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DESTINATION FILE: Heart of Virginia Outfitters - By Bobby Edwards - Nov. 2004

Have you ever had the guilty feeling like your getting something you don't deserve? Being pampered is typically not for me. I had that feeling on a recent Destination File trip, but finally settled in and realized that we sometimes deserve the moment.

I work hard and I play hard. In my business I do get perks and being invited down to bow hunt with Heart of Virginia Outfitters was definitely one of them.

I, as every hunter at HOV Outfitters on the eve of opening day, enjoyed the serenity, the spoiled feeling, as well as the anxiety of the upcoming hunt. Top that off with a beautiful, rustic lodge atmosphere with modern amenities, and you have the recipe for why we hunters love this stuff.

Wildlife art and mounts abound in the HOV lodge and remind you of past hunts that hold untold stories. All you have to do is ask owner Len Pack and he'll give you the story of each animal that he respects and proudly displays.

Owner Len Pack is a pure outdoorsman with a compassionate soul. His passion for the outdoors has led him to live his dream and open a hunting lodge. He was practically doing it most of his life anyway. He was a charter boat captain fishing the Gulf Stream for 12 years and is an accomplished hunter. He hunts deer, turkey, bear, and moose.

Not only does he book deer and turkey hunts, but also books bear and moose hunts in Canada. He supports local conservation groups like QDMA and NWTF. There have been several young boys that shot their first deer sitting on Len's knee. Len is the type of man any of us would be proud to adopt as an uncle.
The previous weekend before my scheduled hunt trip, Len invited me to come down to his lodge to show me around the 4,000 acres he manages for hunting.

My son and I spent several hours with Len that day strategizing and evaluating what our best chance at a whitetail would be. My eight-year-old son wanted to stay when it was time to head back home. He absolutely adored Len and the time with his dad in the outdoors. It didn't hurt that Len placed him in the special seat in his big diesel 4x4 truck reserved for the younger generation, took him to pick Indian corn and told him to take it to school and show his teacher, took him to the pumpkin patch and let him pick a couple of pumpkins. Then to top it off, they went down to the ol' country store for a soda and chips and finished off fishing in the three-acre pond right behind the lodge. Yes, my son was having the time of his life, and you know what? So was I.

Heart of Virginia Outfitters is a family business. Everyone helps out including his daughter, Terry, who is a teacher for a school for special kids called the "Wilderness School". At this school, young boys learn the meaning of respect and responsibility. After meeting her dad, you can see where she gets her gift.

Len's wife Jeanette not only helps run the business, but is also quite the outdoorswomen herself. I envied the black bears she has harvested in Canada. As the name suggest HOV is located in central Virginia, just north of Farmville in Cumberland County. The location is just a few hours from anywhere in Virginia including Norfolk and Washington D.C.

Friday night Vernon Pack fixed us a fabulous meal of grilled chicken quarters, mac and cheese, baked beans, veggies and homemade apple pie. Saturday morning Vernon fixed scrambled eggs, sausage, fried potatoes, gravy, and biscuits. I could go on about the food but you get the idea -- "Great Food".
Vernon has lived his life in the outdoor business as well. He owned three taxidermy shops for over 20 years and has mounted animals as small as a mouse and as big as a hippo.

The day of the hunt brought warm temperatures, thunderstorms, and lots of mosquitoes. My fellow hunters; Billy, Billy Jr., Buckie, Buckie Jr., and Rocky were up bright and early. The two younger boys who were on their first bow hunt, never slept and keep the others up all night. They were from Alabama and carried a strong Cajun accent. They are in construction and temporarily staying in Midlothian, Virginia while doing a job.

Jack from Fluvanna County was staying the whole week and hunting with a recurve bow. This was one funny dude; he had a line for everything and was really fun to hang out with.

The day before the hunt HOV outfitters had to make a bit of special a arrangement for me because I had broken a toe in a bad way a few days earlier. The Friday afternoon before the hunt, I hobbled into my stand site and found a suitable spot for a ground blind. I really felt good about the stand site.

When Len showed me my stand location, I was stoked. It had a planted pine thicket on one end, a white oak ridge, a creak bottom and thick cover on the backside. The stand was positioned along a break line of thick cover in an attempt to use the terrain to get a deer within range.

What was going to make this hunt difficult in addition to hunting off the ground, is that the white oak acorns were everywhere. This particular farm held a dense supply of white oaks; more then I've seen anywhere. The morning hunt for me was slow on activity but the relaxation was awesome. Unfortunately going into the stand my guide Ed and I bumped a gang of turkeys off the roost right at my stand, which I'm sure, made any deer nearby skittish as well.

The afternoon brought more action once a thunderstorm cleared, and I had a large doe come in but she was just out of range. I heard what sounded like several other deer just out of sight. A gobbler coming in to my ground blind turned and also went just out of range

Back at the lodge Buckie Jr. was catching a bit of grief from his buddies for missing a buck that morning. That evening he had another buck come in and unfortunately made a bad shot. From the sounds of it, he hit the buck in the shoulder but the deer was never found.

Many deer were seen opening day but none went into the freezer. That's hunting. Unfortunately I could only hunt the one-day, but I checked in with Terry later in the week to see how Jack's hunt was going. I learned that Jack saw lots of deer and missed two with his recurve.

HOV operates one guide per two hunters. They offer a VIP package that is a no-brainier in my opinion if you do not have access to your own land. The VIP package allows you to hunt all season at a very modest rate. And the number of hunters is very limited to avoid crowding. Trust me it's worth a call to find out the details.

Also, when you book a six-day Muzzleloader package, Len will guarantee the hunt. If you do not get a shot, then you come back for free until you get a shot. The guides put up two-person ladder stands, which give hunters extra room or if you decide to take a youngster to hunt or hunt with you then the stands will accommodate. They also have made really nice, elevated hunting shacks complete with windows and roof.

Other niceties of HOV is a 250-yard shooting range with shooting house complete with a bench rest, cleaning supplies, and spot lights in case you need to check your sights after your trip in. It's even lighted. The range also has a 3-D target for bow hunters. The farm's lands are very diverse with old hardwood growth, clear cuts ranging from 1 to 15 years old, food plots, planted pines, agriculture crops such as soybeans/corn, sunflowers, creeks, and ponds. It's an ideal habitat.

Most of all, if you or someone you know has a handicap then HOV is the place for you. They have helped handicapped hunters such as Wheeling Sportsman and many other special need hunters to have successful hunts on the property they manage.

I really enjoyed my stay and the new friendships I developed, and would recommend Heart of Virginia Outfitters to anyone looking to bow, gun, or blackpowder hunt for deer or turkey. The habitat is great, the accommodations are top notch and Guides Ronnie, John, and Ed have worked very hard to make certain that you have the best opportunity possible at scoring on a deer. At the same time they make it fun, relaxing, and a real treat.

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