From as far away as Alaska and as close as neighboring states, people come to try continental-style pheasant and quail hunting at Little “q” Ranch in Thaxton.
Written by Susan Baldani | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Joshua Quong enjoyed growing up in the Mississippi Delta. So after living in the city for a number of years, he was ready to get back to his country roots. When he found some property in Thaxton where he could build a home and business, he asked his good friend and mentor, Orville Robertson, for advice about starting a bird hunting ranch on the land. A retired colonel in the United States Air Force, Robertson was also an avid hunter and fisherman, so Josh trusted him to steer him in the right direction.
“Quail hunting is a dying sport in the south,” Josh said. “People usually have to drive to Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma before they can find wild birds.”
This fall, the Little “q” Ranch, offering quail and pheasant hunts, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Of its 126 acres, 86 are used for the hunts. Robertson, better known as “The Colonel,” is the main guide, along with avid outdoorsman, hunter, fisherman and former bronc rider Marshall Merchant, whom Josh taught in high school.
“It gets better every year,” Josh said. “We started with 13 hunts a year. Last year we did 107.”
How did the ranch get its name? When Josh’s wife was pregnant with their first child, they didn’t want to know the gender beforehand. So, people would always ask how “little q” was doing.
Josh was used to country life, but for Sally, who grew up in a suburb of Chicago, being so far away from town was a whole new experience for her. She appreciates that it’s much quieter and more peaceful.
“It’s the best of both worlds for me because even though I go into town every day and I have a career, I make a home out here,” Sally said. “It’s also nice because we live in the middle of nowhere and my kids can run wild and free. There’s lots of space.”
Hunts run from April through October, and the rest of the year is spent raising birds for the hunts, along with breeding, training and caring for German shorthaired pointer puppies.
Tom Bates, a neighbor, helped start the dog business. Early on, the ranch had only one English pointer belonging to the Colonel. Josh acquired a second dog, and when Bates came along the third year and gave him a pointer, it really snowballed.
Josh gives credit to both the Colonel and Bates for making the hunts possible.
“These two men have selflessly shared their time, knowledge, and love with my little family in immeasurable amounts,” Josh said. “There would be no Little “q” without them.”
Kirk Donnell, who lives in Tupelo, has been going to the ranch since 2015 and visits at least six times a year to hunt quail and pheasant.
“A guide who can control the dogs and then be able to turn and talk to whomever he’s hunting with, whether they’re doctors or contractors, and just have a fun conversation, is pretty hard to find,” Donnell said. “The Colonel is that guy. Josh and Sally go out of their way to make people feel at home every time. It’s a place that makes you want to go back.”
Clients gather for each hunt at the “Tin Can Lodge,” where Josh and his family lived before they built their current home. The ranch provides dogs, though some clients prefer to bring their own. Most clients bring their own guns and ammunition, but the ranch can provide them as well.
Hunters go out in groups of two to four, and they take home the birds they harvest. A half-day quail hunt, which is the most common, is usually 2½ to 3 hours and the distance about 3½ to 5½ miles.
“We’ve tried to keep it as simple as the old-time hunts where you can go out the back door and walk in the field with your dog and hunt,” Josh said. “Then, you walk back with a few birds for supper, just like folks did when they were kids.”
The pheasant hunts at the ranch are done in the style of “continental shooting” or tower shooting. Hunters rotate from station to station, while the birds are released in waves. Since Josh’s bird dogs are not trained to retrieve pheasants, Little “q” teams up with nearby Wildrose Kennels to provide Labrador retrievers for the pheasant hunts. The Labs get more training and the kennel gets more exposure.
“It’s a coordinated event; a community event,” Josh said. “We got two (local) businesses involved and there’s a really good synergy between us.”
Once the hunting is finished, everyone meets back at the lodge for lunch. Sally and her father, John Booth, otherwise known as “Papa,” prepare and serve the lunches. Josh does most of the dressing and packaging of the pheasants and divides them up among the group.
“It’s a definite team effort,” Josh said.
The ranch attracts patrons from all over, with most traveling from Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. One regular client comes all the way from Alaska to hunt at Little “q.” Another came from as far away as Warsaw, Poland.
“The connecting fiber among all is coming out and being with one another,” Josh said. “It doesn’t matter where anybody’s from; folks come out and really enjoy it.”
Frank Harwood and his wife, Terri, of Coldwater, have been going to the ranch since 2013 and visit at least four or five times a year, including on Terri’s birthday. Frank prefers to hunt quail, while Terri likes to take part in the pheasant hunts, but they always accompany each other.
“It gives us more family time together,” Terri said. “I have a hard job, and I work a lot, but my family time comes first; it’s a very relaxing, enjoyable bonding experience that we have together.”
About five years ago, Frank decided he wanted his own bird dog. He ended up buying a German shorthaired pointer named Pearl Ann from Josh.
“Josh runs a good operation and his birds fly nice,” Frank said.
“We really enjoy being part of the community,” Josh said. “It’s home. We’re a regular family here. We teach here. We’re folks who decided to put down roots and we try to water them every day.”
For more information or to schedule a hunt, visit littleqranch.com or call 662-801-5764.