The outdoors activities of fishing and hunting mostly are dominated by males. Being guys, they've become competitions, as in who can catch the biggest fish or down the biggest buck.
But there's a different way. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is expanding appreciation of the natural world from children and family members, guys need to consider venues that offer these pursuits to others.
The way things are set up now that doesn't happen. But wives, kids, families, parents or close friends should be able to share catching a bass, watching a whitetail buck with frost on its back, quiet nights, campfires, stories or simply gazing at the stars.
Sometimes, seeking the Holy Grail of communal fun, we can get trapped in a Griswolds' family nightmare. But the main problem for Tar Heels (and others) always has been that there are few decent accommodations near places where they want to spend more than a day or two outdoors.
Unluckily the 2 million acres managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission have no cabins, although camper hookups and tent-camping facilities exist at some game lands. That leaves the U.S. Park Service and N.C. Department of Parks and Recreation properties.
Here's a look at three of the best venues for families and groups who want to stay under the same roof to enjoy hunting, fishing and other activities — and build memories.
CORE BANKS AT CAPE LOOKOUT NATIONAL SEASHORE
North Core (Long Point) and South Core (Great) adjoining islands, part of the National Park Service's 74 miles of seashore at the Outer Banks, offer decent accommodations (although not five-star rated).
Near Morehead City and Beaufort, the east sides of North and South Core Banks face the Atlantic Ocean and feature great spring and fall surf fishing. Red drum, spotted seatrout and flounder are popular targets.
The Park Service and concessionaires rebuilt North and South Core Banks cabins after September 1999 when Hurricane Dennis's tornado-like winds, waves and blowing sand overwashed both islands. Today Great Island (South Core) — across Core Sound from Davis, N.C. — has 26 cabins with 4 to 12 bunks per unit, ranging from 188 to 960 square feet. Daily rental costs vary by season and cabin size. Although they don't have electricity or air conditioning, cabins are wired to work off gasoline-powered generators. Visitors must bring bedding, linens, food, drink, bug spray and cookware.
Long Point (North Core) cabins are a little more refined and include 20 units of 500 square feet each with six bunk beds per cabin. Rental rates vary seasonally and by cabin size. North Core cabins have electricity, but only four of 20 have air conditioning. Bring linens, cookware, bedding and bug repellent.
NPS concessionaires sell ice at North and South Core cabin areas as refrigerators aren't included.
Beach driving is allowed at designated areas (never on dunes or off-limits areas). Each vehicle must have an ORV Education Certificate. No wrecker services are available at the islands.
A pair of passenger-service-only ferries operate from Harkers Island and Beaufort and land near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
However, Davis Ferry transports vehicles and passengers across Core Sound to Great Island cabins landing (see davisferry.com).
Morris Marina Kabin Kamps and Ferry Service (portsmouthislandfishing.com, 252-225-4261) moves passengers and vehicles across the sound to North Core Banks (aka Portsmouth Island) from Atlantic, N.C.
At both islands, besides food and drink, anglers will need 12- to 16-foot-long 5000-7000 series surf reels.
Owen Lupton bottom rigs are effective for red drum and fall striped bass while "fireball" rigs keep cut or live bait off the bottom and away from bait-stealers. The most venerable surf outfit is a double-dropper that employs a 2- to 3-ounce pyramid sinker and two dropper lines above the sinker. Anglers need small ice coolers to keep baits fresh.
South Core may offer better fishing than North Core because its southwestern tip borders Beaufort Inlet and because of its rock jetty, a favorite spot for trout, red drum and flounder. Surf anglers cast to fish at sloughs between waves. In October and November, 40- to 55-pound red drum are not unusual.
Waterfowl hunting is permitted during state-designated seasons but NPS requires a special-use permit, plus permits to build temporary duck blinds. Temp blinds ($50 for one, $25 for a second blind) must be removed by January 31. Hunting dogs are allowed but must be leashed except when hunting.
Duck blind sites are chosen by lottery in early September. North and South Core Banks barrier islands - 252-728-2250
Cabin Rates: National Park Service Long Point Cabin Camp, 131 Charles St., Harkers Island, N.C. 28531, 252-728-2250, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Or visit www.portsmouthislandfishing.com/cabins.aspx.; 20 cabins ($84-$145 per night).
Onsite: Duplexes and octagonal cabins have six bunk beds per side, unscreened porch faces ocean, electricity provided, A/C in cabins 2-8; no A/C in cabins 1-2, 9-20.
South Core (Great Island) Ferry Reservations: Davis Shore Ferry Service, 148 Willis Road, Davis, N.C. 28524, 252-729-3474; www.davisferry.com.
Cabin Rates: National Park Service, 252-728-0942, M-F 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
25 cabins ($75-$168, depending upon size, 4 to 12 bunk beds per cabin).
Onsite: Ice available at cabin complex. No A/C. Wired, bring own generator, gasoline.
North Core (Long Island) Ferry Reservations: Morris Marina Kabin Kamps & Ferry Service, Inc., 1000 Morris Marina Road, Atlantic, N.C. 28511, 252-225-4261.
HANGING ROCK STATE PARK
This Appalachian foothills park is surrounded by private land, so hunting while staying at one of 10 cabins inside the park's boundary depends upon getting a landowner's permission.
Although hunting isn't allowed inside state parks, savvy hunters know trophy whitetail bucks often feed during evening hours at private lands near parks before returning inside its protected borders at daybreak. However, Stokes County is not an average whitetail destination. The big-buck roll at the Dixie Deer Classic is filled with monster deer that have been taken at this sparsely populated pre-Appalachian Mountains region that borders southern Virginia.
In fact, the Dan River drainage, part of which flows through Virginia, is a classic deer funnel. Two-hundred-pound to 250-pound bucks aren't uncommon and decent antler-rack sizes start at 150 inches and go higher.
The most popular activities at Hanging Rock park, besides hiking, bicycling and rock climbing, are canoeing, kayaking or float fishing for smallmouth bass during spring and summer in the Dan River that flows eastward through the northern section of the park. Anglers don't have to worry about coal-ash as Duke Energy's 2014 spill at Eden happened 30 miles downstream.
Bronzebacks up to 4 1/2 pounds swim in the river's clear, cool waters and readily hit artificial lures fished with ultra-light spinning tackle or flies by long-rod fans. Twice annually, the WRC also stocks rainbow trout in the park's 12-acre lake. The lake also built an ADA-accessible pier.
The surrounding hills also have their share of wild turkeys (spring hunting only) and small game, particularly squirrels.
Each cabin has two bedrooms with single beds, live rooms with queen-size sleeper fold-out sofas, kitchens, dining space, pots, pans and dinnerware, central heat and air conditioning, charcoal grill and community fire rings.
Guests should bring bed and bath linens, blankets and pillows, food and toiletries. Pets and alcohol aren't permitted in the cabins.
Hanging Rock State Park - 1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, - Danbury, NC 27016, 336-593-8480
Onsite: 10 cabins (1 and 9 ADA accessible). Each has two bedrooms with single beds, fold-out queen-size sofa; kitchen; dining space; pots, pans and dinnerware. Central heat and A/C. Charcoal grill at each cabin. Two-night minimum rental. Seasonal rates from $88-$100 per night. $520 per week. Cash, checks, credit cards accepted.
MORROW MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
This state park in the central piedmont jewels is bordered on its east side by the Yadkin/Pee Dee rivers, Lake Tillery and 50,189 acres of Uwharrie National Forest. Morrow Mountain does not allow hunting inside its boundaries. But anglers/hunters/hikers who want to catch largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish or panfish or hunters after white-tailed deer or small game have a short drive to Uwharrie NF.
Morrow Mountain State Park offers six family-style cabins (minimum two nights stay). Cabins that sleep six are equipped with living room, kitchen with dining space and two bedrooms. Pets aren't allowed in cabins.
Although all cabins have electricity, Cabin 4 doesn't have air conditioning. Cabin 6 is handicapped accessible.
Cabin fees are $97 per night or $517 per week, although weekly rates may not be available for all cabins. To reserve a cabin visit www.northcarolinastateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/morrow-mountain-state-park
A ramp for motorized boats is on a loop road adjacent to the Yadkin River and across from the Uwharrie River. Hunters can motor across the river, beach their boats on the shoreline of the Yadkin or Uwharrie rivers and scout for animals or hunt during open seasons. Uwharrie also is accessible by road. N.C. Highways 24/27 cross its southern boundary, NC 109 runs diagonally through the forest from Mount Gilead in the south to Troy (center) to the Randolph-Davidson county border (northwest) while NC 134 skirts its eastern edge
The Uwharrie National Forest also is part of the WRC's game-lands system so standard hunting licenses and big-game tags are required to hunt its lands during state-sanctioned seasons.
For more information, visit Uwharrie National Forest online at www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/?recid=48934.
Some of the largest-racked whitetails killed each year in North Carolina come from Uwharrie, but because it's so close to major population centers (Charlotte, Concord-Kannapolis, Greensboro, Winston-Salem), deer receive heavy pressure from hunters.
The best idea is to spend at least a day or two before the deer season begins to scout the area. Hunters who stay near roads or parking areas may kill small bucks, but larger animals seem to gravitate toward remote areas.
The game land has dozens of primitive camp sites hunters fill in-season. Blaze-orange is required.
Morrow Mountain State Park - 49104 Morrow Mountain Road, - Albemarle, NC 28001 - 704-982-4402
Accommodations: Six cabins ($97 per night, $517 per week). Six bunk beds.
Onsite: Electricity, heat and A/C provided (Cabin 4 without A/C, Cabin 6 ADA accessible). No dogs, alcohol or smoking in cabins.