Bobby Glenn Kimbrells personal paradise covers 200 acres of bottom land plus agriculture and wildlife plots that he nourishes like a baby. Its also his dream come true.
The wildlife spread in northeastern Alamance County bordering the Duke Forest harbors wild deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, ducks and doves.
Kimbrells full-time efforts go into managing this land and three ponds, which he calls the Alamance Sportsmans Club. Five miles of narrow grass lanes crisscross the fields and woods, with no vehicles allowed except golf-style carts.
Im the wealthiest man in the county, he said. Not in money but in wildlife resources. I can live off this ecosystem; its all here water, food and cover.
Kimbrell, 57, carries no desire to hoard his land. His venture exists for sharing the outdoors with youngsters and adults, whether experienced or neophytes.
My goal is for everybody to have a quality outdoor experience, he said. With kids, its crucial to catch them the first time theyre out here. Then theyre hooked on the outdoors and will share it with somebody they love and pass it on.
That philosophy was sparked when Kimbrell started tramping through the outdoors with his dad.
Its about sharing the fellowship and listening to the dogs, he said. I knew the first time I sat in a dove field with my dad that wildlife was going to be my career, my life.
He dreamed of being a game warden but eventually changed his mind and became a fish biologist for 32 years with the N.C. Wildlife Commission. Along the way he invented a floating fish feeder and artificial reef contraption to attract fish. In the back of his mind, the dream grew of owning his own sporting club.
In July of 1996, Kimbrell purchased the 200 acres, and the labor of love of enhancing the land began.
It had long been a dream, he said. I got turned down several times by lending institutions until a gentleman at Farm Credit saw my passion. He believed in me and loaned me the money and we saved this land from becoming a trailer park or housing development.
Kimbrell limits his club to 15 members. Currently there are 14, living from Raleigh to Winston-Salem.
Some are first-time hunters. Others remember the experience from their youth and joined to regain it and to show it to their kids, he said.
Kimbrell and his wife, Kim, an RN, roughed it for four years, living in a 500-square foot storage building he describes as a full efficiency motel room.
Two years ago they built a two-story modern home overlooking a duck pond, which they share with a lab pup, four Yorkshire terriers and nine beagles kenneled out back.
I feel we are stewards of this land, he said. I do everything and try to buy a new piece of equipment each year. My retirement check all goes to pay for the land. My wife buys the food. My goal is to become self-sufficient. I want to keep expanding. I dont want all the land, just that which touches mine.
Kimbrell describes himself as an outdoor addict. Prod him about his property and he wont stop talking. He reminds you of an evangelist slinging his hands and arms to make a point.
My wife has left me three times over this, he said. She always comes back; I guess shes given up and realizes Im not going to change.
Kimbrells early outdoor exposure centered on hunting doves, squirrels and rabbits.
I grew up in Garner. We lived on an old dirt road, and I was my dads bird dog, fetching whatever he shot. Kimbrell said. I finally got a .410 single barrel for Christmas and on my first dove hunt went through nine boxes of shells before I hit my first one. A string of doves came along; I shot at the first one and hit the last one. Then I figured it out lead. I shot instinctively like playing a guitar by ear from then on.
Kimbrell enjoys youngsters apprenticing for a day at his place, walking through creeks, overturning rocks, finding aquatic insects and invertebrates. He also demonstrates wildlife management techniques.
We touch on a lot of little things, he said. All of em seem to be bubbling with wisdom when its time to go home. Some even cry.
Kimbrells greatest fear is that his land will fall to development after hes gone. In the meantime he will continue to work the land.
Every day was a pleasure for me when I worked for the wildlife commission, he said. Now its more than pleasure; its fantasy preserved. Its on me to make sure it happens.