With 3,500 acres of untouched woods and managed hunt lands, regular hunting opportunities are assured on Brays Island. The cut grain fields offer exciting dove shoots, while the extensive woods produce trophy deer and flocks of wild turkey. More than 1,200 acres of managed fields allow you to hunt quail with a friend and your dog, with professional guides on foot or horseback, or by hunt wagon.
Brays owns up to 40 bird dogs, trained and ready to hunt at any time. Owners can also use our training fields for their own dogs or employ our world-renowned dog trainer Scott Miller to do it for them. There are also heated and cooled kennels for boarding, as well as staff that can attend to your pup’s needs.
Perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle for the sportsman at Brays is the ability to enjoy a day in the field without the hassles associated with managing a large plantation. For example, staff handle all of the burning and disking – critical elements for developing the proper habitat needed to produce cover.
Upland Hunting in the Lowcountry
Several thousand acres of prime upland habitat are meticulously maintained by our hunt department staff members, who are predominantly land stewards in the summer months and hunt guides in the fall and winter months.
Owners have the option of pursuing bobwhites with their own dogs, or with the plantation’s highly trained pointers and cockers along with our professional guides. Despite being approached on multiple occasions to divide this land for housing developments, Sumner Pingree instead chose to forego monetary gain in order to perpetuate the traditions of the southern plantation. He accomplished this by leaving 94 percent of his plantation undeveloped.
Fine upland bird hunting is hard to find. Even rarer, it seems these days, are places where like-minded people share an interest in the sporting culture, whether it be a passion for hunting or an appreciation for guns. Surrounded by saltwater, Brays Island stands alone as the only community to offer all of this in addition to the coveted coastal lifestyle.
Hunting Lowcountry Ducks
The waterfowling culture is strong in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and duck hunting is occasionally offered on Brays, depending on the availability of birds. Many of our owners also hunt in the waters surrounding the plantation. “We offer duck hunts on the shrimp ponds on Oak Grove,”said Hunt Department Director Marion Gohagan. “We have three blinds that can take two guns per blind, so we can hunt up to six people. The pond is shot every Tuesday morning during duck season. We have a guide and a retriever per blind.”
There are also several green tree reservoirs that are flooded during the winter months, drawing in plenty of wood ducks. Abundant in the ACE Basin and the regions surrounding Brays, wood ducks are a privilege to hunt in the Lowcountry. Hunts are called a couple of days in advance. Many owners choose to join local duck hunting clubs in the area as well.
The view from above in the late summer months is a sea of yellow near Pine Hill Hunt Unit. Doves benefit from the 40-acre dove field planted each spring by the plantation’s hunt department. Planted in stages, this acreage features a variety of corn, sunflowers and cereal grains which all provide ample feed to birds throughout the season.
This multi-crop strategy is just one piece of the larger wildlife management picture at Brays, where everything is done with a purpose. While doves love the feed found here, these crops provide sustenance for a variety of wildlife including songbirds, pigeons and even the plantation’s deer herd.
The dove field will hold about 30 guns, and owners are given three days lead time before shoots. The presence of these migratory birds is never assured, but we engage in best practices where possible to attract them. While in their floral stages, our sunflower fields are a great destination for owners who want to enjoy their beauty, shoot photographs or enjoy the wildlife that they attract.
The coastal Lowcountry typically doesn’t grow huge deer. That said, Brays Island is anything but typical. Many outsiders don’t realize that we produce some exceptional bucks, by anyone’s standards. “You don’t see many 130 to 140 class deer in this part of the country, but we’ve killed quite a few 120 class deer and we have several in the 140 – 150 class on camera,” according to Marion. “What we are trying to do from a management standpoint is to shoot bucks that are 3 1/2 years of age or older, and we want them to be outside the ears. It is amazing how far we’ve come. The racks are getting more mass and much wider spreads.”
There are about 30 stands on the plantation, or owners can coordinate with the hunt department to hang a personal stand. The deer herd on Brays Island Plantation is actively managed. One of the tools used to gauge the size of the herd is an annual camera survey. This helps the hunt department establish harvest quotas as well as get a good feel for the number of trophy bucks on the plantation.
Hunting Marsh Hens
It can seem like an eternity – those weeks spent waiting for quail season to open after dove and teal seasons have ended. But here in the Lowcountry, there’s no need to lock up the guns just yet. Hunting marsh hens, also known as rails, is a perfect transition.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, it’s akin to upland hunting except instead of walking upbirds, gunners flush birds from a boat. The best hunting is had on flood tides, as the increased water levels concentrate birds in smaller areas. The higher the tide, the better, but anything over nine feet works well.
For a Lowcountry cast and blast, head out early with a fly rod to target redfish. When the tide gets too deep, trade your rod for a shotgun and go marsh hen hunting. This is a fantastic way to introduce youth to the sport of wingshooting. The birds aren’t terribly fast fliers, but they are fun to hunt. A quick call to Owner Services and the boating department can have a kayak ready. The marshes around Brays are fertile areas to hunt marsh hens.
With abundant common land, there is plenty of area to enjoy the outdoor pursuits. Brays owners take full advantage of this, so much so that it has pushed our turkey population into pockets of the plantation that don’t see as much human activity.
Because turkeys don’t respond well to pressure, birds can be seen in very specific areas of the plantation. For this reason, the hunt department sets a maximum limit on the number of turkeys that may be harvested each season.
Hunts are filled via a lottery system. If drawn, an owner will have the opportunity to take a bird. A nonproductive hunt means the next owner in line gets a chance. This system will continue until the limit has been reached for the season. While the turkey hunting remains very good on the plantation, it is limited in scope.
Pheasant Tower Shoots
You don’t have to cross the Atlantic to experience the challenge of a driven hunt. Test your shotgunning skills against fast-flying pheasant passing over at dizzying speeds/heights at one of our tower shoots, which simulate European-style shooting right here on the plantation.
Tower shoots consist of multiple shooting stations surrounding a raised platform off which pheasant are released. Plantation-sponsored tower shoots occur regularly, or owners may also book private shoots for entertaining family and friends. On plantation shoots, hunters rotate through a setup that includes 16 pegs. The area used for private shoots is slightly smaller and uses 12 pegs.
Shooters rotate every round so that each is able to experience multiple shooting opportunities. Rotating also ensures that the “hot” pegs are shared by all. Labs, springers and cockers love these shoots as much as our owners do.
The quality of the hunt fields found on Brays Island is no accident. Much planning and hard labor is required. In keeping with Sumner’s desire to protect the natural state of his land, staff work diligently throughout the year to ensure that the wildlife on the plantation thrives.
Utilizing wildlife management tools that are effective (but which do not rely on the use of chemicals and heavy machinery), our hunt staff cultivates highly durable upland habitat that lasts throughout the season. Prescribed burning is a very ecologically sound way to improve the land, allowing fire to do the work instead of machines or chemicals. And best of all, owners never have to pick up a drip torch! Controlled burns are used on a regular basis as part of a habitat maintenance program. Fire is an extremely important tool used to promote growth of the understory.
World Renowned Dog Training
For those who don’t want to own a dog, having the ability to hunt behind a brace of impeccably trained pointers is a great option. The plantation owns between 35 and 40 pointing dogs at any given time and keeps a stable of flushing dogs available to owners as well.
It is also possible for owners to acquire a pointing dog and not have to ship it off for training or do the training themselves, opting instead to use the plantation’s on-site dog trainer. Bird Dog Hall of Fame inductee Scott Miller provides instruction and training for dogs and their owners.
For those who prefer to train their dogs themselves, there are two training fields located on the plantation. Each field has its own pigeon coop that is stocked with plenty of birds that will recall back to the coop to be used repeatedly. Staff make sure the birds are fed and watered.
Owner Field Trials
As you might already have guessed, sporting dogs are a big deal on Brays Island. Many dogs call the plantation home, and a wide variety of breeds can be found here. English pointers, Labradors, German shorthaired pointers and more can all be spotted on Brays. No matter which breed of working dog you choose to become your hunting partner, you want your pup to be the best that it can be.
Participating in an occasional field trial is a great way to enjoy some time in the field while improving your dog, as well as your skills as a handler. Brays Island hosts a pointing dog and a flushing dog trial every year. Whether you hunt with pointing dogs or flushing dogs, you should come and play the game. It is fun… for you and the dogs. For those who don’t have their own dogs, these trials are also open for viewers.