It sounds odd, but we may have an invasive beetle to thank for the development of one of the Midwest’s top wingshooting destinations.
It all started in 2012, when Bob Barnes, a Detroit-area businessman, traveled to Antarctica and met Mark Evans, an expedition leader originally from Australia. The two became friends and, after sharing several more adventures, Barnes invited Evans to visit Michigan. Barnes had become fascinated with the “canopy walks” that Evans had developed in the Australian forest and wondered whether similar steel walkways could be constructed in the treetops in the Michigan woods.
Evans was interested in the project, but when he visited one of the potential sites, he learned about a deal-breaking problem: the emerald ash borer. It turns out that the invasive beetle—named for its green color and for feeding on ash trees (which typically kills them)—had infested the area. And it so happened that the dominant tree species in that particular forest was ash.
So Barnes asked Evans to instead check out a 500-acre property he owned in Evart, Michigan, that was being used as a family hunting retreat. The woods there also contained ash, so Evans called in some tree specialists and researchers from Michigan State and helped set up a site to study the emerald ash borer. He also worked with Barnes and the Ruffed Grouse Society to refocus the property’s forest management plan on sustaining the resident grouse and woodcock populations.
Evans returned to his home in Canada, but two years later he was back in Michigan after having broken his elbow and being invited by Barnes to recover at the Evart property. It was during that visit that Evans looked closer at the land and suggested that Barnes redevelop it and open it to the public. Barnes agreed under one condition: that Evans oversee the project.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Evans went right to work, and only four months later Meemo’s Farm opened. (The name comes from the nickname of Barnes’s second daughter, Emily.) Having a background in ecotourism and lodge management but not in hunting, Evans brought on a hunt manager to develop the bird fields and get the dog kennel started. He paid close attention to the process, and when the hunt manager moved on after two years, Evans took over the field work.
Since then Barnes has continued buying adjacent properties, and Meemo’s has grown to 1,750 acres. There have been countless hours and dollars spent not only on creating quality hunting and shooting programs—as well as numerous other recreational activities—but also on building and remodeling the infrastructure.
These days there are five bird fields offering hunting for pheasants, chukars and bobwhite quail in addition to a European-style-pheasant-shooting setup. Clay-target facilities include a skeet field, a 5 Stand layout and a 13-station sporting clays course that winds through the woods.
Accommodations and amenities are world-class, as well, with a luxurious main lodge and a pair of cottages equipped with everything from hot tubs, firepits and kitchens to a bowling alley, sauna and large conference room.
Obviously, a lot has been accomplished in a relatively short time, which is why Meemo’s Farm has gained in popularity so quickly. And to think: “The outdoor enthusiast’s dream location” might not have existed were it not for a little green beetle with an appetite for ash.
Meemo’s Farm is a full-service, Shooting Sportsman Endorsed Lodge. To learn more or make a reservation, call 231-734-9066 or email [email protected].