- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
One-third of the quail taken on Bonnette's preserve this past month were native wild birds. With such a ratio, the sport has got to be good. Proof that it is arc the first-class hunters—people like Leon and Carola Mandel, Paul Butler and daughter Jorie Kendall, Tommy Shevlin, Margo and Ed Crawford, Mrs. Francis Kellogg, George Gore, Jim Kimberly and a dozen others who can and do shoot on the best hunting grounds in the world—who keep coming back to Bonnette's for more.
If anyone is qualified to comment on what is or is not sporting shooting, longtime outdoorsman James Van Alen probably is the man. Recently Van Alen and his wife slipped away from the beach to visit Bonnette's for the first time. He arrived with an open mind and definite misgivings. He left smiling, a membership application in his hand and a package of plucked quail under his arm.
"It was really very good, very good," he said, still visibly surprised at his own satisfaction. "Yes, very good. I didn't think I would enjoy it so much. That young fellow has done a good job."
Van Alen, of course, had hit upon a key factor in the success of Bonnette's preserves—Bonnette himself. Tanned and handsome, with an engaging smile and laugh-crinkled eyes, Bonnette at 45 looks and dresses like a theatrical version of a wealthy cattle rancher. His handling of a dog and a shotgun is faultless, and both seem to perform for Bill Bonnette as they never would for anyone else. What makes this remarkable is that Bonnette is as much a newcomer to dog training as he is to shooting preserves.
"First he read books," says Bonnette's blonde wife, Jane. "Everything he could get his hands on. He sent away for all kinds of technical manuals on game breeding and management, and he memorized them all. Then he started visiting game farms and preserves. He must have covered 100 and corresponded with at least half of their operators.
"The next thing I knew we were raising baby quail in our backyard. Then Bill brought home a few pointing pups to learn all about them. When he wasn't dog-training, usually with a book of instructions in one hand, he was listening to records to learn quail whistles. Most of our Navy friends decided he had gone to the dogs and birds."
The rewards of Bonnette's self-exile is a game preserve that has become, in less than a year, one of the finest in the U.S. It is already a paying proposition. He has combined public and private shooting in one overall program. A season's membership at $1,250 in Bluefield, as Bonnette calls the private northern portion of his preserve, entitles a hunter and his wife to 200 quail, three wild turkeys, two deer, unlimited wild boar and accommodations, if they want them, in a comfortable, modern clubhouse.
Bluefield members may also hunt at Hood Road, the southern portion of Bonnette's preserve, but this area is also open to public, or day, shooters. The minimum daily charge of $35 entitles a hunter to shoot eight quail (additional quail are $3.50 each, wild turkeys $40), and to the use of all Hood Road facilities, dogs, guides and equipment.
Small charge for a fast freeze
The clubhouses at Hood Road and Bluefield were decorated by Jane Bonnette, who has her own decorating business in Palm Beach. They are handsome, immaculate and staffed with excellent cooks and attendants who will clean, pack and fast-freeze the day's bag for a small charge. Bonnette keeps a collection of rental shotguns at Hood Road for vacationers who come south unarmed, and he also stocks ammunition, preserve shooting licenses ($5.25) and a line of hunting boots.