|Quail Preserve Keeps Family Together|
Dog Training Tradition is Flourishing
Bubber Cameron was a man ahead of his time. Always interested in dog training, Bubber and his wife, Betty, began a family business in 1962. It started with training field trial dogs, but eventually included gun dogs, and that’s where the emphasis still is today.
In order to properly train his dogs, Bubber began planting food plots in about two-acre sections to attract quail. As the birds were killed out, the coveys were replaced in order to maintain the population.
Bubber and Betty had two daughters and two sons, and raised them near Aliceville. Today, the sons are managing the operation, known as Cameron’s Quail Preserve.
"(Brother) Rush came into the business in 1980 when I was still in high school," John Cameron said. "But we’ve all been involved ever since we were big enough to pick up a garden hose to help water the dogs."
Every job is done by a member of the family.
"We are family-owned, family-operated and Lord led," John said. "That is how we want to keep it running.
"When you’re working here, it’s more than just a paycheck. When you’re family, it’s more than just money. There’s blood and sweat and history in it."
John estimated 80 percent of their business is made up of repeat customers. He claims to have the key to successfully bringing folks back.
"Daddy told me and Rush before he died the secret to this business is to trust God," said John. "People will see it, people will appreciate it and people will come back to you."
John recalled, once the boys were old enough to guide a hunt, their father put a whistle in their hand and sent them out.
"We got out there and we got after it," he said.
Even though the family has been operating the business for nearly 50 years, it has only been called a preserve since 1974 when Alabama came up with the first state preserve license.
The business doesn’t mind keeping up with the times. Cell phones and e-mail are commonplace. The preserve even has its own website and Facebook page. Colorful brochures outline all the preserve has to offer its guests.
Even though the Camerons are up-to-date on modern amenities, the family relies mainly on word-of-mouth advertising. John believes it is the best type of advertising in the world.
Covey Management is Key
While many quail hunters are used to having the field seeded with quail prior to a hunt, they won’t find that practice at Cameron’s.
"This preserve has always stuck with the concept of managing coveys, not just throwing birds out right before the hunt," said John. "We’ve kept with that concept."
The business began to grow even as the wild bird population began to decline in the late 1960s.
"As people would come to pick up their dogs from training, Daddy would let them go out there and shoot a bird over the top of their dog and watch that dog retrieve," John explained. "Those people would call back and see if they could come and kill a mess of birds. And so that’s where the preserve end of this operation started."
Today, Rush and John raise their own quail to release into the wild. The advantage is large coveys of quail thriving in their environment.
The quail coveys are used to train dogs, which John still loves to do, as well as for guided hunts.
No Research Available
While many people today are used to turning to Auburn University or Mississippi State University for information about hunting and wildlife, John said no such studies were being conducted at the time the preserve was getting off the ground.
"It was a lot of trial and error on our part," John recalled. "The Lord looked after us."
Bubber and his sons eventually found out what worked best for their situation and began to build on that knowledge.
More Than Quail
Even if quail hunting is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of things to do at the preserve. Deer hunts are available in season, as well as fishing and boating. Trail riding in the summer months has also become a popular activity. A full list of available activities is available on the preserve’s website.
The preserve depends on the Fayette Farmers Co-op for all their feed needs. Manager Lance Ezelle supplies the Camerons with dog, horse and quail feed. Check with your local Co-op for these and other quality feed products.
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.