Iowa Pheasant: It Doesn’t Get Much Better

Sunday, November 02 2008 16:35   Kieser Outdoors
Rhythmic motion pulsated through stands of native prairie grass, molded from breezes perhaps touched by kindred spirits that once hunted the northwest Iowa plains. Native American tribes and settlers moving west searched these rolling hills for food. Competition was fierce.

A mature bald eagle circled high against blue matting, peering down at the line of hunters dressed in orange vests and hats. The great bird hunted the same prey-pheasants-and interference of his daily meal was not appreciated.

The eagle finally turned north for another field of harvested crops and prairie grass strips where a pheasant might soon leave cover for a quick bite of soybeans and instant death from above, another harsh example of nature's food chain.

Our hunting party, including several Nashville entertainers, entered the northwest Iowa native prairie grass strips of Loess Hills Preserve. Each strip was surrounded by picked soybeans fields, ideal spots for pheasants.

Musicians and singers who make their livings playing a variety of instruments and singing for thousands of screaming fans nightly from coast to coast jumped at the opportunity to hunt Iowa pheasants in lives where free time is precious. Some spend too few weeks at home and many months on the road while conquering their fans with meticulously produced live shows. They welcomed this break from busy schedules.

Country music artists Andy Griggs, Jason Brown, Jason Meadows, Joel Brentlinger and Daniel Lee Martin, followed by his wife Stephanie who shot video for their television show, "Back Stage and Back Roads with Daniel Lee Martin," plowed through thick grass in anticipation of shooting the day's first pheasant for bragging rights.

Joe Cain, manager of the Hole N' The Wall Lodge led the group. Mark Miller, Don Miller, Chad Winters and Curtis Goettsch, staff members of Sticks and Stones television and magazine, joined Ron Hanus of Pella, Iowa and Jim Jolliff, part owner of Whiskey Jim's, a big stopover for Nashville acts moving through Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Winters and Goettsch took turns filming for the Sticks and Stones television show.

The large group immediately split in half and waded through tall cover in opposite directions. I joined the group with Brown, Brentlinger and Martin who started down a long hill of native prairie grass. Each shotgun was correctly pointed up as they pushed through, trying to avoid stepping in badger holes, another fact of life on the plains. There was no doubt that these Southern boys had handled guns many times before.

Each hunter cautiously stepped like soldiers in a mine field. Pheasants explode out of cover and hunters must be ready, after walking through several miles of thick cover when minds are elsewhere. Some birds hold for pointing dogs, making it easier.

Suddenly, the sharp-eyed Brown pointed out a pheasant peeking at us from a distance of at least 30 yards and surrounded by prairie grass. We walked toward the crouching bird with three dogs that caught its scent and sprinted forward. We readied for the shot and watched the bird make a small leap and then serpentine under the prairie grass. That was it, the bird was gone.

We stomped out the area behind well-trained dogs and finally gave up. The big cock pheasant survived another day after using techniques learned from dodging death from above and on the ground from coyote, fox and a variety of other critters.

A pheasant jumped up in front of the other group. We turned to watch Don Miller lead the bird and drop it with a well placed shot from his 20 gauge. I was sorry not to be close enough to hear him give grief to his son, Mark, who had yet to shoot his first bird that day. What father could resist the chance to rub it in on his son?

We walked up the hill and I started thinking about the talent in this group. Brentlinger had played his CD as we drove to the hunting area. A beautiful female voice softly presented his words that will soon be echoing on radios and in stores all over the world. Brown followed up with one of his hits and I sat in awe of writers and singers who could produce this type of musical poetry while thousands of others in Nashville were doing the same without success.

Daniel Lee Martin gave me one of his CD's and I had listened to a couple of cuts and marveled at the richness of his voice. During the hunt his wife, Kristina, filmed as he disappeared out of sight in the native prairie grass.

"Just looking for arrowheads," he joked after stepping in a badger hole and falling, a fate most of us eventually endured on this hunt. I was impressed how he controlled the muzzle of his shotgun during the fall, the mark of a very good hunter.

Few birds escaped the Nashville shooters that afternoon. No doubt several slipped away and others jumped in front of my shotgun, apparently a very safe place to be. I even waited for one to gain distance before missing it. I grumbled an expletive louder than intended and turned to find a television camera in my face.

"Oops, sorry," I muttered as the cameraman politely tried not to laugh.

Next Time: Not Your Ordinary Hunting Camp

For more information, contact:

The Hole N' The Wall Lodge (712) 568-1010 or (712) 539-2500 or visit their web site at

Loess Hills Preserve (712) 239-3502 or visit their web site at
Merrill Iowa