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Preserving The Past, Building For The Future

Preserving The Past, Building For The Future
February 7, 2005 |

As a boy growing up on a 160 farm in east central Alabama, Richard Sprayberry always looked forward to those crisp, winter days when his daddy would take him quail hunting. The fertile, creek bottoms and lush forest land on their Delta, Ala., farm served as a paradise for quail, deer and turkey. As years rolled by, Sprayberry saw the native quail population decline, however, his passion for quail hunting and his desire to turn the land into a haven for wildlife only increased. His dream was to acquire enough land to create his own hunting preserve.Sprayberry’s grandfather purchased the land in the 1920s and grew cotton and corn. Following that, Sprayberry’s father raised cattle and operated broiler houses on the property. “After my father passed away, my wife, Cynthia, and I bought the land from my mother so we could operate a beef cattle farm to supplement my job with Tri-Venture Marketing,” said Sprayberry. “During the 10 years we raised cattle, all I could think about was opening a hunting preserve.”With knowledge gained from raising forage crops for cattle, experience that came from hunting quail, deer and turkey all his life, and his natural people skills, Sprayberry and his wife decided to convert their farm into an intensively managed commercial hunting preserve.Now in its third year of operation, Mountain View Hunting Preserve has become a full-time business for Sprayberry and his family. Sprayberry, his stepson, Brent Wheeler, and family friend, Josh Dingler, take care of guiding hunts, planting food plots and managing the farm for commercial hunting while Cynthia and daughters, Renae and Sara, help with the cooking and cleaning at the lodge.Sprayberry renovated and converted his grandparents’ home on the property into a hunting lodge that can sleep up to 12 and built a dining hall adjacent to the house. “I wanted to keep the original personality of the house to give the lodge a homey, family feel,” said Sprayberry. “My grandmother would have liked everything but the pool table, but the guests love it.”In addition to the 160 acres, Sprayberry purchased another 90 acres and began leasing additional land for wildlife development. He now manages approximately 3,000 acres for wildlife and hunting. While raising beef cattle, most of the pastureland was planted in fescue and Bermuda grass. “For the hunting preserve to have ideal habitat for quail, we had to spray and burn the grass then till the soil allowing native forage such as broomsedge, beggar lice, cockleburs and Johnson grass to thrive,” said Sprayberry. “In addition, we’ll supplement the native grasses in the bird fields with grain sorghum, browntop and white proso millet as well as mow strips through the fields.”According to Sprayberry, quail perform much better if there are areas of bare ground. Forage that creates a dense turf is detrimental to nesting and brooding. “We have some native quail living on the property now,” said Sprayberry. “This is a direct result of controlling the forage and creating cover for the birds.” Sprayberry is a member of Quail Unlimited and says his goal is having permanent coveys of native quail on the property.To offer the best bird hunts, Sprayberry said he had to buy hearty, well conditioned fliers for his quail, pheasant and chukar hunts. “We buy our birds from a couple of guys out of Ranburne, Sammy Jackson (Jackson’s Quail Farm) and David Loveless (Loveless Game Birds) who offer the fastest fliers and closest thing to native quail that we’ve found,” said Sprayberry. “Some of their birds have lived long enough after being released that they have mated and raised their own broods.”Once Sprayberry and Loveless became acquainted through the sale of birds, the friendship developed, and now, Loveless serves as a guide on many of Sprayberry’s hunts. “It’s easy to make friends in this business because we all love what we do in the outdoors, and we love meeting new people,” said Sprayberry. “That’s why we’ve been able to rely mostly on word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business.”Sprayberry, Wheeler and Dingler plant about 40 one-acre food plots on the place each year for the deer and turkey. “We plant food plots consisting of a blend of buck forage oats, rye, ryegrass, winter wheat, ladino clover and crimson clover,” said Sprayberry. “We have also practiced Quality Deer Management on the place for the last eight years taking only mature whitetails with large, healthy racks.”The hunts at Mountain View Hunting Preserve begin in October with deer and bird hunting which includes quail, pheasant and chukar hunts. The deer hunts last until the end of January, and bird season ends on the last day of March. The turkey hunts begin in March and run through April. “Just as soon as hunting season is over, we begin planning, preparing and planting food plots for next year,” said Sprayberry. “It’s a year-round job, but nothing satisfies me better.”Sprayberry said he is amazed at how fast word traveled about his hunting preserve once it opened commercially. Alabama Whitetail and Outdoors with Mark Prater and Wayne Burns as well as the nationally recognized Outdoor Channel’s Gone Hunting with Tony and Keith have hunted the property. “We’ve had avid whitetail hunters come here from as far as Michigan to hunt deer with us,” said Sprayberry. “They come back because we give them comfortable lodging, three delicious Southern cooked meals each day, a safe, hunting environment, and we’ll do everything for them except shoot, and we’ll even do that for them if they ask.”Sprayberry said the most commonly booked hunt is the combo hunt. “The combo hunt allows you to spend the morning following the dogs after coveys of bobwhite quail, pheasants and chukar,” said Sprayberry. “Then, you can eat lunch, relax with a game of pool or watch television at the lodge and head out that evening for the deer hunt.”Sprayberry and his partners clean the birds for the guests, and he has teamed with a local taxidermist and processor to handle the bigger game such as deer and turkey. “I’ve always had a love for wildlife and hunting and enjoy meeting new people,” said Sprayberry. “Creating Mountain View Hunting Preserve gave me a chance to fulfill a dream I’ve had for a long time.” For more information call Richard Sprayberry at (256) 488-5393 or the lodge at (256) 488-9442.Outdoor writer John Howle serves on the Cleburne County Farmers Federation Board of Directors.

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