November is the hunter’s month.
Cool breezes and frosty mornings awaken a primal stirring. An irresistible attraction pulls you to the woods and marshlands as oak leaves float to the forest floor and snow geese pierce the cold blue predawn with honks and whistles from high overhead. A shredded pine sapling—amber sap still oozing—tells you a whitetail buck passed through not long ago. It’s barely past first light and, regardless of what else happens, it’s already been a great day. These are the hunter’s true trophies. We crave the experience just as much as we crave fresh, wild venison and duck breasts. And we’re always on the lookout for those special places that allow us to escape back to the woods, if only for a bit.
Back in the day, hunting lodges were where mostly men came to get away. It was bright days afield with the boys then back to the lodge for a hearty meal. Pipe smoke filled the lounge as a crackling fire slowly turned hickory logs into blackened coals glowing orange. Bourbon, the color of autumn itself, filled every glass and often a toast was offered to the men, to the woods and to the game.
You can still plan a weekend at the lodge with just the fellows (or just the gals), and you can still experience the lodges of yesteryear: hearty meals, crackling fires, bourbon in the glass. But now you can also hike, kayak, bike, photograph or just enjoy nature as the day unfolds with your family. You can take an eco-tour to gain a better understanding of the wildlife and ecosystems. And regardless of your experience (or lack thereof) in the woods, you can still hunt.
The hunting lodges we’ve found here in the Southeast offer an authentic Southern outdoor experience. Knowledgeable guides can put you on game and thousands of acres are thoughtfully managed with an eye toward conservation of the wildlife and the hunting culture. But if hunting isn’t your thing, if outdoor adventure can wait, you can also do nothing except bask in the November sun with a good book, daydreaming about dinner.
Greenheads in the Timber
Five Oaks Duck Lodge | Humphrey, Arkansas
Greenheads in flooded timber is quintessential Arkansas duck hunting. No need for a blind. Intimate. In-your-face. Intense. (A well-known duck hunter with more than 65 seasons under his belt proclaimed he’d rather shoot one duck in the timber than 50 in the fields.) And Five Oaks Duck Lodge is possibly the best duck hunting acreage in the heart of Arkansas’s premier duck country.
For starters, it’s owned by legendary Arkansas conservationist George H. Dunklin Jr. As a former member and chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, former president of Ducks Unlimited and 2009 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year, Dunklin has spent most of his life conserving duck habitat and duck hunting in Arkansas. Add a guide rotation with over 100 years of combined experience and there’s no doubt these guys can put you on ducks. The lodge isn’t far from Bayou Meto, one of the best public land duck spots in Arkansas. Factor in tightly controlled access with habitat designed and tailor-made by a staff biologist, and there’s no comparison. You’ll likely have one of the best hunts of your life. (fiveoaksducklodge.com)
For the Bone Hunter
Tara Wildlife | Vicksburg, Mississippi
There’s something about antlers that’s tough to put into words but impossible to ignore. Watch a hunter handle the rack from a previous kill. Watch their fingers glide over every bump and point. The reverence borders on spiritual. The tines, beams, spread and mass of a whitetail buck’s rack says a lot about the age, health and genetic luck of the deer. Generally speaking, the bigger the antlers the older and wiser the deer—big deer don’t get big by being dumb.
If you’re a whitetail hunter, you’ve likely already heard of Tara Wildlife, known as the premier destination for big Southeastern bucks. Tara manages their property to promote a balanced herd and mature deer. Add top-notch guides to the mix and there’s no better place south of the Mason-Dixon Line to experience the whitetail hunt of a lifetime.
Although Tara is archery-only hunting and requires a proficiency with the bow that comes only with practice, they also offer more than deer hunting. Depending on how many folks you want to bring along, you can choose between the lodge, the cabin or the camp house. Hike, canoe or bike through wildlife-filled woodlands and waterways to your heart’s content. (tarawildlife.com)
A Refined Pursuit
Cabin Bluff Cumberland River Resort | Woodbine, Georgia
There is no more gentlemanly bird than bobwhite quail, and there is no more gentlemanly hunt than bobwhites with pointers. Pursuing the dapper little birds through Southern pine savannas with a fine shotgun nestled in the crook of your arm, just behind a pair of well-bred bird dogs, is hunting in Dixie at its finest. Thing is, bobwhite quail are tough to find in Arkansas nowadays. Once the premier game bird across the state, bobwhite have been in steep decline for decades. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is working on this issue right now, but until quail populations rebound in our own woods, you can head to Cabin Bluff Cumberland River Resort in Woodbine, Georgia, and enjoy the experience as it should be enjoyed.
With a picturesque landscape, Cabin Bluff also offers activities for the non-hunters in your group. Bike, hike, kayak or head out on a short boat ride to Cumberland Island, where you might see wild horses whose ancestors trace back 500 years to survivors of the Spanish galleons that sank nearby. Or just enjoy the Atlantic breeze from the front porch of your private cabin as it rustles through the Spanish moss. (cabinbluff.com)
Louisiana Fins and Feathers
Cajun Fishing Adventures | Buras, Louisiana
Louisiana isn’t known as the “Sportsman’s Paradise” for nothing. The Mississippi River built southern Louisiana over eons with nutrient-rich silt carried down from America’s fertile heartland. The result is a marsh habitat so full of life it boggles the mind. Waterfowl are everywhere you look. Pintail, gadwall, widgeon, redhead, canvasback, scaup, ringneck, blue- and green-winged teal, even a smattering of mallards can flash across the skies. And the waters teem with redfish, speckled trout, black drum, flounder and other species that can put a serious bend in the rod. November days offer the best of both worlds with a Cast-and-Blast combo from Cajun Fishing Adventures.
Start your day in the blind waiting on the flocks with some of Louisiana’s finest guides. After a morning of camo and feathers, head back to the lodge for a Cajun-inspired lunch, and then it’s off to legitimate world-class fishing. My personal favorite is redfish on the fly rod, and if you’re lucky enough to share a boat with Cajun Fishing Adventures owner Ryan Lambert, get ready to learn and be entertained. The man’s life is rooted in Louisiana marshes.
If fish and fowl aren’t your game, take an eco-tour around the marsh—the sheer quantity of life is overwhelming. (cajunfishingadventures.com)
A Rite of Passage
Prairie Wildlife | West Point, Mississippi
The trail to woodsmanship for a young would-be hunter is blazed by a mentor. Someone must take the time to teach skills and awareness, to instill a sense of respect and humility for both the land and the animals. Prairie Wildlife in West Point, Mississippi, understands this and has designed a First Game package for the budding Nimrod and their teacher. It’s an overnight stay that includes three meals, half a day of wingshooting bobwhite quail and half a day for rabbits. The new hunter can also try his or her hand at deer hunting for an additional charge. And after the hunt, after the celebration of wild game and the initiation of another member to the tribe, the land is honored for its gifts with a tree-planting ceremony.
Prairie Wildlife offers a plethora of hunting experiences. There’s wingshooting for bobwhite quail, dove, pheasants and the small game experience of rabbits with beagles that almost every country boy or girl remembers from their youth. Whitetail deer are also plentiful.
Prairie Wildlife takes pride in its conservation efforts that include eradication of invasive plants and planting native varieties, fencing to keep cattle out of waterways, and encouraging ground cover vegetation, which is critical game-bird habitat. Prairie Wildlife claims that 80 cents of every dollar worth of revenue goes toward preserving the habitat and ecosystems, passing on the legacy of conservation to the next generations. (prairiewildlife.com)