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A Sporting Life

A day of tracking elk or angling for trout doesn’t have to end with a long drive home.

Dining at the French Creek Sportsmen’s Club takes a farm-to-table approach whenever possible.

Dining at the French Creek Sportsmen’s Club takes a farm-to-table approach whenever possible.

It’s the end of a productive but long day of hunting or fishing; you’re bone tired and face a lengthy drive back home with darkness falling. But, if you’re a member of a private sporting club, such as the new Frost Ranch Sportsmen Club, you can kick back, enjoy the accommodations, and get ready for another day of outdoor adventure.

The club, located just south of Colorado Springs, is opening its doors to the public after a two-year pilot program. But it’ll be an exclusive group: Club membership will be capped at a dozen for the 2019–2020 hunting season.

A basic membership is $5,000 and provides nine months of game stalking for a hunter, his or her family, and guests; big game tags are extra. Membership includes guide services and exclusive accommodations in the 6,500-square-foot clubhouse—a 1950s-era adobe home designed and built by noted architect Wallace Frost. (Frost, the grandfather of current ranch owner Jay Frost, also designed actress/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres’ former 1930s home, which was prominently featured in her book Home.)

The Frost Ranch home, known as “The Big House,” contains six bedrooms, a game room, five baths, and five fireplaces, and it sleeps 12 comfortably. Club members bring their own food but can buy meats and produce from the Frosts’ ranching and farming operation. In the summer months, the house transitions to an Airbnb; the Frosts also make it available for weddings and other special events through a partnership with A Grazing Life – Colorado Farm Dinners & Events. “We have something special here, and we want to share it with people who appreciate it,” Jay Frost says.

Ducks, geese, turkey, quail, dove, mule deer, pronghorn, and other small and big game can be found on the property, a mix of wooded, wetland, and prairie habitat. There’s also fishing for carp and large-mouth bass. Jay’s son, Sam, manages the club and is the head guide. Both Frosts grew up hunting on the property; dove hunting, Sam says, is probably his favorite. “It’s quick,” he says. “It’s nice to go out and get some dinner in 45 minutes with the dog.”

The Frosts are looking for conservation-minded hunters who will appreciate the rural charm and Western heritage of the ranch. “Part of our mission is to ranch and farm and hunt in a sustainable matter,” Sam says. “We don’t want to go out and kill everything. So we want someone who is conscious about how they perform in their environment.”

And families are welcome, Sam says. “I realized over the last two years doing this pilot that there’s a lot of value that our current members are getting from me teaching their kids how to hunt. I enjoy that.”

Bringing in new generations is critical to hunting’s future as the number of hunters in Colorado and the nation continues to fall. A report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed 11.5 million hunters in the country in 2016, down 2 million from the previous survey in 2011. Revenues from the sale of licenses and tags as well as excise taxes paid by hunters and anglers are crucial to wildlife and habitat conservation efforts, the report notes.

Although the vibe at the Frost Ranch Sportsmen Club is rustic and steeped in ranch history, there’s a higher-end sheen at French Creek Sportsmen’s Club, part of the Brush Creek Luxury Ranch Collection in Saratoga, Wyoming, about a five-hour drive from Colorado Springs. The “supremely private sporting paradise” opened in 2016 and includes four luxury cabins, a private clubhouse, a creekside spa tent, a shooting range staffed by two full-time instructors, and fine dining with a farm-to-table approach. The cost starts at $1,000 per person per night.

At French Creek, most of the focus is on bird hunting, says Matt Anderson, director of activities and outfitting for the Brush Creek Ranch Collection, which also includes the Lodge & Spa and the five-star Magee Homestead. “We do cater to some big game hunters as well but on a very small scale.”

Activities include English-style driven hunts, which harken back to the classic hunting traditions of old England. “We try to make it as authentic as possible,” Anderson says, with the staff—and often the hunters—dressed in traditional English hunting attire.

Hunters come from across the county to enjoy the luxury accommodations and world-class hunting and fishing, Anderson says. “We deal with some folks who have never held a shotgun in their life all the way up to very seasoned, well-traveled bird hunters.”

The intent is to provide “great customized experiences” based on the guests’ desires, Anderson says. “The emphasis is on hunting and fly-fishing, but if they want to go horseback riding or biking, they have those opportunities. The experience can be as robust as you want.”

To Learn More:

Frost Ranch Sportsmen Club

www.frost-livestock.com/sportsmen-club

French Creek Sportsmen’s Club

www.brushcreekranch.com/frenchcreek