By John Felsher
Whether looking to bag a big buck, lip a lunker or try some wing shooting, Soggy Bottom Lodge offers something for every sportsman and more.
Located in Linden, the property covers about 1,234 acres of Marengo County in the rich Black Belt Region. J.R. Rivas and his wife Brittany bought the land in 2013. Two years later, they opened the lodge as a commercial operation.
“Soggy Bottom Lodge has it all,” says Brandon Smith, the lodge manager. “We have big bucks, mallards, largemouth bass, quail and pheasants. Every aspect of Soggy Bottom Lodge is designed to stand out because we want people to have the time of their lives and make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Although the area already produces giant bucks, lodge managers wanted to improve upon nature. First, they took most of the native whitetail deer off the property. Then, they replaced them with deer carrying better genetics to grow larger bodies and racks.
“We have a breeding facility with pens,” Smith says. “Every year, we release some bigger bucks with better genetics to supplement the herd on the property. We have an enclosure around the entire property so we can manage it for the animals. We don’t shoot the younger deer.”
Sportsmen who want to hunt the property usually spend at least one night at one of two lodges. After breakfast, hunters go to the field with their guides. The guides call the shots.
“Most of the time, the guide has to tell the hunter NOT to shoot because the hunter wants to shoot the first big buck that comes into range,” Smith says. “A 140-inch buck might come out that could be the biggest deer that person ever saw, especially one who usually hunts public land. That hunter wants to shoot it, but the guide recommends they hold out for a bigger buck.”
Indeed, the property does produce some giant bucks. During the 2018-19 season, hunters on Soggy Bottom Lodge shot about a dozen or more deer with racks scoring more than 200 inches on the Boone and Crockett Club measuring system.
“The largest B&C deer ever harvested on the property was a non-typical that measured 383 inches,” Smith says. “The biggest typical rack that I’ve seen was a solid 12-point with a couple of kickers coming off it. It measured 192 inches.”
Guests can also hunt pen-raised quail, pheasants and ducks for a much longer season than the usual seasons for wild birds. After extensive habitat work on the property, staff and guests began to see more coveys of wild quail in recent years. Many hunters book a combination hunt or pick the “cast and blast” option to add some fishing to the adventure.
“We have three lakes on the property and we’ve been catching some really big bass in recent years,” Smith says. “One lake is only two years old and we’ve already caught some eight-pounders out of it. The biggest bass I’ve seen caught on the property weighed about 11 pounds. We also have tons of bream in the lakes. When we have children’s events, kids catch big bream all day long and lots of bass.”
Two lodges exist on the spread. The original Soggy Bottom Lodge offers guests luxurious accommodations in three separate bedrooms with a total of nine beds. In 2017, Rivas built another lodge, the misnamed Shack 33. Hardly a shack, it offers first-class accommodations for 39 people in seven separate rooms, each with an individual bathroom. In the evening, guests can swap stories on the huge porch. Don’t forget to visit the Man Cave!
“Over and over, we hear people say that they’ve stayed in many lodges all over the world and ours is one of the nicest they’ve ever visited,” Smith says. “We do a lot of corporate events and retreats where people can meet, shoot skeet, fish, hunt and do other things. We also host a lot of weddings, family reunions and other events, especially when it’s not hunting season. For weddings, we can do the rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception all in the same place. People who stay at the lodges don’t need to travel back and forth.”
Each May, Kidz Outdoors (kidzoutdoors.org) holds a major fundraiser at Soggy Bottom Lodge (see story, Page 38). Money raised helps Kidz Outdoors take children with disabilities on dream hunts. During the fundraiser, children enjoy fishing, pony rides, all-terrain vehicle rides, bouncy houses, retriever demonstrations and many other events.ν
For more information on Soggy Bottom Lodge, call 334-654-4750 or 334-295-5430. Or visit soggybottomlodge.com.