Who doesn’t yearn for the good old days? Those simpler times when life was less hectic and people were actually nice to one another. For hunters, they were days of plenty, when cover and game were plentiful and knocking on doors often gained one access to private ground.
Heartland Lodge owner Gary Harpole remembers—as a kid growing up in Illinois. When a bottle of soda was a treat and a pound of bologna, a few slices of cheese and a loaf of bread were staples for a day spent hunting quail with his father and uncles. “We’d go down to my grandfather’s house,” Harpole said, “which is close to where the lodge is now, and we’d hunt some of the same properties that we hunt today. I’d look forward to that more than Christmas.” Harpole admits that, at the time, pulling the trigger of his single-shot .410 was what he appreciated most, but in hindsight it was the camaraderie, traditions and memories being made that really mattered.
It now has been 25 years since Harpole opened Heartland Lodge, in west-central Illinois on property adjacent to his grandfather’s. And in that time he’s seen family members, friends and clients start their own hunting traditions there. “Some guests have been coming to the lodge for more than 20 years,” Harpole said, “and they’ve established traditions that they look forward to like I did as a kid. Now when I look back to those times hunting at my grandfather’s, I don’t remember pulling the trigger as much as I do the special times I had with my family. Those same types of memories are being passed on through the lodge with our guests.”
Adding to the experience is that Heartland runs upland hunts reminiscent of those Harpole enjoyed as a boy: “We’re going back to the old style of hunting—going to different farms and hunting different properties.” The lodge has assembled a collection of a half-dozen farms ranging in size from 80 to 850 acres—all of which are managed for quail and pheasants. “A lot of the farms have native grasses in CRP,” Harpole said. “Others are in agriculture with fencerows; and on some we have put in ‘filter strips’—native grasses around the perimeters of ag fields, like corn and beans, so you’re hunting swaths around the edges.” Often a group will hunt one farm in the morning and a different farm in the afternoon, following well-trained pointing dogs and never knowing whether a covey of quail or long-tailed rooster will get up next.
Evenings, of course, are spent at one of Heartland’s luxury lodges or cabins enjoying hearty home-cooked meals and Midwestern hospitality. Making memories and traditions.
With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why at Heartland Lodge these are the good old days.
Heartland Lodge is a Shooting Sportsman Endorsed Lodge. To learn more visit Heartland Lodge.