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May 15th, 2018
By Pam Barber
Wildlife conservation. Land conservation. Family legacy. Outdoor sports. Hunting education.
These are all familiar concepts for folks in the Upstate, which has a long and proud natural and rural heritage. However, it’s not every day you see them all connected — but an innovative business venture in Abbeville County is doing just that.
Jeff Fry and his father, Michael, operate High Meadows, a working farm in Abbeville County specializing in high quality beef cattle agriculture. The 1,023 acre-property is Upstate Forever’s second largest conservation easement, meaning the land is permanently protected from development but may still be used for traditional uses like hunting and farming.
In the past, the Frys have leased the property for conventional deer hunting. But last year, Jeff saw an opportunity to expand his cattle agriculture business into a new outdoor recreation business venture — specifically, quail hunting.
Bobwhite quail prefer to live in large open fields, but their populations have plummeted recently due to development and habitat loss. “There haven’t been wild quail in these parts in a long time,” says Jeff. But he hopes to change that through the High Meadows Hunting Preserve.
Because High Meadows features so much undeveloped open land — nearly 400 acres of fields — it’s prime habitat for quail. For the past 7 years, Jeff has been working to raise quail for release to support recreational hunting. He’s also consulted SC DNR and gotten advice on how to improve quail habitat on his property. He hopes his efforts will eventually lead to a sustainable healthy local wild quail population.
In the meantime, Jeff offers hunters the opportunity to participate in 40-bird quail hunts, and hopes to eventually increase to 100-bird hunts. While High Meadows also offers deer, duck, turkey, and hog hunting, quail are the primary focus of the new business venture, and the most popular game.
For Jeff and his father, however’s it’s more than just a business. They are connecting the past with the future by partnering with SCDNR through the Take One Make One (TOMO) program for the past five years.
The TOMO program is a safe way for kids aged 10-17 with no previous outdoor hunting experience to sign up and register for hunts. A guardian accompanies them to High Meadows Hunting Preserve, where they learn safe, ethical hunting practices and get an introduction to traditional outdoor skills. This February, Jeff was able to offer his first youth quail hunt.
“My father’s taken me hunting, my grandfather’s taken me hunting,” says Jeff. “I love to do it — love to watch the dogs work. We say we’re in the memory recall and memory making business. The memory recall is for people my dad’s age who remember hunting quail, and the memory making happens by teaching young kids how to hunt.”
Upstate Forever applauds the Frys for utilizing their protected farmland in an innovative way to enrich the region’s special rural heritage.
So far, the response to the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive. “People are beating down my doors,” Jeff says. “In five years, I think this should be one of the best places around to hunt quail.”
For more information about High Meadows Hunting Preserve, contact Jeff Fry at firstname.lastname@example.org