Georgia Quail Invitational set for coming weekend

Jan 13, 2015

By Brad McEwen, Albany Herald

ALBANY — One of southern Georgia’s oldest outdoor pastimes will take center stage this coming weekend when the Southwest Georgia Chapter of Quail Forever presents the Georgia Quail Invitational.

##The two-day quail hunt, which is the new organization’s first such endeavor, is a way for the newest Quail Forever chapter to showcase southwest Georgia while generating funds and awareness for local causes.

##Tommy Gregors, one of the event organizers and treasurer of the newly chartered chapter, said he hopes this event will introduce the new group to the community and serve as the first of many such hunting events to come.

##“This is a group of local folks that wanted to work toward keeping a signature event in southwest Georgia focused on quail hunting ” said Gregors.

##That local group, which includes Gregors; his wife, Sandy; Leland Burhart; Bo Henry; Bobby McKinney; Jessie Way; Robert Chester, and others, began researching the best way to go about doing that, before ultimately starting a local chapter of Quail Forever, which is a national non-profit dedicated to the conservation of quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management.

##“We did a lot of investigating, including possibly starting our own organization, but decided to join with Quail Forever because we liked what (the organization) stood for,” Gregors said. “This is about giving back to our community and we determined that Quail Forever was the right organization we needed to be affiliated with.”

##In addition to the mission of Quail Forever, Gregors said the group was attracted to the way the organization handled fundraising efforts, allowing local chapters to have a good amount of control over the money they raised.

##Gregors said that with exception of one annual event to raise money for the chapter’s dues to the national organization, Quail Forever allows its chapters to donate to local causes that meet the mission and purpose of the organization.

##“Back in October we had a banquet, a membership growing event, and part of the money raised went to national,” Gregors said. “Over 250 people came to that banquet and we signed up 138 members (that night). We’re now one of the largest chapters in the state. We were able to raise almost $30,000 at the event and were able to give some of that back to the community.”

##Gregors said the organization, was able to donate $1,000 each to endowments set up through Midway USA to benefit the Terrell Academy Shooting Team, the Westwood Academy Shotgun Team and the Lee County Jr. ROTC. The chapter also gave $5,000 to the Tall Timbers Research Station in Thomasville to aid with their efforts in understanding and promoting conservation efforts for hunting and natural habitats in southwest Georgia.

##“We immediately put $8,000 back into supporting the causes in our area,” said Gregors. “The money raised through our fundraising efforts through our chapter stays in Southwest Georgia. We have discretion in how that money is spent. It’s not going off to some other region. With the Georgia Quail Invitational, those monies will stay here and will support projects in our area.”

##In addition to generating money for area causes Gregors believes the event will also generate interest in Albany and southwest Georgia and create a positive impact economically.

##“The other benefit is this brings people from all over the country to Southwest Georgia, which helps our economy,” said Gregors. “These folks that are coming here are staying here and spending money here. These dollars are staying here.”

##Another focus of the quail invitational Gregors said, was the group’s desire to expose quail hunting and conservation issues to people who may not have ready access to quail hunting or have felt excluded from past events.

##“This open to anyone who wants to be involved,” said Gregors. “We want this where area businesses and folks that are interested can get in on it. We want this to be a signature event for this area that our community and our chapter can be proud of.”

##In keeping with that sentiment Gregors said anyone interested, whether it be it to hunt, provide sponsorship or volunteer can still get involved.

##Information about getting involved or registering to hunt can be found on the group’s website www.swgaquailforever.org or by calling Sandy Gregors at (229) 435-7721. Anyone wanting to learn more about Quail Forever and its mission can visit www.quailforever.com.

##The event will kick off Thursday with a special reception for sponsors, land owners and hunters at 6 p.m. at the Shackelford House.

##The two-day hunt will begin at 8 a.m., following breakfast at host hotel Merry Acres Inn & Events Center at 7 a.m. Friday. Participating hunters will be hosted by various plantations in the area including Wynfield, Tallawahee, Agra B, Five Forks, Southern Woods, Hammock Farms, Turkey Track and Coney Lake.

##Each plantation will provide lunch, dogs, guides, and hunting buggies, with shells being provided by Quail Forever. Sunbelt Ford and Prince Automotive will provide vehicles to get hunters from Merry Acres to the different plantations. Shuttles will also take hunters to evening events being put on by the chapter.

##Those events include a buffet-style dinner Friday night at Albany’s Hassan Temple that will feature a live and silent auctions and a gathering Saturday night at the Hassan Temple featuring heavy hors d’oeuvres, an auction and live entertainment. Both weekend events will begin at 7 a.m. and are open to the public for a cost of $150 per night or $200 for both nights.

##Currently Gregors said about 30 hunters have signed up for the weekend and many area businesses and organizations are on board as sponsors including The Albany Herald, HeritageBank of the South, SB&T Bank, Stewbo’s Restaurant Group, LMC Ag., Budweiser, the Albany Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), WALB and SCAG Power Equipment, which is providing a mower for one of the auctions.

“We’ve had a lot of support so far,” said Gregors. “There’s still opportunity for others to get involved, too, whether it’s benefactors, hunters, civic clubs, or volunteers.”

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