21 Hangouts for Hunters
September 29, 2015
I am fortunate to live in the middle of what amounts to a grouse and woodcock cover here in mid-Maine, and routinely hunt out my back or front door. Unless I'm heading up to my north woods camp I rarely travel more than 15 minutes to local bird covers.
But many bird hunters travel considerable distances with their dogs and hunting buddies to satisfy their bird-hunting addiction. Along the way they find hunter-friendly places to buy their licenses, stock up on gear, and enjoy a hot meal — and satisfy a thirst.
Being the homebody bird hunter that I am, I reached out to my membership on "Upland Journal," the upland bird-hunting bulletin board I've been running for over 12 years.
I asked for input on the "Hangouts" for hunters my members have discovered — places across the country that are geared towards hunters, the places they gravitate to while hunting home ground or on long hunting trips.
These hunter hangouts cover a range of kinds of establishments, such as restaurants, pubs, bars, diners, and old-fashioned general stores.
As responses poured in, a few things became clear. Great food and drink were the top priority for bird hunters (and, no doubt, most other kinds of traveling hunters as well), with an emphasis on steakhouses that sported a full bar.
This doesn't say much for the average bird-camp cook, I suppose. And not surprisingly, additional research revealed most of these hangouts for hunters featured sporting décor with wildlife mounts and classic old hunting and fishing artwork and photography.
For the most part, they are warm and rustic and all of them cater to the hunter and fisherman.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some hunter-friendly hangouts where you may want to hang your blaze hat on your next hunting trip.
Mint Bar & Grill in Lewiston
If you are traveling through the state of Montana this is a well-known stomping ground for bird hunters, according to an Upland Journal board member. The owner and host is a fellow bird hunter and bird dog fanatic, so the welcome mat is always out.
Mint Bar & Grill Fare: Steaks, seafood, ribs and pasta. Full bar
113 4th Avenue South
Benton's, in Madisonville, is an old-fashioned smoke house featuring their signature Smokey Mountain Country Hams. A must stop for traveling hunters and fisherman while traversing the Smokey Mountains.
Known for its outstanding bacon and a variety of smoked hams, all cured using the traditional dry-curing process. Buy extra and you will be glad you did.
Benton's Fare: Country hams and bacon, smoked and unsmoked
2603 HWY 411 North
Rainbow Grill & Tavern at Tall Timbers Lodge
I've been advised that if you follow bird dogs in the Live Free or Die State, you should, under no circumstances, miss this award-winning hangout.
You can choose either a full upscale restaurant or the more casual bar with big screen TVs.
All parts of the place are decorated with wildlife memorabilia and game mounts. If you are also looking catch a night's sleep, you can check in at the lodge.
Tall Timbers Lodge Fare: Steaks, seafood, subs,
609 Beach Road, Back Lane
Pittsburg, New Hampshire 03592
Buck Rub Pub
At Connecticut Lakes Lodge in Pittsburg. "North woods fine dining in a rustic and casual atmosphere" was the insider's take on this place, and really, you can't go wrong with the name Buck Rub Pub.
This family-friendly haven in the heart of the north woods of New Hampshire touts good food, frosty wildlife memorabilia and game mounts. If you are also looking to catch a night's sleep, you can check in at lodge.
Buck Rub Pub & Lodge Fare: Seafood, steaks, hand-cut fries, tips & skins, pizza,
2253 North Main Street
Pittsburg, New Hampshire 03592
Harry's Bar & Grill in Hill City
According to one board member, Harry's is a casual place with cheap drinks and great food. Saturday is rib night, and the owner — whose name, of course, is Harry — is a competition rib champion with his own smoke house and signature sauces. Harry's is a casual place where you find hunters hanging out with their bird dogs on the front porch.
Harry's Bar & Gril Fare: Burgers, baskets, dinners, full bar
137 S. Gill Street South
Hill City, Minnesota 55748
Trestle Inn Restaurant & Saloon
This historic establishment is built with huge Douglas fir timbers salvaged from an abandoned railroad trestle, and not only serves excellent food and drink, but also provides showers for the road-and woods-weary hunter.
The chances are good that you will belly up to the bar with some unusually well-scrubbed ruffed grouse hunters here.
Trestle Inn Restaurant
7 Cramer Road
Findland, Minnesota 55603
Fare: Burgers, baskets and dinners. Full bar
Big Ed's Steakhouse in Bird City. "It's legendary in the minds of most Kansas hunters" was a report I received. It's a traditional gathering place for bird hunters with a big crowd on the opening weekend of pheasant season.
This steakhouse is known for its delicious steaks — steaks that are never frozen, but cut fresh to oder. Bring cash: Big Ed's doesn't do plastic.
Big Ed's Steakhouse Fare: Steak, steak, steak! Full bar
104 West Bressier
Bird City, Kansas 67731
K&D Corner Store in West Newfield. A fellow Maine bird hunter discovered this hangout in my neck of the woods. According to him, K&D's is the quintessential Main store with everything a tired bird hunter would want and need: Tagging station, gas, smokes, booze, breakfast, pizza and subs, and a big orange "Hunters Welcome" sign.
K&D's Corner Store Fare: General Store
185 Wakefield Road
West Newfield, Maine 04095
Mama Bears Restaraunt
This little gem is my offering. Before I purchased my own bird camp, I took trips to hunt in the paper company lands in this area of northern Maine. Mama Bears is a small sit-down joint on Main Street with unpretentious, but good, food.
This is where I first discovered Poutine: A dish originating in Canada and made with french fries drenched in brown gravy and curds. If that doesn't stick to your ribs nothing will.
Mama Bears Restaurant
Alt Main Trail
Jackman, Maine 04945
Fare: Seafood, steaks, burgers, sandwiches and breakfast!
South Dakota bird hunters provided me with a host of favorite steakhouse hangouts, including this one.
"The steak is great, good bar filled with hunters and fisherman.
The sirloin is excellent and way oversized The Steak Sandwich feeds a hungry man, and good salad bar too."
Bob's Steakhouse Fare: Char-Grilled steaks, Full bar
Gettysburg, South Dakota 57442
The Cattleman's Club Steakhouse
This hangout overlooks the Missouri River and has "damn fine food and an excellent bar as well'¦ with steaks of all kinds as well as Prime Rib." Replete with a full bar and lots of beer selections on tap.
The Cattleman's Club Fare: Steaks, Seafood, burgers
Pierre, South Dakota 57501
Jonas Fish & Grits
A family owned, friendly place boasting a huge menu of seafood dishes at reasonable prices. Don't expect to tie one on here as it is alcohol-free, but the food makes up for lack of libations. A perk is a large taxidermy shop and gift shop just across the street to check out.
Fare: Seafood, chicken, pasta, wraps. lunch, dinner and catering.
Jonas Fish & Grits
109 E. Jackson street
Thomasville, Georgia 31792
Conway Pub & Eatery
My contributor went out on a limb and stated this place has the BEST (in caps) burgers in Western Washington. He also raved about the BBQ'd oysters on the half shell, but take note
they are only available on Saturday and Sunday during the summer.
If you are there during waterfowl season, expect to see camo-clad duck and goose hunters bellying up to the bar with their waders on.
Conway Pub & Eatery Fare: Seafood, burgers, full bar
18611 Main Street
Conway, washington 98238
The Occidental Hotel in Buffalo is a classic northwestern hotel opened in 1880, where the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill hung their hats. Enjoy a steak at The Virginian Restaurant or more casual fare at The Busy Bee Cafe.
Located at gateway of the Bighorn Mountains, the hotel is a prime destination for fishermen, bird hunters and big game hunters from far and wide.
The Occidental Hotel Fare: Bison, elk and beef steaks, seafood. Full bar
10 North Main Street
Buffalo, Wyoming 82834
Zentner's Daughter Steakhouse in San Angelo. "The food is classic Texas steakhouse. The steaks are very good (KC steak for 2 is a favorite), the wine prices are not jacked up and the service is very Texas friendly.
Really nice homemade desserts with fabulous bread pudding with rum sauce," reports an enthusiastic Texas bird chaser.
Zentner's Daughter Steakhouse Fare: Seafood, steaks, full bar
1901 Knickerbocker Road
San Angelo, Texas 76904
Louie Cairo's Restaurant in Williams. This Italian restaurant gets rave reviews from waterfowl and pheasant hunters who complimented the great steaks, fantastic ravioli and the sourdough garlic bread that keeps people coming back. There's also a large well stocked bar an an excellent selection of red wines.
Louie Cairo's Restaurant
558 7th street Fare: Northern California and Italian cuisine. Full bar
Williams, California 95987
Shamrock Bar & Grill in Manton. I received a lot of input from members who hunt and travel in Michigan and this is a favorite hangout. One of my members mentioned plugging in his dog collar to recharge while he enjoyed huge burgers, onion rings and cold beer at a reasonable price.
The place is a locals' hangout — and the locals are predominantly deer hunters. For visiting bird hunters, that's an added bonus: local deer hunters are familiar with the woods you'll be going in, and because they're after deer rather than birds, they are typically willing to share where they are seeing grouse during their deer hunts.
Shamrock Bar & Grill Fare: Burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, full bar
111 Wall Street
Manton, Michigan 49663
Bicigo's Crystal Falls Shoe Store in Crystal Falls. The rave reviews of this store prompted me to include it in this hangouts article. This store is a step back in time. It's owned by a husband and wife who close the store for lunch and use the old clock sign hanging in the door to let you know when they will return.
All sales with shoe or boot style and size are hand printed and filed away with buyers' contact info. So purchasing a new pair is easy. They specialize in Red Setter and Red Wing boots for bird hunters.
Bicigo Crystal Falls Shoe Store
40 superior avenue
crystal falls, Michigan 49920
Ma Deeter's Restaurant & Bar in Luzerne.
A board member went as far as to say that Ma Deeter's is the best hangout in the heart of northern Michigan grouse country. "Good eats and salt of the earth folks" was his assessment. Originally built and opened in 1921 by Anna (Ma Deeter) and husband William, but it retained the classic log construction and sporting decor.
Fare: Seafood, steaks, burgers, sandwiches, full bar
Ma Deeter's Restaurant & Bar
2262 Deeter Road
Luzerne, Michigan 48636
By no means are these all of the great hangouts for hunters, but these will get you started on your next hunting road trip. Whether on the main drag or off the beaten path, these hunter friendly hangouts go out of their way to cater to sportsmen and deserve our business.
A special thanks goes out to the knowledgeable and generous bird hunters who shared their information and opinions. Safe travels.