A lot of hunters think that owning a wingshooting lodge would be a dream job. After all, who wouldn’t want to go hunting every day, hang out with great people and enjoy fabulous meals and drinks? It’s enough to make one start searching online for properties and planning an exit strategy from the daily grind.
But we all know that the best things in life don’t come easy. Growing and running any successful business requires hard work—the rewards being commensurate with the effort expended.
No one knows this better than Travis Ewing, who together with his wife, Abby, own and operate Heritage 1865, a pheasant hunting lodge in south-central Iowa. As a boy, Travis dreamed of guiding hunters on his family’s 3,000-acre farm, in Promise City, and in college he began making that dream reality by taking paying clients hunting on the land. After graduating, he and Abby moved to the property, built a beautiful 9,600-square-foot lodge and started Heritage 1865—named for the year the Ewing Family settled the ground from which the farm had grown. These days Travis and Abby are hands-on owners involved in daily operations as well as building the business.
Take, for example, a typical day during pheasant season. For Travis it begins before dawn with a tall cup of coffee and a review of the day’s itinerary. Next come chores, including checking on and feeding the farm’s 200 head of cattle and then visiting the dog kennel, where he feeds and waters his six dogs and power-washes their runs.
A short drive has Travis at the lodge, where he helps Chef Tim Holmes any way he can, including making sure there are enough supplies and checking to see if quail or pheasant appetizers have been requested for the evening. Once the hunters have eaten breakfast, Travis trades his owner’s cap for his guide’s cap. (This being a family operation, Travis does most of the guiding along with his brother-in-law.) Then it’s into the field for the morning hunt, which typically runs from 8:30 till 11:30, when the group returns to the lodge for lunch.
During midday’s “down time,” Travis scoots home to visit with his family and catch up on paperwork and phone calls. Then, depending on how long the hunters want to take a break, he’ll usually have the group back in the field around 1:30 or 2 for a couple more hours of chasing pheasants and quail.
Back at the lodge in the evening, Travis takes care of the dogs, cleans birds and, if he is not eating with the guests, helps get dinner served and cleaned up afterward. He may stick around to socialize with the hunters, but it’s important for him to head home to spend time with Abby and their 2-year-old son. (Did we mention that in addition to running the business, Travis and Abby have a toddler and are expecting another child?) Then there is more paperwork to be done and phone calls to be returned before crashing for the night—hopefully to get a thorough rest in preparation for doing everything again the following day.
Needless to say, owning and operating a wingshooting lodge is not for everyone. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But those who are passionate about it, like Travis and Abby Ewing, make the work seem easy. Which is why lodges like Heritage 1865 enjoy so much repeat business and are so successful.
Heritage 1865 is a full-service Shooting Sportsman Endorsed Lodge. To learn more or to make a reservation, call 641-780-2290 or email [email protected].
Images courtesy of Heritage 1865.