When I was invited to participate in one of Orvis’ renown outdoor school programs, I had no idea what to expect and was a bit skeptical. We all know that I’m high maintenance when it comes to activity and far from being labeled as the outdoorsy type. I am a city dweller content with loud noises, a black suit uniform, and concrete as my jungle. So yes, I was a bit anxious to get out of my comfort zone and try something new in the great outdoors.
When I started to understand the incredible school programs that Orvis provides, I was blown away with the amazing opportunity these schools offer for traveling to new places, activities, and of course, lots of group fun. Orvis offers world renown schools at beautiful sites across the country – from Vermont countryside, down south to Alabama, and as far west as the great Montana prairies, you can find a school that works for you. Schools focus on teaching skills in various outdoor activities such as fly-fishing to wingshooting. While the school is quite structured, there is still ample flexibility for fun and socialization with your fellow participants (see below for more on cigars and libations).
Before I get into the details of my personal experience at the Wingshooting School, I would like to note that all of my fabulous readers get 20% off for Orvis classes if they call 866-531-6213 and mention Ladyhattan.
A Gorgeous Fall Day at Sandanona
Sharing a play-by-play of my favorite moments from Orvis’ Classic Sandanona Wingshooting School located in Millbrook, New York, let’s start from the beginning. My bags were packed with an adorable Orvis flannel, some new skinny blue jeans, along with boots and a Barbour Jacket. Wiping away my red lipstick, I was leaving my city stress behind and ready to embrace the great outdoors in a country-chic getup. My husband barely recognized me, as most days I am dressed in all-black-everything. You can read more about my packing tips for a weekend escape to the countryside here.
Following an easy hour and ten minute drive from midtown Manhattan, we made our way through the gorgeous countryside of Millbrook, New York. The Orvis owned and operated Sandanona Lodge was set on picturesque property of rolling hills painted with vibrant autumn shades. The lodge screamed “cozy” with roaring fires, friendly people and plenty of space for making yourself comfortable before the program commenced. We were immediately greeted by our instructors for the day with donuts, hot coffee and an important safety overview for the handling of guns.
From there, we grabbed our guns and headed out to the spacious shooting range to hit some practice targets. The school is setup to ensure careful attention and coaching for each of the participants. My husband and I enjoyed direct coaching from our very own instructor, Jack, who was probably the most adorable man I have ever met. He was incredibly knowledgeable and approachable in helping me learn the step-by-step techniques to firing a shotgun with efficient aim. Although it took me a while to get the hang of things, Jack was extremely patient and helped me learn the correct technique to accurately hit targets. Within an hour or so of practice, I was hitting moving targets left and right. Let’s just say Ladyhattan was on fire. After feeling the rush of hitting a moving target, I craved more and more opportunities to improve my newly learned skill, spending hours out on the practice range with my fully loaded shotgun for the first part of the day.
During the program, each participant had the opportunity to be formally fitted for their own gun to purchase. This is a very rare opportunity and something that only few wingshooting schools in the country offer. In addition to the fitting, we enjoyed a nice lunch break back in the toasty lodge beside those delightful fireplaces. Perhaps I had worked up quite the appetite from all that activity, but I was starving and lunch was just delicious. Brisket sandwich on a warm baguette paired with a cup of homemade soup. Doesn’t that sound delicious, friends? The school provides participants a yummy menu in advance to make individualized meal preferences. The lunch was a great opportunity to socialize with other participants and discuss the highlights of our morning session. I couldn’t help but brag to the group about my newly discovered shooting skills. Let’s just say they were highly entertained with my enthusiasm.
Wrapping up the Day with a Bang
Y’all know I always go out with a bang, come on now! So, in true Ladyhattan fashion, we wrapped up our day at the Wingshooting School with just that – a big bang .
The afternoon session consisted of more practice shooting with one-on-one coaching from the instructors, but this session was a bit more challenging. We moved to different target courses that provided for more complex targets that were coming from overhead or unknown directions. This aspect of the school allowed me to really put my new skill to the test along with my sense of anticipation and inner competition. Even though these targets were more difficult to hit, it was exciting to anticipate and pop the moving targets coming from all sorts of crazy directions. At this point of the course, you could see and feel how much stronger of a shooter you could become in just a 1 day school program. For those of you who would prefer additional instruction, however, Orvis also offers 2-day school programs that provide even more practice opportunities with your instructor.
With the day of skill-building and shooting coming to an end at dusk, I was ready to celebrate my successful graduation from wingshooting school. A lover of cigars addicted to the strong smell of that tobacco smoke on a crisp fall day, I made a point to stop by the “moving humidor”. The roaming cigar cart provided a fine selection of freshly cut cigars conveniently on the shooting grounds. With my cigar in hand and school complete, the lodge offered drinks and warm snacks which we enjoyed beside the outdoor fire-pit. I felt proud of the gun-skills I learned with the help of my instructor and can’t believe that I not only learned to shoot a gun, but that I hit so many challenging targets. Basking in the high of my wingshooting glory, I puffed my cigar, sipped a glass of scotch and felt my “outdoor lady” spirit come alive, thanks to you, Orvis!
The schools offered by Orvis provide the perfect opportunity to not only hone a new skill, but a chance to explore an exciting destination. Reflecting back on this great opportunity with Orvis, I look forward to gathering friends and groups in the future to participate in these incredible school experiences offered around the country.
Planning a weekend bachelor or bachelorette party? Need a great couples activity for a weekend vacation away from the city? Have a cause that you are passionate about and want to put together a super unique activity-focused fundraiser? Or better yet, do you wish to impress those demanding corporate clients with an unforgettable outing? Perfect for for both men and women (even the high maintenance ones like me), consider planning your next sweet escape at one of Orvis‘ stellar locations with an activity facilitated through the schools they offer. Thanks again to my new friends at Orvis for such an incredible day! And don’t forget to mention “Ladyhattan” to get your 20% off discount when booking your very own adventure.