Orvis is a proud partner of select wingshooting lodges and outfitters across the country who share our passion for celebrating the adventure and wonder of nature. We created this series to highlight outstanding individuals who work hard to deliver the high-quality wingshooting experiences that clients have come to expect from Orvis-endorsed operations.
Durrell Smith started hunting birds in 2016 with his labrador retriever on public lands in the Red Hills region of Georgia. He quickly fell in love, as he says, with “…the fine art in it all: from the dogs, to the guns, to the stories, to the imagery, to the cultures, traditions, and unique personalities that make up the space. It’s all very artistic.” It wasn’t long before he had moved on to more specialized dogs, and upgraded to a Baretta 486 Parallelo in 28 gauge. Durrell prefers pointers for their incredible noses and intense, stylish pointing posture, and the Baretta quickly became his all-time favorite piece of gear.
Soon, he began spending even more time in the pine woods of Southwest Georgia, pursuing his favorite upland quarry of Bobwhite quail whenever possible. “There is something entirely spiritual about the pursuit,” he says, “from the rising dust of the red clay at sunrise, to the ground-rumbling flush of a covey of Bobwhites, to the clop of the horses’ hooves in the mud, to the sharp cracks of fine double-barreled guns.”
On one particularly memorable day, he and his two dogs Vegas and Big Joker encountered a covey consisting of dozens of quail. As Durrell describes it, the vibration of the birds’ steps began to confuse the dogs, and then the dogs’ steps began to confuse the hunter, until the moment that the quail all flushed at once in a mad rush, like angry bees swarming from a disturbed hive, shaking the ground around him. Durrell was able to get off two shots…and somehow managed to miss with both of them.
The more time Durrell devoted to the sport, the more he came to realize that the wingshooting community is no different from others, in that its richness is directly tied to the diversity of its members. “Unless we bring in more participants from new and unexplored markets,” he insists, “our wildlife, habitat, and our traditions will continue to decline.” So he founded The Sporting Life Notebook as a response, whose mission is to share with nontraditional markets the rich opportunities found in our sporting traditions, while encouraging them to never let stereotypes dictate who they will become or what they will enjoy. And to this day, Durrell takes great pleasure in exposing “unlikely players” to the wingshooting industry, who may never have otherwise had a chance to experience it.
Durrell Smith is owner and Operator of The Sporting Life Notebook in Austell, GA.