The high desert is a beautiful place to hunt. I met Gio Schianna at the YMCA High Desert Hunt Club.
I didn’t even get to the Arizona line before I realized my mistake. The top was down and I was marveling at the rough mountains and remarkable terrain of the Nevada desert. It had already occurred to me I was going to be driving across the country on roughly the same route Todd and Buzz had traversed in their Corvette convertible way back in the 60s. I wasn’t in a Corvette convertible; I was in an old Mustang Convertible I’d just bought in Las Vegas. I should have driven back to Las Vegas and arranged for my wife, Cherie, to fly out on the next plane to join me for the ride back. It would have been a wonderful adventure, but I didn’t make the call. By the time I was half way across Arizona, I wished I had.
Also see: Six Ways to Get Started Hunting
Since that time, Cherie and I have made several trips across America, and I’ve loved every one. I even enjoyed the one when she caught the flu at SHOT Show and we canceled our diversions along the route home for me to drive straight back on I-40. This week, we’re driving across again. We’ll hunt quail at Dream Ranch in Guntersville, Alabama, shoot ducks and geese with Calcasieu Charters in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and hunt pheasants and quail at Joshua Creek Ranch in Bourne, Texas.
We may stop off at the Rust Ranch to see James Keeton, a friend of ours from a previous trip. Maybe we’ll even have time to shoot a pig while we’re there. On the way home, we plan to visit the YMCA High Desert hunt club in Mayer, Arizona, where they’ll be hosting a youth pheasant hunt for kids who need hunting mentors. With a little luck, I might hook up with my friend, Giovanni Schianna, for some Gamble’s quail hunting, or maybe we’ll hook up with our friend, Dane Swinburn, for a goose or pheasant hunt in Texas at Tule Creek Outfitters.
For the sportsman, a cross country trip can make the memory of a lifetime. It does require some planning but aided by the unlimited power of the internet, you can put together a trip that allows you to see America and come home with all sorts of outdoor adventures. Here are some ideas that might convince you how much fun you can have and help make the adventure even better.
We found Tule Outfitters by accident but had a great day hunting pheasants with Dane Swinburn and family on CRP land near Tulia Texas. Cross country road trips are a great way to make friends.
Choose the right vehicle
My very first trip alone with that Mustang was great fun, but most trips with fishing, hunting, or shooting will require a bit more space. Minivans and SUVs work best to hold your gear and allow you the room to rattle around in. We’ve used a van for a few trips and I made a platform to allow the dogs to sit at eye level with the windows and store gear underneath. Minivans get good mileage and are comfortable to drive, but not much fun.
This trip, we’ll be doing an extended road test of Nissan’s Pathfinder SUV. An SUV is certainly a good choice for trips across fly-over country in winter because the weather can shut you down. The Pathfinder is loaded with comfort features and offers great mileage and plenty of room for our gear. Many thanks to our friend, Jake Inman at High Point Nissan, for showing us how to run all the technology on the Pathfinder.
Break the trip up with diversions
On our trips, we try not to drive more than a six-hour leg. Some of the trip we’ll spend multiple days in one town, but normally, we’re in a different town every night. The diversions can be anything you like to do. A scenic location for a picnic, a stroll down Beale Street, a fishing trip with a guide, or a visit to a National Park, are all things we like to do. You might have friends and family to visit, or you may do as we do and visit our friends from previous trips.
Plan ahead for what you’ll need
If you go to the deep South in winter, figure that you’ll need winter clothing at least once. If you go North in the middle of summer, figure you’ll need winter clothing at least once. On a summer trip in July, along the Northern Tier states, we almost froze and Cherie wound up using Lucy, our beagle as a bed warmer. Also, bring something to wear in really warm weather; long trips often involve drastic changes in climate.
Make a list and check it twice
You can add considerable cost to a cross country trip if you don’t plan for what you’ll need and have to buy stuff you already have at home. I’ve had to buy a hunting vest, I’ve had to buy a fishing rod, and I’ve spent a half a day in Arizona looking for 16 gauge shotgun shells. Lay out everything you plan to do and put the stuff together before you begin packing.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Most locations have a CVB or Community Visitors Bureau and those folks can be a boon. They often know of little things you might not think of that can make your trip much more enjoyable. One of the most memorable things Cherie and I have ever done in our travels is attending a coon dog funeral. Yes, it sounds strange, but the National Coon Dog Cemetery is in Colbert County, Alabama, and it’s an interesting place even when there’s no funeral. I wound up becoming part of the event, by helping lower the casket in the grave, and it was something I’ll never forget. By the way, I cried during part of that funeral, and I was far from being the only one. As we lowered old Merch, the coon hound into that grave, I was thinking of all the wonderful dogs I’ve laid to rest, and I was moved to tears.
One of the most memorable things we’ve done on a cross country sporting trip was a decision to do a desert hike. We were driving Interstate 40 towards Kingman, Arizona when I told Cherie I wanted to do a desert hike. We bought sandwiches and drinks in Kingman, and as we drove, we watched for a good spot. We saw a small mountain, a hill really, a half mile or so off the highway, and decided to climb it. At the top, we had a little picnic and watched the desert sun go down over the mountains. At one point, with the sun to our backs, we could see our shadow a half mile away on the desert floor.
We live in a wonderful place, but there are wonderful places all over this country. It humbles me to see the diversity of God’s creation. It renews us; it connects us with humanity to see how others live their lives. I think we might just climb that hill on the far side of Kingman again this year. I think I’d like to see our shadows on the desert floor again.