The Marriott Ranch, purchased in 1951 by J. Willard Marriott Sr., is 4,200 acres of hardwood forest, open fields, wetlands and brush-covered property. Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Hume, Va., it is said to have reminded Mr. Marriott of his boyhood days in Utah. Parts of the mountain and woodland property on the ranch remain pristine and untouched, while wildlife is plentiful with large numbers of whitetail deer, black bears, bobcats, red foxes and bald eagles.
In 2002 the Marriott Ranch started its fair-chase, free-range deer hunting package where only eight hunters at a time have access to hunt the property. Sixty designated tree stands and blinds are strategically located throughout the ranch near food plots and widely used trails. Aside from taking whitetail deer, hunters have also harvested turkey, black bear, coyote and bobcat when in season.
In 2009 the Marriott Ranch, which was recently authorized as a Shooting Preserve by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, started its bird hunting package of released quail. I recently participated in its second annual hunt.
After lunch in the picturesque James Marshall Manor House, built in 1814, the other hunters and I drove to the field and met the hunt master, John Kline, and his assistants. Kline has been involved with bird dogs for more than 45 years, and has earned national championship rankings with his prized Brittanies.
The field we hunted had all natural cover. To ensure the hunters had plenty to shoot, 50 quail were released shortly before we arrived. The bird dogs were soon on point and we flushed our first covey of quail.
Without the dogs, locating and flushing would have proved difficult since the birds are nearly impossible to see in the natural cover. We swept a large open field surrounded by hardwood forest with the first set of dogs taking a number of quail. When we reached the end of the field, a new set of dogs were brought in to relieve the first two and we walked back through the field along the wood line. After two hours of hunting we had shot and recovered 55 percent of the birds. Some of the birds that we flushed were able to escape unharmed.
Back in the late 1970s and 1980s I hunted quail on a farm in nearby Lacey Springs, Va., but never with a dog. At that time, we walked the fence rows and grassy fields ourselves to flush the birds. The Marriott Ranch quail we hunted were a little more difficult to flush, but were just as gamey when taken to the air.
All in all, we all agreed this was an enjoyable hunt on a beautiful part of land.
Marriott Ranch Accommodations
Six meals are provided; breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared by a Marriott chef. Before dinner, cocktails with hot hors d'oeuvres are served followed by the main course entrees and dessert. Open bar and cigars are provided until 9 p.m. The ranch ambience provides the camaraderie to enjoy with friends and fellow hunters in the evenings after the hunt in a comfortable setting.
For information on the Marriott Ranch Upland Game Bird package call, (877) 324-7344. For additional information on the Marriott Ranch hunts and other outdoor activities and special events such as horseback trail rides, youth outings, weddings and corporate picnics, visit www.marriottranch.com.