A sportsman’s tale: Bill Snow
John on Kodiak Island with his mountain goat. Images provided.
By Ford Walpole
The sporting life of Bill Snow began years ago near his childhood home of Florence, Alabama. Boy Scouts fostered an early love of the outdoors. Snow’s neighbor W.T. Malcolm introduced the boy to hunting — through the pursuit of squirrels and rabbits. Later, with his wife Karen’s uncle, Bill began deer hunting, and by his mid-twenties, he was hooked.
As a married student studying civil engineering, Bill often drove his motorcycle to class at Auburn University with his .30-06 strapped to his back after a morning hunt. With the rifle still on his back, he walked into the classroom and gently rested the rifle on the floor — “and I wasn’t the only one who brought my gun to class,” he points out in portraying a different time when students still smoked cigarettes during class.
In 1980, Karen and Bill moved to Charleston where he would soon build his successful company, Palmetto Gunite Construction Company. “With a four-and-a-half-month deer season and no limits, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!” he laughs. “A lot of people think Charleston folks are standoffish, but in my experience, that is just not true. People from Charleston are absolutely the most hospitable people in the world!”
Bill recalls his early friendships with those of an older generation: “So many people took me in when we moved here. I met friends from Walterboro and a lot of old island people from James Island. Lewis [Uncle Lewie] Godbold and Richard Dawson taught me how to saltwater fish and grain for flounder. When Uncle Lewie died, I put a brand new, five-foot Old Salt cast net in his casket, and I have stainless steel grains for my coffin. So come Judgment Day, we are going to meet up, and we’ll have our tools with us!”
Bill found another mentor in “Big Frank” Ford, who lived to be a hundred years old and provided Snow with invaluable business advice and assistance. “Bubba, you had better be careful what you say to people around here because you never know who they are related to!” the elder wisely warned. “The first time I deer hunted in South Carolina,” Snow continues, “was in 1980 at Middleton Hunting Club with Frank’s son Billy Ford. And let me tell you, that high-society hunting on horseback was a culture shock for a poor redneck boy from Alabama!” He smiles before adding, “But everybody I met there was very nice to me!”
In 1991, Snow bought a place at Ravenswood on Edisto Island. During the years, he purchased neighboring hunting tracts. When I visited Bill at his property, two friends were in town for an annual hunting weekend; both gentlemen are retired officers of the United States Army Special Forces: Major General Jim Parker and Lieutenant Colonel Ress Wilson. On Bill’s land, plush deer stands overlook well-maintained food plots. The property includes a five-stand shooting course to sharpen your skills at the clean dove field across the road. “I enjoy taking people hunting with me,” he says. I especially enjoy having families with children come out to hunt.”
For 12 years, Snow and some friends leased 700 acres of Salt Landing on Edisto. Years ago, storied Edisto farmer Raymond Tumbleston pointed out to Bill that “there’s a sandy ridge on the farm fields, and it runs across Edisto Island from Point of Pines to Salt Landing. It would take a farmer to realize that, and he was right,” Snow says. Raymond always said “the biggest deer on Edisto are 200 yards on either side of that salt ridge. One night at Salt Landing early in the season, I shot a big nine-point buck in velvet that is mounted on the wall in my office.” The same evening, Travis Graves harvested a big piebald, eight-point, and Ress killed a giant nine-point.
Besides pursuing big game at Salt Point and his own Ravenswood for 30 years, Bill and friends also hunted Dungannon Plantation in Hollywood. At that club, Legare Warren was the longtime huntmaster, while other members included Seabrook Platt, Frank O. Davis, Eben Rumph, Bill Chaplin and Billy Altman. “We were a family,” Bill says. “Every year, we held a big cookout on the first Sunday in December.” Dungannon was primarily still hunting, but the club did have dog hunts and man-drives between Christmas and New Year’s.
In addition to hunting Lowcountry white-tailed deer, Bill Snow has traveled far and wide in search of sporting quarry. He first went out West in the early 1980s. In Wyoming, he and a friend embarked on a self-guided antelope hunt on public land supervised by the Bureau of Land Management. He has taken mule deer in Montana, made several trips to New Mexico for elk, hunted elk and mule deer in Colorado and harvested mule deer in Idaho. He has gone to Kansas and Texas for white-tailed deer, and he harvested a mountain goat on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Snow also enjoyed a 23-year tradition of shooting pheasants in South Dakota. He has traveled to Mexico for white-wing doves, though one such trip was disrupted by Hurricane Hugo.
Journeys north have also been productive. Bill has hunted Central Canadian barren ground caribou in Northwestern Territories, woodland caribou in Newfoundland and black bear, cougar and Shiras moose in British Columbia. A Victoria Island trip included a muskox hunt. When his son Will graduated from high school, he and Bill went after Quebec-Labrador caribou. When his other son, Robert, graduated, they went to British Columbia, where Robert killed a mountain lion and lynx to contribute to Robert’s locally taken bobcat. Rounding off Snow’s North America trophy room in his John’s Island home is a water buffalo he shot in Honduras.
Bill’s Edisto house boasts trophy rooms for his trips to Africa and Europe, respectively. On two trips to Africa, he has dispatched a slew of species: Cape buffalo, impala, blue and black wildebeest, red hartebeest, kudu, blesbok, gemsbok and warthog.
The European trophy room includes southern kin from Australia — rusa deer and red stag. Bill has killed red stag and roe deer in Scotland; roe deer were harvested on property bordering Balmoral Castle. He has hunted sika deer, red stag and Irish ibex in Ireland. In France, he took mouflon and red stag. Finally, Spain contributed fallow deer and Beceite ibex.
John at Château de Laplanque with his red stag.
“I like to go see places and meet people, and if I take a representative animal home with me, I am thankful, but if I don’t, I am fine with that too,” says Snow. “I bear-hunted in Maine and did not get one, but it was still a great trip.” Bill especially cherishes his journeys, considering that his family never traveled during his youth, save trips to Dallas and Canada with his church youth group.
Bill is proud of having earned the rank of Eagle Scout, a fraternity he shares with both his sons; he often notes that “Boy Scouts saved my life”; and as such, he donates the proceeds of his annual Abbapoola Creek Outdoor Sports Society skeet shoot to the Scouts. In addition, Bill is a past president of Coastal Carolina Boy Scouts of America and the Coastal Boys Council. Besides running his business and pursuing his hunting activities, Bill believes in giving back through service. Currently, he serves as president of Safari Club International, Lowcountry Chapter and the James Island Dance Club. He is the former vice chair of the South Carolina Conservation Bank. Additional past president roles include the Civil Engineers Club of Charleston and the American Subcontractors Association of the Carolinas, Charleston Chapter.
“I have never had an animal scored; it just doesn’t mean anything to me,” he explains, reflecting on what the sporting life has meant to him. “I don’t compare my hunt to others. I just enjoy the experience. Hunters are the best conservationists because we appreciate everything the outdoors has to offer. I don’t know how anyone could look at the Lowcountry outdoors and not believe in God.
“I just feel so blessed to believe in God’s blessings, accept that Jesus died for my sins and to have been so fortunate to live here and enjoy all that He has given us. Along with my wife, Karen, my sons and their families, I know I am blessed by an almighty and benevolent God beyond anything I can ever earn.”
Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at email@example.com.