Best of the Sporting South 2012

From left: Lisa Buser and Andy Anderson
December 2012/January 2013

From hunting in George Washington's footsteps to chasing some of the world's biggest tarpon to a stellar new duck lodge, twenty-five reasons why the South is a sportsman's paradise

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Bird Dog School

The Smith family knows a thing or two about bird dogs. Delmar Smith is a renowned trainer, and the book Best Way to Train Your Gun Dog: The Delmar Smith Method is a bible for hunters the world over. Now eighty-six, Smith doesn’t get on the road as much anymore, but his son Rick and nephew Ronnie are leading his traveling Huntsmith seminars into a fifty-sixth consecutive year. “A well-trained bird dog isn’t good for anything if a person doesn’t know how to work with it,” Rick says. “We work with the dog and with the owner.” Look for them in a town near you.


A Million Wings
The duck clubs of the Mississippi Flyway are legendary for both their hunting and their history. In the new book A Million Wings (Wild Abundance), Susan Schadt and photographer Lisa Buser tell their stories through interviews with members, club lore, and gorgeous images. Join in the morning high jinks at Greasy Slough, near Jonesboro, Arkansas, see the sun rise at Fighting Bayou, outside Ruleville, Mississippi, and learn how Anderson’s Hole, at St. Charles, Missouri’s Dardenne, got its name. Hint: It’s not a good idea to complain too much at duck camp.

Bonefish Lodge
The Delphi Club

Great Abaco Island, Bahamas

You love to chase bonefish. The wife and kids, not so much. You can compromise, or you can fly south to the Bahamas, where Great Abaco Island’s Delphi Club offers world-class bonefishing from an eight-bedroom plantation-style lodge. Guests who aren’t fishing can go snorkeling, diving, or birding, or just relax by the pool or on the lodge’s expansive porches. For guests who are, talented local guides and trophy bones await.


Want to get more meat from your doves? Maybe you’re itching to cook rabbit. Whether you’ve spent all your life in the outdoors or are packing for your first hunting trip, you’re bound to learn something from Afield (Welcome Books), by Austin, Texas-–based butcher, chef, and hunting instructor Jesse Griffiths. Griffiths leaves no angle of field-to-table eating unaddressed, with illustrated guides to key skills such as cleaning ducks, picking crabs, and skinning catfish, along with recipes that range from the classic (venison burgers) to the novel (venison salpicon).

Decoy Carver

Grayson Chesser

Jenkins Bridge, Virginia

In the years following World War II, most waterfowl hunters began using plastic decoys, which pushed the work of the old wood-carvers out of hunting stores and left their centuries-old art in danger of extinction. But Grayson Chesser, then a teenager, just wasn’t a plastic kind of guy. “That’s all it took,” he says, explaining how he became an apprentice to some of the best wood-carvers in Virginia’s Eastern Shore region. “When they found out that I wanted to learn, they were willing to do whatever they could to help me.” In the years since, Chesser’s hand-carved wooden decoys have earned him national recognition and a dream job as a full-time craftsman and hunting guide. And while his creations are beautiful, they’re also deadly in the field. Maybe those old-timers were on to something.

Duck Lodge

Honey Brake

Jonesville, Louisiana

Honey Brake takes the bar on Southern waterfowling destinations and hurls it into the stratosphere. The four-story, 13,000-square-foot lodge boasts an airy stone and massive timber interior—imagine the great sporting lodges of the American West spiced up with Cajun heat. Outside, more than 120 blinds are tucked into 40,000 acres of the surrounding Louisiana Delta Plantation, smack in the crosshairs of the Mississippi and Central flyways. Once the mallards are plucked and cooling, tune up with sporting clays, kick back with views of Larto Lake, or curl up like a Honey Brake championship retriever in front of the fire.