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  • Matt Smythe

Oil study and a Georgia whitetail

Late last year I had the opportunity to spend a week down in south Georgia. I was commissioned to paint a large oil painting of a wild quail plantation that is leased by a client of mine. There were four in the shooting party plus me. We all took Covid tests before we left home. I drove down and the others had private transportation so it was as safe a trip as we could make it.


The plantation is owned by a friend of mine and is skillfully maintained for wild quail, trophy deer and turkeys. I arrived a day early and spent an evening and a morning in a deer stand. I saw plenty of deer and several bucks, but nothing met the 3 1/2 year old or older benchmark that shooting on property requires.

The next day when the clients arrived I shot dozens of generalized photos of dogs, the wagon and horses, the dog handlers and the shooters. That afternoon I found a setting on the property that matched the client's description of what he envisioned the finished painting should look like. I did a small 12"x 16" study of that spot in oil. After I had that done, I was able to spend our last day looking for specific photos of figures to go into the composition. In the coming months I will assemble all those pieces into a much larger oil painting which captures this sporting adventure exactly.

I stayed on one extra day and jumped back in the deer stand. This time luck smiled on me. I did some rattling with a pair of deer antlers (the rut was in full-swing down there) and I brought four different bucks into my stand. Two of them were lovely 2 1/2 year old 8 -10 pointers - one of them came in with several does as well - but they weren't quite big enough. Just 15 minutes before I was to be picked up a much bigger buck appeared. He had nice high tines and 9 points total. Not a record-book buck, but definitely 3 1/2 years old - so I took the shot.

All-in-all it was quite a trip. I was even able to work my Brittany Fox on some of the quail one morning at the request of my client (yea, that's him eating the Starbucks "pupachino" on the way down). Quail shooting, a nice oil study and loads of reference photos to use in a new project, a new trophy for my studio wall and months of great meat. What more could a guy ask for?

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