3 weeks ago
In the ongoing battle for guys to enjoy their Y chromosome auras without clumsily bashing around the world we live in, there is no more out of touch and indefensible image than the smiling, well-heeled, Eddie Bauer-clad buffoon — squatting (high-powered rifle in hand) alongside the lion, elephant or rhino he downed in Africa on some fenced-in and stocked preserve. When an animal can’t run too far away or fight back, hunting becomes target practice. Worse still, when an animal dies so its head can hang in some McMansion’s sitting room, it’s not sporting, but vanity.
While previous eras embraced the images of Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway posed over their quarry, such sights now smack of cruelty and excess. So, for those men who want to indulge their hunter/gatherer instincts while leaving the animals of the veldt in peace, there are recently renovated luxury resorts across the U.S. offering dedicated programs from shooting to falconry, cattle roping to trophy sportfishing — all under a safe, professional, catch and release ethos.
Reynolds Lake Oconee: Spreading across about 12,000 acres 90 minutes outside of Atlanta, this resort and luxury community nuzzles up to the nearby Ritz-Carlton – combining the ultimate high-end living experience with access to any outdoor activity under the Georgia sun.
The most prominent recent edition is the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds. Opening late last year and adding a sportsman’s option to Reynolds’ six world-class golf courses, the facility is under the direction of international shooting star and consummate gentleman instructor, Justin Jones. He designed a shooting experience to welcome the novice or the expert marksman. A 20-station shooting clays course winds through the woods, offering challenging, but manageable shots over lakes and meadows — while the traditional five stand range invites groups to compete with each other.
Away from the 12-gauge merriment, the Sporting Grounds also offers air-rifle target shooting, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and hiking.
Primland: This 12,000 acre getaway in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains was built by Primtimber and owned by billionaire Didier Primat and his family. The property includes a 72,000-square-foot lodge built alongside the Highland Golf Course time 3,000 feet above the state’s Valley of Dan and its own star observatory.
Still, its mountain location is primed for the on-site sport shooting facility, archery area, rifle range and tomahawk throwing spread. Instructors and guides are always on-hand to get the rookies started.
Unlike the other destinations explored here, Primland also prides itself on serving as an actual hunting resort. If the visitor is so inclined, he can look into the organized deer hunting expeditions, turkey shoots and bird hunts offered seasonally.
The Resort at Paws Up: Celebrating the western life under the Big Sky of Montana, Paws Up bases much of its outdoor attraction on the equestrian world. Guests enjoy two-day cattle drives across the property’s 37,000-acre spread, learning how to manage a horse, rope a cow and manage a herd.
But, the property packs a big collection of outdoor offerings that don’t require a saddle. The full sporting clays stand waits mere steps away from the rifle target range. Local guides will teach beginners the finer points of Montana fly fishing on the Blackfoot River, the archery range offers targets and simulated animals to hone hunting skills. Finally, the more frivolous visitors can take on laser tag, go-karts and off-roading.
Big Cedar Lodge: Rapidly earning its reputation as one of America’s top public golf destinations, Missouri’s Big Cedar Lodge grew out of the hunting and fishing empire of Johnny Morris – founder and owner of $3.8 billion worth of Bass Pro Shops.
Morris took to his home country in the Ozarks to build Big Cedar across its 4,600 acres. Guests fill its 260 rooms, suites, cottages and private log cabins to enjoy and perfect their more rugged skills.
The Bass Pro Shops Long Creek and Bent Hook Marinas on Table Rock Lake offer expert guided fishing excursions. The grounds also include a fully stocked stable for riders and the Bass Pro Shops Shooting Academy with professional clay shooting instructors.