Visiting Atlanta? Don’t Miss These Nearby Outdoor Sporting Gems
– Story by Chris Dorsey, Forbes Travel Contributor –
I walk toward an orange and white English setter that is as motionless as a leopard before the pounce, the dog puffing quail scent like a man drawing the flicker of life into a cigar. I am only a two-hour drive from Atlanta but feel more like a half century removed from the city’s pace. Tucked into the north Georgia hills is an improbable escape that, at first glance, appears like the set of Mayberry.
Barnsley Resort, a 3,000-acre getaway, is a playground for outdoor lovers—including quail hunters who journey here to experience well-trained pointing dogs as they fulfill the promise of their genes—that is, to find and point coveys of bobwhite quail.
For visionary sporting travel guru John Burrell, the chance to bring together premium gunmaker Beretta and his own High Adventure sporting travel company at the Barnsley Resort was a chance to create something unique in the world of wingshooting—all within an easy drive of Hartsfield International Airport.
Burrell is a biologist by training who has managed to blend his avocation for hunting and angling with his vocation to create some of the world’s finest wingshooting and fly-fishing destinations. His passion for his sporting pursuits makes him a one-man focus group of sorts, for he has spent countless hours with some of the most well-traveled sportsmen and women in the world and has a refined sense of what those who travel with rod and gun want.
He has helped create and operate a bucket list of the world’s top outdoor destinations—the famed Tipiliuke Lodge in Patagonia; giant trout fishing, stag hunting, wild boar, quail and snipe hunting are all on the menu here; South Dakota’s Cheyenne Ridge Signature Lodge where pheasants are king and chef Sean Finley redefines luxury destination cuisine; Nebraska’s North Platte Outpost where mallards and Canada geese cloud the skies and scores of other dreamy destinations for hunters and anglers.
For bird hunters, the rolling quail fields of broomsedge and loblolly pines at Barnsley’s Beretta Shooting Grounds are as inviting as they come. For guide Kyle Bidwell, a Virginia Tech wildlife biology graduate, every day at the “office” is a chance to live his dream of sharing skilled dog work and the camaraderie of the hunt with an ever-growing list of visiting hunters from across the globe.
For those who enjoy fly-fishing, Burrell has another sporting retreat located within 80 miles of downtown Atlanta, a secluded gem on the headwaters of the famed Soque River, located in Habersham County in the 750,000-acre Chattahoochee National Forest.
The small stream is home to the kind of rainbows and brown trout you’d associate with some of the West’s legendary rivers. Few of those western rivers, however, produce the size fish for which the Soque is famous. Some say it’s the finest trophy trout fishing in the Southeast, and few would argue—which is why Burrell was quick to add the destination to his High Adventure Company portfolio.
For Mark Lovell, Burrell’s partner in the Soque fishing, protecting the river and nurturing its hefty trout has been a labor of love. His family has owned several miles of the river for more than a century, understanding just how special the resource and the area is for trout anglers eager to feel the tug of a generational fish.
For Burrell, it’s about delivering on epic. His clients—many of whom are captains of industry and comprise a who’s who list of corporate titans—their resources to enjoy the best of the sporting life is virtually unlimited…but their time isn’t.
Therein lies the secret to High Adventure’s success.
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