It’s almost impossible to imagine Hilton Head Island as fertile hunting grounds. When modern developments compete with crisply manicured golf courses, and various overlapping POA rules and town ordinances compete to keep noise down and discharging of firearms to a mimimum, the island hardly seems like the place to head out and scare up some dove.
That wasn’t always the case, though. For a time, during the infancy of the island’s modern era, there wasn’t a bad spot on the island. Just ask Berry Edwards.
“We used to go dove hunting in Hilton Head Plantation,” said the Greenery founder and legendary outdoorsman. “There were a lot of open areas being farmed for tomatoes. After the crop, we’d have some good dove hunting. … You have to understand, there were less than 6,000 people then.”
This was back in 1973, when the Cedar Town, Ga., native first came to the island, before he founded the Greenery, before he became an integral figure in our town’s history. Back then he was just a Georgia boy who’d grown up with a gun in his hand and was looking to scare up a hunt in his new hometown.
Fortunately, he wasn’t alone.
“I got to be good friends with Brian Carmines,” he said. “He moved here in 1973 also, and we both figured out we like to duck hunt. For a number of years, we went hunting nearly every day in season.”
The places they would hunt seem like unlikely spots to find sportsmen these days, but back in 1973, places like Bluffton’s All Joy Landing, Daufuskie Island and Savage Island were the prime spots to bring in some duck. (Daufuskie and Savage Island still retain their ties to the good old days, but just try duck hunting at All Joy now without a fleet of weekenders headed to the sandbar scaring off your quarry).
It’s his stories of hunting the salt marshes around Hilton Head that seem most remarkable when viewed from a modern, resort perspective. It’s almost impossible to reconcile today’s Hilton Head Plantation, for example, with a place you could go tromping around shooting fowl. You assume that some of these spots had yet to be developed, but it’s not as if even back then you could just set up outside the Harbour Town Lighthouse and start blasting ducks.
Actually, you could. And he did.
“One time in the 1970s, I went out on New Year’s Day in the afternoon with Bill Douglas,” he said. “We went over directly across from the lighthouse, took a cooler of beer and set up behind the shell rake and shot our limit of ducks in about two hours.”
That’s not to say that the march of time has completely eliminated the prospect of hunting on the island, although we wouldn’t recommend just strolling around Harbour Town with a rifle, unless you’d like to have a serious conversation with Sea Pines security. According to Edwards, it’s still possible.
“All the tidal marsh area is open property. There are no laws against it.”
Just the same, Edwards soon found himself looking beyond the borders of the island for game.
For a number of years, Edwards kept several acres of private hunting land in Garnett, a reclaimed catfish farm that he repurposed for hunting duck, dove, wild turkey and quail. He sold it about a year ago, but he still leases 2,800 acres outside of Estill.
“I probably hunt turkeys every other day for two months in season,” he said. “I still go quail hunting a few times a year. Any time I get an invitation, I go dove hunting.”
His journeys for game took him well beyond the Lowcountry, as this world traveler took to the skies to set up his blind at some of the finest hunting spots around the globe. There’s an annual January trip to Ireland to go woodcock hunting, plus trips to Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and beyond to hunt doves, duck, pigeon and exotic birds like perdiz.
And when he travels for his trips, he’s always sure to give back: “On the bird hunting trips, we pick up what we shoot and give them to the people in the area," he said.
It’s a great gesture for a born and bred hunter who isn’t in it for a trophy or for that grand story of a typical “Big Five” safari.
“I just like the sport of it,” he said. “I grew up dove hunting and quail hunting and it’s been something I’ve enjoyed.”