The Backwoods Quail Club legacy begins in humble fashion in the early 1970’s with Edsel Hemingway, Rick’s Father, already a prospering businessman (he owned a Ford dealership he inherited from his Father and also developed a successful Exxon Oil Distributorship) and successful farmer in Georgetown County, entertained the idea of allowing some Northerners [Yankees] to form a club and hunt wild birds on his farm acreage. The club fostered some six to eight “members” and was guided by Mr. Edsel’s farm staff after the general harvest each Fall. This allowed the farm staff to be productive and make a few dollars on the farm in the fallow time of year. According to Rick it was not unusual to put up 20 to 30 wild coveys a day on the home place. As the farm grew in size in the 1980’s [ currently 5,000 acres] as Mr. Edsel acquired more property, the wild bird population began to diminish, and the Hemingway’s began to cast about for a way to continue the club and decided to visit another commercial hunting preserve and experience the shooting of “pen raised” and released coveys. This quickly became a substitute for the “wild birds” and the club continued to gain popularity.
This brings us to Rick, who is now a teen, working on odd jobs around the farm and beginning to guide the deer hunters who have begun to seek out trophies in the area when Dad doesn’t have any farm work. Picture this tow headed kid placing adults into stands before going to school and then after school, returning to see what had been harvested. A lot of work but much fun along the way! Rick freely admits that all he thought about in his hours awake was hunting and fishing and what money he could make from his “guiding service”. He was having all the fun and Daddy was bearing all the expense of planting, stands, etc. and all was well in the world. Well, you know this idyllic experience must end and as Rick began to get close to High School graduation in 1990, you can imagine that a sea change was coming. Mr. Edsel began to talk about college and Rick began to plan how to continue his path on the farmstead and hunting preserve and continue his way of life and still make a living. With the same entrepreneurial spirit as his Father, Rick petitioned his Dad to allow him to run the now commercial hunting operation and farm as his livelihood. And as his grades had suffered from all the inattention in school and given his otherwise rapt attention to all things outdoors, Mr. Edsel agreed to let him have a try and furnished a $10,000 dollar checking account for Rick’s use.
In 1992, the farm and commercial hunting operations took another turn as Ralph Brindle (owner of River Bend) began bringing deer hunters to the club and told Rick about a new clay target game called “sporting clays”. With his interest piqued, Rick visited Ralph at River Bend near Spartanburg and shot a 50 target course of sporting clays presentations. He was immediately addicted to the shooting game and could not return home fast enough to explore acquiring his own course. He had picked up a sporting clays magazine from River Bend and noticed an ad for course design by Jon Kruger, at that time in Rick’s words the “God Almighty “of the sporting clays/ shooting world! Daddy agreed to another loan and Kruger agreed to come to Rick’s aid in designing a sporting course and the Hemingway’s had a bulldozer awaiting his arrival. With 10 manual Lincoln traps and several boxes of clays obtained from Okatee Gun Club near Bluffton, (a three hour drive one way) Rick began his journey into the clays world and when the course work was completed, Kruger put on a clinic for all to see, including trick shooting from the hip and with the gun held upside down, thus even further awing Rick and the crowd around the farm.
Soon after mastering the presentations on his home ground Rick began to compete and drove to the Okatee Club for practice and then a tournament. His eyes were opened when competitors were using clays guns with screw in chokes and he was adapting with his old quail gun. Also he was completely surprised when the course was completely different than his earlier practice! Nevertheless, in his first completion, Rick won the Hunter class and got his first trophy and his addiction became an obsession and he began to seek out all the tournaments he could reasonably travel to and from. He also began to upgrade all his sporting clays equipment with the newer style automatic traps (purchased used) and continued to grow the club and commercial hunting operation.
From those humble origins, the Backwoods Quail Club has prospered throughout the years and has now become a premier place to shoot in the South East! Rick today manages over 20,000 acres for hunting of quail and deer, and continues a full time operation of sporting clays with multiple courses and beautiful vista’s that are maintained to preserve the views and offer the casual clays shooter as well as the professionals a profound experience every time out. He continues to be thankful for a Father who allowed him to grow in his dream job and be successful in a business that he truly loves. Rick admits that he never feels he has to go to work because he loves what he is doing and the service he provides to sportsmen he encounters on a daily basis.
Some of Rick’s notable accomplishments and things he is most proud of other than his family are making Backwoods a quality place and premier destination in the country, hosting the US Open, [over 1200 shooters] winning State and Regional Competitions, earning a Pro Shooter Card, founding member [one of three] that started the SCSYF and South Carolina Sporting Clays Association. Backwoods Quail Club is also on the calendar for this year’s South East Regional shoot in October. And don’t worry! Rick’s regional business of being a Promatic Dealer and furnishing taps and setting for other clubs in the South is growing exponentially. The tow headed youngster with the energy and ambition is continuing to dream big, yet complete the visions of his youth! We can’t wait to see what will come next!