There is this amazing place, an organization near Sigourney in Keokuk County Iowa called the “Keokuk County Ikes” that for 54 years has been “Thee” place for area sportsmen and sportswomen to congregate, and share their passion for conservation, camping, shooting, hunting, fishing, and other kinds of outdoor recreation. It is the place where many of the local youth and adults have learned firearm and hunting safety, and also learned how to shoot safely with air rifles, rimfire guns, shotguns, high powered rifles, handguns and archery. More recently, many people have been trained and qualified for concealed carry permits at the “Ikes” clubhouse and range.
Officially known as the Keokuk County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, commonly referred to as the Keokuk County Ikes, or the “Ikes 40”. This property is located 2 miles east of Sigourney, and 2 miles north of Highway 92 on the paved Highway that goes to Lake Belva Deer. The address is 20162 240Th Avenue, Sigourney. The “Ikes” property of 40 acres was originally mostly timber with some being cleared to accommodate the clubhouse, trap, skeet, rifle, handgun, bow ranges, a pond, and camping area. In 2009 The “Ikes” were the only property owners along the route that donated land to Keokuk County, to accommodate the recreational hiking trail that adjoins the west side of the property.
Local history buffs may be interested to know that the property contains a family burial plot. This is the resting place of two people, the original land owner Christopher Crawford, buried in late March of 1871 and his wife, presumably at a later date. The date of Mrs. Crawford’s death and her first name are unknown. There are no head stones or markers at the burial plot, however the exact location of the plot is surrounded by buried markers and accurately plotted. The burial plot has always been respectfully maintained by the “Ikes”. The history of the burial plot was recorded in an affidavit provided by Mr. William F. Snakenberg at the age of 83, in March of 1951. Mr. Snakenberg was a long time friend and neighbor of the Crawford family. The last family descendant of the Crawford’s to own the property was Lois Lenninger, whom was no doubt viewed as eccentric, do to her keeping fully grown pet pigs in her home in Sigourney.
Chapter history research indicates there was an established Keokuk County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League in the 1940’s with officers including Cotton Etter, Lyle Kra
mer, Dr. R.A. Minor, Francis Besser, John Crossen, and Edwin Kerber. It appears that chapter ceased in 1951. The current chapter was established by Forrest Millikin and chartered in 1958. The original listing of officers was J. Bud Wallerich, Guido Stempel, Forrest Millikin, and James Kerkove. The Chapter was incorporated with the state of Iowa in April, 1961 for a period of 50 years. Other officers and members involved at this time included Art Peiffer, Ray Cassens, Raymond Wonderlich, Roxie Gatewood, Russ Aldinger, and V.J. Fleming. A debt of gratitude is certainly owed to the founders for their perseverance in establishing the chapter, and acquiring the property for the benefit of later generations. There are two current members whom are second generation of these founders, Sons of Cotton Etter and J. Bud Wallerich. Two current members have continuous memberships of more than 40 years, Jim Malley and Myles Miller. The “Ikes 40“ property was purchased for $2,100.00 in September 1961. The Keokuk County Ikes was recognized by the national organization on the fiftieth anniversary of its charter in 2008. In January of 2012 the Keokuk County Izaak Walton League was re-incorporated with the State of Iowa in perpetuity, and is classified as 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization and is property tax exempt.
Over the years the “Ikes” has hosted such popular events as camp outs, Skunk River boat and camping trips, and fishing derby’s, geared toward kids. As well as wild game feeds, smelt fries, fish fries, trap and skeet shoots for the public. The property has been host to many groups and events such as The Keokuk County Sportsmen’s Club (3 D Bow Shoots), Sigourney High School Trap Team, Hunter safety training and certification, State of Iowa concealed carry  training and qualification, 4H shooters ( including two state wide competitions), Boy and Cub Scouts, Relay for Life (timber of terror fundraising), law enforcement firearms training and qualification (Keokuk County Sheriff and Conservation Departments, Sigourney PD), Christian Men’s weekend outing, IR 50/50 rim fire competition shoots, Belva Deer Ice Fishing competitors, Trivia Night fireworks fundraising. The clubhouse is available for rent and commonly used for such events as family reunions, graduation parties, and wedding receptions. Also for rent are camping spots with utility hook ups and sewage dump.
The “Ikes” is financially supported by income from dues, rent, fund raising events, and donations. The Keokuk County Sportsmen’s Club funds their use of the property (3D bow shoots and ranges use) through their dues, volunteer work, and donations.  Main expenses are insurance, utilities, maintenance, and improvements to the property and facilities.  Physical improvements have been ongoing since the establishment of the chapter, when funds and volunteer labor permit.
Most of the improvements to the “Ikes” over the years have been from member donations of labor, materials, equipment and operation. Many members are involved in trades such as: construction, electrical, plumbing, heating, and landscaping. Those tradesmen have been very generous with their talents and time. The “Ikes” buys everything possible from local sources, and the many discounts and donations from community merchants are greatly appreciated. Recently the “Ikes” received a sizable bequest from the estate of Sigourney native Wessie Utterback, which allowed the new “modern” bathroom addition to the clubhouse, installation of water well, and septic system. Also the highway and hiking trail project to Lake Belva Deer required the relocation of the trap range by the county. At this time a skeet range was added. Electric target throwers were donated by the 4H shooters for use by all. The Keokuk County Sportsmen’s Club’s establishment of their 3D bow shoot course at the “Ikes” has been a huge asset. All their income after expenses as well as countless hours of volunteer work has been invested in the facility; their current project in progress is the construction of a three hundred yard firearm range on the property.
The Izaak Walton League of America is one of the first conservation groups established in the nation in 1922. It includes 44,000 members, nearly 300 chapters, 42 of which are in Iowa, a good summation of the IWLA mission is their motto “Defenders of soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife.” The memberships of the “Ikes” and Sportsmen’s have numbered over 100 in the past, but sadly much less now, possibly because many people don’t know of the mission, or realize all of the activities sponsored, and the benefits of this facility to the area.  The “Ikes” and the Keokuk County Sportsmen’s Club are actively seeking new and renewed memberships. Please consider the impact that your membership, donations, or volunteering would have in our community, especially for our young people.

For information on memberships, rentals, scheduled events, etc. you can call (319) 481-3495.  You can also call Myles Miller (641) 622-2643.  All events such as trap, skeet, and bow shoots are open to the public. Ranges use is restricted to members of the Keokuk County “Ikes” and Keokuk County Sportsmen’s Club, or guests accompanied by a member. Range rules require that all shooters practice diligent gun safety, are courteous, tidy, and un-impaired.

Myles Miller