Nestled on the black prairie of Mississippi lies a slice of bird hunters paradise called Prairie Wildlife. It’s a grand upland lodge that was awarded the Orvis wingshooting lodge of the year in 2020. The property is the dream of Mr. Jimmy Bryant and its also the dream come true to the hundreds of bird hunters who flock, pun intended, here every fall in search of birds, peace, and at times solace.
After multiple excursions to Prairie Wildlife, I think I have experienced the best of everything they offer and the one thing I know for sure is that I will be spending more time there for the 2022 season as well. Engaging a bird hunting lodge should not be simply a hunting trip, it should be an experience. The people that work at this lodge work diligently to provide their guests with just that.
On my first trip there I was on the brink of quitting my job and moving under a bridge in downtown Nashville. It was 2020, COVID was ramping up and no one knew what to do about it. Work was stressful, buying groceries was stressful, and the local news channel was broadcasting death and hospital stats like they were the college football standings. Life was forever changed, and we were not sure about much of anything. Its was a call my from my friend Robert Woodall that started this wonderful experience. He invited me to come on his annual hunting trip at Prairie Wildlife and I could not accept fast enough.
Once I got to the lodge it became clear that this was both a hunting lodge and an oasis of sanity in a world that was, at the time, off the proverbial rails. The lodge itself is very nice and somehow, they managed to be “high class” without projecting that feeling that makes people uncomfortable.
The check in experience set the tone for the trip. Emily Essary was the first person I encountered, and her personality was a giant breath of fresh air in a world where people were almost afraid to talk to one another. I told her my name and was checked in and assigned a room in very short order. Then a young lady, and later I learned a fine dog handler/trainer, named McKinsey Wedel, and her fabulous Lab “Turbo” got my waiver paperwork signed and I was done. I have been back multiple time since that day and everyone there remembers my name. After a couple trips I asked Emily how she always remained so upbeat, and almost contagiously happy. Her reply spoke volumes to me, “no one comes to a hunting lodge sad, and I like happy people”.
The amenities at the lodge are both elegant and thoughtful. Rooms are spacious well laid out and present a very comfortable appeal. They have a “mud Room” that is also a gun storage and cleaning room complete with everything you need to maintain your shotgun on the trip. The room also has lockers for your hunting gear and a safe to store your shotgun.
The dining area is where we start to go from elegant to decadent. Its spacious and somehow spurred a memory of a John Wayne movie. Of course, it takes a heck of a room to serve their meals in. The food at this lodge deserves an entire story of its own, its that amazing. I had always heard people speak of five-star meals but had never understood that that meant until eating here.
After getting settled in and seeing the lodge we decided to shoot some warmup rounds in preparation for the upcoming upland hunts. This lodge has two sanctioned Helice fields and WOW what a treat it was to shoot on them. Xavier Fairly is the in-house shooting instructor and manager of the fields. You can see the spring edition for more on Helice, and how it is the single best shooting discipline to make you a better wingshooter.
On day one of my first trip, we were treated to a European tower shoot. Having never participated in one my expectations were a little cloudy to say the least. By the time it was over I understood why it was called a shoot and not a hunt. The birds were fast and high, the shooting was faster and furious. To say it gave my Browning 725 a workout would be an understatement.
Day two began like day one with a marvelous breakfast promptly at 8 am. (Now I had been soaking up that fireplace since 5 am). We then headed out for a mixed bag upland hunt. I hunted with a guide by the name of Todd Robertson. He and his dog Izzy were a pleasure to hunt with. His pace matched mine perfectly, even with my bad hip. I am sure this was by design as he was a consummate professional, and an easy guy to hunt with. If I typed a thousand words about his dog Izzy it would not be enough as she was an amazing pointer!
That afternoon we were treated to the very first waterfowl hunt the lodge had ever had. Once again, these folks went above and beyond. I am not a waterfowl hunter as I prefer to be moving behind a good upland dog. However, this was just way to much fun!
Day three, our last day, was a sad day for me. I was watching the sun come up, over one of the many managed lakes on the property, and my phone beeped to make me aware of a litany of voicemails I had missed. I had to do what any professional would have done in that scenario. I turned the damn thing off and got another cup of coffee.
We ended the adventure with a final upland hunt, again I choose to hunt with Todd and Izzy. No one knew but Izzy looked just like my first bird dog from way back in the late 70″s. This morning i didn’t not see Izzy pointing I saw my old Partner Sam and her Last Point. It was a glorious morning of wingshooting, laughing, and fellowship. I know my dad in heaven was walking beside me with his trusty Ithaca Model 37 featherlight 16 gauge.
I left Prairie Wildlife both recharged and relaxed. The entire staff made an impression on me that I will remember forever. My only regret was I did not hunt with Benny, the lodge manager, or Mr. Jimmy and his dog Gabe. That’s why I will be back to chase birds and maybe catch a bass.
If you want a true upland hunting experience and the amenities to go along with-it Prairie Wildlife is a destination you don’t want to miss. It’s the total upland experience with a southern flair.