Thursday, November 22, 2012
Hunting season begins at Fitch Farms
By SUE WATSON
Cool weather is coming and that means hunting season at Fitch Farms-Galena Plantation and All Ages field trials.
Hunting season begins to gear up in October but November 1 is the absolute latest day to start bird hunting, according to Sonny Jackson, who is helping oversee the hunts this fall. Drawing for the brace schedule is set for December 8. Field trials begin December 10, he said.
“What we provide is a very unique hunting experience,” said W.O. Fitch, owner of the 8,000-acre plantation where the field trials take place.
The experience involves mule-pulled wagon, championship bird dogs, professional bird-dog trainers and handlers, hunting guides, lodging, and three meals a day, he said. Bird stock is the bobwhite quail.
The atmosphere reminds one of a step back in time when horseback riding, mule-drawn wagons and just plain walking were the transportation of the day. Life was unhurried, food was Southern cooking, and firewood was the source of warmth on a winter day.
Field trails are open for public participation for those who want to ride along or enjoy meals at the lodge. Trap shooting is also available for hunters or those who want to practice for a hunt.
“People are invited to come out and ride and follow the dogs,” Jackson said.
Professional dog trainers will be competing for a cash prize and first, second and third place. A Derby class is also held to allow trainers to run their younger dogs.
The Fitch Farms-Galena All Age Championship Trials is a qualifying trial for the national championship field trials in Grand Junction, Tenn., at Ames Plantation in February. Fitch was the owner of a national champion, Hitch Hiker, trained by Randy Downs. Hunting season at Fitch Farms extends to the end of March.
Facilities are used in the off-season as off-site regular, corporate business meetings.
“We provide the lodging, facilities and food,” Fitch said.
Fitch Farms is a step back in time for people who enjoy hunting and being outdoors in nature.
“It is unique; there's no other place like it,” Jackson said.
For more information about hunts, contact Fitch Farms at 662-551-2280 or call Jackson at 901-487-8054.
“When I grew up we had bird dogs, mules and all that,” Fitch said. “I was in the service in 1951 flying fighter planes in the Korean War. After exiting the service I worked for a major corporation and ended up with a major Fortune 500 company.”
It was good ole-fashion anger that caused Fitch to ditch his job on Wall Street and come back home with his wife and two little girls. He said his superiors made him mad, forcing to do things he did not believe in. He decided he knew enough about the business to start his own in Mississippi.
He built a big chain of loan and insurance offices on his first go around and was quite successful. Then he decided to sell out and spent some time in England certifying five hunting clubs that were over 500 years old on 25,000 acres. He then came back to Holly Springs and started his second finance company, which is located entirely in Mississippi with 19 offices.
In 1955, Fitch, who is from the Waterford area, inherited 600 acres of land on the road from an uncle. Not intending to, he began to gradually buy up land as it became available while prices were low.
“I kept buying and land prices got higher and I said, enough is enough,” he said.
The line where enough was enough was when he held 8,000 acres of farmland in the rolling hills off Highway 4 West.
Fitch stocked his pastures with Texas Longhorns, red Angus and Santa Gertrudis cows. He bought the Santa Gertrudis cattle from King Ranch in South Texas, the largest ranch in the world.
Also pastured are buffalo, donkeys, and about 35 horses, he said.
“The donkeys multiply like rabbits and you can’t give them away,” he said with a laugh.
Fitch was injured in the service when the plane he was flying lost power after it was catapulted off the USS Phillipine Sea light carrier. The planes were built to counteract the Japanese Zeros, during World War II, he said.
He injured his back when the plane hit the water.
“They said I would never walk again, but I did,” Fitch said. “I went back to fleet and flew another six to eight months.”
It is his love of the land that keeps him going.
“I love to make things grow and all that,” he said. “That’s what has kept me here.”
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