May 10, 2012
By Doug Howlett
So much to do, so little time — particularly for the family man (or woman) who loves the outdoors. Besides holding down a job, taking care of the house and keeping vehicles gassed and running, once you have kids, much of your free time is spent on them. Ballgames, parties, vacations — it's hard to carve any time out for yourself. If the entire family loves to hunt, that's awesome. If not, then most hunters are forced to choose between family time and time outdoors. Fortunately, with these nine vacation destinations, you can seamlessly work them both in, making everybody — including yourself — very, very happy.
Disney World — Orlando, Fla.
Now, telling your buddies, 'I'm going to Disney World
, ' doesn't have to mean, 'I'm not going hunting. ' In fact, there is some great hunting within just a short drive of Orlando, near which the uber-theme park is located (some phenomenal fishing, too). When Walt Disney and his dummy corporations began buying up the 27,000-plus acres in central Florida where the Magic Kingdom and related parks are now situated, he plunked his play land paradise right in the middle of prime Osceola wild turkey habitat. Plan a spring break trip to Disney World with the fam, and slip in a day or two to either book a turkey hunt or hit one of the not-too-distant WMAs to score on the hardest to fill leg of the Grand Slam of turkey hunting. Go virtually anytime the rest of the year and you can experience awesome hog or gator hunting, enjoying thrills to rival any Tower of Terror or Space Mountain Disney engineers can envision. Fishing can be had right there on Disney property or you and the kids can sneak away to check out some of the area's other epic attractions such as Universal Orlando Resort
The Fork Farm and Stables — Norwood, N.C.
Just a short drive east from bustling Charlotte, N.C., and you'll find the family-friendly tranquility of Fork Farm and Stables
. The farm serves as home to the International Wing Shooting School, boasting a 12-field, 24-station sporting clays course; a seven-field, seven-station sub-gauge course; five-stand; and a six-trap, 60-foot tower and flurry. But for the sportsmen not content with clay targets, the facility also offers quail and duck hunts on their private, wooded 1,600 acres. Guided hunts for deer and organized hunts for rabbits are also scheduled at various times during the fall and winter season. If roaming far, wide and free is your thing, the boundary of the nearly 50,000-acre Uwharrie National Forest where deer, turkey, small game and waterfowl can all be hunted is less than 20 minutes away. For the non-hunters/non-shooters in the household, there is no shortage of activities to keep them going. Hiking, mountain biking, fishing, archery, golf, cooking and art classes, wildlife watching and, of course, horseback riding are all available. Stay in the farm's eight-room bed and breakfast situated in a rustic lodge.
WB Ranch — Whitney, Texas
A mere 80 miles southwest of the Dallas area, the WB Ranch
offers the quintessential Texas experience complete with the opportunity to participate in a City Slickers
-like longhorn roundup complete with meals from a chuck wagon. Situated on nearly 2,000 acres of oak forests, sunflower fields, hills and bluffs along the Brazos River (the WB boasts three miles of river frontage), visitors can enjoy some serious wildlife watching of exotic game such as free-ranging red stag, gemsbok, fallow deer, zebra, axis deer, blackbuck antelope and more. For those hunters not content to watch, the ranch offers hunting for whitetails, turkeys, ducks, dove and upland birds. When you're not in the field or on the cattle trail, join the family for sporting clays on the WB's two courses, or let the guns rest and try some hiking, biking, horseback riding, archery, golf, swimming, fishing, ATV tours and airboat rides on the Brazos. There's even a spa. No need to rough it here in the ranch's 27-room lodge with fully appointed Ralph Lauren decor, and dine on gourmet fare with a Texas flair by Executive Chef Bruce Jernigan.
At Boulder's Edge — Rockbridge, Ohio
Stay in one of their rustic cabins or enjoy a few nights in a real tipi at the At Boulder's Edge Cabin and Tipi Retreat
with trails right from your front door to some of the largest rock bridge formations in the country. Located in Rockbridge, Ohio, the family is minutes from sightseeing at several caves, biking, bird watching, canoeing, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and zip line tours
. Meanwhile, you can slip out alone or with the whole crew to scout and hunt the more than 200,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest
. At Boulder's Edge sits just outside the forest's southwestern boundary. Spread over several counties, the Wayne consists of rugged hills, hardwood forest and open fields where huge Ohio whitetails, gobbling turkeys and abundant small game call home. Plan a trip anytime of the year and see what's in season.
Class VI Mountain River — Fayetteville, W.V.
The older kids won't want to miss this autumnal adventure when the Upper Gauley is raging and offering some of the most balls-out, adrenaline-charged whitewater rafting found in North America. Experience true Class V rapids and then laugh about how you cheated death at one of Class VI's
three delicious restaurants. Then wake up early and slip out to the adjacent New River Gorge National River for bowhunting whitetails or chasing fall turkeys, small game and maybe even black bear depending on the time of year you visit. Go in the spring and enjoy some excellent spring gobbler hunting on public land
or with one of the area's outfitters
. Class VI is a well-appointed full-service adventure resort situated on the rim overlooking the New River, and besides restaurants, is complete with lodging in cabins of various sizes and amenities, as well as camping availability. Other activities that can include the younger kids, like rafting on the tamer New River, excellent smallmouth fishing in the New River, skeet and trap shooting, ATV tours, hiking, caving, rock climbing, paintball and kayaking. There are playgrounds for the little ones and for the shoppers or hippies among us, lots of cool coffee houses, gift and art shops and restaurants in nearby Fayetteville. Visit over the third Saturday in October and you'll want to head right down the road for Bridge Day. That's when BASE jumpers from across Mother Earth gather to risk their necks and all 205 other bones in their bodies and leap over the side of the 876-foot-tall New River Gorge Bridge, the second largest single-arch bridge in the world, praying their parachutes will open. Usually they do.
The Big Island — Hawaii
The flight will be about the most expensive thing to this trip, but if you're looking for the ultimate family vacation, visit the Big Island of Hawaii
, where the family can soak up some year-round rays at one of the island's many beaches, shop and catch a deep sea charter out of Hilo or Kona or spend the night amidst lava — some of it not so old — at Volcanoes National Park
. The park itself offers hiking and sightseeing on black lava beaches and a view of an ever-spewing volcano in terrain that looks like something out of Jurassic Park. There's public hunting
available for wild turkeys, feral hogs and feral goats on several management areas and reserves. There are also quality outfitters, including Parker Ranch Hunting Tours
and Hawaii Safaris
operated by Fischer Outfitters. Hunts can be had for turkeys (Rios), black Hawaiian sheep, ibex, Vancouver bull, Polynesian boar and feral goats. Big game hunts are open year round. Upland bird and turkey are seasonal.
Vista Verde — Steamboat Springs, Colo.
A luxury Rocky Mountain lodge that offers adventure for everyone in the fall, winter and spring, Vista Verde is located just north of Steamboat Springs not far from the Wyoming line and in the middle of the Routt National Forest. The facility boasts a luxury lodge and nine cabins to accommodate guests there to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and snowmobiling from December through March and mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, rock climbing, rafting and kayaking June through the end of September. Cooking classes and specially tailored kids activities are available in both winter and summer sessions. You can even enjoy massages and hot air balloon rides, though probably not at the same time. Leave the kids at home on this one and visit the lodge with your spouse between Aug. 26 and Sept. 30 when Vista Verde becomes adults only. As luck would have it, this also at the peak of archery elk and mule deer seasons
, and the 2.7 million-acre Routt is one of the best public land hunting locations for wapiti. Bring the family to ski in the winter and slip out a few days to pursue mountain lions in the Routt (either Colorado or Wyoming) or surrounding hunt units. Improve your odds and hook up with a local outfitter and his hounds such as Silver Creek Outfitters
, Steamboat Lake Outfitters
or Elkhorn Outfitters
. If the powder is good, the rest of the family will never even notice you're gone!
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The Grand Strand
is one of the premier beach destinations on the East Coast drawing beach goers from up and down the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada. With it's countless restaurants, stores, shows, hotels, miles of beach, mild climate and as many as 115 golf courses, it's no surprise that the area that stretches for as much as 60 miles of South Carolina coast draws more than 13.6 million visitor a year. But while beach weather lingers, what a lot of visitors don't realize is some of the great hunting to be had. Hog hunting is available year round in a rapidly growing number of places in the Carolinas (Low Country Preserve
in nearby Tabor City, N.C. sells hog hunts for as little as $150), while deer seasons start early (Sept. 1 for bow to the north end, Aug. 15 to the southern end, with gun seasons opening Sept. 15 and Sept. 1 in each respective end of the Grand Strand). Head just under two hours farther south and enjoy the earliest firearms whitetail season opener in the country with an Aug. 15 start date in the Lowcountry. Visit in spring as the beaches start to warm up and you can catch some great turkey hunting in the 258,816-acre Francis Marion National Forest
just an hour-and-a-half away from the glitz and partying going on at the beach. Francis Marion offers plenty of deer hunting too, just don't expect bruisers like you'll find in the Midwest.
Rough Creek Lodge and Resort — Glen Rose, Texas
Rough Creek Lodge and Resort
boasts as many as 79 activities to enjoy during your visit. Among the top choices include sporting clays; 5-stand; wobble/trap; rifle range shooting; shooting instruction; catch-and-release fishing on an 80-acre stocked lake for bass, crappie and catfish; horseback riding; swimming; hiking; kayaking; ATV rides; rock climbing; a bungee trampoline; zip lines; golf and even a spa. For the sportsman, there is hunting for whitetail deer, wild turkeys, elk, upland birds, predators and exotic game right there on the 11,000-acre property. No need to even leave the resort. Slip out for a hunt and come back to enjoy the culinary stylings of Chef Gerard Thompson. Need a break from the little ones? Rough Creek even offers babysitting. They've thought of everything!
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.