Bill Atchison is justifiably proud of Rio Piedra. Year after year it wins awards—including the Orvis Wingshooting Lodge of the Year award an unprecedented three times. That’s purely based on customer feedback. In 2009 it won the Sporting Classics Hunting Lodge of the Year. His secret?
“We just try to stay ahead of the competition in every aspect of the operation.”
The hunting is as good as one could ask, for a number of reasons. Certainly the management of the habitat is important, but Rio Piedra’s 6,000 acres lie on the Flint River in southern Georgia—dead center in the heart of plantation quail country and are surrounded by other large, private plantations.
“Of course we release birds, but we also have wild birds because of the natural migration of birds from one plantation to the other,” Atchison says. Essentially, if added together and taken in aggregate, this is a massive area of highly managed quail habitat on nearly 100 contiguous plantations, and everyone benefits from the combined efforts of their management and their neighbor’s management. Rio Piedra has the benefit of being landlocked by highly managed quail habitat.
“We’ve also instituted the use of English cockers as flushers, which is a real client favorite,” Atchison explains. “Nothing gets birds up and flying as well as a cocker tearing into the covey with teeth bared. It’s really improved not only the quality of the shooting, but the safety of the hunters and guides, as well.”
New this year is the dock and the ferry on the river. 60% of Rio Piedra’s hunting land is on one side of the Flint and 40% on the other.
“We used to have to drive up and around to the bridge, but now we put the hunters in the boats and take them directly across. Our guests seem to like this and on the return trip is when the cigars tend to come out of the pocket for the boat ride home.”
The cuisine at Rio Piedra is what Bill calls “relaxed five-star.”
“We don’t tend to adhere as closely to the southern-style cuisine as perhaps others. Of course we serve quail, but our chef is European, and much of the food we serve is no different than what you would find in New York or Boston. We may have quail one night, but the next night it could be grouper, veal, or lamb shank.
That Rio Piedra is one of the top quail lodges in the country is certainly undeniable, and one of the indicators is the bookings.
“We’re having a great year and are working at about 90% capacity, but we do have available dates, particularly for couples or perhaps a group of four.”
If quail hunting has been on your mind lately, there are a few months left and a bit of room still available at an award-winning quail plantation. If you have the chance, take it. Customer feedback would say you’ve made the right choice.