Five outdoor road trips to consider this year

Butler recommends a few trips guaranteed satisfy the pent-up, post-quarantine need for the great outdoors.

The summer of 2021 is going to be all about road trips. After living through lockdown last year, just about everyone is ready for an adventure. Many of those are going to involve fishing and hunting. A lot of outdoor recreation equipment companies have experienced record sales over the last year. Now those consumers are ready to put their toys to use.

A study recently released by the vacation rental house website VRBO states, “Families are making up for travel time lost during the pandemic. According to VRBO, 82% of families have vacation plans for this year, evidence of that pent-up demand for travel.”

If you are ready to hit the road to enjoy the great outdoors, here are five trips you might consider to get you on the water or in the woods in the next few months.

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Michigan: Two-Hearted River Trout

In his short story “Big Two-Hearted River,” Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their positions by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again.” Anglers today recreate this experience by fishing the Two-Hearted River in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The river is home to numerous salmonid species, but brook trout are the wild, native draw.

Kentucky: Spring Squirrels

Kentucky has a short spring squirrel season that opens in mid-May and runs into June. With a daily limit of 6 and a possession limit of 12, squirrels offer hunters the excitement of filling a game bag. Spring squirrel hunting is fun on its own, but the spring season gives sportsmen a unique cast-and-blast opportunity to hunt squirrels while also fishing. Canoeing a river running through public land or paddling along a public lakeshore provides for opportunities to spot squirrels from the water.

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South Dakota: Trout Fishing the Black Hills Streams

The Black Hills Region of Western South Dakota is one of those few special destinations in the Midwest that really has it all. Deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep and mountain lions roam the Hills. Swimming in the waters you’ll find crappie, walleye, pike, perch, and of course, trout. Trout are special because they only live in the most beautiful places, and one could argue the Black Hills are as beautiful as anywhere. Hitting the small creeks of the Hills means you’ll likely have a lot of water to yourself. Check out Spearfish Creek for rainbow trout and Rapid Creek for browns. Keep your eyes peeled while wading. You just might find a nugget of the famed Black Hills Gold.

Illinois: Rend Lake Crappie

It’s hard to argue Rend Lake is not the top crappie fishing destination in Illinois. If it’s not, it certainly seems to be the best known. At 19,000 acres with an average depth of 10 feet and a maximum depth of 35, there is a lot of water for crappie to spread out across. Crappie anglers find success finesse fishing 1/8th ounce jigs on sunk brush in 10-12 feet of water. A 2019 study by IDNR showed 35 percent of crappie were over 10 inches and 30 percent were between 9-10 inches. White crappie dominate at 93 percent of the population.

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Wisconsin: Turtle Flambeau Flowage Musky

There’s nothing like fishing the Northwoods in summer. Families have been traveling to the Turtle Flambeau area to fish for generations. Musky aren’t the easiest fish to catch. They’re known as the fish of 10,000 casts, but hook into one and you could be ruined for other sport fish. Fishing for musky is hot right after the season opens. Early June is a prime time. Throwing big musky baits is a laborious task, but when you hook one, you know you’ve just done something special. Land one and you’ll have a memory to last a lifetime.

See you down the trail…

For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on or anywhere podcasts are streamed.

Brandon Butler is a syndicated outdoor newspaper columnist and freelance magazine writer. His column, Driftwood Outdoors, has appeared in over 50 different newspapers and magazines, and currently runs in over 30 publications. He has won many awards for his outdoor communication work.

Butler has established himself as a conservation and outdoor media leader of his generation. He is currently Director of Communications for Roeslein Alternative Energy, a renewable natural gas company dedicated to conservation. He spent five years as the executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. He created and taught Conservation Communications at the University of Missouri.

Butler is actively involved in conservation organizations. He is a life member of CFM, NRA, Boone & Crockett Club, Trout Unlimited, Fly Fishers International and Missouri Hunting Heritage Federation. He holds a B.S. in Organizational Leadership from Purdue University, a M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University and is currently completing an Executive M.B.A. at the University of Missouri.

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Brandon Butler
Long-time outdoor writer and native Hoosier Brandon Butler lives in Missouri and serves as the Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Previously, he worked with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as Governor Mitch Daniels’ liaison to the department, Director of Sales and Marketing for Dominator365 and as the Marketing Manager Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.


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