I just left Harris Springs Sportsman Preserve down in Waterloo, South Carolina, deep in the pine and Harwood Piedmont region in the northwest part of the state, the transition region that buffers the Appalachian range from the coastal plain. It is a quiet and unassuming lodge in a quiet and unassumingly beautiful part of the south.
It is a small lodge. They only take eight hunters at a time at most, but if ever there was a poster child of the axiom quality not quantity, it is Harris Springs. My son Nick and I came in late Sunday night after driving 24 hours down from Vermont. No one was there, as it was the day after Christmas, but manager Mark Seay had remained in constant contact with us on our way down. The gate was unlocked and the Rock House was waiting for us.
The Rock House is a small stone house that serves as their lodge, but it is anything but small in character. Stone on the outside and old wood on the inside, huge four poster beds, and southern antiques, sporting art, and old books all combined to create a real sense of coming home. It was the reality of what I would imagine for myself, if I were to ever have a retreat of my own. A little bourbon and a fire erased 24 hours of hellish interstate driving, and Nick and I sank into the leather sofa looking forward the next day’s hunt.
If there is a hook, as it were, for Harris Springs, it is the quality of the guides and the dogs over which we hunted. The father and son team of Joe and Neal Culbertson are a remarkable pair. The combination of expertise, dog-handling ability, gracious southern nature, and humor come together to make this day in the field one of the most enjoyable days I’ve ever had. That experience is reason enough to come back time after time and according to Mark Seay is the reason for a great deal of their return business. It honestly felt like I was hunting with my best friend, though we had just met.
The hunting was excellent, mainly because of the work of the guides and their combination of pointers and English cocker flushers. Joe’s dogs were a remarkable team that worked together like a fine Swiss watch. The pointers would lock up and Lucy the cocker would stop and honor the point until Joe sent her in for the flush. To see a flusher that disciplined and working that cooperatively with the pointers was a thing of beauty. Joe barely had to say anything other than to send her in when we were set and ready to shoot.
Due to the flushers, the quail flew hard and fast and the shooting was everything it should be. With 3,000 acres of managed habitat, we hunted all day and rarely had more than a few minutes between shots. I went through two and a half boxes of shells and so did Nick, but that had a lot to do with our shooting. The fact is though, the birds were there to shoot and they were challenging.
Ultimately Harris Springs offers great hunting and a beautifully designed sporting clays range. The food is good southern cooking, and the lodge exudes southern hunting tradition and carries the wonderful patina of its age, something that can’t be built at any cost. But in the final analysis, Harris Springs is about the people. That’s why you should go and that’s why you will ultimately return. There are bigger lodges out there, but there are none better.