Georgetown-area Back Woods Quail Club offers challenges for shooters of all skill levels – and from all over the United States
One of the largest sporting clay venues in the nation can be found just a few miles outside Georgetown.
Back Woods Quail Club occupies nearly 1,000 wooded acres in the western part of Georgetown County.
In addition to seasonal hunting of quail, deer and turkey, it offers challenging games for recreational shooters of all skill levels and hosts regional and national shooting competitions. The San Antonio, Texas-based National Sporting Clays Association, in fact, held its 2019 Regional Sporting Clays Championship at the Georgetown facility. More than 600 shooters, men and women of all ages, participated in a variety of events to test their skills.
Rick Hemingway, owner of Back Woods Quail Club, said he added sporting clays to his shooting course in 1993 after trying it one time at another club.
“I grew up hunting and fishing all my life, so that was right up my alley,” Hemingway said. “I was addicted to sporting clays, and within six months I had my own sporting clay course here. The rest is history.”
Starting as a small operation in 1990, Back Woods Quail Club entertained a few customers coming in for half-day quail hunts, Hemingway recalled. Now, the club’s sporting clays courses have grown from the days of manual machines, loaded and cocked by hand, to having 325 automated, remote-controlled machines.
Hemingway said the club offers two courses, one for advanced shooters and one for recreational shooters. It is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and membership is not required, although the club does give members reduced rates on gun and golf cart rentals, ammunition and lodging.
“The big thing about people coming to Back Woods is the southern hospitality, not only here but in the community, the hotels and the restaurants in Georgetown,” Hemingway said. “Some stay at the beach and even in Charleston, and some golf in the morning and shoot in the afternoon.”
Zac Guerrettaz, owner of the Forest City Gun Club in Savannah, Georgia, and registered NSCA instructor, came to Back Woods for the NSCA Regionals to help set targets. He said that event is one of the largest regional shoots in the Southeast.
“There are a lot of things to check out. You’ve got food vendors and a lot of really great people in the shooting atmosphere,” Guerrettaz said. “I’d urge anyone to come check it out because the more people who get interested in this thing, the better it will grow.”
People who attended and competed in the competition also had good things to say about Back Woods and the shooting event. Atlanta resident David Clymer, who has competed in other shooting events in Mississippi and Georgia, had nothing but praise for the Georgetown club.
“This is the most premium venue I’ve been to,” Clymer said. “This facility is state-of-the-art.”
Charlie Sutherland and Lee Sims, both of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, brothers-in-law who were with their wives, Cindy and Delma, respectively, also enjoyed the regional event.
“It’s been fun. We’ve had a great time so far,” Charlie Sutherland said, adding that the weather was very warm. “People here have been very friendly.”
Lee Sims agreed, saying that the events the two had tried were challenging, and the two looked forward to competing in more events.
“I just like all the shooting,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter.”
Brad Branch of Palm Beach, Florida, was also shooting on Oct. 2. He said the event was extremely well organized.
“Good targets, lots of room, great people who are competent to trap and score,” he said. “Plus, the weather is great.”
David Holiday, a volunteer for the event who was helping with the 12-gauge event, said Back Woods is a premiere venue and the shooting event is top-notch.
“It’s got everything you would want if you like to shoot, from rifle ranges to every gauge in competition, a gun shop, a pro shop,” he said. “You name it, they’ve got it.”
There were several young people who participated in the Main Event from Friday, Oct. 4, to Sunday, Oct. 6. Turner Parcell, 14, of Swansea, was with his mother, Tonya. As he was preparing to shoot on Oct. 4, Tucker said he has been competing for three years. A member of the Youth Shooting Foundation, he has already won several awards.
“Turner loves it; he is passionate for it,” Tonya Parcell said. “He is always like, ‘Where can we go shoot? Where are we going next?’ ”
She said they have come to Back Woods several times and they like the venue and the area.
“It is a great time to bond and take a trip together,” she said. “In Georgetown, you get to see the historical locations, and we love to go down to the Harborwalk and eat. Every time we come, we make a special trip to do that.”
She said that being a part of these shooting events helps Turner learn important life skills.
“I think it has helped him with focus, improves his time management and how to manage school, practice and this,” Tonya Parcell said. “It puts him on track to do all his extracurricular activities and sports that he does.”
Austin Cagle, 16, of Gainesville, Georgia, said he has been competing for four years and enjoys it.
“I just like the atmosphere,” he said. “Everyone is so nice. It’s just fun to be out here.”
Karen Shedd, 17, of Eloy, Arizona, was with her father, Daniel. She said she has been competing since she was 9 and is a Master Class shooter.
“I went from a D Class last year in beginning of the year, and I made it to Master Class by the end of the year,” she said.
There were also several women competing in the Main Event. Vickie Stallings of Denver, North Carolina, was with her husband, Don. She said the competition events were great.
“I am having a lot of fun; there are some good targets,” she said. “I am enjoying shooting different targets, meeting up with friends and getting away from home.”
Diane Sorantino of Cape May, New Jersey, is a professional shooter who travels across the country for different competitions. She said she has been to Back Woods three or four times before.
“Back Woods does a great job, really first-class,” she said. “The grounds are immaculate, and the targets are challenging.”
She said even though it was very warm during the event, Back Woods supplied a cooler of water at every station, and snacks at some.
“They are doing the right thing to cater to the shooters and a lot of ranges have gotten on board with that,” she said.
Sorantino said she was raised around guns and has loved shooting since she was a young girl. She added that is it not really a love for guns, but for competition that drives most shooters to these events.
“I think it’s the challenge, trying to break the target, more so than the gun itself,” she said. “The gun is just the tool to do it.”
Clymer, who was camping next to Sorantino, agreed.
“Part of this is just blowing things up,” he said. “It is fun to break things. If you go out there with a BB gun and a Coke bottle, don’t tell me you’re not going to set it up and knock it down.”
2019 Regional Sporting Clays Championship winners:
- Highest Over All in Main Event – Derrick Mein – Paola, Kansas – sponsored by Kolar, Promatic, White Flyer, Pure Gold
- Runner Up in Main Event – Tom Seay – Adams, Tennessee – sponsored by Gamebore, Krieghoff International
- 1st Place Master Class – Joseph Fanizzi – Okeechobee, Florida – sponsored by Pure Gold, Beretta
All are pros and are sponsored by multiple gun, ammo, choke manufacturers. Each shooter is in a class determined by NSCA. Master Class, AA Class, A Class, B class, C class, D class, E class. Everyone starts out in E class and moves their way up according to how good the shoot.
– By Clayton Stairs, tourism manager, Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce