HUSSER, La. — There's a slice of Sportsman's Paradise in Husser, Louisiana. Covey Rise Lodge found a permanent home there in 1999 and now -- decades later -- is still growing.
Covey Rise is hosting the Louisiana Sporting Clays Association's 2022 Louisiana State Championship later this week. It's their fourth straight year to host it, and the championship runs from Thursday, May 12 to Sunday, May 15.
Covey Rise started as a quail hunting business when Jim Geisler was in college. He was running the business out of a shack in Livingston when he met Sandy Sharp. Sharp had property, Geisler had the business, and the rest is history.
"He's [an] exteme visionary guy. And he's like, 'You can do this, and you can do this,' and at the time I'm looking at woods. I'm like, 'I need fields to quail hunt in," Geisler said.
So Sharp gave Geisler an opportunity to develop his hundreds of acres of land in Husser, but he made it so the stakes were big for both men.
"If you go get a loan and clean up some of the property for quail hunting, I'll build you a lodge. And you can live in it so you don't have to rent, and then you can go from there," Sharp told Geisler.
The first quail season was a success. But the first summer, when there was no hunting season, was very quiet with no business.
So the pair had the idea to start youth camps, which have been held for 22 years. They also built sporting clays, which are clay shooting targets set up more like a golf course.
Covey Rise has become a premier venue for sporting clays, and they have hosted the Louisiana Sporting Clays Association State Championships many times. The business is set to host its first National Sporting Clays Association Regionals in 2023.
"It's real hard for clubs to get in, in the sense that to be able to handle that volume, so you need some land, parking, infrastructure, things like that," Geisler said. "But once you grow a place to get it, then if you do a good job, you got a good chance of doing that and more."
The United States is divided into five regionals which include multi-day events, hundreds of competitors, and nearly a dozen courses.
"So once you get to regionals, if you do a good job you might bid on the U.S. Open, which is, for a club, the biggest thing you can go after," Geisler said.
When we asked him if he would ever try to host one, he said that he was focused on the upcoming regionals.
"People have asked and have said that I should, but I think we need to make sure we do a good job of this," Geisler said.
Covey Rise has continued to grow over the years. In addition to camps, gun clubs, sporting clays and quail, pheasant, and flighted mallard hunting, Sharp had another suggestion in 2010.
"Even with the kids camp and the sporting clays, we needed more diversity," Sharp said. So my connection with hunting and different events here with chefs and restaurant owners in New Orleans gave me the outlet. And Sandy with the vision, he actually moved the dirt and built the farm," Geisler said.
And they built it "from the dirt up," literally.
"We actually delivered [the vegetables.] So I started in my truck and then Sandy took over during hunting season and did the deliveries," Geisler said. "We would go meet with chefs, develop relationships. They would come out of the restaurant and purchase right off the back of the truck."
Covey Rise delivers vegetables to restaurants five days a week from Baton Rouge to the Northshore and New Orleans. You've probably seen their produce on local menus.
During the pandemic, the needs changed and that's when the farm switched gears and really threw its efforts behind its produce club. You can now get premade produce boxes delivered. The business also grows flowers that they sell to florists, the bulk of which goes to shops on Magazine Street.
The partnership has brought so many aspects to Covey Rise. After Hurricane Katrina, the pair decided to put cabins around the lake. Some of their top customers bought the lots and built cabins, which are utilized like condominiums.
A couple of years ago, Geisler bought Sharp's share of the farm so he could retire. Geisler had already been buying bits and pieces along the way. Inside the gates, there are 600 acres of Covey Rise. Jim owns 350 acres and the cabin association owns 250 acres.
Sharp may be retired, but his advice is always available.
"At times, he was like a dad mentoring, but then other times, you know we're close and he's like a brother," Geisler said. "Constantly has taught me ways to improve this place, how to improve everything from the roads to the view of the place, the details that people would appreciate."
And Covey Rise is still making upgrades. Last summer they added a venue where they started booking weddings. they also added "hideaways" that are hotel rooms for events. Covey Rise can sleep just over 50 people on the property.
And Covey Rise was all built out of a decades-long relationship, friendship, and a solid foundation.