Hunting birds under a brooding sky when a skin of frost has blurred truck windows and the air is still and heavy seems surreal. The earth sucks up scent, and the pointer’s tinkling bell sounds dull. On this March morning the bell falls silent, because Roo, my year-old shorthair, has struck a pheasant in the sorghum patch before me. Breath pouring like smoke from an old two-cycle tractor, the shaking dog wants this ringneck dead in the air so he can retrieve it and go find another. And finding another is a given at Meemo’s Farm, near Evart, Michigan, in the center of the Lower Peninsula.
From friends and magazine ads, I had heard about Meemo’s: “a hunting lodge and game preserve like no other.” Really? How could it be that different from other high-end commercial shooting destinations? I now have visited three times and discovered why.
The 1,168-acre property is tucked among the rolling woods and farmlands of Osceola County, some of the prettiest country in the Midwest. A short drive from major travel arteries, Meemo’s is served by international airports at Grand Rapids and Traverse City, as well as the local airstrip at Evart, which can handle small jets.
The eight-year-old main lodge features four bedrooms and is exceptionally well appointed with handcrafted furniture, heated bathroom floors and a hot tub. The Lanes (named for a full-size, two-lane bowling alley in the basement) is a three-bedroom hideaway separate from the lodge. Like the two-bedroom Cottage (with the front-porch hot tub overlooking a duck marsh), it is brand new and equally spectacular. With 18 beds total, Meemo’s is ideal for families and small groups and is popular as a corporate retreat. Manager Mark Evans soon will break ground for a new conference room and second lodge that will double overnight capacity.
Guests can prepare their own meals at The Cottage and The Lanes, both of which feature fully equipped kitchens and fireplaces. I stayed and dined at the lodge, where Chef Randy Gibson prepared a sumptuous dinner of local, fresh-caught walleye in a cream sauce of morel mushrooms picked on the property.
Meemo’s offers a variety of clay-shooting opportunities, including a skeet course, wobble trap and 5 Stand setup. The 13-station sporting clays course is the best I have shot, period. Each stand features three automatic traps, most of which are nestled in dips and swells of the glaciated terrain and hidden in foliage. A grouse-hunting friend and I shot the course in August and came away feeling ready for wild birds.
For hunting, Meemo’s offers liberated pheasants and chukar. The ringnecks I shot in March were long-tailed birds that ran ahead of Roo; my setter, Ragan; and a young Elhew pointer named Willy. My guide that gray morning was Hunting Manager Dave Fischer, who designed Meemo’s foodplots, oversees the kennel operation, and organizes walk-up hunting and European-style shoots.
Wild-bird hunting opportunities are also available, and Fischer plans to add waterfowling on the ponds dotting the property. Guided or go-it-alone forays for grouse and woodcock on nearby public lands are an option, as are helicopter flights to hunt both species in the Beaver Island group, in Lake Michigan. A nine-passenger plane whisks clients and dogs to Beaver Island for the short jump by helicopter to High Island for this singular adventure.
Bird hunters who like to fish can catch rainbow trout on the property or sample the Manistee, Pere Marquette, Pine, Muskegon and Au Sable rivers for trout, steelhead, salmon, walleyes and smallmouths. All of the waters are easily accessible by vehicle or helicopter.
Open year-round, Meemo’s is the nickname for owner Bob Barnes’s daughter, Emily. Fifteen years ago Barnes, an avid wingshooter, bought the original 80 acres, parked a trailer there and traveled there often from his Detroit-area home. His dream of creating a world-class destination for discerning sportsmen is now a reality.
For more information, contact Meemo’s Farm, 231-734-9066.