It’s About The Experience: Southern Farm Hospitality Targets Hunters
The Southern traditions of good hunting, delicious food and friendship are the main ingredients to the success of Wildcat Creek Hunting Lodge near Florala and owner Albert C. Cravey.
The Wiley House, originally built around 1922, is the gateway to Wildcat Creek, a sportsman’s paradise home to trophy bucks, big bass, strutting gobblers and bobwhite quail.
“From the moment our guests turn onto this dirt road, we are on stage,” Cravey said. “I am the guide and the cook. I pay close attention to every detail to make sure they have a great time and a good hunt. An attitude of ensuring our guests are treated like family is what makes our lodge a success. If you don’t like people and don’t have a lot of patience, this probably isn’t a good fit on your farm.”
For Cravey, who started his wildlife outfitters business in 1999, it was a matter of getting paid for a service he once provided free. It was Steve Guy, former Alabama Farmers Federation Wildlife Division director, who encouraged Cravey to make the change.
“Steve told me that with my experience and all the wildlife available on our farm, people would be willing to pay for it,” Cravey said. “He was right.”
Every detail — from homemade biscuits to juicy grilled steaks — is planned and executed by Cravey, whose main farm business is beef cattle.
Covington County farmer Cecil Ammons is a longtime friend and frequent quail hunter at Wildcat Creek. He said hunting is his way to unwind and slow down.
“Until a few years ago, I only hunted deer and raccoons,” he said. “Then I came quail hunting here. It became habit forming. When you get to this place, you feel like you’re home.”
That feeling is the ultimate compliment for Cravey, who owns the family farm with his brother, Jim. Such praise is the world’s best advertising, he said.
“We rely on word of mouth for most of what we offer,” Cravey said. “We have a lot of repeat business, and those folks tell their friends about us. We offer hunts for turkey, deer and quail, and we have a nice lake stocked with tiger bass (a hybrid of Florida bass and northern bass.)”
Mike Jones of Andalusia is an attorney and state representative who loves quail hunting. On a recent trip to Wildcat Creek, he grinned while watching Cravey’s bird dogs run and sniff out quail beneath tall pines.
“There’s just something about it,” he said of quail hunting. “I love it. I wish I had time to do it more often.”
Cravey is among thousands of landowners and farmers who’ve discovered hunting is a good way to supplement farm income.
“Hunting and fishing is a $2.4 billion industry in Alabama and is growing every year,” said Federation Wildlife Division Director Rick Oates. “Hunting and fishing are great ways for urban residents to stay in touch with Alabama’s rural roots, and that’s good for all farmers.”
Even though he seldom takes a shot at quail except on the rare occasion when he goes hunting with family, Cravey said the thrill is still there.
“From the time we load the dogs up and head toward the woods, it gets my heart racing,” he said. “The air is full of energy. It’s that same feeling you get when you see a big buck. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it before, and we love to share that experience.”
For a list of other outfitters in Alabama, visit AlabamaOutfitters.org. Go to OutdoorAlabama.com for fishing and hunting activities.