Part II: Pheasant and Country Music in Iowa

Not Just Your Ordinary Hunting Camp

Saturday, November 29 2008 12:21   Kieser Outdoors
We were pheasant hunting in Iowa. Our hunting party, including several Nashville entertainers, had spent the day in the northwest Iowa native prairie grass strips of Loess Hills Preserve.

I was with 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."

Also along were Mark Miller, Don Miller, Chad Winters and Curtis Goettsch, staff members of Sticks and Stones television and magazine, who 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.

It had been a wonderful day.

LIVING IN LUXURY - That evening we returned to our Hole N' The Wall Lodge hunting camp that included what all hunters dream of after a day afield; clean, king-sized beds, hot water out of exceptionally clean showers, and a drink.

I have spent 30 years writing hunting and fishing stories. Most of those years included time in a variety of camps, some that included mouse droppings found on pillows when we were finished hunting and black water out of the showers. I once stayed the night in an old Ozark barn and was awakened when a raccoon ran across my chest. I was not prepared for the luxury of our digs for the week.

Dan and Lisa Well's Hole N' The Wall Lodge, a five star accommodation and the best hunting camp I ever stayed at, hosted us.

The lodge's main section was framed in by an 1890s barn that had been taken apart and reassembled. Lisa's sister, Stephanie, told her at the beginning of this huge project that she was crazy for attempting this mammoth effort, and was pleasantly amazed when it was finished. Stephanie showed me photos and fondly remembered each detail of sections as they were removed and restored, including drilling out wooden pegs that held the original structure together.

Shelves on the 40-foot-tall, stacked-stone wood-burning fireplace holds various art pieces, mostly bronzes. To the left is a glass case of Civil War relics and other items. But my favorite piece was the Charles M. Russell coffee table with a glass top attached to a large bronze hunter returning on horseback and towing pack mules covered with his cut up elk and other items. Others in the group preferred the well-stocked bar. The basement housed pool tables and several electronic games including an old-fashioned pinball machine that I had to try several times.

Later in the evening we dined on the finest Iowa prime rib, with roast potatoes and corn prepared by two fine chefs, Andreas and Jose. Excellent bottles of house wine carrying the Lodge's name and logo were passed around the room and toasts were made to a safe, successful hunt. I leaned back in my chair and thought of Vienna sausages, potato chips and other greasy meals prepared in camps of long past. I'll take five-star cuisine anytime while leaving grease to younger stomachs.

Mark Miller, with his dad, Don, and their staff spend months planning this annual event and every year it gets bigger. Sticks and Stones staffers Toni Green, events coordinator, and Trepp Nagel worked extremely hard making sure everything ran smoothly.

Miller's group found the perfect venue for their annual event. The Hole N' The Wall Lodge is the perfect place to host Nashville royalty and aging (55) outdoors writers.

The Hole N' The Wall Lodge offers hunting and fishing packages, but executives are starting to hold sales meetings and other events at the Hole N' The Wall Lodge. This remarkable out of the way place that once was Iowa's best kept secret is being discovered by people and organizations.

BACK IN THE FIELD - Next day, new arrivals joined our hunting groups. The Drew Davis Band had arrived just in time for dinner the night before, and woke to a rainy day for their first pheasant hunt. Several admitted to little or no experience with a shotgun.

I volunteered to help guide and it was a pleasant experience. I have never coached a more polite group of young men who listened to every bit of safety and hunting advice we could offer. Soon I followed John Arthur, the tour manager, as Hanus worked with Mo Levone, the band's bass player while Cain followed Drew Davis.

I was impressed with Joe Cain's handling of the new hunters. It was easy to see why the lodge boasts an extremely high safety record in a sport where accidents happen much too frequently. Pheasants sometime jump up at unexpected times and caution is critical before squeezing the trigger.

The first pheasant did jump up unexpectedly and quickly rose to the left. Arthur snapped off a shot and then held up on the second for safety reasons as Davis missed his only shot. I congratulated Arthur for his good judgment in pulling up and not shooting again. Before the day was over, everyone in the band had dropped their first pheasant. Dave Kelly and Roger Malinowski from the band who joined the other group had equal success.

COMMUNITY NIGHT - The community was rewarded by a concert evening performed by our Nashville artists. Over 100 friendly folks from surrounding communities came to listen, drink and enjoy good food. The show opened as each country star stepped up and sang hit songs that get air time on the radio. Later the jam session started and band members performed together.

Some danced while most sat and listened to the present and future of Nashville. Later Carley, the Well's youngest daughter, joined Daniel Lee Martin in singing his hit, "Moonshine Momma." Young Carley belted out the chorus, raising eyebrows around the room as everyone wondered if she would be on the Grand Ole' Opry stage someday. I only knew that the young lady beat me at pinball earlier that evening.

That night I tried to sleep while revisiting pheasants flying across the plains, Nashville artists singing in this small venue, and remarkable dogs working in and out of the native prairie grass. Native Americans or white hunters who once rode these plains would have been amazed.

It had been a pheasant hunt unlike any other for me.

For more information, contact:

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

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