An Outfitter for Every State – Garden & Gun – Garden & Gun Magazine

An Outfitter for Every State – Garden & Gun – Garden & Gun Magazine

Alabama: Birding

Forty-five minutes northwest of Selma, Christopher Joe and his father, Cornelius, operate Connecting with Birds and Nature Tours on their two-hundred-acre working cattle farm in Newbern. “It’s a multi-habitat piece of land,” the younger Joe explains of the farm’s prairie, creeks, hay fields, and deep hardwood forest. “Over in the wetlands we see white ibis, wood storks, herons, and egrets. We see bald eagles every tour.” Visitors hike, cycle, and camp, but the site’s most popular activity is bird-watching. The family partners with Alabama Audubon and can accommodate private tours and small groups as well as large gatherings for up to 140 people. They’re as comfortable showing beginners how to use binoculars as they are guiding seasoned bird-watchers to find Mississippi kites, petite Southern birds of prey. The Joes also believe birding is for everyone regardless of mobility, and they offer accessible tours via an eighteen-foot spring-loaded trailer that they can move around the property to scout out swallowtails, pileated woodpeckers, and vibrant indigo buntings.

illustration: Tim Bower

Arkansas: Cycling

Some 85 percent of county roads remain unpaved in the Natural State, and for cyclists, that means miles and miles of heaven, bliss, and Valhalla all bundled into one giant scoop of Ozarks rocky road. “It’s so big and so untapped,” says Danny Collins, an Ozarks native who founded 37 North Expeditions with his wife, Cristina Bustamante, after moonlighting as an expedition manager for National Geographic at a lodge in South America. But while the roads looping around Fayetteville and Bentonville might be rugged, the guarantee of support vans bringing up the rear of a cycling pack, catered creekside lunches, and stop-offs at pubs, including Ivory Bill Brewing Co. and Tall Pines Distillery, places 37 North’s guided rides decidedly in the beaten-path camp. As Collins says, they want the focus to be on everything save the details so the riders can “get sweaty, get connected, get happy.”

Florida: Fishing

Based on Marco Island, Andy Lee of Grassroots Guiding can be as goal oriented as any hard-core guide. You want to target hundred-pound migrating tarpon? During the spring migration, he chases them a hundred days in a row. After double-digit snook on the fly? He’s game. But one of his favorite ways to spend a day in the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands is to let the tides and the weather and the fish in this vast marine backcountry tell you what they have in mind. He’ll run his smaller Hell’s Bay skiff, a fourteen-foot, eight-inch Devil Ray, into a place he calls “the way, way back,” and be open to whatever the mangrove wilderness has to offer on a given day. “When the way, way back is happening, it’s something to be seen,” Lee says. “You get back into some tiny pond and you might catch a largemouth, you might catch a baby tarpon, or you might catch a snook. It has that virgin, unpressured feel. It’s just a giant playground where you can explore and try new things.”

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fishing and hunting expeditions