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Hunting & Fishing Resorts Perfect for Family Retreats

Tom & Marjike, Owners of Okimot Lodge in West Nipissing • Credit: Jim Brennan
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Hunting & Fishing Resorts Perfect for Family Retreats

"Hunting lodges and cozy cottages offer relaxing lakeside getaways"

Although we are American, my son and I have a tradition of singing “O Canada” at the opening of Sabres games, especially when Buffalo is playing the Leafs and Senators.

During these spirited ice battles, this heart-felt gesture of respect engenders good will with the Canadian hockey fans around us, who are surprised we know all the words.

And when the national anthem gets to the line -- “The True North strong and free!” -- my mind doesn’t picture the glitzy condos on Toronto’s waterfront or the Labatt Brewery in London or the quaint tea shops at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Instead, my thoughts drift off to a friendly idyllic region in Northeastern Ontario, stretching from Lake Muskosung to Lake Nippising. For me, the “True North” is a verdant territory about four hours from Toronto that is home to more than 250 family-friendly resorts.

Clustered along a trail of crystal clear lakes, these hunting and fishing lodges range from cozy lakefront cottages to wilderness cabins hidden in the woods at the end of logging roads. There is a warmth and affability at these family-run places that bring sportsmen and women from the United States and Canada back year after year.

During my visit to these relaxing resorts, I encountered three generations of families. Many older folks were returning with their children and grandchildren to share the outdoor experience of nature at its best.Mystic morning-1 copy

They are eager to enjoy fishing off docks in a misty summer morning or the thrill of tracking a moose or black bear on a crisp fall day or just sitting around a crackling campfire on a cool Canadian evening listening to the haunting tremolo of a not-so-distant screech owl.

Camp Horizon

Creating these warm memories is not a very costly family vacation. At a place like Camp Horizon near Field, a family of four can rent a lakeside cottage for about $700 per week. This rate includes bedding, a stove, kitchen dishes, coffee maker, a microwave, a gas grill and horizons filled with spectacular sunsets.

Built in 1939 on Lake Muskosung, the all-season camp is located about 40 miles northwest of North Bay, 2 miles off Highway 575.

Camp Horizon offers 13 heated cottages with rents ranging from $530 per week for two people to $1,080 for an eight-person unit. “A lake-view cottage costs $1,110 per week,” explained Linda Miller, who runs the camp with her husband, Tim, and her dad, Denny Dusky.

Denny had been running Camp Horizon with his wife, Ruth, for the past 33 years. After 55 years of marriage, Ruth recently passed away on March 1, 2013. She was beloved by early-rising hunters and fishermen, who would stop in the camp store to buy her fresh-baked doughnuts, bagels, cinnamon buns, pies, butter tarts and muffins.

“We are carrying on my mom’s tradition of baking treats,” said Linda.

There are no fancy little bottles of imported shampoo, but the showers are hot, the bedding is fresh and the cabins are clean. During a walk through the largest cabin, my white socks didn’t pick up any smudges on the recently mopped floor.

Camp Horizon is a pet-friendly place. Baby-friendly, too, as the owners provide cribs, high chairs, playpens and strollers at no charge, as the available supply permits. Towels and dish towels may be rented for a small fee.

There are lots of other family activities like canoeing, kayaking, hiking, hay rides, bingo games and ATV rides. On Tuesdays, a potluck supper is prepared by campers in a pavilion next to the lake and usually includes fresh-caught fish. There is also a weekly Chili Cook-off with prizes and a Classic Car Show on a weekend in July.

During Family Fishing Week, Canadian anglers can sample Ontario’s fishing opportunities without paying for a license. For more details, check the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website at www.mnr.gov.on.ca.

dock at Camp Horizon“We have boats and motors for rent daily or weekly,” said Denny. “Our lake offers excellent fishing for walleye, muskie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike and perch.”

Denny also takes care of the camp’s hunting operation. A few weeks before the August bear season opens, he starts filling bait buckets at 35 sites around the 350-square-mile area that serves as Camp Horizon’s bear management area.

He continues to check and refill the bait sites on a daily basis until Oct. 31, the end of hunting season. A week-long bear hunting package costs $1,350 per person or $1,465 for a whole family. The package includes a fully equipped cottage, blind or tree stand in the baited area, a guide, transportation to the site, help hauling out and processing the bear and freezer facilities for the hide and meat.

Packages don’t include licenses, which can be purchased at the lodge. More information on hunting licenses and outdoors cards can be found on the Provincial Natural Resources website.

Moose hunting season runs from September to December. Cottage prices range from $700 for three hunters to $1,254 for six hunters. For more details and availability, call Camp Horizon toll-free at (800) 884-0749.

WestArm Lodge

“Fishing, family and fun is what we are all about,” said Frank Lubke, who owns WestArm Lodge on Rural Route 3, near St. Charles.

West Arm Cottage in the fall-1Originally from Zurich, Switzerland, he and his wife, Cathy, purchased the WestArm Lodge and Restaurant in 2008. The resort is named after the west arm of Lake Nippising, which is about 3½ hours from Toronto.

“We are the ‘Next Muskoka,’ only cheaper,” said Frank, who explained that a family of four can rent a heated, two-bedroom cottage for about $1,120 per week.

The resort has 11 two-bedroom cottages, a large five-bedroom cottage and two apartments. All the pretty white cottages overlook the water and come with fully equipped kitchens, refrigerators, microwaves and coffee makers.

Three of the cottages have screened porches and one has a wooden deck. There are picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, a private boat slip and fireplaces on the beautifully landscaped grounds.

“We also supply linens, blankets, pillows, towels, hand soaps, toilet tissue and free wireless Internet,” Frank continued.

If guests prefer not to cook or clean, WestArm Lodge offers an American Plan, which includes maid service, breakfast, lunch to go and a three-course dinner at the resort restaurant.Pike Northeastern Ontario

“All folks have to bring is a fishing rod and they are all set,” said Frank, who recently installed new motors in the family lodge’s fleet of 13 fishing boats. The 16-foot, two-seat aluminum boats rent for $350 per week. There is also a 16-foot pontoon boat with swivel seats for three anglers that costs $650 per week.

Recreational activities include ATV trails, hiking paths, canoe and bike rentals, horseback riding and three golf courses about a half-hour ride from the resort.

“Families also like to take day trips to Sudbury, which is about a 40-minute drive,” Frank added. For a list of recreational opportunities in Sudbury, check out the official tourism website at www.sudburytourism.ca.

Two of the most popular attractions are Science North, which has a 3D IMAX theatre and digital planetarium, and Dynamic Earth, a mining and geology centre that is home to the “Big Nickel.”

Okimot Lodge

Marijke and Thomas Rusch also moved from Switzerland to Canada 12 years ago to pursue their dream of owning a lodge. After running a four-star spa resort in the Alps, Thomas said they “wanted to own a lodge with lots of space and do whatever we wanted.”

They bought Okimot Lodge in 2001 with ten housekeeping cottages on 58 acres next to Tomiko Lake. “The lodge was established 60 years ago and the name ‘Okimot’ is just Tomiko backwards,” explained Thomas.

The scenic resort near Crystal Falls is 40 miles northwest of North Bay and about 240 miles north of Toronto. The north shore of Tomiko is almost completely unoccupied land, so fishermen will see a minimal amount of boat traffic.

“Tomiko is a good-sized lake with an average depth of 30 feet,” Thomas said. “The fishing is great for walleye and smallmouth bass, especially in the spring and late fall.”

Okimot Lodge has 14-foot aluminum boats with Johnson motors and padded swivel seats. “Our boats can take guests to two adjoining lakes,” he continued. “One lake is sheltered and provides excellent fishing for largemouth bass in the weed beds.”

Along with fishing, the resort is surrounded by logging trails, offering ample opportunity for ATV rides and mountain biking. There are also numerous tree stands for bird watching, wildlife viewing and hunting.

With 20 baited stands over a 40-square-mile bear management area, Okimot’s bear-hunting packages range from $1,285 per hunter (party of 1 to 3 hunters) to $999 per hunter (4 to 6 hunters). The lodge also offers an archery bull moose hunt, but all the 2013 tags are sold out.

For spring and fall group fishing specials, call toll-free at (888) 286-6456.

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