Little-known fact about me: I’m fascinated by firearms. I’m in awe with the strategy behind warfare, and I find myself admiring how guns and weaponry can change a battle and invariably a war. Sun Tzu’s book will forever be just as pivotal to me as White and Strunk’s The Elements of Style. Curiously enough, weapons, specifically guns, fascinate me. So much so that the next book I borrow from the library will probably end up being the great journalist C.J. Chivers’ book The Gun, which talks about how the AK-47 changed modern warfare.
I’m definitely not a gun person. I don’t own any, nor do I want to. I have a terrible aim, and the NRA doesn’t take my membership. But give me a PS3 remote, and I’ll do my damndest to come out on top in Call of Duty.
I would have never guessed this about myself – this earnest pull toward weaponry – because I hate seeing people or animals hurt or dying (I cried the first time I saw “Terminator 2” when Arnold’s character, a freakin’ machine, lowered himself down the hot cauldron to perish). So it’s not the idea of having the power to hurt someone or something that excites me with guns (I’m no matador relishing the power I have over a dying bull); it’s just the redneck in me waiting to get out.
So when I was invited to enjoy two days at Pine Creek Sporting Club, I didn’t hesitate to accept. Pine Creek is located in the anti-metropolitan town of Okeechobee. It much reminded me of where I grew up – Middleburg, Fla., a rednecky town where it wasn’t unusual to hear shotguns or see horses riding on the street alongside cars, where Spanish moss blanket the Live Oak trees, and an occasional “y’all” enters the vernacular. Okeechobee is a ranch town where “next-door neighbors” live hundreds of acres away from each other, and that suits them just fine.
Pine Creek is a members-only club, where members pay $20,000 annually to enjoy unlimited sporting activities, and either own a ranch or cabin on property. Some lots have helipads in their front yard. All the homes are either second, third or possibly fourth homes the residents own along with their beachside estate, northern ranch and island cabin. It’s an exclusive club for the outdoorsman/woman, where there are acres and acres to hunt pheasant, quail and more. Pine Creek was born out of the idea of a small group of friends looking to meet up at a central location to go hunting and enjoy the outdoors in a comfortable yet lush environment, and still remain low profile. Founder Stephen Myers and his son Stephen Jr. really have kept that thought intact as they opened it up for residential purchase and use two years ago. Everyone – members, owners, employees – regularly say hello and good morning, ask how you’re doing, and make you feel right at home. The likes of Palm Beach and Jupiter Island are members. So when my fiance Josh and I stepped on property, it was definitely a game of “which ones don’t belong.”
The 2,500 acres Pine Creek has includes multiple sporting opportunities. And, y’all be bettin’ Josh and I took advantage of them all.
First up was clay shooting. We love this type of stuff. We went clay shooting once in Canada, at a Fairmont resort in the countryside, and consider ourselves novices to the sport. Our guide was Tim Arnold, who grew up in Okeechobee on land about five times the size of Pine Creek. One could say he’s just the type of guy Pine Creek employs: erudite in outdoor sports, hard working and a lot of fun. He took Josh and me over to the five-stand course, where sporting clays come flying from about seven different stations. Josh was fantastic. He hit about 70 percent of the clays, and the ones he missed were extremely tricky (either going too fast for a rookie or bouncing waywardly away). Me, well, let’s stay positive and just say I’m better at a bunch of other things. I didn’t hit any of the clays until the very last one.
Next up was horseback riding. Again, something very native to my hometown of Middleburg, but something I never did up until I went to that resort in Canada. We rode on an easy trail within Pine Creek, where I learned the difference between Eastern and Western riding styles. If only I was given a lasso and spurs…
And then came the raison d’etre: archery. Ever since I played Legend of Zelda on Nintendo when I was 6, I’ve wanted to try archery. If you’ve seen a medieval movie where there was a battle scene and never had the urge to fling a bow and arrow after watching it, then I’m not sure you and I could ever converse on an intelligent level. Robin Hood, Legolas, the Na’Vi tribe… I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to be an archer after watching those characters?
Not surprisingly, modern bows and arrows have advanced beyond those that Robin Hood used while protecting Sherwood Forest. There’s pulleys and steel, but the idea of launching an arrow in the sky is still there.
We were lucky. Most non-members don’t get this opportunity. It’s not like you can just randomly call up and say, “Hey, got any spots available for hunting today?” or “I just saw ‘Lord of the Rings’ and want to play with the bow and arrows.” Too bad there’s not going to be a Groupon deal anytime soon for a membership…