Fitch Farms draws ‘big shots, good shots’
Story by Robert Lee Long | Photos by Rory Doyle
Whether you’re a “big shot” or just a “good shot,” Fitch Farms is the place to go for some of the world’s best quail hunting. In fact, they have a saying at Fitch Farms that “no finer quail hunting is known to man or dog.”
Fitch Farms, located on more than 8,000 sprawling acres in rural Marshall County, draws scores of avid quail hunters each year from around the globe.
Carved from the lands of the ancient Chickasaw, the rolling red hills of this region are home to coveys of abundant wild quail. An old church, a Native American burial ground and a number of restored older buildings give Fitch Farms its distinct historical character.
Beginning this month, Fitch Farms celebrated quail hunts include some of the nation’s top celebrities and high-ranking government officials.
It’s often a mystery when a big-name celebrity arrives at Fitch Farms, located just outside Holly Springs.
Celebrities and locals alike are guaranteed privacy, comfort and relaxation in the rustic, rural retreat tucked away in the hills of northwest Mississippi.
Like any major “whodunnit,” it’s often a question of who pulled the trigger when “fowl play” is concerned.
Many of the world’s rich and famous can say they have squeezed off many a shot at Fitch Farms.
“United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia hunts out here every year,” said Jerry Fitch, nephew of Fitch Farms owner and founder W.O. “Bill” Fitch, the Fitch family patriarch.
“Governor Haley Barbour and Governor Phil Bryant have hunted out there along with Paul Maholm of the Atlanta Braves and Jonathan Papelbon, formerly of the Boston Red Sox and now of the Philadelphia Phillies. Maholm , who grew up in Holly Springs, brings a crew of professional baseball players out here every year. You never know who is hunting out there.”
Fitch Farms features a mixture of release quail and quail grown on the property, according to Fitch. The flora and fauna of pristine prairie lands, open fields teeming with native grasses and weeds and clusters of pine and hardwood thickets offer perfect cover for quail, just waiting to be flushed out by able bird dogs and keen marksmen.
“Uncle Bill pretty much runs it as it was run 200 years ago,” said Jerry Fitch.
In fact, quail hunting runs in the family bloodline, according to Fitch.
Fitch, 55, is a fourth-generation hunter.
“Uncle Bill has pieced together what they call the original Galena Plantation,” Fitch said. “He inherited some of it and bought some of it.”
Fitch said his uncle is a source of inspiration for the entire extended Fitch clan.
The love for the great outdoors has been instilled in the younger generation of Fitches as well.
“He has grandchildren who hunt out there and even great-grandchildren who will one day be old enough to hunt,” Fitch said.
Bill Fitch’s daughter and Jerry Fitch’s first cousin, is Mississippi State Treasurer Lynn Fitch.
“I have such special memories,” Lynn Fitch said from her office across the street from the eagle-topped dome of the State Capitol in Jackson. “We would always saddle up our horses and ride on Sunday afternoons. Even as a child, it was so beautiful. So open. It’s 23like taking a step back in time. It’s so wonderful and so peaceful. What Daddy has done to piece it all together has been incredible. It’s something that a lot of people don’t get a chance to enjoy.”
Both Lynn Fitch and Jerry Fitch say that Bill Fitch’s stamina and passion for hunting and history is unsurpassed.
“He’s 82 but he’s one of the first ones up in the morning,” Jerry Fitch said.
More than a decade ago, Bill Fitch disassembled and reassembled the log home of former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest on site. That handsome structure, moved to Holly Springs from Hernando, is now Bill Fitch’s private residence.
Bill Fitch, the family patriarch of the famed Fitch family of Marshall County, said each log was lovingly restored.
“It was the first house that he ever lived in,” Fitch said. “It was built of cypress logs and we moved it in sections.”
Deer and wild turkey also abound on the property, according to Fitch. Quail is still the largest draw.
“When I was growing up, we didn’t hunt anything but quail,” Fitch said. “Now, we are covered up with deer and turkey.”
Fitch has fond memories of hunting with his father, T.B. Fitch on the oldfamily property. It was those memories which prompted Bill Fitch to piece together the old plantation again.”
“After World War II, it (Galena Plantation) was sold,” Fitch said. “Daddy had four sons and one daughter. We moved to town.”
Bill Fitch himself worked in the corporate world before moving back to Holly Springs and enjoying hunting again.
It was the recollection of championship bird dog field trials from days gone by that often brings pleasure to Fitch. “I’ve won the Field Trial Championship over at Grand Junction several times,” Fitch said. “My bird dog ‘Hitchhiker’ won it 40 years ago. There’s a statue of him at Ames Plantation.”
Fitch said field trials are held at Fitch Farms each December. in addition to field trials and quail hunts, accommodations for corporate retreats and special events are also available.
Guests can retire in the evenings in one of six recently-restored Civil War era cabins.
After a day of hunting quail, famished guests can dine on a gourmet meal of wild game and delicious five-star desserts, prepared by professional chefs on staff.
Fitch added that Fitch Farms has a warm bed, a good meal and cold steel within the easy grasp of any avid quail hunter.
Guests typically arrive at Fitch Farms Galena Plantation the afternoon before the hunt. Check-in time is 4:30 p.m. Cocktails and a scrumptious gourmet meal are to follow. A hearty country breakfast, followed by a round of shooting sporting clays whet the hunter’s appetite for an invigorating wildlife experience during morning and afternoon hunts.
Guides and dogs are available, according to Fitch. “We have class act dogs and renowned trainers,” Fitch said. “Of course, you have to have a lot of quail for a successful hunt. We naturally have some quail on the place but we put out more than 25,000 quail each year. My trainer, Randy Downs, has been with me for about 40 years. Hunts will start early this month. We have between 12 to 15 booked from all across the nation. They enjoy coming here. We have some real nice housing. We can handle about 25 at a time. If we have an overflow, we can put them up at the golf course,” Fitch said, referring to Kirkwood Golf Course.
Convenient to most of Northern Mississippi and the world via Memphis International Airport, Fitch Farms is located approximately 10 miles southwest of downtown Holly Springs.
From Holly Springs, travel west on Hwy. 4 for 6.5 miles to Laws Hill Road and then go south for 1.7 miles to Thomas Road, and then 1.8 miles to the Plantation.
Packages include a full-day quail hunt with guides and dogs along with overnight lodging, three meals, cocktails and hors’ de ouveres. Gun rental is available along with gun shells and sporting clothes available for purchase.
For more information contact the Fitch Farms Office at 662-252-8855 or the Lodge at 662-551-2280. or go online at fitchfarms.com.