It’s our beautiful autumn season. Are you excited for your long-awaited big-game dream hunt in a few weeks in one of our nation’s most wild places? You applied for your tag sometime last year then celebrated after receiving it. Did you spend the entire summer memorizing topographic maps and running up and down the steps of our local high school football stadium until your thighs burned like the fires from hell?
Yeah, me neither. It seems like those scenarios are what most glossy magazines seem to write about and we, for the most part, only dream of. For the majority, life is a little more complicated.
I have great friends who travel North America each season, year after year, in pursuit of our country’s wildest game. Am I jealous? Absolutely not, I am happy for them. Do I feel a bit envious? You bet.
The true fact is you need to win the lottery to draw for a coveted tag and pay for such adventures. I don’t know about you, but the only thing I have ever won from the lottery is the chance to scratch off a ticket.
I guess I can’t complain, though. Through the years I have been afforded the opportunities to traipse through the Canadian bush, Montana Rockies and the Alaskan wilderness. And each of those times I enjoyed it with a pack on my back and rifle in hand.
Listening to a royal bull elk bugle in the morning mist or standing in awe as a brown bear steps into sight with snow capped mountains as a backdrop literally takes your breath away. Lands so great that regardless of socio-economic status, man is nothing but an insignificant speck. These are things every human being should experience at least once in their lives.
But what about those in-between years? For me, there have been too many. There is another option that shouldn’t be ruled out. I have had just as much fun putting together short hunting road trips with family and friends. Maybe it was four days hunting grouse in Michigan, pheasants in Iowa or turkey in Missouri. Sure, it may not have had the grandeur or excitement as some far away destination, but they were just as memorable.
Even sweeter, these do-it-yourself trips are a lot less expensive and easier to plan with only a few weeks notice. And, nothing says some of these trips can’t take place in our own state of Indiana, maybe visiting an area you’ve never been before.
Avid hunter and Kokomo resident Roger Eubank knows the fun of putting together trips within a day’s drive from home. Several years back, on a whim, he traveled to Nebraska.
“Although it wasn’t Idaho or Wyoming, we had one of the greatest times,” he explained.
Since then he has returned on several more occasions with his son Lane.
“We leave early in the morning and get there in the evening,” Lane said. “It is a total blast.”
Jerry Cranor is another who realizes the value of not-so-far-off hunting adventures. Every fall the quality control supervisor and several of his friends spend a week deer hunting and camping in neighboring states.
“We originally started hunting the Hoosier National Forest in 1990 then expanded from there,” he explained.
Since then they have traveled to Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan. This is a far cry from the towering peaks or expansive drainages found in more distant regions, but just as enjoyable.
“Although we don’t travel too far, it’s something we look forward to all year long,” said Cranor. “We rarely go to the same place twice.”
Instead, they opt to experience different areas, all within a six-hour drive from central Indiana.
“And besides,” he added, “it’s easier on the wallet.”
Another advantage of these types of trips is ease in planning.
“Everyone is so busy that pinning them down a year in advance is hard,” Cranor explained. “We have planned some of our trips inside of two or three weeks. Some of our impromptu hunts have turned out to be the most fun.”
But, what Eubank and Cranor both know, is that any true hunting adventure is about much more than the game they seek.
“Even if I come home with nothing, I don’t really care,” they both said.
What they are doing is enjoying the great outdoors in an area maybe they’ve never been before, reachable by a tank or two of gas. They sit around a crackling campfire with family or friends, sipping drinks and trying to figure out a new land.
It sure beats staying home, sitting in the same few tree stands all fall and hoping to win the lottery!
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.