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EXPLORING OUTDOOR LIFE IN THE NATURAL STATE EXPLORING OUTDOOR LIFE IN THE NATURAL STATE

ARKANSAS WILD ee tthh e t e h t e t m m meeeet

-f --o f o -ofcortnie been,been, cortnie cortnie bow hunter bow hunter & been, bow this &young young gun. gun. hunter. girl kicks see page 40. seearse. page 42. see page 40.

On On the the run run for for rabbits rabbits

WINTER 2017 2017 a r K AWINTER N S A S w i l d.c om a r K A N S A S w i l d.c o m


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LEGENDS OF THE WILD & YOUNG GUNS

Zach McClendon looks for squirrels in the woods at MINK TRACK Hunting club, his camp near tillar. See story page 30.

22

BACK TO CAMP

PHOTOGRAPHY BY NOVO STUDIO

The Best Part of Hunting Season

24

SMALL GAME HUNTING Local Trainer Runs Beagles Six Days a Week

46

THE PHOTOS OF TIM ERNST A View of Arkansas Beauty

DEPARTMENTS

10 OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS 12 GAME & FLAME 14 ARKANSAS OUTOOOR ARTISANS 18 OUT & ABOUT 50 EXPLORE ARKANSAS

4 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

ON THE COVER: Cortnie Been at her home near alma. Photography by Novo Studio.


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ARKANSASWILD.COM 6 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


Dogwood Canyon Mill

Tram Tours

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W

inter welcomes its own sense of wonder at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. A wildlife tram or private tour offers an exciting opportunity to spot the majestic bald eagle during this season, along with exploring the spectacular history of the canyon. From fly fishing along 2.5 miles of trout-filled streams to taking a horseback ride through the Ozark hills, many outdoor activities are still available for guests looking to get outdoors in the winter months. Indoor activities also abound, like live mill demonstrations at the Dogwood Canyon Mill, dining at the Canyon Grill and touring through the one-of-a-kind treehouse built by Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters. Call or visit the website to learn about seasonal hours and to plan your visit.

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Trout Fishing ARKANSASWILD.COM | 7


FROM THE EDITOR AT LARGE

Do something good for yourself

I put on flannel for the first time this morning, thrilled to finally feel the chill in the air. I’m excited by a new development: my niece has asked for her first hunting trip. It’s that time of year—hunting season is in full swing. But as many committed hunters know, it’s not the kill— well, not entirely—that makes hunting so fulfilling. It’s the comradery, the scent of wood smoke and the hard work that goes into each hunt, as you’ll read about in “Back to Camp.” In the issue, you'll also learn about a man who trains hunting dogs— not because he loves to hunt rabbits, though that’s true. He does it for the love of watching the dogs run through the woods, doing what they do best. You’ll also find a quick and easy recipe for using up extra duck, and you’ll meet an artist who carves duck decoys worthy of the term “art.” In every Winter issue, we share our nominees for Legends of the Wild. This year’s nominees are every bit as amazing as you’ve come to expect. From Tim Ernst, photographer and trail guide author, to Zach McClendon, founder of Squirrels Unlimited and several entrepreneurial pursuits, the people included in this category deeply humble me with their long-standing commitment to elevating Arkansans' relationships to the outdoors. We also include our impressive class of Young Guns. Among others, we have Cate Davis, a whitewater paddler who loves sharing her hobby, and we also have Laura and Jess Westbrook, a couple who spend their free time taking foster kids fly fishing. I hope you enjoy this issue of Arkansas Wild, and I hope you get outside this winter. There’s no better time to experience the outdoors in Arkansas—from hiking, wildlife viewing, and paddling to hunting and camping, there’s no shortage of activities to get your blood pumping.

PHOTOGRAPHY: NOVO STUDIO

WINTER IS HERE!

Lacey Thacker Editor at Large, Arkansas Wild

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PS: I encourage duck hunters interested in hunting in Southeast Arkansas to consider entering the Lucky Limit Challenge to be held on Saturday, January 13. The winning team will receive $1,200 to split between team members, and contest proceeds will be donated to the endowment for waterfowl research at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Interested parties may call John McClendon at (870) 367-2700 or Chris Sims at (870)723-4089 or email lacey@arktimes.com for the entry form.


CONTRIBUTORS

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR CHAIRMAN EMERITUS

Zach McClendon

You have always been legendary to the Union Bank Team!

Member FDIC

870-460-6400 • 102 W. McCloy St., Monticello, AR • www.unionbnk.com

JOHN McCLENDON loves to deer hunt

RICHARD LEDBETTER is a south-

Arkansas outdoorsman who enjoys any time spent in the woods and on the water. Ledbetter has published a pair of historical novels, “The Branch and the Vine” and “Witness Tree 1910,” and he has appeared in several Arkansas-made movies.

H E A R T S O N F I R E S T O R E S , A U T H O R I Z E D R E TA I L E R S , H E A R T S O N F I R E . C O M

in his native Drew County. This month John ponders the special connections among hunters past and present in “Back to Camp.”

GORDON KUMPURIS is the volunteer

communications officer for the Arkansas Canoe Club. He has 30+ years of professional experience in the video production, training and marketing industry. He and his family reside in Little Rock.

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ANDREA HAAS lives in the Ozark

Mountains in southern Missouri. She began hunting at 19 with her husband, and she has since begun teaching her girlfriends about hunting and bow fishing. She runs huntressview.blogspot.com.

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 9 8212-Cecils.indd 1

11/7/17 3:52 PM


OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS

DUCK DOG ESSENTIALS

TAYLOR DENNISTON OF FORT THOMPSON SPORTING GOODS SHARES HIS TOP PICKS FOR KEEPING DOGS SAFE, WARM AND READY TO HUNT

2

Useful handle for lifting your dog out of the water or onto a stand.

Never be without a bowl again.

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Protect your kennel from rain, sun and other damaging elements.

Adjusts for different water levels.

4 Available in brown or camo.

5 10 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY OF VENDORS

1


1. H2O

"This collapsible Mud River Renegade bowl is easy to pack and store.” $12.99

2. FIELD STYLE

“There are a ton of vests out there, but my dad uses the Rig'em Right Bloodline Dog Vest.” $49.99

3. PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT

“Keeping your kennel covered not only keeps your dog warm, it protects the kennel from wear from the elements. A lot of people like this Ducks Unlimited kennel cover by Mud River.” $129.99

4. EASY CLEAN

“They make these Mud River Two-Barrel seat covers in camo and brown. They’re great for keeping your seats clean when your dog is wet and muddy after a hunt, or any other time.” $84.99

5. THEY’LL NEVER SEE YOU COMING

“If you’re in a less covered area, the MOmarsh Invisilab dog blind lets hunters set up and still be hidden with their dog.” $184.99 All items available at Fort Thompson Sporting Goods. FTthompson.com

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 11


GAME & FLAME

Consider soaking your duck breast in salt water overnight to decrease the gamey flavor.

The ingredients for this dish are already likely in your pantry, making it easy to pull together on a weeknight.

DUCK PILAF MADE EASY BY LACEY THACKER

I

f you regularly bagged your limit of ducks last year, you may find yourself looking for easy recipes to use up the meat in the freezer before this year’s season really gets going. I recently acquired some duck from last season, and I needed a quick way to cook the dish up for a midweek meal, so I called my good friend Blake. He’s “only” been duck hunting for a dozen years or so, but given his practical nature, I knew he'd have a good suggestion for my bag full of duck breasts. “Sure, I’ve got a recipe. It’s super easy and very tasty.” He goes on to describe a one-dish-wonder with rice, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and a can of cream of celery soup. I mix all the ingredients together and cover the duck with the mixture. An hour later, I’ve got a plate of fresh duck and rice steaming in front of me, and with one bite I’m reminded why folks wake early to sit in the cold wet and call in the birds. 12 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

DUCK PILAF

Yields 6 servings

6 duck breasts 1.5 cups dry rice 2 cans cream of celery soup ½ onion, chopped 1 bell pepper, chopped jalapeno to taste, finely chopped salt and pepper to taste

PHOTOGRAPHY: NOVO STUDIO

ONE DISH WONDER

Mix rice, cream of celery, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, salt and pepper in a bowl. Place duck in a baking dish and cover with the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Serve.


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PHOTOGRAPHY: NOVO STUDIO

RD Wilson holds a freshly carved decoy that’s been aged to look antique. Most of these wind up on a collector’s mantel.

W DECOYS: THEY’RE NOT JUST FOR HUNTING RD WILSON TALKS DUCKS, PAINTING AND SKILLS LEARNED OVER 35 YEARS BY LACEY THACKER

hen he was working in advertising in Little Rock in the 1960s, RD Wilson was diagnosed with cancer. “I went to get a flight physical and they found I had cancer. I said, ‘I’m not going to wear a suit and a tie if I’m going to die!’” He’d always wanted to hunt over his own ducks, so he made a dozen and had the best hunt of his life. During that hunt, on a lake near Lonoke, RD noticed a group across the lake wasn’t having any luck, but RD quickly got his limit. The group from across came over and asked if they could hunt with RD, which made him decide, “If I live, I’m going to do this.” RD has been working as a decoy carver ever since, with a few other career moves along the way. RD taught art, then moved into journalism and coaching. “I got my teaching certificate and ended up teaching for about eight years. I started working with learning disabled kids, and I know sign language so I worked with the deaf kids.” As RD tells this, he begins signing, appearing as comfortable as if it were his first language. “I carved to make extra money, and after I quit teaching I went Continued on page 16

14 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


Talk about a great Christmas gift! If there is a person in your life who has just one fishing rod and reel, then do him this favor… surprise him with the book Bass Fishing, Brown Dogs and Curve Balls for Christmas this year.

If you have someone who would enjoy being entertained or inspired, Jerry McKinnis will check those two boxes and more. In this book, he talks about his friendships and involvement with the likes of David Letterman, Coach Bobby Knight, Bill Dance, Ted Williams, Kevin VanDam, and many others. It even describes a quick, life altering face to face exchange with Walt Disney. Bottom line….This is a book about life. Don’t miss out on it.

Christmas special…. only $20 at www.jerrysbook.com

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 15


Clockwise from top left: RD holds a duck that’s ready to have detail carved in. The next step after painting is to add finishing touches. The eyes are a key element to creating a lifelike carving. In one corner of the shop is a shelf that holds works in progress, scrap wood and practice carvings.

16 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


RD RECENTLY WON THE LOCH NESS MUSEUM BIRD OF THE YEAR, AN INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION. HE WAS ONE OF 35 ENTRANTS FROM ACROSS THE WORLD. out west and worked for a wildlife museum for three and a half years.” Much of his work at the museum was in repairing the large collection of antique decoys housed there. RD’s workshop today is a relatively small building on his 40-acre property hidden in plain view in Little Rock. His cabin and workshop overlook a large, scenic pond, and his screened porch provides a great view of the ducks who regularly flock to his body of water. As real as RD’s ducks look, it’s no wonder he’s had good luck hunting over them. Of course, developing his skill has taken 35 years of practice. He does three main types of decoy: proper decoys, intended for luring in live birds; antique-style decoys that, he says, usually end up on someone’s mantel; and fancy ducks, such as the wood duck he’s currently putting the finishing touches on. Regardless of the type of bird he’s carving, the process is the same. First, RD draws an outline of his planned carving. From there, he draws the outline onto a block of wood, which he then cuts out with a band saw. Next, RD uses a sander to shape and smooth the duck. Sometimes, a wing or the feet might be carved separately and then attached, to give the decoy a better sense of dimension. “Then I start putting the detail in them. I carve each feather,” he says. Finally, the artist begins to paint. RD notes that, after all his years of practice, he’s able to paint a bit faster than many other carvers, which gives him some advantage in speed. He picks up a paintbrush, dips it in paint and then pauses before breaking into a grin and saying, “I just don’t feel right painting…I tell you why: I always have something in my mouth when I’m painting!” he says, before grabbing a paintbrush and holding it between his teeth. Though the expert painting job and the realistic texture created by hand-cutting the feathers are both significant aspects of the quality of the decoy, it’s the eyes, RD says, that really make the duck come alive. “The wood duck is known for its bright red eyes. There’s a taxidermy eye in there. I paint over it, and then, once you scrape the old paint off, it just comes alive.” He demonstrates, and the transformation is stunning. Old decoys were painted with lead oil paint, but it’s almost impossible to find now, so RD has had to come up with alternate methods to age the decoys. “I soak it in coffee for a couple days. It raises the grain and makes it look old. That’s actually horsehide glue. When I put it on there, it gives the texture of old paint.” “There’s not a whole lot of guys who do what I do now. I guess that’s good; if there were a whole lot of guys, it wouldn’t be special.”

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OUT & ABOUT

MOUNTAINS AND LAKES AND CAVES, OH MY!

BIG CEDAR LODGE SERVES AS MULTI-ADVENTURE BASE CAMP BY LACEY THACKER

PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY BIG CEDAR LODGE

The Glory Hole’s blue waters fall year-round into a trout-filled pool at nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, where cyclists and walkers alike enjoy touring the property.

O

n a recent Monday morning, I left early to make it to Big Cedar Lodge by midday. An easy three-hour drive from Little Rock, Big Cedar Lodge is the brainchild of Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops. Though it’s a popular spot for Arkansas travelers looking to get out of town for the weekend—or the week—I’d never made it a point to get up there. The drive up Highway 65 is a pretty one, so when I arrived at the property entrance, I was already primed for beauty. The entry is marked by a large arch; to one side is the open access road to the lodge property, to the other is the gated entry to Top of the Rock, where a golf course, nature and cave trail, a museum and more awaits visitors. Just up the road is the shooting academy, where instruction is offered in various shooting sports. After we passed through the gate, we drove along a winding road leading us down to the property by the lake. We were early to check in, but easily found the Truman Café, where we took a seat on the patio overlooking the lake. After eating, we wandered to the registration desk in the lodge next door. The staff was kind enough to check us in early, and they also gave 18 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

us a quick explanation of the map of the property, which is expansive enough at 800 acres to warrant a little direction. PLAYING IN THE WATER As the afternoon was warm for the season, we drove down to the marina. There, we found a full selection of Tracker Boats available for rent, along with all the fishing gear you could need. Kayaks, my boat of choice, are available at no charge on a first come, first served basis. The resort is located on the shores of Table Rock Lake, and I admit, when I got out on the water, I nearly didn’t come in until dark. The water was so smooth, such a peaceful dark blue, and with the warm sun heating my face I almost forgot how close to cold weather we really are. Though racing across calm water brought me all the thrill I was looking for, if you’re looking for a more involved water experience, you can try a guided fishing trip, bowfishing, ski school or even a champagne tour of the lake on a vintage wooden boat. Continued on page 20.


All things Arkansas,

all in one place. We’re committed to Arkansas and to the people who live here. That’s why we created an entire site dedicated to our home state. Visit OnlyInArk.com for everything from great road trips and fun festivals to local culture and more. When your bank is only in Arkansas, you know it’s all about you.

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Top: Shooting sports of all kinds can be learned at the Bass Pro Shops Shooting Academy. Bottom: The Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail tour at Top of the Rock takes guests along a narrow path that leads through a still-forming cave.

LOCATION: About two hours and forty-five minutes from Little Rock via HWY 65 N or an hour and a half from Fayetteville. GPS: 40.741895 -73.989308

20 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

NATURE TRAIL AND CAVE TOUR I knew any tour that included time spent in a cave was bound to be cool, but I had no idea what I was in for. After entering Top of The Rock, we drove over to the welcome center, where I filled out a release form— because our self-guided tour took place on our very own golf cart. After a brief wait in line, we were directed to a twoseater cart and sent on our way. I initially tried to keep up with our location on the map, but I quickly gave up and just enjoyed the ride. Tourists are encouraged to stop along the trail and take photos or get a closer look at attractions, and we found ourselves doing so frequently. It’s hard to believe so many beautiful spots were to be found within such a relatively small area, but at nearly every turn there was a historic bridge, a stunning vista, a towering waterfall or a geologically interesting rock face. And that’s not even counting the cave. While the topside of the trail is gorgeous, nothing beats a good cave. This one is wet inside, as it’s still being formed. For that reason, we were required to stay in our golf carts for safety. Looking up, our eyes were met with what appeared to be rock-turned-liquid, dripping from the roof of the cave into formations that took thousands of years to form. DOGWOOD CANYON NATURE PARK Just up the road from the resort and Top of the Rock is another Bass Pro Shops property, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. Dogwood Canyon is a 10,000 acre preserve where visitors can eat, fish, walk, bike, ride horses or take a tram tour. With the goal of seeing as much as possible, we selected the walking option, which gave us leave to walk the entirety of the six-mile walking trail. The paved, relatively flat trail took us by prime spots like the treehouse, a special structure featured on Animal Planet’s television show, Treehouse Masters. There were several bridges over calm waters from which we could easily see the trout milling about. As the area is protected, the fish thrive. As a result, fishing is a popular activity for visitors, and we saw several people in different spots along the shoreline reeling them in. Guided fishing is available, and while many people fished alone, so too did we have the pleasure of watching as a couple of people received fly fishing instruction. After an hour or so, we found ourselves at what’s considered the crowning glory of Dogwood Canyon: The Glory Hole, a tranquil blue pool constantly refreshed by a small fall. The walking path led us to the top of the pool, where we could see the source of the water as it flowed down the hill toward its destination. I love bushwhacking as much as the next person, but I’ve got to admit—it was nice to ride a golf cart and walk accessible, paved trails that took me directly to sights I’d normally hike a couple miles to see. If you’re looking for a comfortable base from which to explore all the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake have to offer, Big Cedar Lodge won’t disappoint.


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Back to Camp THE BEST PART OF HUNTING

BY JOHN McCLENDON

The painting “Sharing with Friends” reminds the author of his favorite part of hunting season. It hangs in the hall of John’s favorite hunting camp near Tillar, Arkansas.

T

here is a piece of artwork hanging in the bunkhouse hallway of one of my favorite hunting camp destinations. The detailed scene bordered within the crooked and dusty rough oak frame has a nostalgic look, and it captures everything I like best about being a hunter. The print shows four early 19th century woodsmen gathered around a camp fire with muskets leaning against their shoulders as they smile over a large goose—the fowl obviously destined to be their dinner. The tough-looking men wear weathered buckskins, and their colorful Hudson Bay blankets are an artistic contrast against the snowy ground and surrounding dark woods. The painting is entitled “Sharing with Friends” and perfectly conveys a celebration of timeless tradition and outdoor fellowship. That image helps remind me I am at my best in the fall, surrounded by fellow hunters all living for the hunt. Down at our camp the camaraderie and cooperation in anticipation of hunting elevates my state of mind at every level. Problems from the real world evaporate in the wood smoke of a crackling fire popping at dusk, and the laughter of close friends circled around drowns out any voice of worry in my head. A hunter’s best memories all have three parts: the game being hunted, the natural surroundings of the hunt, and the people who were there and shared the experience. Those components come to mind in just that same order: the friends and family at our side during heady days afield always end up being the most important and longest lasting part of every memory. 22 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

Arrival at camp is not just the beginning of another season; it is a return to who we really are, or at least who we really would like to be. The soul of a true hunter is refreshed best by experiences that are physically exhausting, mentally challenging and authentically connecting. It is not a coincidence that the strongest friendships are born of these very same elements. Our camp was my father’s dream, it is my retreat, and it will be my son’s training ground. It is where some sacred relationships first began and where mentors long departed from our presence are remembered and revered—their adventures now grown into legends. The return to hunting camp each fall is a subconscious migration back to our purest origins. There was a time on earth when every human being was a hunter, and there is something innately familiar about relaxing by a fire with friends, as past days are relived through exaggerated storytelling. The unending expanse of a clear and starry nighttime sky overhead—unspoiled by any glare of city lights—is a humility check, a visual realization of our unwarranted human arrogance. The universe we claim to master is so much bigger, so much older, than we can possibly comprehend. We are humbled by our own insignificance but find comfort in kinship with fellow hunters who share the same epiphany. It is a bond that began a hundred thousand years ago. Not everyone understands it. It can be hard to explain that a hunting camp is more of a state of mind than a place


Top to bottom: The sun sets behind the tree line on a cold winter’s day at Mink Track Hunting Club. Wood is stacked near the entry to the cabin in preparation for a winter filled with fires in the fireplace and in the fire pit. The porch of the cabin is decorated with antlers, reminding those relaxing nearby what the upcoming season will bring.

on a map—that what we really bring back from out there can’t be cooked on the grill or hung the wall. It sounds confusing to say that hunting is more about life and living than it is about death and killing, but that is the reality for those wise enough to embrace the lifestyle. Friendship fuels the fire of life, and going hunting with the people you love and trust is what stokes those flames. The stout and sturdy characters in that painting I admire so much seem to understand it all. Their sublime smiles are drawn to speak of joy and harmony and gratitude without saying a word. Welcome back to camp, fellows. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 23


SMALL GAME

HUN TING

LOCAL TRAINER RUNS BEAGLES SIX DAYS A WEEK

Left: Stoney walks through the grass at Camp Robinson Special Use Area outside Conway an hour before sunset. Right: Beagle puppies and grown dogs alike occasionally take a break from tracking rabbits.

W

hen I call Stoney Blan to talk about hunting with dogs, he says it’d be easiest to explain if I just came along to watch one day. That would be easy enough—Stoney runs his dogs four to six days a week, sometimes twice a day. And that’s working around his full-time job as a member of the Air Force. Stoney got started coon hunting with dogs in high school, often going out before class. “I’ve never really known what sleep was,” he says, and indeed it seems true—on the day I meet him at the special use area a few miles out of Conway, he’s run dogs from 4 to 6 that morning, worked from 7-4, and we meet again at 5:30; yet he seems as fresh and alert as if he were straight out of a good night’s sleep. The dogs are kenneled in the bed of Stoney’s truck, and as soon as he pulls the tailgate down, they’re pawing 24 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

at the door, ready for what they know is coming. He pulls the adults out one by one and puts radio collars on each of them before allowing them to jump down. They immediately take off for the brush. Several puppies jump down and follow the adults, sans collars, but Stoney is unconcerned. “They’re just like kids,” he explains. “They’ll stay with the adults or come back to me.” Following the grown beagles is a huge part of how the puppies learn, but they return to Stoney regularly. He moves every few minutes, following the calls of the adults and encouraging the puppies to re-engage. “I go out because I like it. Seeing the dogs run is the best part; hunting, for me, is really secondary,” he says. Stoney had been training his own dogs exclusively, but over the last year or so, word got out that he wasn’t only producing well-trained dogs—he was producing them quickly.


Demand rose, and he sold his other hunting dogs to focus on beagles. But Stoney doesn’t train just any dog—if they’re not picking up on the excitement within a week or two, he often lets the owner know they’re better suited as a pet. “I’ve got high standards on what I take because I like being out here,” he explains. Working with a dog that isn’t wellsuited isn’t fun for the dog or the trainer. About then, Stoney’s phone rings—it’s a man from Russellville wanting to know whether he can drop his dog off. Beagles have two particular vocalizations, Stoney tells me. The first is a “strike,” sounded when the dog first smells a rabbit. The second is a “jump,” called when they jump the rabbit. As we walk through the high grass, Stoney explains the different noises, noting that he can tell which dog is saying what. He assures me that with a day or so of practice, I could start doing the same. Stoney used to deer hunt, but says today rabbit and squirrel— small game—are his prey of choice. Smaller game require less setup and gear, but they are also less intense to process. Though he has a full pack of dogs, he says all a person really needs is one dog and a shotgun to get started. Small game is also more enjoyable for hunters who like to keep moving—something that’s helpful when bringing kids along. Continued on page 26.

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Stoney should know: he’s got two under age 5, and they both love to go out. He says part of that is because he respects when his kids have had enough, ensuring they’ll want to go out again the next time he asks. Stoney does have one concern— the relatively brief time of year he’s legally allowed to run dogs. His dogs are athletes, and he trains them that way. A few months—or even weeks—off training has a big impact on their performance. Currently, the time of year he can run dogs is limited by what other seasons are open. He’d like to see the rules modified to open public lands during more of the year, even if there were a limit on the number of dogs a person could have with them at once. Though Stoney would like to see the rules changed, he acknowledges the concern over dogs disturbing other hunters or killing game out of season. I often find that going out with someone who knows what they’re doing makes a new experience exponentially more exciting, and that was the case here. Though the weather wasn’t quite cool enough to shoot, learning about the use of dogs in hunting from a passionate participant in the sport while walking over pretty terrain was a good way to spend an evening.


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Living in Arkansas is a privilege for those who enjoy the outdoors. We have access to a beautiful, diverse range of outdoors spaces, from mountains to woods and fields to rivers. This year’s class of Legends is also diverse. Nominations range from forest stewards to tourism industry entrepreneurs to photographers. No matter how they do so, those who participate in the conservation and promotion of our natural spaces have amazing stories to tell. Arkansas Wild is proud to recognize our fourth annual Legends of the Wild. These five individuals—Zach McClendon, Larry and Shirley Aikman, Tim Ernst and Bill Barnes—have made contributions to the Arkansas outdoors that can be felt statewide, and in the following pages we pay tribute. By Lacey Thacker ARKANSASWILD.COM | 29


ZACH McCLENDON I

got invited to meet Zach McClendon after he read my first novel, The Branch and the Vine. A mutual friend introduced us and Zach immediately made me feel like an old friend. I quickly recognized what a remarkable and multi-faceted individual Zach truly is. His interests range from energy conservation to finance, sportsmanship, manufacturing, gardening, wildlife conservation and even jewelry design. His most obvious industrial pursuits include MonArk Boats, SeaArk Boats, SeaArk Marine, Drew Foam, Concrete Foam Structures and Saline River Diamonds. He’s proven an over-achiever most his life, becoming an Eagle Scout at age 16, in 1953. Along with his father, Zach, Sr. and Norris Jenkins the trio founded their first aluminum boat company, MonArk, in 1959, when Zach was only 22. McClendon recalls MonArk’s humble beginnings. “I was attending the university in Fayetteville and my dad called one day because he knew how much I loved boats. He said, ‘There’s this fellow Norris Jenkins who worked for Duracraft. He has a one-man shop where he built himself a jon boat and made another for a friend. We might put something together with him.’ I said, ‘Yes, sir! When do you want me home?’” Zach’s daughter, Robin, added, “They began building jon boats and Zach, Jr. would load them on an old truck and sell them wherever he could—bait shops, hardware stores and even mom and pop filling stations. His dad told him, ‘Don’t come back until you’ve sold them all, and he wouldn’t.” She added, “In the early 60s, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission asked if we could build a cabin on a 16foot jon boat. We did, and that’s how the commercial side began.” With Zach at the helm of both branches, Robin says, “We built a lot of boats in the 70s for the oil and gas industry, and later we did many projects for the military.” As Zach turned his attention to other entrepreneurial pursuits, his son John took over operation of the marine division in 1998, while his daughter Robin filled the president’s seat for recreational in 2001. Until the end of 2016, McClendon was Chairman of the Board of Directors for Union Bank of Monticello and Warren for over four decades. On January 15, 2017, more than 100 regional movers and shakers turned out for a reception in Union Bank’s downtown Monticello lobby to wish their longtime friend and banker the best. Current State Bank Commissioner Candice Franks said on the occasion, “I’ve known Zach for 36 years. He is a wonderful community banker who always gave back to his hometown. It’s great to have bankers like his team in Southeast Arkansas.” Further confirming McClendon as an integral part of Arkansas banking, Governor Asa Hutchinson appointed him to the State Banking Board in

2015. Current Union Bank Chairman John McClendon said of his father, “He had almost a full career with MonArk and Drew Foam before coming to Union Bank. He goes to bed at night and gets up in the morning thinking of something new to create. He’s been a driving force for growth in Monticello for decades. Zach’s a broad-spectrum guy who looks wide and far at the bigger picture rather than the minutiae. I prefer to get involved with the details. That’s why we make such a good team.” The other side of McClendon from his business acumen is the naturalist. Seeking to fulfill an annual family tradition a few years back, he was strolling along the riverbank near his camp on the Saline, searching for some natural materials from which to fashion a birthday gift for daughter Robin. McClendon came across a pile of empty mussel shells where a coon had eaten dinner. Taking them home, he began to polish and form the delicate shells into mother-of-pearl earrings. Robin was so impressed with the gift she showed them to friends who were soon clamoring for a similar pair. Since that eventful day, Saline River Diamonds became a burgeoning operation crafting and distributing bracelets, necklaces and earrings. One of McClendon’s proudest accomplishments is the founding of Squirrels Unlimited. He said, “We have several goals for the promotion and conservation of this most versatile creature, one being preservation of squirrel habitat. Besides striving to protect hardwood forests in general, we attempt to educate timber companies on the benefits of leaving old, hollow, hardwood den trees that merit little to no commercial value as brooding centers for generations of squirrels. Our membership continues to grow every year.” An offshoot of Sq U is the World Championship Squirrel Cook-Off held in Bentonville each September since 2013. His environmentalist side was recognized with his 2010 induction into the AGFC’s Outdoors Hall of Fame and the 2013 Arkansas Wildlife Federation’s Harold Alexander Conservationist of the Year award for a lifetime of contributions toward wildlife. McClendon is enrolled in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, setting aside large swaths of marginal land for wildlife, as well as supporting Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Nature Conservancy, Arbor Day Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association and the NRA. In his typical unassuming manner, he concluded, “I haven’t really done anything. It’s the people who have been with me for the ride that helped make all this happen. I’m so blessed to have such wonderful, supportive, hardworking children to bring my dreams to life.” It makes me proud he read my book and that led us to an interesting and enduring friendship.

Photo by Novo Studio 30 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

BY RICHARD LEDBETTER


2017

Zach McClendon relaxes on the porch of his cabin at his hunting camp in Tillar. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 31


LARRY & SHIRLEY AIKMAN W

hen we first chat about their farm, Shirley Aikman asks me what I know about tree farming. “Well, I know it involves trees,” I respond. With her typical humor, she teases, “Well, you’re on top of it, aren’t you?” Shirley and Larry Aikman’s marriage started in Bluffton, Arkansas, but their decades in the Army took them all over the world. In fact, they moved 28 times. Their last assignment was in Arkadelphia, where Shirley taught fashion merchandising. She’d previously worked in design while they were in Hawaii, so she had practical experience to share with her students. Though the Aikmans had intended to retire after Arkadelphia, Larry was put on the full colonel list, so instead of retiring they went to Washington, DC for three years. It was not Shirley’s favorite place. When their three years were up, she said, “I’m moving back to Arkansas!” Larry came too. The Aikman’s home is meant for a family. A large house, it has a cabin-like exterior of natural stone. Shirley says they had a house very similar to this one before they went to Washington, so it was built to somewhat replace that one. The interior is homey and the walls covered with bookshelves that are full of titles. They’ve been back in Arkansas for about twenty-five years, and Shirley explains that while the home is somewhat large for their needs now, for many years it served as a place the entire family—kids and grandkids—could gather. When they initially retired, they spent the first few years going to “tree meetings,” and eventually, they decided to plant their property in timber. “You can grow cattle or you can grow trees,” the Aikmans tell me, so they went with trees. Currently, they’ve got about 400 acres of pine plantation, the majority of which were planted in the year 2000. The Aikmans were named Forest Stewards of the Year for 2017, and when Shirley pulls out their management plan, it’s clear why. Their plan combines several objectives into one plan, from wildlife management and recreation to water management. Then, of course, there’s the timber. For the Aikmans, tree farming isn’t just about profit—it’s about healthy and productive management of natural resources. Eric Myer, district forester, says of the Aikmans, “They take good care of their property. They keep up with current events and programs to help land owners, and they also work with the NRCS to make improvements. They manage each area according to best management practices.” Stan Garner, cattleman and retired district

conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, says of Larry Aikman, “He’s very innovative and forward thinking, and he has an extremely positive attitude.” As we visit, I look out the window and notice not only the native plants in their yard, but the bird feeders. Larry shows me a beautiful photo of a bird taken from the window, and Shirley shows me the painting she’s done of the same bird. As we drive through Bluffton, Larry points to several homes and notes which of his children now lives in each. They tell me, “We consider ourselves very blessed that of three kids, all are retired right on our doorstep.” An impressive thing, to be sure, given that each of their children also moved to work outside of Blufton and has made the choice to return to the family home. Though the elder Aikmans are still involved, their son Larry has taken over most day-to-day operations. “Do you feel like closing the gate?” Larry asks Shirley as we pull up to a section of their tree farm. “I’ve often wondered what you’d do if I said, no babe, I don’t really feel like doing that right now,” Shirley responds dryly. Larry says, “I guess I’d get out and close it,” as Shirley reaches for the door handle. Tree farming has changed somewhat over the last twenty-five years. The Aikmans used to plant seedlings, but today they plant containers, which have a higher success rate and are easier to plant. Additionally, they explain that hardwood is becoming more valuable, though a hardwood tree farm is still somewhat impractical unless you can figure out how to definitely involve future generations. As we drive through different parts of the property, the Aikmans point out areas in varying stages. Some of the pine has been recently thinned to encourage sturdier growth. Some areas have more pine needles that have dropped, creating easy-to-walk-through paths under the trees. We pass a blind, and Larry notes that they get some great deer hunting on their property. While much of the community used to be allowed to hunt their land, they’ve curtailed it to only family in recent years, in defense of the trees. In one spot, we stop and exit the vehicle to observe a pond. They’ve recently cleaned it out and tidied up the edges. It’s a beautiful spot, and one local wildlife has obviously found—there are tracks everywhere, along with sound of birds. The Aikmans tell me their daughter-in-law plans for a gazebo overlooking the pond that the entire family can sit and enjoy—making this, like much of what they do, a family affair.

Photo by Novo Studio 32 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


2017

Larry and Shirley Aikman pause on a walk through their pine tree farm in Bluffton. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 33


TIM ERNST T

im Ernst is arguably the most well-known Arkansas landscape photographer, but he’s also developed a reputation over the last thirty or so years for his guidebooks detailing trails across the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. In fact, they’re considered an authority for both beginners and seasoned hikers alike, as they’re some of the most accurate, detailed books available. Tim meets me and the photographer at the base of Round Top Mountain Trail trailhead, on highway 7 just out of Jasper. He’s driving a large van that he recently purchased, and comments later that it’s wide enough to use a forklift to put pallets of books into the back. And that’s good, because it’s coming up on the holiday season of November and December, when he, his wife and his in-laws will make several trips around the region to present slideshows of his photography and sell corresponding books. In 1981, Tim was helping build the Ouachita Trail. There wasn’t yet any information about it, so he began writing. In 1983, he sold his first article to Backpacker magazine, and with the publicity it brought he quickly sold 10,000 copies of the guidebook. Eighteen guidebooks later, he’s still going strong. “I was with the Forest Service in Wyoming and the sign would say 500 yards to the top, but it was really two and a half miles. There was just a lot of inaccurate information,” Tim says. It didn’t take him long to realize that information sold— particularly his good information. Because Tim uses a surveyor’s measure to walk off trails, the distances listed in his guides are exact. While he walks the trail, he records himself talking about the incline, views of interest, the weather at different times of year, how to get from point A to point B, and GPS coordinates. When people purchase one of his guidebooks, they get a comprehensive text detailing all this information and more. Tim and his wife recently moved “to town” from their cabin in the wilderness. The downside, Tim says, is that their phone has reception. A result of this change in accessibility is demonstrated in a recent phone call. A man was lost on a trail, and, as he was using one of Tim’s guidebooks, he called the man himself. “Well, what does the guidebook say?” Tim asked the man. “It says call Tim and he’ll help!” With a little backtracking, the man did indeed find his way off the mountain. Every year, Tim produces a new picture book of Arkansas landscapes, flora, fauna and wildlife. Though

Tim is certainly an introvert, he said he really looks forward to going to public libraries and other institutions around the region to show slide shows of his most recent picture books, and the bigger the crowd, the better. He enjoys answering questions about photography, trails and his books in general. An audience member once asked if he’d hiked every trail in his books, to which Tim responded, “Well, yes. Why would I write about anything I hadn’t done?” Tim is a passionate outdoorsman—he not only hikes and photographs, he also hunts regularly. He’s never been seriously injured while outdoors alone, though he mentions a couple of twisted ankles that weren’t too fun. He’s discovered, though, that if he just walks on them, the pain diminishes and he’s able to walk out. Tim’s initial plan wasn’t to become a photographer— he was going to go to Arkansas Tech on a swimming scholarship to become a forest ranger. But, the ratio of men to women was 20 to 1, which didn’t sound too good at the time—and, more importantly, he wasn’t convinced of his career prospects as a forest ranger. So he chose the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he majored in environmental science, though he says he really majored in the darkroom. While in college, his first job was photographing sorority girls. Even today, Tim says, he’ll run into a woman who remembers him and who’ll ask, “Say, weren’t you that photographer…?” Tuition was certainly less expensive in the 70s, but it’s still noteworthy to point out that Tim made money to pay for college in an unusual way: by picking up and selling black walnuts. He got five cents a pound. That’s a lot of walnuts. Tim has been taking pictures of some places for years, so when I ask him what keeps it interesting, I laugh when he responds, “Paying bills!” He lets out a small chuckle and then says, “Things are always changing. It never looks the same. I haven’t taken the best picture of Hawksbill Craig that I can, yet.” On the way down the trail, we pause at an oak tree that’s tilted at an angle. At first it appears as though it’s uprooted slightly, but upon further inspection it’s clear: the rock on top of which the tree has grown has broken off, changing the angle of the ground. The tree itself is as strong and rooted as it’s been. Referring to the changing season, Tim says, “That’ll be a nice picture, here in about two weeks.”

Photo by Novo Studio 34 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


2017

Tim Ernst frequently walks Round Top Mountain Trail near his home in Jasper to observe and photograph. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 35


BILL BARNES B

ill Barnes is a widely-recognized name in Arkansas tourism. President of Mountain Harbor Resort; Iron Mountain Lodge and Marina; and Self Creek Lodge and Marina, which make up the Tri-Pennant family of resorts, he has been instrumental in growing tourism in Arkansas. Bill’s list of honors is long, including 2001 Tourism Person of the Year and member of the Arkansas Hospitality Hall of Fame. And that doesn’t even touch his numerous civic and community contributions. Bill serves on several boards of directors and commissions, including Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches; State Parks, Recreation and Travel Committee; and he is the founder of the Arkansas Marine Sanitation program to keep Arkansas lakes clean. Despite his many years spent growing the resort, he still spends most days working the property. Upon shaking hands, he is genuinely welcoming, and he questions whether a recent guest in our party has been well taken care of. Bill is pleased to hear the answer is yes, but assures the person that if something weren’t right, he wants to know so Mountain Harbor can continue to improve. As we head out to scout photography locations, Bill and Pati, the lodge manager, exchange a familial half-hug. As it turns out, Pati has been working for Mountain Harbor Resort for over thirty years, and she says she’s not the only long-employed staff member. Many of the staff have been there for nearly twenty. It’s more than a job, Pati says. “It’s everything to us. It’s the reason we get up in the morning.” Though the resort is thriving today, Pati recalls a time when that was less the case. “I remember buying dishes at the dollar store and trying to make them [cabins] as nice as possible. People kept coming.” Today, Pati says, Mountain Harbor means everything to Bill. “We’re really proud of our units now and what we’re able to offer our customers,” she says. Bill was born in Wyoming, but his family has deep roots in Arkansas on his mother, Katheryn’s, side. She and his father, Hal, from Oklahoma, met when he was in Arkansas for college. After World War II, they followed Hal’s best friend to Wyoming, where Hal began work as a mineral rights lawyer before going in to shoe sales to support his family during the Depression. On vacation in Arkansas one year, Bill's father found land for lease from the Corps of Engineers. On a whim, he applied for the lease and was awarded it in early 1955. That land was on the newly-filling Lake Ouachita.

Bill was 9 years old when he moved to Mountain Harbor with his family. Though fishing wasn’t necessarily his favorite pastime, he did love to go out on the water. He had a little flat bottom boat, and he would get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich then go float around the lake. It was only a few short years later, when Bill was about 21 years old, that he took over the resort. When it’s time to take photos, it’s by the lake that we decide to meet Bill. As he walks down the hill from the office, I comment to Pati on the interesting boat moored at the marina. She explains that it’s a motor life boat, part of the Joplin Volunteer Fire Department. When Bill walks up, he continues the explanation with a smile. He started the JVFD over thirty-five years ago, and he has served as its chief ever since. The boat is a 47-foot motor life boat, and it’s part of the response squad that serves as the only fire and rescue squad on Lake Ouachita. Steve Bowman, an outdoor writer and editor, photographer, television show producer and close friend of Bill, notes that Bill is a “true Southern gentleman” who truly cares about what happens to the people living in his community. During a storm in the middle of the night, Steve, also a Pulaski county deputy sheriff, was barricading a flooded road. Who came along but Bill Barnes—Bill had gotten word that the home of some friends of his was flooding, and he’d come to see what he could do to help. Steve also says, “Bill is a fantastic businessman. To take a little cove on Lake Ouachita and make it one of the premier resorts in the Southeast is pretty incredible.” Bill also founded the Montgomery County Military Museum, housed on Mountain Harbor’s property, which is where he’s been immediately prior to meeting us. “A guest and his son wanted to see it. It’s free, and it always will be. The kids can walk right up to the vehicles, sit in them. It’s really to honor our military,” Bill explains. It’s important to Bill that kids are able to interact with the memorabilia instead of it simply being relegated to a roped-off corner of a museum, as it makes a stronger impression. While we finish setting up, Bill introduces his dog, Harbor Dog, to me. “I’ve had him since he was eight weeks old,” Bill says fondly. Harbor Dog stays right beside Bill, following him with his gaze when he’s told to “stay.” It’s clear his favorite place is by Bill’s side, and it’s clear Bill’s favorite place to be is doing what he does best serving his guests at Mountain Harbor Resort.

Photo by Novo Studio 36 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


Bill Barnes enjoys walking out to the point overlooking Lake Ouachita at Mountain Harbor Resort with his dog, Harbor Dog.

2017

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 37


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This year’s Young Guns are nominated for their efforts in advocacy, sustainability and the advancement of participation in the outdoors. Some of our Young Guns spend all their free time outside, while others also work outdoors. Regardless of how they contribute to the Arkansas wild, Cortnie Been; Paxton Roberts; Jess and Laura Westbrook; Trevor Freemyer; Zach Meyer and Cate Davis have one thing in common— they’re people to keep an eye on. By Lacey Thacker

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 39


“HUNTING IS SOMETHING I DON'T THINK I WILL EVER GET OUT OF MY SYSTEM.”

CORTNIE BEEN “I have learned a lot about myself,” says Cortnie Been, lifelong Arkansas resident and Huntress View team member, on what she has learned from hunting. “I have learned to be persistent, to be patient, and how to deal with frustrations when the hunt just doesn't pan out. Hunting is humbling, and, many times, the things you learn can be applied in other life situations.” Huntress View is a team of women hunters dedicated to introducing women and children to hunting and the outdoors. “Huntress View has given me more confidence in myself and has encouraged me to share more of my experiences with others,” Cortnie says of being a Huntress View team member. “I have learned from many of the women on the team. I have had several people ask what Huntress View is about which gives me an opportunity to share with them the goals of HV and opens doors to share other aspects of hunting with them as well.”  Currently working on a Doctorate of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Cortnie stays very busy with studying. But when asked how she finds time to fit in both school and hunting, Cortnie replied, “Hunting is something I don't think I will ever get out of my system. One of my favorite study breaks is shooting my bow and it wouldn't be unusual to find me studying in the deer stand on those weekends when there just isn't enough time to do both separately.” This past duck season, Cortnie was determined to shoot and hopefully mount a drake wood duck. The morning after completing her final exams, she went on a hunt. It was just past shooting light, and a single wood duck made his way in about fifteen yards from the tree she was standing beside. As he got up to fly off, I knocked him down with one shot. “Not only was it my first wood duck, but it was also the first duck the dog we had with us got to retrieve in her career which made it even more special.”  Cortnie advises others who are thinking of going hunting for the first time to be persistent and stay positive. “Don't give up. Don't give up on yourself or your abilities,” she says. “Don't give up on that buck that keeps showing up on camera or those birds you just can't seem to call in. Step back and take a look at your approach, readjust and go again.” ­—Andrea Haas

Photo by Novo Studio

40 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


“HE IS THE BIKE ADVOCATE THAT NORTHWEST ARKANSAS NEEDS.”

PAXTON ROBERTS Paxton Roberts, executive director of Bike NWA, had always wanted to volunteer, but after volunteering in several roles, he still hadn’t found the one that seemed a good long-term fit. It was when he saw a call from Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks for volunteers to fit children with bike helmets at local elementary schools that he found his niche. It was his first real experience with bike advocacy, and after an hour fitting children with helmets, he realized this was his path. His daughter was barely in elementary school herself at the time, and he knew he wanted to do what he could to create a safer place for her and other children to ride their bikes to school. He was working on a PhD in public policy at the time, and he focused his studies on active transportation, infrastructure and cycling advocacy. Sam Slaton, director of communications for Bike NWA, noted that there is a lot of good to say about Paxton. According to Sam, he is “the bike advocate that Northwest Arkansas needs to become a world-class place to live.” Not only is Paxton incredibly knowledgeable about bike advocacy, he also makes bike advocacy fun, and he does that while building great relationships among people in the community. Slaton says further, “I don’t know a more dedicated bike advocate. He has served the Northwest Arkansas biking community as a volunteer for years. He did so on top of pursing a PhD, working full time and being a dad. It’s a huge blessing to the Northwest Arkansas bike community that he’s now able to devote his energy to this full time.” Paxton loves cycling, and that energy is clear when you speak with him. Much of what his job entails is “reconnecting people with something that most people, at their core, love to do.” Paxton grew up riding a bike, but switched to a car when he turned 16. He rediscovered mountain biking in college, when he would frequently ride at Devil’s Den. Today, he says, “When I’m not working, riding bikes or talking about bikes, I love the outdoors.” He can often be found in the Buffalo River area, where he paddles, climbs and hikes. He’s excited that not only is Arkansas becoming a well-known destination for mountain biking, it’s also becoming a world-class rock climbing destination.

Photo by Novo Studio ARKANSASWILD.COM | 41


“NOW THAT THEY’RE [FOSTER CHILDREN] GETTING ADOPTED…I HAVE CHILLS!”

JESS & LAURA WESTBROOK Jess and Laura met in college. “I said, ‘Hey, girl,’” Jess comments, teasingly tipping his chin toward his wife. Laura laughs and says it took a bit more than that, but she did wind up saying yes to a date and eventually yes to marriage. Though Laura enjoyed fishing, it wasn’t until she and Jess started dating that she tried her hand at fly fishing. Today she’s as avid a fisherman as any. Jess, fishing since he was eight years old, actually spent his summers in college guiding in Alaska. When their oldest child, now three years old, was a newborn, Jess started experiencing intense anxiety. It would disappear when he went out on the water, because, as he says, “All I cared about was catching fish.” It got Jess thinking about all the stress and anxiety foster kids experience. The Mayfly Project was born, and their first official outing took place in July of 2016. It’s already expanded into eight states, where volunteers commit to five fly fishing outings with the same group of kids over the course of six months. Recently, The Mayfly Project has been able to make and share videos of a couple of kids that have resulted in successful adoptions. “We thought we’d just take them out and have fun, but now that they’re getting adopted…I have chills!” Laura says. Their commitment extends to major life choices—Jess left his job as a controller for a large construction company to work at local clothing company Nativ, allowing him more time and flexibility to devote to Mayfly. Between Jess’ work as an accountant and Laura’s familiarity with navigating procedural issues, Jess says, “We’ve pretty well got administration covered.” The Mayfly Project has become their primary “hobby,” taking up most evenings and frequent weekends. The couple says the project is all the better for their shared participation. Jess still guides—and all his tips go to Mayfly. “I don’t ever want to take a salary from Mayfly,” he says, as the couple want the Project to remain about love for foster kids and passion for the work. And their own children? Laura says they take them, on The Mayfly Project outings, and they encourage their mentors to do the same. Aside from the family-friendly nature of fishing, Laura comments that it’s also positive for foster kids to hang out with a healthy family dynamic. Jess and Laura Westbrook are big-hearted individuals already making great strides in the lives of kids across Arkansas and several other states.

Photo by Novo Studio 42 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


TREVOR WORKS TO “PRESERVE AS MUCH OF WILDLIFE AND NATURAL SYSTEMS” AS HE CAN.

TREVOR FREEMYER Trevor Freemyer grew up hunting alongside his father, uncle and grandfather at their duck camp in Almyra, Arkansas. Today he still spends as much time as possible there and brings friends from all over the country out for hunts. In college, he was the president of his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, Xi chapter, at the University of Arkansas. He graduated with a degree in agriculture business, which he soon put to work for Riceland Foods as the sustainability coordinator. In that position, he worked alongside Ducks Unlimited and the National Resources Conservation Service to develop sustainable and innovative conservation programs designed to address the needs of rice farmers while increasing the financial assistance provided for the implementation plan of these practices. He still works with Riceland, but through Best Rice, as director of sales and marketing. His wife, Brooke, says Trevor is passionate about working with farmers to continue feeding people in the most efficient way possible, while still helping “preserve as much of wildlife and natural systems” as he can. In addition to being a passionate advocate for the outdoors in his career, he’s also an avid outdoorsman in his time off. He and his wife deer hunt together every year, and she says, “It’s a little healthy competition between us, to see who’ll get the biggest deer every year.” And that’s not the only hunting he does—Brooke notes that, “He’s a crazy duck hunter. He’s basically gone from bow season to the end of duck season. He’s outside all the time.” And when Trevor isn’t able to hunt, Brooke says he can be found fishing or even just hanging out at his family’s duck camp.

Photo by Novo Studio ARKANSASWILD.COM | 43


IT'S THE COMPETITION THAT BRINGS HIM BACK YEAR AFTER YEAR.

ZACH MEYER Zach was started on shooting sports at the tender age of three, when he began shooting a bow. A shotgun followed at age five, when he began hunting turkey and deer. By age nine he was shooting competitively. A native of Heber Springs, Zach isn’t the only family member to participate in the sport—his younger brother, Nick, also competes. Zach participates in YHEC, the Youth Hunter Education Challenge of the NRA. YHEC has chapters across the state that come together for a yearly competition of around 400 people. This year, Zach won in his category of 13-to-18 year olds, becoming the Senior Grand Champion. That’s a huge part of what keeps Zach coming back year after year—the competition. “I’m very competitive,” Zach says. Competitive he may be, but he’s not strictly interested in competition for competition’s sake. Instead of focusing only on marksmanship, YHEC competitions also include tests over various areas of hunting knowledge and general wildlife identification. In many ways, Zach says, YHEC is so excellent because it’s really training participants to be better, safer hunters. He began in Cleburne County’s chapter, but now attends Hendrix College in Faulkner County. Because he’s coming to the end of his eligibility for participation, Zach has become a coach in the Faulkner County chapter. As we’re chatting, Zach explains to me that wind speed, temperature, even the Coriolis effect—the spin of the earth—come in to play when calculating where to aim when taking a shot. When I point out what high-level calculations those really are, he says, “Oh, I’ve actually got an app on my phone that syncs with the closest weather station to help make those calculations.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a physics major. But not every weapon requires such heavy calculations. Take the spear, for example. Zach recently acquired his first, and he’s rigged a system at home so he can throw it from the roof to practice his aim. “It’s heavier than you’d think,” Zach says, noting that he hasn’t had the chance to throw it on a hunt yet, but he’s hoping the right deer will come along soon. When he’s not shooting, Zach enjoys rock climbing, a common sport for young people, but he also regularly makes the drive to Little Rock to enjoy the variety of plays performed there.

Photo by Brian Chilson 44 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


“BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, WHAT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE AT FIRST ‘DOESN’T FEEL CRAZY’ ANYMORE.”

CATE DAVIS

At first glance, one might not size up Cate Davis of Little Rock as an outdoor enthusiast, much less a whitewater kayaker. Small in stature with a serene personality, she often finds herself in stark contrast to the stereotypical thrill-seeking kayaker. But, while in college at Louisiana Tech, Cate spent three summers working in Tennessee as a raft guide on the class III and IV Ocoee river. There she was introduced to kayaking, but it was a move to Arkansas in 2009 that jump-started her as a more serious paddler. New to Arkansas and in need of new friends, she discovered the Rockport Whitewater Park on the Ouachita River near Malvern. There Cate met other kayakers who quickly suggested she join the Arkansas Canoe Club. She showed up soon thereafter at the ACC’s Surf & Turf event and the hook was set. Cate said that during this event she simply went around introducing herself and casually mentioning that she had been “a raft guide on the Ocoee.” In short order, she found herself in a raft with some veteran Arkansas paddlers intentionally attempting to stick the raft in a sketchy hydraulic just because they could. Her co-workers have even learned to sense when she’s been kayaking. They say it’s as if she won the lottery but is keeping it secret. She says the skills she has learned kayaking also help her professionally, as she is now more apt to take on reasonable challenges and calculated risks. As is often the case, Cate’s personal and recreational life collided too. She met her fiancé Chris Handley at an ACC event and the two have been negotiating life in tandem ever since. Cate was elected president of the club’s Central Chapter in April of 2016. As president, Cate has been a strong advocate for cleaning up Arkansas waterways. She has spent many hours teaming with friends to significantly reduce the amount of trash in and around our streams. She also has shaken up chapter activities a bit such as holding chapter meetings outdoors and combining meetings with other fun activities. Cate also hopes to bring back a chapter-sponsored introduction to paddling event. Cate has three suggestions for anyone interested in kayaking: 1. Find trusted paddling partners 2. Take formal paddling instruction from qualified instructors, such as the instruction found at the ACC’s Schools of Whitewater and River Paddling. 3. Acquire appropriate gear. She says before you know it, what seemed impossible at first “doesn’t feel crazy” anymore. —Gordon Kumpuris

Photo by Novo Studio ARKANSASWILD.COM | 45


THE PHOTOS OF TIM ERNST A VIEW OF ARKANSAS BEAUTY

T

im Ernst, Arkansas’ own outdoor photographer and trail-guide author, has released over 20 books and maps showcasing his photos and detailing trails across the state. Whether readers enjoy waterfalls, wildflowers or hiking to swimming holes, Tim has a guide to cover it. He also releases a new picture book every year, and he enjoys traveling the state through November and December to give slide programs and talk with people about his work, Arkansas and the outdoors.

46 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


A bull elk with velvet-covered antlers spends the summer on a ridge overlooking Boxley Valley near Ponca. The elk are a popular attraction in the fall, when early mornings bring the sound of elk bugling. Facing page: Cypress tree knees in the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is often home to migrating ducks.

ARKANSASWILD.COM | 47


This historic footbridge across the Mulberry River near Catalpa & Oark is a popular destination for tourist and resident hikers. It is periodically damaged by ooding and then repaired or rebuilt. Tim’s newest picture book, along with prints, maps and other books, can be ordered through timernst.com.

48 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017


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800-388-3250 ARKANSASWILD.COM | 49


#EXPLOREARKANSAS

WINTER ADVENTURE

ARKANSAS IS WORTH EXPLORING DURING EVERY SEASON, BUT THE STARKNESS OF WINTER BRIGHTENS THE LIGHT AND HIGHLIGHTS THE OFTEN FOLIAGE-COVERED STRUCTURE OF ARKANSAS’ OUTDOORS. ENJOY THESE PHOTOS FROM INSTAGRAM, WHICH SHOWCASE SOME OF THE SPECIAL SIGHTS ONLY AVAILABLE DURING THE COLD-WEATHER MONTHS.

Frosted trees on the White River @gastonswhi teriverresort

rrgriffith @spence rk o w t a er A Retriev

Hiking the Ozarks @arkansas

Opening morning @spencerrgriffith

TAG US @ARKANSASWILD AS YOU #EXPLOREARKANSAS! 50 | Arkansas Wild ¸ WINTER 2017

Early morning fis hing at Lindsey’s Resort


You wear the vest. So wear the belt.

You wouldn’t go to the deer woods without your hunter orange. So why drive your truck without a seat belt? · Pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over as cars. · Seat belts reduce the risk of dying in a rollover crash by 75%. Play it safe in the woods and behind the wheel.

A R K A N S A S S TAT E P O L I C E H I G H WAY S A F E T Y O F F I C E

TZDArkansas.org ARKANSASWILD.COM | 51


Give the gift of the outdoors

ALL YEAR LONG

Subscribe to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's magazine, now in its 51st year, at ArkansasWildlife.com. Six issues per year – including the July-July calendar. $12 per year | $20 for two years | $25 for three years

Arkansas Wild | Winter | 2017  
Arkansas Wild | Winter | 2017