Winghaven Lodge is a Wingshooter’s Dream
Fort Wayne, Indiana: The nationwide Coronavirus pandemic had me feeling down and restless. Two years in the planning, chances of visiting my daughter in Aspen vanished in early March. With every state going on shut down mode, I needed outside, and I needed action. In the attempt to find my gundog one last field experience before spring, I stumbled across a gem in the bluegrass state. Open October 1st through April 1st, this upland preserve sports fantastic habitat, great accommodations, delicious table fare, a discerning pro shop, and caters to corporate events, weddings, and family gatherings.
Billy Quinton is a sales engineer from Marietta, Georgia whose been visiting Kentucky’s Winghaven Lodge three-to-four times a year since 2012. “I come here to get away and relax by doing what I love and that’s shooting. So as a hunter, that craving is satisfied by Winghaven’s Unlimited Plan. For the same money or less than a trip to South Dakota or Georgia, I can take home dozens of birds instead of a handful.”
Which leads a writer to cover the obvious conundrum sportsmen face today, a lack of wild birds and natural habitat. Interestingly enough, purists are the same guys that live very north for grouse, further west for pheasant and partridge, and only silver spoons in the Red Hills of Georgia or generational ranchers in Texas seem to enjoy wild quail coveys on private ranches with high-roller, exclusive guestlists.
My guide for the day, Shane, remembers the last hooray in 2000. “I’ll never forget flushing nine wild coveys in one day here in Crittenden County. It never happened since and I’ll bet it’d take you a month to flush that many now.”
Owner Russell Edwards is quick to note that amongst the legitimate reasons listed for quail decline, the blizzard of 1978, farming practices, and predators, “it’s been the unbridled sporting mavericks overshooting wild habitat limits in the past. No one ever mentions that,” reports Edwards. Reminds me of the lessons Robert Ruark penned from the ‘old man.’
With altruism set on the shelf, entrepreneurs like Edwards are keeping the tradition alive by offering all-inclusive packages worth driving the hours for. Billy Quinton and I each drove the 5.5 hours required to unload four boxes of shells on those 6-ounce birds we know as the bobwhite quail outside Providence, Kentucky. For $1095 you’ll be served five scrumptious meals, two nights lodging, unlimited shooting during a morning and afternoon hunt, guides and dogs, field transportation, bird processing, and taxes. Shells and gratuities separate. No hidden fees, fellas.
Fuel for the Fire
Traversing the warm season and switchgrass strips across this undulating countryside will burn the calories. I think we put the better part of ten miles to our boots. No worries, Michele Edwards will make sure you’re fueled for success. Hunters wake to the smell of bacon and eggs, piled beside biscuits and gravy. A juicy hamburger at lunch might be outdone by the accompanying homemade soup. The balanced protein-to-carb ratio burns so efficiently, you never feel stuffed in the field.
Dinners consist of a sizzling steak or pork chop pairs, potatoes, and greens. Wash it down with a couple of cold beers. If that doesn’t make you drowsy, the bourbon pecan chocolate chip tart with bourbon chocolate drizzle and ice cream will. Hmm, I may not even finish this story.
Michele admits the culinary scheduling for all-week parties can be daunting. But growing up on Lake Barkley in the family-owned Buzzard Rock Resort, hospitality experience comes naturally. “Honestly, Scott, we’ve met so many great folks here. They come as clients and leave as friends. Many we even vacation with.”
As for the fuel that started this whole whiz-bang, the Onton, KY native followed his daddy’s footsteps, to a degree, in the electrical business. With sales experience and a love for bird hunting, Russell Edwards had an idea. He began buying up land parcels in 1999 and in 2005, with one English pointer and a few mowed strips, he started what he calls a “kick and shoot.”
The spring and summer of 2008 saw the Edwards building their first lodge. “The stock market crashed on September 29th and we opened our doors to a full-fledged operation October 1st,” recalls the owner.
Coveys of Opportunity
Fifteen years in, business is flourishing at Winghaven with good reason. Forget the great relationships formed and the top-notch gun dogs every wingshooting entity markets. You can find those anywhere, sometimes on luck. Like stepping into a vintage painting, I relived a bygone hunt on this textured, rolling canvas chalked full of game. And at a great value. “Birds are the facilitator,” says Russell. “You gotta’ have ‘em to play the game.”
Another take away wasn’t just the warmth of a pretty lodge, but the layout; there is a flow that makes sense. From the parking lot you enter a handsome locker room, equipped with bench seating for getting off those muddy boots and to the drying rack. Lining the perimeter, all your gear rests in an assigned oaken cubby. Try finding that amenity elsewhere.
Spacious bedrooms line straight down the right side of the hallway where you can get showered in a private bath. Each room opens to a sprawling back porch where you can rock a little or let your pooch water the yard. All by design.
Tastefully mounted trophy game adorns the spectacular dining and great rooms across the hallway. Once there, it’s all about fellowship and tall tales. Groups can relax on supple leather couches horseshoed around the fireplace or belly up to the bar seating for a splash over the rocks while watching a ballgame.
Hot Diggity Dog
Winghaven welcomes your hunt dogs if you bring your own kennel. Stohon was a nine-month-old GSP at the time and learning the ropes in the field. The first hour testing his command and retrieval skills was productive with some concessions. Ten flushes and five returns without coaching wasn’t bad for the kid in the candy store. Then we kenneled him to run a couple of Shane’s dogs till lunch.
In the afternoon, Shane and I had not gathered our gear before Stohon located quail forty yards off from the truck and froze stiff on point. He flushed on command, retrieved to hand, and thirty-five more flushes in the next two hours told us we had a monster hunter waiting to be ‘finished.’ We put him up for some rest and kept going.
While chukar and pheasant are offered as options, Russell and I knocked out ninety quail on two three-hour sessions, exchanging good-willed jabs and dog training philosophies. Not bad for toting 28-gauge side by sides. But it was Stohon’s ‘awakening’ that proved the beer batter on my Kentucky fried quail outing.
Folks, I cannot stress enough, if your dog needs reps, this no-limit Winghaven package will leave an indelibly etched picture in your companion’s mind that’ll turn him for the better. Now, it’s up to me to keep the training going over the spring and summer months and have Stohy ready to rumble come fall. However, Winghaven will gladly train and ‘finish’ your pup for a fee, and their fine stable of gun dogs are sure to model appropriate conduct in sporting prowess.
Winghaven was just an all-around great experience you gotta’ see for yourself. Bring your favorite smoke, as Russell’s cigar cabin is the perfect place to toast the day’s end. He will match that pleasure with a special “Kentucky Bourbon Tour” lineup to impress the most discriminating aficionado. Oh, and before I forget … Evan Williams and Pappy Van Winkle told me to tell you, “Cheers!”
For more information contact: Russell Edwards at
Winghaven Lodge 270-836-7998 or email@example.com