By Matt Hombach
Major league baseball players belong to an exclusive fraternity of world-class athletes who thrive on competition and performing under pressure. Within that exclusive fraternity exists a brotherhood of ballplayers who share a common passion for the outdoors.
This fall, area hunters will have the unique chance to get a taste of what it's like to be a part of that group.
Former Orioles standouts Chris Hoiles, Ben McDonald, Will Clark and Jamie Walker will be packing their hunting gear and heading north for "Bows, Bucks & Birds," an event hosted by the Hoiles-Gladstone Group. HGG is a joint venture between Hoiles and veteran professional sports executive Adam Gladstone.
The company plans to host a variety of sports-related events, experiences and camps for athletes and fans of all ages. From deep sea fishing and golf to lacrosse, soccer and baseball, the new firm plans to present a diverse range of offerings in the coming years, according to both Gladstone and Hoiles.
HGG's first event, "Bows, Bucks & Birds," will be held Oct. 21-25 and offers five days of fair chase bowhunting at the North Fork Lodge.
Even avid hunters have probably never heard of the North Fork Lodge. Nestled on more than 7,000 acres in the Appalachian Highlands of north central Pennsylvania, North Fork is the private retreat of Kip Fulks, senior vice president of outdoor and innovation at Under Armour.
"Kip has been a tremendous partner for this event," said Hoiles. "Hosting special hunts like this was something he foresaw when he got the property. We are excited that we can offer guys the rare chance to hunt there."
The property consists of steep hardwood ridges with more than 25 food plots planted and maintained to provide a food source and attractor to the abundant whitetail population.
The deer herd at North Fork is closely managed and subject to very limited hunting pressure. Bowhunters will need to hold out for a 140-inch or better buck during the fair chase style hunt. More than two-dozen treestands and four ground blinds have been strategically placed in preparation for the pre-rut hunt.
According to Hoiles, the staff at North Fork monitors the local deer population via dozens of trail cameras posted throughout the property.
"Based on what they are seeing on the cameras, there are at least nine or 10 shooter bucks on the property," said Hoiles.
With the hunt restricted to 16 participants, odds are good bowhunters will have a chance to see what for many will be the buck of a lifetime.
"I've shot one 140-class buck and to have a monster like that walking toward your stand is unbelievable," said Hoiles. "The nerves, the anticipation and emotions are the same that you feel when you are up to bat with the game on the line and you need to get the big hit."
In addition to giving hunters the chance to experience a serious adrenaline rush, "Bows, Bucks & Birds" will give guests a true sense of the camaraderie and fun of a big league clubhouse.
Both McDonald and Clark are accomplished outdoorsman who regularly appear on hunting shows. Both were also known to keep teammates loose but focused and will likely do the same for the hunters at North Fork.
"Ben and Will are good guys from down there in Louisiana and are pretty similar people," said Hoiles. "They were always the players in the clubhouse that pulled pranks or had you laughing so hard at the end of the night your sides hurt.
"I'm looking forward to this hunting trip as a chance to reconnect with them and make some more memories, but also to meet some other hunters and hear their stories."
"Bows, Bucks & Birds" includes five days and four nights lodging in first-class accommodations and meals at North Fork.
For full details or to register, visit www.HGGSports.com.
Issue 142: October 2009