ARKANSAS WILD get home alive agfc brass talk outdoors
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inducts class ford overton the wild interview JULY 2019 ARKANSASWILD.COM
More than just trout.
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ON THE COVER: The outdoors is no place to be caught unprepared; see page 33 for survival tips.
JULY 2019 ARKANSASWILD.COM
SURVIVING THE WILD PHOTO COURTESY OF BRADEN GUNEM
Get Home Alive 12
SHARING IS CARING
Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry
PARTY ON, GAR
Landing a prehistoric monster
The WILD Interview
Death, Puppies, Rivers
FLY LIKE AN EAGLE Raptor Rehab of El Paso
10 OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS 18 ARKANSAS MADE 42 STAY AND PLAY 46 NOTEBOOK 4 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
Is hiking the new hunting?
AGFF Outdoor Hall of Fame
This page: find your way to the Buffalo. It’s good for what ails you.
Come Face to Face With the Catch of a Lifetime
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DISCOVER the DIAMOND LAKES REGION
RICHARD LEDBETTER is a South
Arkansas outdoors writer who enjoys any time spent in the woods and on the water.
BENJAMIN HARRISON is a freelance
Mountain peaks for hiking, five clear lakes for playing, three sparkling rivers for enjoying, IMBA EPIC mountain bike trails for shredding, a National Park for exploring, historic hotels and cool lake resorts for overnighting…and all close to the dining, shopping, art and culture of Hot Springs.
C YC L I N G H U B OF T H E S O U T H BRAND GUIDELINES
writer, data analyst, activist, entrepreneur, and urban farmer residing in Little Rock. He enjoys writing, reading, hiking, camping and building systems for positive change in his community.
BRADEN GUNEM AND CLAIRE CRIPPS, born and bred in Arkansas and
writer, editor and writing instructor who lives in Alma. When she’s not writing articles about people and places in Arkansas, she’s sitting at her desk writing short stories.
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Tennessee, grew up exploring the Ozarks and Great Smoky Mountains. They’ve logged miles all over the world in search of stories of adventure. You can find them traveling around the country in their renovated Airstream with their friendly Lab Ernie. www.bradengunem.com.
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FROM THE EDITOR
LET’S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE For as lovely and majestic as the Arkansas outdoors is, it’s also fraught with perils large and small. From bugs and reptiles to bumps and bruises, the unforgiving wilderness is not for the faint of heart. Throw in some liquid courage and accidents can and will happen, some of them pretty serious. Hey, they don’t call it “the wild” for nothing! In this issue, we look at what to do when your adventure goes sideways. Snakebite, broken bones, heat, cold, capsized, you name it, we take a swing at it in our feature “Surviving the Wild.” Who knows? You might just read something that brings you back alive someday. We also sit down with the commissioners of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in the first of a three-part series on issues facing our wilds. This go-around, we get their thoughts on the changing face of the outdoor consumer and how to create spaces that are big enough to satisfy everyone. Plus, we take you fishing for alligator gar, a mildly terrifying beast that’s making a comeback in these waters. We tag along with a pair of adventurers as they seek liquid therapy on the Cossatot and Buffalo. And, we meet a man who’s helping return injured eagles and other raptors to soaring. With this being our July issue, we would be remiss if we didn’t say one of the greatest freedoms we have in this, the greatest country on Earth, is the ability to explore, gather and recreate as we see fit. With that freedom comes responsibility—conservation falls to each of us, carried out in a thousand little kindnesses to the earth, water and woods. Protect wild areas as you enjoy them and teach your children to do the same, keeping them beautiful for the next awestruck visitor to come. This land truly is your land, my land; may we always honor our sacred individual responsibility to keep it wild and free. Wander far,
Dwain Hebda Editor, Arkansas Wild
8 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 9
Survival gear designed to bring you back in one piece. Look for them at your favorite Arkansas outdoors retailer.
10 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY OF VENDORS
In curating the 17 all-locking, all outboard tools of the Truss, the folks at Gerber took into consideration what their customers requested most. This reduced weight from nonessential gadgets while still packing features such as two knife blades and spring-loaded needlenose pliers. gerbergear.com
2. FIRST THINGS FIRST
Surviveware packs 100 essential lifesaving items into the strongest bag in its class, all weighing in at less than a pound. Items are organized by category so you know what to grab in an emergency and what needs replacing, which contributes to this kit’s top ranking. surviveware.com
3. CHANNEL YOUR RAMBO
The Ka-Bar Becker BK22 features a drop point 5.25-inch fixed blade that splinters firewood, skins your kill and chops the onions you’ll cook ‘em with. The full tang American-made beauty isn’t the cheapest you can buy, but do you really want one that is? kabar.com
4. GET SERIOUSLY HEARD
How loud is the Fox Sonik, actually? Well, at 120 dB it’s right between a Bell J-2A helicopter at 100 feet overhead and a military jet with afterburner taking off 50 feet away. The Sonik is also highly efficient with no freeze-up so you don’t have to blow your brains out to produce a tone audible a mile away. fox40shopusa.com
5. FIND YOUR BEARINGS
Lightweight and accurate, the Suunto MC-2 provides some handy features such as luminescent markings for use in low light. The accompanying lanyard detaches easily for working with a map and the signal mirror tells calvary where to come a’runnin’. suunto.com
6. SPARK OF LIFE
Spark kindling in all kinds of weather with the nanoStriker XL fire starter. Exotac’s quarter-inch waterproof ferrocerium and magnesium rod sparks at nearly 5500°F. Rods last for more than 3,000 strikes, then you replace it and start all over again. exotac.com
7. HYDRATION ACCOMMODATION
Lifestraw pioneered the ultralight, personal “straw” filter to worldwide acclaim. Weighing just 2 ounces, it filters 1,000 gallons. The best $20 you’ll ever spend. lifestraw.com ARKANSASWILD.COM | 11
Hunters display their take of snow geese during a recent winter hunt in Stuttgart benefiting Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.
SHARING IS CARING BY MARLA CANTRELL
art of the solution to solving the hunger problem in Arkansas could rest in the hands of Arkansas’s deer hunters. If that sounds like a stretch, you probably haven’t heard about Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry (AHFH), a charity started in 2000 by Bob Barringer. His idea was simple. He’d given venison away himself to a friend whose son used to bring her deer meat each hunting season. When her son passed away, Barringer took over and after seeing how much it helped, he thought about other Arkansans whose budget were stretched to the limit. According to Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, more than 560,000 of the state’s residents, 19.2 percent, are food insecure. An average deer can provide 120 to 150 quarterpound servings of meat. Barringer first contacted Steve “Wildman” Wilson from the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission, which now partners with the charity. “He knew people across Arkansas on a first-name basis,” Barringer said. “So, he was a great help. We kicked off the event at the Big Buck Classic, and founders Tommy and Catherine Murchison helped tremendously. “I didn’t know how I was going to make this work. I’d just told the hunters we met at the Big Buck Classic that we’d pay the meat processors if [the hunters] donated the deer, even though I didn’t know where I was going to get the money.” Today, there are approximately 70 USDA-inspected processors across the state who participate in the program. A few of the processors don’t take any payment for their work and the rest are paid by AHFH. Hunters bring their field-dressed or ice-chest-quartered deer and fill out a short 12 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
donation form. If they want to donate only a pound or two, that’s an available option. The processor then grinds the donated meat, packages it and stores it until a nearby food bank or other food charity comes to collect it. Beyond that, AHFH also provides packaged deer jerky to 14 schools for their backpack programs, an idea that originated with AHFH’s executive director, Ronnie Ritter. “A few years ago, I noticed snack sticks started to appear in stores,” Ritter said. “I thought, why couldn’t we produce snack sticks made from deer? Many schools across the state have weekend backpack programs where shelf-stable products are placed in children’s backpacks for the weekend. Schools serve breakfast and lunch, but when they go home for the weekend, sometimes they have nothing.” To date, the charity has provided 5 million servings of venison; just last year AHFH collected more than 75,000 pounds, which translates to 300,000 servings. Barringer said he’s received thank-you notes from many, especially during an ice storm a few years ago that caused massive power outages and food spoilage in home refrigerators and freezers. “We were told we’d saved lives,” he said.
WAYS TO DONATE:
You can donate money when you buy your Arkansas hunting and fishing licenses, or on the AHFH website, arkansashunters.org. That’s also where hunters can get information on donating venison and see the list of meat processors working with AHFH.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
HUNTERS FEEDING THE HUNGRY CONTRIBUTES TO FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 13
PARTY ON, GAR
SECRETS FOR RESPONSIBLE ALLIGATOR GAR FISHING BY MARK SPITZER
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARK SPITZER
(Left) Author Mark “Hollywood” Spitzer, left, shows off a prize specimen with fishing partner Ben “Minnow Bucket” Damgaard. (Right) Scotty “Goggle Eye” Lewis, another compatriot, with his alligator gar.
hanks to recovery efforts by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, along with a few years of heavy flooding, Arkansas alligator gar populations are more stable than they’ve been in the last 60 years. As this fishery has improved, the primitive behemoth is definitely worthy of its new classification of “sport fish.” Even the little ones can weigh 40 pounds and there are few rushes on this planet like hauling in a gnashing, thrashing, gator-headed throwback to the Jurassic period. The best time for gar fishing is either between dawn and noon or at and after dusk. Find a sandy beach with no obstructions where gars can be seen rolling. When the sun goes down, all four species of gar (alligator, longnose, shortnose and spotted) will follow baitfish into shallower waters. We’ve had a lot of luck with shad, which you can catch in cast nets or buy frozen at bait stores. It helps to rebait every 20 minutes. Baitrunner reels work best because you can cast a long way and they don’t get fouled like baitcasting reels. We flip the big switch so the gar can run and we use Carolina rigs, which allow them to take line out easily. Put a 1-ounce egg weight on your line and attach a swivel or a steel leader beneath that. If you use a swivel, attach 2-3 feet of 50- to 80-pound braided line for a leader. Make sure whatever line your reel is spooled with is strong enough to haul in a 100-pounder. A word about hooks: The more metal there is, the greater the odds the gar will get a taste of it and drop the bait. We’ve had our best luck with circle hooks between the size of a nickel to a quarter. There’s a changing attitude about setting the hook. The prevailing strategy used to be to let the gar run downstream for five to 10 minutes and after they stop to swallow the bait, set 14 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
RULES FOR GAR ANGLERS • A special Arkansas permit is required, free at www.agfc.com. Alligator gar are offlimits during the official spawning season of May and June. • There’s a harvest limit of one alligator gar per year, measuring under 36 inches. Anything over 3 feet must be released immediately except by special trophy harvest permit awarded through a lottery system. • Anglers catching an alligator gar are required to report it to the state within 24 hours. This helps in tracking movements and collecting data to aid in conservation. The AGFC will want to know its length and where you caught it, too. • The fish are extremely vulnerable in the reproductive department, so treat them humanely and let them go quickly. • Weighing a fish through conventional means can stress out a gar. A quicker and remarkably accurate hack for determining weight is to take the fish’s length in inches, multiply that by the girth at its fattest, multiply that total by the girth again, divide by 800 and add 15.
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the hook when they run again. This only works, on average, about 10 percent of the time, to say nothing of what swallowed hooks can do to a gar from the inside. A better tactic: Bait with a small hunk of cut shad and when you hear the line peeling out, lock the bale and reel in fast. If the hook doesn’t pop out of its mouth – which happens about half the time – it’s likely to lodge itself between the jaws. Once landed, work fast to get your hook out and take some measurements – even though gar can breathe air, when they start getting red in the fins, they’re weakening and need to be set free. Don’t ever try to pry a gar’s mouth open with a tool, because this can break its teeth. If you can’t get a hook out, just leave it be and it will corrode away. Snap a picture and turn it loose. As the proliferation of silver and bighead carp attest, Arkansas’s fisheries need large predator fish to preserve the natural balance, something that can only be achieved by allowing more alligator gar to reach the 8- and 9-foot category. Responsible anglers hold the key to this and returning the species to its rightful place in our waterways.
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Robert “Turkey Buzzard” Mauldin matches the gar’s grin after a tussle.
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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 15
DEATH, PUPPIES, RIVERS BUFFALO, COSSATOT ARE COUPLE’S LIQUID THERAPY
PHOTOS: BRADEN GUNEM AND CLAIRE CRIPPS
BY CLAIRE CRIPPS
Claire Cripps and her Lab, Ernie, cruise along the Buffalo River.
t was serendipitous that we discovered the supreme whitewater of Arkansas. We had planned on being in the Pacific Northwest, sights set on paddling rivers that would run through winter and into the spring. However, plans shifted upon hearing that Braden’s dad, Ernest, was not doing well. Duty called, and we ventured off to a tiny town in western Arkansas where we would spend our unforeseeable future. The lifestyle we knew transformed overnight from one of freedom, with our most crucial decision being the next river to float, to one of palpable uncertainty. Impending death has a way of blurring everything around you—clouds appeared more menacing, the nights felt cold and unfriendly. It hurt to even breathe sometimes. One December night, I stumbled upon a man with newborn Lab puppies. He had sold all but one and he sent me a photo of “Still Available.” Without much thought, I paid a deposit, halfheartedly knowing losing $50 wouldn’t be a huge deal should I change my mind. Braden’s role of delivering orange juice every morning at 2 a.m. halted Dec. 31, just minutes before 2019 arrived. He drove home from the hospital after his dad passed and we rang in an exhausting, melancholy start to the new year. Standing in the kitchen the next morning, forcing down pancakes, Still Available’s photo surfaced. It was an impulse reaction, like many of the decisions we make in life. Later that day, a potbelly, napaholic puppy 16 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
grunted on our laps. Ernie the Pup was named after Braden’s dad and he was the spark that thawed our iciness after months of grief. He inspired us to do what anyone should probably do when he or she is sad—get outside and get back to the activities we loved, no matter what. I knew little about Arkansas rivers—I had heard of the Buffalo, the first nationally designated river in the country. I assumed a mellow float down it would probably constitute the extent of our paddling. I found a kayak rolling class, and we attended. It felt liberating to paddle, even if it was only in a swimming pool. Our new friends at the roll session led us to discover what local paddlers already knew: Up in the hills, between limestone cliffs and swaths of grand forest, a multitude of whitewater beckons. Ranging from mellow, classic stream runs to multi-day, self-supported wilderness creeks, Arkansas hosts over 210 miles of designated Wild and Scenic waterways. I became mesmerized by the Arkansas paddler community, a tight-knit circle that lives for the next torrential downpour, boats loaded on vehicles sometimes days before a storm. Forecasted rain is discussed in the same fashion skiers discuss powder days: they are never to be unacknowledged. If you want to boat in this area, you better be ready to chase a storm. We joined the chase. We caught the Cossatot first, a Wild and Scenic river whose name literally means “skullcrusher.” A staircase
of drops called Cossatot Falls is strikingly unique; you can camp next to a section of five technical drops over the course of a quartermile and easily hike back up to lap them. It was a fabulous setup, Ernie could be left at the campground with plenty of onlookers more than happy to pupsit, Southern hospitality at its finest. We shared a campfire with local boaters for a couple of nights, laughing until our stomachs ached over Ernie stealing camp chairs and high water stories of carnage I’ve dubbed Cossatot Tall Tales. The next storm cycle had us itching to run Wild and Scenic Richland Creek, a granite boulder-laden stream in the “most rugged and beautiful waterfall area” in Arkansas, per some locals. Richland Creek Wilderness is an amazing gem with narrow, twisting waterways carving through an eroded plateau. The wilderness experience compared to some of our favorite untamed rivers in Idaho. Ernie the Pup complicated plans, as this area was far away from our campsite babysitting option on the Cossatot. We strategically planned to hike up and boat down as far as we could in a day, coming back to car camp with the pup. We ran Lower Screw Up, the last significant rapids just after dusk, and it was the most alert I had felt in months. We made it back to our budding river dog just in time for his late-night swim and a hot freezedried meal. A proper boating experience in the Ozarks wouldn’t have been complete without a trip down the classic Buffalo River. It boasted every quality you could imagine in a mythical tale—sheer limestone cliffs with overhanging ferns, rope swings scattered along the way, a 200-foot-tall waterfall, tropical temperatures, green-yet-clear water for swimming. We spent a week on the Buffalo waking up to Ernie’s morning swims and stick-fetching sessions, staying up late listening to frogs and crickets chirp. This was the place where we reflected most on our past few months. Our Ozark boating period also included running our backyard creek, one we observed for months from our living room, thinking it would never go. One glorious morning, it did. Braden hopped in a boat and I grabbed a camera in the nick of time, because an hour and a half later, it was merely a trickle again. Whitewater in Arkansas is alive and kicking, a secret far better than anything we could have imagined. Our departure from the Ozark wilds was bittersweet, as we left behind many other rivers to explore and vast memories for which we will be forever grateful. For a moment there, it seemed life had given us lemons. Ultimately, we had no choice than to turn them into lemonade, in the form of rainstorms, swelling rivers and yellow lab puppy licks.
TOP: Cripps navigates the rocks on Richland Creek. BOTTOM: Braden Gunem rides a gnarly stretch.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 17
PHOTO COURTESY CODY OWEN
Cody and Kellie Owen load up for another weekend adventure. The couple launched Dome Life in September, a portion of proceeds going to help fund cleanups.
DOME , SWEET DOME
ENTREPRENEURS COMBINE OUTDOOR APPAREL WITH ACTIVISM
BY DWAIN HEBDA
hoever thinks super heroes only exist in comic books never met Cody and Kellie Owen. The husband and wife team – a mild-mannered accountant and dental assistant, respectively, by day – slip into their camping and kayaking alter egos every weekend. In fact, they spent so much time in the outdoors, they started to get a little bit protective of it. That’s how their fledgling outdoor gear company, Dome Life, came to hatch. “It started out with us posting pictures on Instagram of the areas that we camped every weekend,” Cody said. “We’d just camp across the state and find things that nobody else could find. People found interest in the fact that we are finding amazing places that nobody knew about.” “We thought we needed a name for it so we got Dome Life; Kellie came up with the name and I created the logo based off the dome tent design. That was our lifestyle every weekend staying in a dome tent, going on adventures.” Dome Life went from a catchy handle to a brand name in much the same way. As the Owens traveled, they began to notice many otherwise beautiful spots marred by garbage and graffiti. Suddenly, everything about the venture clicked. “We started talking about how, there’s a bunch of trash in some of these places we go to in rivers and waterways and out in the national forests, and nobody ever really does any cleanups,” Cody said. “So we’re like, let’s try to do some clothing sales to help promote the company and we can use some of the proceeds to help do cleanups across the state every quarter.” Since formally launching Dome Life in September, the couple has curated a collection of outdoor-themed T-shirts and hats with a line of tents, bags and backpacks to come next year. The sparse, simple designs reflect their attitude that a decluttered life is a happy life. 18 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
“I was like, man, I’m not happy with a lifestyle of having to work to try to build up income to pay for more stuff I’m never going to use,” Cody said. “We were like, let’s be simple, and that’s where this started to spring, through simplicity. “We’re starting out small and slow. We’re not taking out loans, we’re doing natural growth. When you buy, it helps us grow the company and we put more money back towards cleanups. We’re not trying to have a huge brand at first. We’re just trying to start small. The more important side to us is the cleanup, making people aware. The clothing side is just to help fund it.” The couple may have streamlined their lives but narrowing their list of favorite places to visit in Arkansas is another story. Cody was hard-pressed to name just one excursion as his favorite. Big Piney Creek (Newton, Johnson and Pope counties) ranks high, as does South Fourche Lafave River (Perry and Yell counties) and Eagle Rock Loop (Pike County) near where he grew up. Richland Creek (Newton and Searcy counties), Sylamore Creek and the area around Fifty-Six (Stone County) are also on the list of spots he loves and wants to protect via the company’s mission. “A lot of people don’t realize you can vacation every single weekend in Arkansas; it’s like a vacation all the time,” he said. “Arkansas is a gem of the South; actually, it’s a gem of the country. We travel all over and [Arkansas] has some of the cleanest, bluest water in the whole country. We have some of the cleanest lakes, our trail systems, our state parks are some of the best. It is amazing what Arkansas has.” Keep up with Dome Life’s clean-up efforts on their Facebook page and check out their merchandise at domelife.camp.
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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 19
KEEPING IT NATURAL
PHOTOS BY DREW HARRIS
Paul Rodney with Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas’s Ambassador Gandalf, a black vulture.
FLY LIKE AN EAGLE RAPTOR REHAB GETS WOUNDED BIRDS SOARING AGAIN
BY DREW HARRIS
odney Paul’s lifelong fascination with birds started in his childhood learning how to identify songbirds. After serving 11 years in the Army, fittingly in avionics, Paul relocated to Arkansas and started working at the Little Rock Zoo in the education department. There, he worked with a volunteer who sparked his interest in rehabilitation and helped him start up Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas, (RRCA)located in El Paso. Raptor Rehab’s stated goal is to foster sick or orphaned birds of prey and release them back into the wild. RRCA has rehabilitated and released close to 2,000 birds in nearly 17 years of operation and is one of only three facilities in the state licensed to handle bald and golden eagles. Despite working full-time jobs, Paul and his wife, Melissa, have grown the RRCA into the largest facility of its type in Arkansas. They hold a raptor rehabilitation and education permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and rely heavily on wildlife officers of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for pickup and transport of distressed birds. “A lot of them go a long way out their way to transport birds to us,” Paul said. Diet is very important among young raptors, which can eat as much as a third of their weight every day in fish, rats or mice. Lucky adults receive an occasional chicken drumstick. A recently arrived fledgling red-shouldered hawk 20 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
required chopping a mouse into digestible chunks, not what one might expect. Paul estimates the most birds he’s had at once at approximately 70 and it’s hard work feeding and caring for that many raptors on the roughly 3 acres of property. The organization’s 10 or so volunteers are essential and vary from lawyers, students and nurses. RRCA even offers an internship program for college credit. “I could not do this without the volunteers. There’s no way,” he said. Paul said the best thing to do with a found bird is to leave it alone, for it is most likely learning how to do “bird things.” Many young birds transferred into his care suffer from malnutrition after being improperly fed by well-intentioned people who don’t know a bird needs flesh, bone and organ meat in its early stages of development. From barn and great horned owls, bald and golden eagles to peregrine falcons, Paul has seen them all. But birds of prey can be dangerous even for the experienced, and he has received stitches around his mouth in two different incidences with bald eagles. While a great number of his guests come after storms when juvenile birds have been blown from nests, many are also due to human activity such as collisions with vehicles or shootings. Lead poisoning, primarily from unrecovered
game, has become more prevalent in recent years and is especially difficult to treat. Over his many years, Paul has only been able to save one bald eagle from the effects of lead poisoning. “A lot of people don’t realize bald eagles are scavengers, just like vultures. They’ll eat anything,” he said. “That’s where the threat of lead poisoning comes from. Usually by the time we get a bald eagle, it’s beyond recovery.” Most birds that cannot be released are given to educational programs or become RRCA Ambassadors. Paul has sent birds to six states and all bald eagles are sent to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for a breeding program. RRCA is a nonprofit organization and does not receive any state or federal funds, operating solely on the contributions of volunteers and donors. Although the rehabilitation facility is not available for tours due to federal law, they offer private presentations about 40 times a year to civic groups, churches and corporations to help educate the public about raptors and the niche they have in the environment.
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A bald eagle in a flight pen awaits his impending release near Forrest City. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 21
Ford Overton’s AGFC tenure marked by passionate, plainspoken style BY DWAIN HEBDA
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
THE FOREST FOR THE TREES
Ford Overton takes in the view from a choice hole in Bayou Meto. 22 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
assionate doesn’t begin to describe Ford Overton when it comes to matters of the Arkansas outdoors. Neither does intense, authentic or direct. But put all of them together and a better picture starts coming into focus of the Little Rock native and chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, who concluded his term on July 1. Overton learned early and honestly the value of public service. His father, William Ray Overton served eight years as federal judge, for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. While briefly considering a law career of his own, Ford, former AGFC chairman, instead chose business and owns West Tree Services in Little Rock. He served on the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Board prior to Governor Mike Beebe appointing him an AGFC commissioner in 2012. ARKANSAS WILD: It feels like the state is at a crossroads in terms of outdoor consumption. Is it? This spring, we had our commission meeting in Northwest Arkansas, toured the facilities, held a town hall meeting. The takeaway from all that is it gave the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission an awakening and awareness of nonconsumptive users. We needed to see where Millennials are going these days— the kayakers, the birders, the hikers, the bikers, the communities that are sprawling throughout Northwest Arkansas. It’s what kind of bike do you have, what trail are you going to go on, let’s kayak down the Little Maumelle or whatever. As a commission, we needed to see this. One thing I am going to say is that it’s pretty dadgum cool what we learned. The only thing I can relate it to is whoever the bright people were that created the open space of Central Park in the middle of New York City. That’s what the Walton Foundation, the Hunts, the Tysons, industry, companies, the cycling community—that’s what they’re doing up there. So if hunting and fishing are down—and they are—does that mean these other activities replace them? Yeah, the question is, how do you convert? What’s the conversion
variable and how do we go there or should we go there? A lot of the ways that I came up in the outdoors are still handed off in Jonesboro, Blytheville, Piggott, the Mississippi Delta. The closer you get to Northwest Arkansas, these Millennials are congregating, running huge companies, IT and all that, and we’re missing them. Now, [Northwest Arkansas is] protecting these open spaces and not letting anybody touch them and making sure you can have miles of walking, hiking, mountain biking, road biking. I love it, it’s exciting. But it’s not the whole world. Lake Village is a long way from Bentonville, talking about the two extremes of the state here.
TECHNOLOGY IS OUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO THE OUTDOORS, WHETHER IT’S VIDEO GAMES, INTERNET, SNAPCHAT, FACEBOOK, THAT DEAL CALLED THE CELL PHONE. —FORD OVERTON Again, on the subject of hunters and anglers declining—how does that happen in a state like Arkansas? I firmly believe technology is our biggest challenge to the outdoors, whether it’s video games, internet, Snapchat, Facebook, that deal called the cell phone. That’s instant gratification, instant feedback versus being patient on where the deer are crossing or learning how deep you fish for crappie. I had a lot of mentors who took a liking to my enthusiasm for duck hunting and who were avid duck hunters themselves. My dad didn’t care anything about getting up early; he was a big fisherman. He loved to float and fish. I love to do that, but I really wanted to duck hunt and I really wanted to deer hunt, so he had some longtime friends that took me up under their wing.
I’m not sure that a lot of dads these days, or single moms, know how to do any of that, are networked to do that or have a desire to poke a child to go get involved in the outdoors. Frankly, they’re kind of scared of it. So there’s a real break. And if there is intention to make an effort, there’s often issues of access. We’ve tried to eliminate barriers to entry by reinstituting hunter education back into the school system, which we have. That’s just one example. But to your question: I’m real worried about license sales. Really. We’re going to continue to try hard. We need some Millennials appointed on the commission so we can figure out how to touch other Millennials from Lake Village to Bentonville. What is the biggest environmental challenge facing Arkansas right now? Bayou Meto in particular. That’s our crown jewel and it’s deeper than any time in the last 36 months. So one of the things that we’ve done is rekick this Bayou Meto irrigation project. It’s a big deal that involves the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Bayou Meto Irrigation District, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. There is a way to get rid of this water, but we’ve had to poke these other members – the Corps and ANRC being two in the government—and say we’re going to lose our crown jewel in the 34,000 acres of Bayou Meto if we don’t kick this up. What are your feelings, stepping off the commission? I’ve loved it. It’s been one of the biggest honors of my life. I do believe that the Game and Fish Commission is set up properly. If there’s a personal agenda or a political agenda that a commissioner shows up with, it lasts about 30 minutes. We say get your idea and your ass out of here because that won’t last. That’s the way we work. We’re not red tape. It is cool what we’ve done. At the end of seven years, we’ve had an opportunity to make an impact and I know, because I’ve lived it. I’m real proud of what we’ve accomplished. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 23
24 | Arkansas Wild Â¸ July 2019
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 25
TWO ROADS, DIVERGED IN A WOOD AGFC COMMISSIONERS NAVIGATE CHANGING TASTES
rkansas’s outdoors are changing, in every sense of the word. To the east, throughout the beloved Arkansas Delta, hunters still gather seeking duck and deer, echoing the previous generations. To the north, crystal-clear trout streams and the Buffalo River draw anglers by the thousands. But these represent only a portion of the outdoor consumer. To the northwest, an avalanche of young, active mountain bikers, hikers and mountain climbers abound with a seemingly insatiable appetite for trails and experiences. “When I was a boy it was common to see boys walking up and down the street with a BB gun or a pellet rifle in their hand or a fishing pole going to a creek or going to a pond. Today if you saw a 10-year-old boy walking down the street with a BB gun, somebody’d call the police,” said Ken Reeves, who took over as chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission July 1. “Times have changed and Baby Boomers like me, we’re starting to depart the scene and we’ve got all these Millennials, this younger generation who love the outdoors just as much as we do but in a different way. Our challenge is doing a better job of making it a worthwhile experience for those we call nonconsumptive users. [The outdoors] are just as important to them as it is to those that hunt and fish.” Reeves joins six other governor-appointed commissioners in providing guidance and direction to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the state agency tasked with conservation, preservation and regulation of the state’s wild spaces and associated activities. Among the agency’s most important long-term priorities is to meet the changing needs of its constituency without forsaking traditional interests. “Northwest Arkansas is the fastest-growing population center in the state. There is a lot of the nonconsumptive sporting activity that is represented by that population,” said Commissioner Andrew Parker of Little Rock. “I don’t know whether or not that necessarily reflects the state as a whole, [but] we recognize that is an area of the state that has been ignored for too long. “I don’t think we’re making decisions yet to have our efforts be driven by the non-consumptive activities, but there is a lot of effort over how we can incorporate what we do with those. A growing event in Northwest Arkansas is a bicycle race that includes a shooting activity, kind of like a biathlon. The numbers reflect that that’s surging while other things are falling. [Meanwhile] there is a fallen population in a lot of our rural areas. Does that have something to do with it? Probably.” 26 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
AGFC Chairman Ken Reeves of Harrison; (opposite page) Commissioner John David “J.D.” Neeley, of Camden
Over-generalization is dangerous and it would be easy to whitewash the nonconsumptive and the hook-andbullet crowds as a cultural generation gap. But it’s not hard to see where the two groups converge. Both want easy access to wild spaces, both want quality habitat to support native species in abundance and both see the outdoors, as previous generations did, as a God-given right and an important underpinning of quality of life. “I think we’ve got a new frontier. We’re seeing things today that someone in my age category, it’s all new to me and I have to adjust,” said Joe Morgan, AGFC commissioner who splits his time between Little Rock and Stuttgart. “The natural resource is about as basic as it gets. Without it, you and I don’t have anything to talk about. But it’s going to be a moving target as time goes on.” Being appointed a commissioner is an honor, but it’s often a thankless job, too. Outdoor consumers are possessive of their favorite spaces, and changes in usage or modes of management aren’t always greeted with enthusiasm. Nonetheless, there’s much to be proud of in how the commission has responded to challenges, be it watchable wildlife or supporting ducks in uncooperative weather, said Commissioner Stan Jones of Alicia. “The last four years, Game and Fish has gone into some of these WMAs we can’t flood in October,” he said. “We’re going around to different areas and leasing some rice fields from farmers and flooding these up so that whenever the ducks come down, even though the woods are not flooded, we’ve got rice fields right there that are. The ducks can come in, sit and eat and not be shot. I think that’s really a great thing. “The other thing is, some of the ground that Game and Fish owns, we’re planting corn, we’re planting millet, we’re planting sunflower. Our biologists are making a great
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
BY DWAIN HEBDA
effort to go around to the fields that we normally call food plots. If it’s good moist soil and got good natural grass, we’re leaving that and flooding it up. If it’s not good moist soil then we’re either planting some millet or some corn. We’re planting something to make these food plots better.” The commission’s work is challenged by the whims of Mother Nature and the fact new conservation practices—such as when to move water or combating chronic wasting disease among deer populations— can take years or decades to fully take root. This is often met with impatience by the public, something the body addresses through town hall meetings and other communications. “The word ‘regulate’ is not a friendly word, yet the way we manage the resources, largely, you have to do it through regulation,” said Commissioner Bobby Martin of Rogers. “But every time we regulate something, we largely take something away, or that’s how it’s viewed. We don’t necessarily have people understanding the tough decisions having to be made.” “I think this is where we are the most critical of ourselves, and duly so. We don’t communicate well enough. We recognize every time that we run into the sentiments where people are dissatisfied. We realize a big part of that’s on us just not communicating well.” Martin, who championed AGFC’s R3 initiative – standing for recruitment, retention and reactivation – noted that for all the
Anne Marie Doramus Appointed New Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner
istory was made June 26 as Anne Marie (Hastings) Doramus became the first woman appointed to a full term as a Commissioner of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). Governor Asa Hutchinson introduced Doramus as his newest appointee at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in downtown Little Rock. “In addition to being a successful businesswoman, Anne Marie has also been a lifelong friend and advocate of the outdoors,” Hutchinson said in a press release statement. “She is an avid duck hunter and bass angler, but most importantly, she is committed to the conservation of our natural resources. This appointment is significant not only Southeast Arkansas native Anne Marie because she is the first woman appointed to a full 7-year term, but (Hastings) Doramus, appointed AGFC she also brings a fresh perspective Commissioner June 26. in terms of what it might take to connect a new generation to the Arkansas outdoors.” A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Doramus is Vice President of Special Projects and Sales for Arkansas Bolt Company, a Little Rockbased fastener distributor and OEM supplier. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show and the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation (AGFF). She is a founding member of the Arkansas Outdoor Society, a group for young adults who are passionate about conservation and the Arkansas outdoors, which directly supports the mission of both the AGFC and AGFF. Doramus replaces outgoing Commission Chairman Ford Overton whose appointment term concluded July 1. “I have seen firsthand the impact that Game and Fish has on our state and I am beyond honored to serve as its newest commissioner,” Doramus said in a statement. “Growing up, I was so fortunate to have my father pass on to me a love for the outdoors and that is what I intend to do in this new role for the next generation. Passing the torch of conservation is essential as we work to uphold the Natural State’s reputation of being a sportsman’s paradise – not just for the sports involving hooks and bullets, but also for the hikers, bikers, paddlers, bird watchers and many more. “Together, we can bring along the next generation and bridge the gap between current traditions and new ones. The future is bright, and I cannot wait to get started.” Doramus, whose love of duck hunting and bass fishing was honed on the family farm in Southeast Arkansas, also enjoys fly-fishing, mountain biking, golf, tennis and working with her retriever, Baron. She and her husband, Joe Doramus, live in Little Rock. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 27
new blood in the outdoors, one big concern for the agency is participation among children and youth. It’s a refrain echoed from one commissioner to another. “Here in Arkansas we’ve got such great resources, yet things are changing,” Martin said. “We know we’re competing with different ways that people now engage with the outdoors. Bottom line is we really cannot, must not let a generation come and go that loses its connection with the outdoors.” “Let me ask you a question, when’s the last time you drove through a neighborhood and saw a bunch of kids out in the yard playing ball?’ I can’t remember the last time I did,” Morgan said. “My generation, we didn’t have a cell phone to talk on, we didn’t have an iPad to play with. We didn’t have video games. We barely had television. You can throw money at problems, but you still haven’t fixed the problem; somebody’s got to take these kids to get them started and that boils down to mommas, daddies, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas.” “It’s not a smooth transition at this point,” agreed Reeves. “So many of these kids, like my own grandsons, they’ve always got some kind of electronic device in their hand. One of them had a duck hunting deal on there and he had me duck hunt with him on his laptop. Then I’ve got two [other] grandchildren and so far, neither one of them is interested in hunting.” AGFC has long supported hunter education courses
“SOMEBODY’S GOT TO TAKE THESE KIDS TO GET THEM STARTED.” —Joe Morgan, AGFC Commissioner
28 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
Clockwise from top left: Commissioners Andrew Parker of Little Rock; Stan Jones of Clover Bend; Joe Morgan of Little Rock and Stuttgart; Bobby Martin of Rogers
42-year-old Commissioner Parker and just-appointed Anne Marie (Hastings) Doramus, 27, the first woman appointed to serve a full term on the commission in state history. Parker said Doramus’s appointment shows the commission is moving proactively toward representing all Arkansans, but it’s a pivot that doesn’t complete overnight. “I think it’s hard having a young person on the commission; it’s been a hard juggle for me,” Parker said. “I’m in year five and I’ve got two years left and I’m only now getting to a point where I’m able to really contribute my particular skillset, which is about the last 15-20 years in the political sphere in the state. “I think that it’s essential to have that kind of representation from the right person who is passionate about these things and has something to contribute. I know that those people exist. I think the governor’s appointment shows he’s keenly aware of how big the stakes are, not only on management of property, but also diversity and that Millennial thing.”
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
and have built upon that experience to introduce a whole new wave of programs to entice children and youth off the couch and into the outdoors. These include fishing derbies, free fishing and hunting weekends and, in particular, archery and youth shooting programs that have quickly grown into major activities. Commissioner John David Neeley of Camden envisions bridging these activities into professional opportunities, as well. “One thing I want us to be teaching in our schools are the job opportunities in our field of conservation,” he said. “I’m a forester and we need to be teaching kids about forestry and the managing of the forest. We need to be teaching them that there’s jobs out there with Game and Fish as a biologist, possibly enforcement, possibly as an educator or possibly in IT. “We need to be teaching kids about the park service and all those wonderful state parks we have. The jobs that are out there in our conservation industry so many don’t know about. So many [young people] think of traditional roles, but they might not think of a role where they could be out there and part of a group working in the lakes or streams. They might have a passion for it, but just not know how to connect to it.” One striking element of the commission continues to be that of representation. All but two of the allwhite governing body is over 50, the exception being
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AGFF A KEY PARTNER IN ARKANSAS’S OUTDOORS
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
BY DWAIN HEBDA
Youth shooting sports are just one way AGFF is attracting the next generation into the outdoors.
s the fundraising arm of the AGFC, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation (AGFF) provides a critical link between the sporting public and the programs that protect and enhance wild spaces. “There’s no question there’s a need for a supporting organization that has a little more opportunity to fill the short-term gaps for something as big as a state agency, with that much complexity, with taxpayer dollars involved and government oversight,” said John Rutledge, regional president with First Security Bank in Little Rock and chairman of the AGFF board. “There’s a lot of steps and processes and checks and balances and procedures, and rightfully so, in those type of organizations. But sometimes you need a partner that’s there to help you fill gaps.” The AGFF raises money to support AGFC initiatives through the Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet in August, the Duck Stamp Print program and other development activities, managing these efforts with a staff of just two full-time employees. Rutledge said the focus of Foundation activities changes with the needs of the AGFC. “I’m not sure you can point to one [initiative] without having to really cover the waterfront,” he said. “The focus at that time was what was 30 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
important to the commission at that time. Right now, we want to create a state championship-type bass fishing championship for high schoolers. which I think is awesome. “Six years ago, it was focusing on our youth shooting sports program being the fastestgrowing, most successful thing we had going in Arkansas. We had an opportunity to step in and provide a major fundraising resource for building a shooting complex in Jacksonville to host statewide tournaments, regional tournaments and give kids a place to compete.” Rutledge said even as the programs it helps support grow, most rank-and-file citizens of Arkansas have no idea of the AGFF’s purpose or function, something the organization is working to correct. “I would say the majority of outdoorsmen in Arkansas don’t necessarily understand the organization, it’s relationship with the commission and its primary function,” he said. “I see that as a great opportunity for the foundation, a positive opportunity. When we speak about how it all works, it’s an enlightening experience for those like me who are outdoorsmen, who are passionate about the outdoors and care about it. When that happens, many will want to help participate in the work that we’re doing.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HONOREES
AGFF Outdoor Hall of Fame Inducts Class
The 2019 inductees to the AGFF Outdoor Hall of Fame will be honored Aug. 24 during ceremonies at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. This year’s class includes:
Catherine & Tommy Murchison III
Cabot The husband-and-wife Murchison team founded the Arkansas Big Buck Classic in 1990 to recognize the quality of whitetail hunting in Arkansas. Today, the event averages nearly 38,000 visitors and has raised over $200,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Shriners Hospital for Children and C.H. Vines 4-H Center. It has also collected roughly 50,000 cans of food for Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.
London Considered one of the most knowledgeable figures in Arkansas on native plants, King founded and owns Pine Ridge Gardens in London. She is credited with educating generations of gardeners on native plants and their role in bird, wildlife and butterfly habitats. Many of the State Parks Visitor Centers and AGFC Nature Centers across the state—as well as public gardens and arboretums nationwide—utilize her plant stock.
Nashville An avid boat racer in the 1950s, Futrell took over the family business, Futrell Marine, which his father, Dan Futrell, established in 1948. He has since become one of the most well-known and respected businessmen in retail boating and has remained a staunch and steadfast consumer and promoter of the Arkansas outdoors and its activities.
The McCollum Family
Stuttgart Credited with the current business model of the modern duck club, the McCollums helped pioneer multiple aspects of duck habitat, conservation, promotion and land and water management. Generations of McCollums helped lay the foundation upon which Arkansas duck hunting has grown into a multi-million dollar industry. Tickets to the 28th Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet are $125; tables of 10 are available for $1,250 each. The event, which includes dinner, live and silent auctions and induction ceremony, is set to begin at 6 p.m. Proceeds from the event support the year-round work of the Foundation, which supports Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) initiatives, particularly those aimed at getting young people unplugged and engaged in Arkansas’s outdoors.
For tickets or information, call (501) 223-6468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s AGFF honorees include luminaries of deer, native plants, boating and Arkansas’s first family of duck hunting. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 31
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wild get home alive
BY RICHARD LEDBETTER, MARK CARTER, LUKE COOP, STACEY BOWERS & BENJAMIN HARRISON
Mike Coats is general manager of Mike’s Place, a restaurant in Conway. One thing that stands Coats apart is his “pirate” eye patch. He shared how he came to wear it. Oct. 23, 1994, he took a Sunday afternoon flight in his friend’s home-built, experimental, amphibious aircraft. Coming back to Coats’s home next to the Arkansas River, they attempted a water landing. The pilot forgot to retract his gear and the plane flipped when he touched down on the river. Coats freed himself and leapt off the aircraft wing to reach his unconscious friend in the pilot seat. The wooden pusher prop was still rotating and, in the confusion, caught Coats across his face, knocking him unconscious in the river. Coming to, the pilot managed to reach and revive Coats but they remained in desperate straits. Taking off his shirt, the pilot stuffed it in Coats’s face to staunch the bleeding. Bobbing in the current, he told him, “You’re dying, Mike. We’ve got to get you to a hospital.” Coats said, “We managed to hail some folks fishing in a barpit. The boaters couldn’t swim and were afraid of flipping trying to load us in. They said they were going for help. I told them, ‘I’m going into shock and I’ll die if we don’t get to shore right now.’ Convinced, they loaded us aboard. We hit a log crossing the river and sheared a pin in the old outboard.” The group eventually made it to a boat dock where an ambulance was called. “I woke up in a Fort Smith hospital four days after I thought I was a goner,” Coats said. “I had seven skull fractures and went through 21 reconstructive surgeries. I thought at the time this patch would define me for the rest of my life. Ten years later, we raised 2 million dollars and opened Mike’s Place.” —RL
34 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
BROKEN BONES Anything can happen in the wilderness, including broken and fractured bones. And despite what you’ve seen in the movies, such injuries are not something a person with no medical training should tackle in the woods “The best thing to do, especially if you’re near a trail, is to wait for someone that can go for help,” said Dr. Jess Daniels, an emergency physician at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. “If you do have to move the person, you can use a stick or tent pole [anything long and rigid] to splint the bone.” A splint of this nature can be improvised with pack straps or strips of clothing until it can be properly set by an orthopedic surgeon. The purpose of this is not to set the bone, but to prevent it from being jostled, which may cause further injury to surrounding muscles and nerves. Daniels’ best precautionary advice is to travel with a companion and not to take unnecessary risks. He also recommends letting someone know the destination and expected whereabouts at all times during the trek. And under no circumstances should you go into the wild without a cell phone. “Keep a cell phone with you,” Daniels said. “Even if you don’t have service, most phones include a builtin emergency signal.” —BH
X-RAY COURTESY OF: KATHARINE HASSELL
Cuts and punctures less than 4 millimeters in length generally won’t need stitches. According to Dr. Wendell Pahls, medical director of emergency services at Baptist Health in Little Rock, there is a time window of about 12 hours to repair a laceration on the extremities and roughly 24 hours to repair a laceration to the face. Where a person is when the wound is inflicted matters, too. “If you fall in a field where there’s animal manure, that’s different from cutting yourself in water,” Pahls said. In either scenario, however, staunching bleeding and thoroughly washing the wound are key. If there is difficulty in controlling significant, bright-red bleeding, whether it is arterial or aggressive venous bleeding, apply a tourniquet and seek immediate medical attention. Many experts recommend packing a commercial tourniquet, but in a pinch, a tie or belt works. “Once you’ve got it around the extremity and it’s tied off, put a straight stick or rod underneath and rotate it clockwise [to tighten until the bleeding stops],” Pahls said. “You’ll know it’s tight enough if the patient complains bitterly of pain.” —BH
Scratches don’t seem like a big deal until they get infected. Tote along a tube of ChapStick and use on minor nicks and scratches to help seal up the abrasion.
Dr. Josh Keithly sees his fair share of fish hooks in the Emergency Department at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs and notes two main methods for self-removal. Lost or stranded in a wilderness setting, they can prove especially helpful; if deep enough, fish-hook wounds ultimately could require a tetanus shot, and even small wounds can become infected. Be sure and keep the area thoroughly cleaned. • The push-through method entails pushing the hook forward until the barb comes back through the skin. Cut off the barb, if possible, and simply back out through the entry hole. • The string method requires string or something that can be used as a suture, and perhaps a little more fortitude. Loop the suture around the belly of the hook and wrap the ends around your index finger. Grasp the shank of the hook with your opposite hand and press down firmly. Pull the suture until it’s taut, then jerk quickly and firmly. Do it fast and hold steady. —MC
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Jim Gifford, veteran outdoorsman and former Ouachita Mountain Hikers board member, has simple advice for any would-be hiker. “Pay attention so you don’t get lost in the first place,” he said. Don’t completely rely on GPS to get you through a hike. Gifford brings a printed map with him, even on trails he’s already hiked many times. He also said a good watch is important; knowing your pace can help you estimate how far on a map you’ve traveled. Keeping sight of trailblazers, or “confidence markers,” is another way to know you’re still on the right path and provides reference points if you need to double back. The sun isn’t always a great helper with direction, especially when it’s directly overhead or, obviously, if the sky is cloudy. If you haven’t made it home before dark, the stars are a better directional tool. “If you know the Big Dipper, then you can find the North Star,” Gifford said. “The two stars farthest from the handle of the Big Dipper point to the North Star, which is the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. The North Star is always due north.” If you find yourself lost, use the map to navigate to landmarks. Look for highways and towns nearby or ridges and peaks where you can get some elevation, look out over the land and get your bearings. If you can spot a creek, follow its flow; it will probably lead to some sort of civilization. Visit the Arkansas Trails Council (arkansastrailscouncil.com) for maps. Sharpen your navigation skills via a group hike with Ouachita Mountain Hikers (omhikers.net). —SB
Falling from a deer stand or while rock climbing is serious business, said Mike Hillis, emergency medicine physician at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith and medical director at Sebastian County EMS and Rescue. The best cure for most outdoors-related medical emergencies is prevention, and that particularly applies here. Wear an appropriate and well-fitted climbing harness on the deer stand or the mountain and a helmet when rock climbing. It is better not to hunt or climb alone, but if you do, let someone know where you’ll be and when to send help if you don’t return. Remember to carry an adequate first-aid kit, preferably one that contains a tourniquet and SAM splint. In the event of a fall, assess and stabilize the injured. Look for signs of bleeding and apply a pressure bandage to the area. If there is severe bleeding that could be life-threatening, apply a tourniquet. Check for deformities in the extremities. If deformities are noted, install a splint to avoid further injury to soft tissues, muscles or vessels. Falls resulting in extreme back pain, loss of feeling or movement in any extremities, unnatural or twisted neck or back positioning, impaired breathing or loss of bowel or bladder control could indicate a spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury victims should not be moved. — LC 36 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
Duct tape is the miracle invention of the 20th century and Sharpies are a close second. Bring both to your next adventure—Sharpies can mark any dry surface to provide search parties clues to your location and duct tape can do everything from lash together lean-to branches to suture a wound. Expert level campers will wrap a few feet of tape around a Sharpie to reduce the space it takes among the gear.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NOVO STUDIO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NOVO STUDIO
Dealing with a capsize begins with proper preparation, the difference between a mishap and a tragedy. Wear your personal flotation device (life jacket). It doesn’t matter how well you can swim, anything can happen once you exit the boat. If the air and water temperatures combined are below 120° F, carry a change of clothes in a dry bag. Once flipped, try not to panic; capsizing happens all the time and it’s critical to remain calm. Remember nose and toes as both should be pointed toward the sky. Ensure your feet are downriver and your butt is as high in the water as possible. If you hit something midstream, take care not to lean upriver as that could cause your boat to fill with water and become pinned. Locate your boat. Is it above or below you? If above, take care to avoid being pinned between it and obstacles in the water, and if below, try to keep it in view. After you’ve assessed the situation (Am I OK? What’s just downriver that could make this worse? Is help coming?) begin swimming aggressively toward safety. It’s tempting to try and stand, but don’t do it until the water is no more than knee deep. Foot entrapment causes many river drownings every year. For more, visit arkansascanoeclub.com. —LC
The Arkansas woods provide edible native plants to sustain you. But they’re home to plants that could kill you as well. Edible plants in Arkansas include clover, dandelion, chickweed, wild asparagus, redbud flowers, chicory, alfalfa, fireweed, wood sorrel, henbit, curly dock and wild black cherries (but not the pits). Even pine bark and most native grasses are edible. Plants to avoid include nightshade, rhododendron, wisteria, holly, dogwood and, of course, poison ivy. The U.S. Army Survival Manual offers a universal edibility test that can help determine which plants are safe to consume in an emergency. Make sure your sample plant is free of insects or worms and separate it into parts: leaves, roots, stems and, if present, buds and flowers. Many plants have both edible and nonedible parts. First, crush different plant parts and rub on the inside of your wrist or elbow. Wait 15 minutes. If it produces a burning sensation, bumps or rash, it won’t be good to eat. Next, try a taste test. Place a portion of the crushed parts in your mouth and wait 15 minutes. If you experience any burning, tingling or numbness, spit out the plant and rinse your mouth with water. If a plant passes these tests, chew your sample for 15 minutes without swallowing. If it passes the chew test, swallow and wait. Induce vomiting if nausea results. If it doesn’t, you’ve found a safe food source. —MC
On July 4, 2010, Ouachita County Clerk Britt Wiliford and his regular skydiving buddies were practicing a jump over the Camden Airport. They were in preparation for that evening’s holiday celebration where they intended to parachute onto the runway with colored smoke streaming. Wiliford said, “The three-man team was planning to jump right above the landing strip. When we popped the door, we were already there going 90-miles per hour. I was last, so by my turn we were a quartermile beyond the tarmac. I left the plane at 10,500 feet on my 1,853rd dive. We don’t use rip chords anymore, but pilot chutes that deploy the main chute as soon as you toss it.” Wiliford threw the pilot at around 3,500 feet and rather than deploying gradually from five-line folds held together by rubber bands, it all came out at once in a tangled mess. That put him into a high-velocity spin that wouldn’t let him release the fouled chute before deploying the emergency rig. “It had no chance to open properly, just wrapping around the tangled main,” he said. “I fought with the rig a minute until realizing there was nothing I could do but relax. I said a little prayer… ‘Please make it quick.’ Twenty-seconds later at 11:35 a.m., Wiliford went into a pine plantation in the swampy Ouachita River bottoms at 75 miles per hour, never touching a tree. Had he landed on the runway as intended, it would have killed him. “When the ambulance arrived, they put me on a backboard with a neck brace and med flighted me to UAMS,” he said. “I had multiple hip fractures and I walk with a cane but I’m just proud to be here.” —RL
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Lost or stranded in the wilderness, the ability to start a fire without a match is paramount. Marcal Young, scout executive for the Quapaw Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, shared tips from the BSA handbook on starting a fire by friction: • Fashion a spindle, bow, hand block and fire block from dry, soft wood such as yucca, elm, red cedar, basswood or cottonwood, all found in Arkansas. In the edge of the fire board, whittle a V-shaped cut leading to a depression in the top of the board. • The spindle should be 12-18 inches long, rounded at one end and tapered at the other. • Whittle a depression that will fit over the rounded end of the spindle and string your bow with a length of cord, shoestring or guyline. • Gather dry, shredded bark for tinder. Place it under the notch in the fire board and kneel down with one foot on the board to keep it steady. Twist your bowstring tightly around the spindle once, then hold the spindle upright with the hand block. • Twirl the spindle with long strokes of the bow while maintaining pressure on the spindle with the hand block. Repeat until you get an ember and heavy smoke. • Breathe gently into the tinder until you get a flame, then remove the fire board and add more small kindling. —MC
Hypothermia, one of the most pervasive threats in the outdoors, is where the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Symptoms begin with shivering and can quickly progress to slurred speech, shallow breathing, weak pulse, clumsiness, confusion and death. If hypothermia sets in, first concentrate on maintaining a positive outlook, said Mike Hillis, emergency medicine physician at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith and medical director at Sebastian County EMS and Rescue. If you’re unable to find a warm area to recover, at least seek shelter from the wind. Remove wet clothing. If you’re prepared with hot liquids, drink them, and apply hand warmers to the groin and armpit areas. Be prepared for cold weather conditions by wearing layers of wool, poly, fleece or Capilene clothing rather than cotton, which loses most of its insulating value when wet. Avoid alcohol consumption in cold weather as the feeling of warmth it provides comes from the dilation of superficial blood vessels, which actually increases heat loss. For other tips, see ozarksar.com. —LC 38 | Arkansas Wild ¸ July 2019
Arkansas summers are brutal, and prolonged exposure to the sun and heat can be dangerous. Preparation goes a long way, including loose, breathable clothing to prevent heat from being trapped against the body. Initial signs of distress include cramps, nausea and/or muscle twitches. Heat exhaustion is typified by profuse sweating, nausea and pallor, perhaps accompanied by a headache, dizziness or lightheadedness. In addition to providing hydration, spray water on or fan the skin to provide additional airflow to accelerate evaporative cooling. “Get to a shady area,” said Dr. Mark Wiggins of St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro. ”If you’re hiking and there’s no immediate foliage available, it would be wise to generate something to get out of the direct sunlight.” Heat stroke (sometimes called sun stroke) is when the body’s ability to regulate heat has altogether collapsed. It is a true emergency. “That’s where you see the patient becoming confused, a little belligerent, or even uncooperative, and they may even be unconscious at that point,” Wiggins said. —BH
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ARKANSASWILD.COM | 39
Brothers Wendell and Donnie Blankenship were on a backwoods trail in the Flatiron Wilderness of the Ouachita National Forest. Emerging from a trailhead at a primitive campsite, they suddenly met a couple of foul-tempered, pistol-packing men with a female companion. The trio seemed none too pleased to see the unexpected hikers. The armed campers grabbed nearby rifles and met the approaching hikers with queries as to their business there. The Blankenships attempted to explain they were out enjoying a beautiful day which only aggravated one of the gun-toting fellows, who kept complaining of a pounding headache. Thinking fast, Donnie grabbed for his wallet, pausing midreach as the rifles turned his way. Moving more gently, he explained, “I’ve got BC Powders.” Guns lowered, he fetched one of the aspirin, handing it to the agitated gunman. His suffering antagonist knocked back the pain reliever and almost immediately, the atmosphere changed with the previously suspicious campers offering the newcomers a drink of cool water. Satisfied the hikers proved no threat to their hideout, the Blankenship brothers continued on their merry way. Only later did they learn of Chevie Kehoe and his sidekick Daniel Lewis Lee were on the lam for the suspected killing of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife and daughter just prior to the encounter in February 1995. —RL
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Knowing how to help yourself or another person who has been injured by a bullet or buckshot is good practice if you plan to enjoy the outdoors during hunting season. “Gun safety is the first step in preventing these accidents, but even with every precaution, with hundreds of folks out there during hunting season, we do see many injuries,” said Dr. Sangeeth Samuel, medical director of the Emergency Department for Baptist Health Medical CenterArkadelphia. Taking time to learn CPR (heart.org/en/cpr) and Stop the Bleed techniques (bleedingcontrol.org) could save a life. While waiting for medical help to arrive, keep in mind the general rule of CPR and consider the ABCs—airway, breathing and circulation. “If the injury in any way affects the individual’s airway, this is the first step to help them. The ability to breathe is paramount. If there is anything impeding this, it needs to be addressed before anything else.” Apply pressure and try to slow bleeding that’s visible. Internal bleeding may be present without any immediate outward signals, which is a big reason to seek medical attention as soon as possible. “Sometimes wounds that don’t look bad initially can have delayed and progressive symptoms. Delaying treatment could end up with poor outcomes,” Samuel said. “Obviously, any injury to the head and neck is very serious, but wounds to the torso, pelvis and even your legs can be deceiving. The damage caused internally may be a lot worse than the external wound would indicate.” —SB
The Natural State has four species of venomous snakes: rattlesnake, copperhead, cottonmouth and coral snake. Dr. Lee Johnson, an emergency medical physician at Baptist Health Hospital in Fort Smith, said his emergency department will treat on average about 10 venomous snake bites per summer. “Most snakes won’t seek you out to bite you, but they will if you step on them,” Johnson said. Contrary to what you’ve seen in old Westerns, making an incision around a bite and sucking out the poison doesn’t do anything, nor does applying a tourniquet, immersing the bite area in ice or applying an electric shock. Most of what to do is of the common-sense variety, like getting away from the snake so as not to get bitten again, staying calm and not trying to capture the offending reptile. Hollywood also tells us snakebite means you have only minutes to live without anti-venom but that’s also not reality. Hiking back to the car (or at least to a cell signal) is generally OK, but take care not to get your heart rate up. In 20 years as a physician, Johnson has seen one case he considered life-threatening and that person recovered. But, he said, you still should take the matter seriously. “If you’re certain you’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake, 100 percent come to the emergency department,” said Johnson. —BH
BEARS TOILET PAPER
This clocks high on the “don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone” meter. Getting lost in the wilderness or just plain bad planning can land you in a pretty messy spot. What can you turn to? Plant leaves are the most obvious, but you better know your botany. Poison ivy and poison oak are not what you want to reach for, so take the “leaves of three, let it be” mantra to heart. Better yet, just pack more baby wipes than you think you’ll need and we won’t have to have this conversation.
Bears rarely attack humans, but as long as people visit their habitat, encounters—and therefore attacks—are a possibility. Here’s what you should know if you come across a bear in the wild, courtesy of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: • Stay calm and stand your ground. Try to intimidate the bear by shouting and making noise. If that doesn’t work, hit it with sticks or rocks. Don’t try to outrun a bear; it’s a race you won’t win. • An encounter with a female and her cubs is an especially dangerous situation. Stand your ground and slowly back away without making direct eye contact. Never approach lone cubs. Turn around and head back the way you came. • In the extremely unlikely event of an attack, fight back as aggressively as possible with any means available. Strike the bear in the eyes and snout. • Bear spray can help if applied at close range to the face or eyes, but when applied to clothes, tents or campsites it is not a deterrent. In fact, it has been proven to attract bears. —MC
OUT OF BEER
Abandon hope all ye who enter here. You animal.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 41
STAY & PLAY
REAL ESTATE & PROPERTIES
Make your next vacation an Arkansas adventure â€”STAY & PLAY in The Natural State! Stay & Play is a special feature of Arkansas Wild with statewide distribution, including state parks, resorts, large chain grocery stores and outdoor outfitters. Plus, its promoted online with Arkansas Wild digital media. If you would like to list your commercial or residential properties and rentals, contact email@example.com.
A Special Advertising Promotion 42 | Arkansas Wild Â¸ July 2019
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF: ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND TOURISM
Some of the best bonding experiences happen outdoors, and that starts with comfortable lodging near the natural, wild spaces where you want to be. Arkansas Wild has compiled some of the best spaces to STAY & PLAY. Here you will find lodges perfect for a weekend getaway, hunting cabins for that once-in-a-lifetime duck hunt, a new vacation home, or that next place to relocate in The Natural State!
STAY & PLAY REAL ESTATE & PROPERTIES
GASTON'S WHITE RIVER RESORT
1777 River Rd. | Lakeview, AR Gastons.com 870.431.5202
Gaston’s White River Resort began in 1958 with six small cottages and six boats. Today, Clint Gaston carries on the family legacy with over 400 acres and 79 cottages— ranging from two double beds to 10 private rooms—an airstrip, over 70 boats and a state-of-the-art dock. Gaston’s Resort also features an award-winning restaurant, private club, gift shop, tennis court, playground, game room, duck pond, three nature trails, swimming pool, conference lodge and fly-fishing school. Led by master fly-fisherman Frank Saksa, the fly-fishing school is a one-day course for two people. Combining a bit of in-classroom teaching with hands-on experience, these classes are a wonderful introduction to the art of fly-fishing. And the fishing is always good at Gaston’s. The White River stays the same temperature year-round, which means the trout are always active. Fly-fishing is not the only way to fish, either! In fact, over 85% of everyone who fishes in the area is spin fishing. You can produce excellent results either way—just have fun! Gaston’s offers a Bermuda grass airstrip that is open to everyone—not just guests who are staying in the cottages. Feel free to fly in for breakfast, lunch or dinner any day of the week, or on Sunday for the restaurant’s famous Sunday brunch. The resort has been featured in every major airplane and flight magazine in the world, and it is known as the best fly-fishing destination in this part of the country. Visitors fly in from all over the country to experience some great trout fishing, or just to enjoy a meal with a great view in the first-class restaurant. Gaston’s has a wide variety of different packages—perfect to suit you and your party. In addition to the basic accommodations, there are several larger cottages and lodges where guests can hosts larger parties and events, all of which offer free Wi-Fi. Whether you need a crib, extra blankets or handicap-accessible utilities, Gaston’s will strive to make you as comfortable as possible. Just let the capable staff know what they can do to make your stay perfect. Your dogs are welcome, too! A Special Advertising Promotion
• COTTAGES AND LODGES FOR SMALL AND LARGE PARTIES • YEAR-ROUND TROUT FISHING AND INSTRUCTION AVAILABLE • AWARD-WINNING RESTAURANT • PRIVATE AIRSTRIP • DOG-FRIENDLY
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 43
STAY AND PLAY REAL ESTATE & PROPERTIES
BEAR CREEK LOG CABINS
6403 N HWY 65 | ST. JOE, AR 870.448.5926 BUFFALORIVERLOGCABINS.NET If you are looking for a rustic retreat near the Buffalo National River at Tyler Bend, look no further than Bear Creek Log Cabins. There are four cabins scattered over hundreds of acres, all with access to the fishing holes of Bear Creek—a tributary to the Buffalo—right on the property. The ranch is less than five minutes south of Middle Buffalo access areas and the Ozark Highland Trail, but you will also find plenty of trails right on the Bear Creek property for hiking, biking or ATV use. It is a photographer’s paradise, with sweeping views of the buttresses that line the creek and wildlife on every adventure. The nearby private Lake House property, with a 22-acre stocked lake with dock and fishing boat right out the back door, is also a favorite location. The spacious cabins feature native rock fireplaces, outdoor fire pits, charcoal grills, full kitchens, linens, flat screen tvs with satellite reception (including SEC and ESPN channels), and heat/air that will accommodate up to 48 guests. Bear Creek is open year around, offers hunting in season, and is pet friendly. Special winter discount rates are available in January and February. Bear Creek Log Cabins will quickly become your go-to getaway destination.
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A Special Advertising Promotion
• ELK AND OTHER WILDLIFE WATCHING • PRIVATE ROADS FOR HIKES AND ATV TRAILS • LESS THAN 5 MINUTES SOUTH OF THE BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER • OZARK HIGHLANDS TRAIL LESS THAN 5 MINUTES • 45 MINUTES TO COTTER FOR TROUT FISHING
S AVE T HE DAT E THE ARK ANSAS OUTDOOR
HALL of FAME I N DUCT ION BA NQU ET S A T U R D AY, A U G U S T 2 4 , 2 0 1 9
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TIX: (501)-223-6468 AGFF@AGFF.ORG ARKANSASWILD.COM | 45
eazin Mag unt -Mo TRAILS: O Bear Hollow Trail O Greenfield Trail O North Ridge Trail O Will Apple’s Road Trail O Benefield Trail O Cove Lake Trail O Mossback Ridge Trail O Signal Hill Trail
Signal Hill, 2,753 feet.
Highest point in Arkansas! 2 Watched hang gliders
take off here.
Cameron Bluff Campground
Saw a hawk during breakfast!
35° 10’ 0.75” N, -93° 38’ 24.60” W
rail ke T e La Cov
WPA er Amphitheat
Rock Climbing Area
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il Road Tra s ’ le p p A l Wil
k bace s s Mo Ridg
Ferns everywhere up here.
Mossback Ridge Trail
Clear day, saw for miles over Petit Jean Valley!
Sharpen Your Outdoor Skills
& F I SH C
OM SS I O
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is now offering a full lineup of outdoor skills courses.
& F I SH C
OM SS I O
IS S S K I L L S -- F
& F I SH C
SS I O
R S K I L L S -- A
Courses will include fishing, hunting, archery, trapping, conservation leadership, paddle sports, game-calling, watchable wildlife and marksmanship. You’ll have a chance to learn and hone your skills from some of Arkansas’s best outdoor enthusiasts. Skills and training courses will be offered year-round at AGFC nature centers and education centers as well as local community centers.
S K I L L S -- S H
Learn more at AGFCOutdoorSkills.com
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