sporting Classics Magazine
Traveling Sportsman

Hard Labor of Love
By Larry Chesney
Photography by Chuck Wechsler
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It takes plenty of hard work and know-how to turn your property into a quail hunter's paradise.

     It had been bone-chilling cold when I climbed up into my deer stand in the pre-dawn darkness. After an hour or so, the morning sun finally poked through the trees, slowly illuminating the huge meadow before me. I watched with envy the warming rays in the opening while I shivered in the shadowy woodline. On the flipside, I knew that this first frost-melting light might shake a few whitetails from their beds. A warm thought, at least.

     Suddenly, a flash of tawny brown caught my eye. A doe had broken from a thicket off to my right and was running hard through the broomstraw toward the slash pines across the field. Seconds later, another doe duplicated her steps and both disappeared into the dark forest.

     Quickly I propped my old Remington 700 across the stand’s rest in the hope that a buck would be close behind. Seconds later a young forkhorn burst into the open and soon disappeared in pursuit of the does.
      It was exciting, yet a little disappointing. I’d hoped for the ten-pointer the owner had seen there, but he was a no-show. After a few minutes I relaxed. I’d stay on stand another couple of hours, then head back to the lodge for lunch. I smiled and noticed the cold had lost some of its bite. It’s funny how the presence of a few deer can raise the air temperature.

For most whitetail hunters, what I’d just experienced isn’t particularly unusual. Sub-freezing weather. A rutting buck chasing does – all pretty much standard fare. That is, until you consider it was early February, and it all took place in the Sunshine State.

Lakeside lodge for your pleasure

     The panhandle of Florida has the latest whitetail rut in the country, usually toward the end of January and even into February. Accordingly, the state’s wildlife department extends the hunting season through February 25th. For those of us with seasons that close in late fall or early winter, it’s a wonderful bonus to squeeze in a few more days of deer hunting, while everyone else has put their bows and rifles away until next year.

     But what makes the situation at Hard Labor Creek Plantation unique is that deer hunting isn’t the top attraction. Owner Ted Everett is also turning the property into a quail hunter’s paradise.Ted Everett - steward of the land at Hard Labor Creek Plantation

     “I realized after going to college and then selling commercial real estate that what I really wanted was to get into forestry and wildlife management,” Ted explained as we drove along a winding logging road. “I went back to school, got my forestry degree along with plenty of wildlife courses and came back to Florida with the ultimate goal of managing my Dad’s property.”

      His father, a retired urologist living in Augusta, Georgia, owns several thousand acres of prime timberland just south of Chipley, about forty miles north of Panama City.  When Ted approached him with the idea of managing the tracts, not just for timber but for hunting as well, his father asked if he realized what he was getting into.  They both agreed that a lot of hard work and long hours would be required to make it pan out. “That's how the place got its name,” Ted smiled. “Hard Labor Creek.”

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Hard Labor Creek Hunting Preserve, P.O. Box 739, Chipley, FL 32428
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