Retreats on the Fly
Whether you want to stalk a stream or fold a pheasant, these five far-flung lodges are already among the country’s best outdoor escapes. Now Nicholas Air makes getting to them easier than ever
Commercial airlines aren’t designed for sportsmen. Most every hunter or angler has a story about touching down in a remote locale for an outing only to discover that a checked rod, a side-by-side, or a duffel of gear was lost in transit—a headache that can derail a trip. Since 1997, however, Nicholas Air, a private-jet membership club, has provided outdoorsmen a remedy to such anxiety-inducing travel with its fleet of luxury planes designed to ensure safe and reliable transportation (Pilatus PC-12s, Phenom 100, Citation CJ3, Phenom 300, and Citation Latitude jets), available through its jet-card and jet-lease programs. Headquartered in Columbus, Mississippi, with offices throughout the United States, the family-oriented company affords you and your companions the chance to travel in comfort and, best yet, to keep your dogs, gear, and guns together on board. That way, you can go from flight to field in no time—and with no hassle.
“We’re serious hunters ourselves,” Nicholas Air CEO NJ Correnti says. “Because of our experience outdoors, we know how to cater to the precise needs of sportsmen for seamless, easy travel in ways that other services don’t.” Because after all, your big adventure should be spent in the field with family and friends, not killing time in a terminal waiting for your lost luggage to show up.
Here are five prime hunting-and-fishing lodges across the country, all within a short drive of a private airport, so you can get afield comfortably and quickly with Nicholas Air.
Flying B Ranch
Kamiah, Idaho, via Idaho County Airport or Lewiston–Nez Perce County Regional Airport
You can find great bird hunting throughout the eastern United States, no doubt. But if you want to chase birds in the true uplands, you need to head west. Located in the mountains of north-central Idaho, Flying B Ranch—a 14,000-square-foot lodge, established in 1985, and a Nicholas Air partner—occupies 5,000 acres of rolling prairie and canyon, loaded with California quail, chukars, pheasant, and blue and ruffed grouse, in the bull’s-eye of the region’s best wing-shooting corridor. The elevation ranges from 1,100 feet to 3,200 feet, in two different outfitting areas, with the surrounding mountains reaching 8,000, so it wouldn’t hurt to get some hikes in beforehand. But the lodge assures that it can accommodate sportsmen of all physical abilities. If you’re up for a real challenge, hit the nearby Clearwater River for a chance to hook a steelhead, as part of Flying B’s cast-and-blast package.
Brays Island Plantation
Sheldon, South Carolina, via Beaufort County Airport
No doubt you’ve heard of Brays Island. This sprawling Lowcountry estate, outside historic Beaufort, South Carolina, totals some 5,500 acres, more than 90 percent of which is held in common and includes a vast wilderness preserve, teeming with deer, doves, pheasant, turkeys, and quail. Since the late 1980s—when Brays was converted from a working farm into a private preservation-minded community, now with 325 homesites and a private inn for guests—it has earned a reputation for being one of the premier sporting destinations in the South, thanks to its seemingly endless tract of fields, marsh, and woods to hunt and explore. Should you need a warm-up before heading afield, Brays, also a Nicholas Air partner, offers a fifteen-station sporting clays course, designed by renowned gunmaker Holland & Holland, and more than thirty flushing and pointing dogs ready to accompany you when you do head out.
Joshua Creek Ranch
Boerne, Texas, via Kerrville Municipal Airport
Forget what you’ve heard: You don’t need to leave the South to find good pheasant hunting. Joshua Creek Ranch, a 1,300-acre pristine swath of Texas Hill Country, north of San Antonio, boasts rooster numbers that can rival that of the Dakotas, along with an abundance of free-roaming quail and chukars mixed in. Opened for guests in 1990, Joshua Creek has fast become a favorite among diehard bird hunters not only for its action afield, of which there is plenty, but also for its amenities, including a converted 1950s homestead that serves as the main dining hall and beautiful hilltop guest lodges, with striking vistas of the Texas Hill Country. Joshua Creek has populations of axis deer, doves, turkeys, and whitetails to boot, should you want a break from upland, along with a twenty-station sporting clays course. So, sure, you certainly can schlep to the Midwest to find good pheasant hunting. But with Joshua Creek, there’s really no need to.
Brazos River Lodge
Chama, New Mexico, via Taos Regional Airport
Located in the mountains of northern New Mexico, the Brazos River Lodge lies at least twenty miles from the nearest paved road. Surrounded nearly on all sides by the Carson National Forest and Cruces Basin Wilderness, it totals some 5,000 acres, and it is, by most any metric, one of the most remote sporting camps left in the Lower 48. As if the isolation weren’t appeal enough, the eight-guest lodge sits alongside one of the Southwest’s most prime trout streams—the Rio Brazos, a forty-two-mile tributary of the Rio Chama that, at places high in the mountains, measures no more than four or five feet wide. The rainbows that lurk in its pools are no small fry, though, topping out at five or six pounds—huge fish for the region, and huge fish anywhere. The four-mile stretch of the Rio Brazos that runs through the property is private, so don’t be surprised if you and your companions are the only anglers on the water. And don’t be surprised if you spot mule deer and elk lingering on the cliffs above.
South Holston River Lodge
Bristol, Tennessee, via Tri-Cities Regional Airport
You can count on one hand the number of rivers in the South where you can hook a wild twenty-inch brown trout, and the South Holston River, in northeastern Tennessee, is chief among them. The fifteen-mile tailwater has earned a reputation as one of the top trout spots not only east of the Rockies but anywhere in the country. And no surprise. The South Holston has an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 fish per mile, with a good number of reproducing rainbows among the wild browns, which haven’t been stocked since 2003. The South Holston River Lodge, founded in 2009 and the only Orvis-endorsed lodge in the area, sits right alongside this prime fishery. The cabins are cozy and comfortable—perfect for relaxing after a day of hauling overfed slabs into the boat.
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