pack it up & go
REALITY EL K & D E ER O N TH E RISE
P OR K & M O R E
A SQUIRREL LY TR ADITION
FALL 2015 arKANSASwild.com ARKANSASWILD.COM | 1
2 | Arkansas Wild 存 fall 2015
Purchase or lease any new (previously untitled) Subaru and receive a complimentary factory scheduled maintenance plan for 2 years or 24,000 miles (whichever comes first.) See Subaru Added Security Maintenance Plan for intervals, coverages and limitations. Customer must take delivery before 12-31-2015 and reside within the promotional area. At participating dealers only. See dealer for program details and eligibility.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 3
CONTENTS FALL 2015 WWW.ARKANSASWILD.COM ¸ FAcebook.com/ArkansasWild
BACK TO ALLIGATORS BUCKSNORT THE HARD WAY
FROM FAMINE TO FEAST
PHOTO BY WESLEY HITT
OZARK BACKCOUNTRY FLY-IN
DEPARTMENTS 10 OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS 12 WILD THINGS 14 GAME & FLAME 20 FIN & FEATHER 50 OUT & ABOUT 4 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
Fly in to Byrd’s Adventure Center in Ozark and stay a while. Check out our “Ozark Backcountry Fly-In” starting on page 30 to learn more about this new way to travel Arkansas.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 5
ARKANSAS WILD WWW.ARKANSASWILD.COM | FACEBOOK.COM/ARKANSASWILD REBEKAH HARDIN Publisher & Editor email@example.com MANDY KEENER Creative Director firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL MEL JONES Managing Editor email@example.com ART DIRECTOR KEVIN WALTERMIRE firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING ELIZABETH HAMAN Advertising Sales Director email@example.com SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE LESA THOMAS firstname.lastname@example.org ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE RHONDA CRONE email@example.com PRODUCTION WELDON WILSON Production Manager/Controller ROLAND R. GLADDEN Advertising Traffic Manager ERIN HOLLAND Advertising Coordinator GRAPHIC DESIGNERS BRYAN MOATS MIKE SPAIN SOCIAL MEDIA LAUREN BUCHER firstname.lastname@example.org OFFICE STAFF ROBERT CURFMAN IT Director LINDA PHILLIPS Billing/Collections KELLY LYLES Office Manager ANITRA HICKMAN Circulation Director 201 E. MARKHAM ST., SUITE 200 LITTLE ROCK, AR 72201 501-375-2985 All Contents © 2015 Arkansas Wild 6 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
CONTRIBUTORS ZEN BOULDEN Zen Boulden operates Byrd’s Adventure Center on the Mulberry River with his wife Pam. When not mowing campgrounds he enjoys flying the Ozarks and fishing . WESLEY HITT Photographer Wesley Hitt had great day at Byrd’s Adventure Center on the Mulberry River shooting “Ozark Backcountry Fly-In.” “The thrill of flying to adventure locations and enjoying the outdoors becomes more popular everyday,” he says. JOHN MCCLENDON John McClendon of Monticello is an avid outdoorsman. McClendon held the state record for killing the largest alligator in Arkansas from September 21, 2007 until September 26, 2009. KD REEP KD Reep is a writer and public relations practitioner in Little Rock. She owns Flywrite Communications, Inc., a public relations agency, and is the PR director for Mass Enthusiasm, a full-service marketing communications firm in Little Rock. AARON MENKEN Co-owner of Hatch and Maas Collective, Aaron Menken is a lifestyle photographer who enjoys documenting people and their passions. LUKE WETZEL The chef-owner of Bentonville’s restaurant, Oven & Tap, Luke Wetzel seeks out and promotes local producers to further his contribution to the community.
Open year round•RV Camping•Cabins•Offroad Park Riverfront Restaurant open Friday-Sunday Whitewater Rafting•Bush Pilots Welcome
10th annual Autumn Fly-in, October 15-18, 2015 Latitude 35 40’ 37” N | Longitude 93 43’ 59” W
479-667-4066 7037 Cass Oark Rd. Ozark, AR
ARCHER’S ADVANTAGE The Bowhunter’s Headquarters in Little Rock ESTABLISHED IN 1991
Full Service Pro Shop TARGETS • CROSSBOWS RECURVES • LONGBOWS Hoyt • Mathews • Elite • Bowtech Bear • PSE • Mission • Diamond Indoor Shooting Range
AUG. - OCT. NOV. - JULY
Mon - Fri 10-8 Mon - Fri 10-6 Sat 9-4 Sat 9-4
RICHARD LEDBETTER Besides having numerous magazine articles and music reviews appear in state publications over the past decade, Arkansas native Richard Ledbetter is also the author of two historic novels, The Branch and the Vine (2002) and Witness Tree 1910 (2011).
ON THE COVER: Fayettechill’s Devin O’Dea gets ready to take off. Read all about backcountry aviation beginning on page 30. Photography by Wesley Hitt.
Largest selection of Traditional Archery equipment in Arkansas 6805 W. 12th St. Little Rock, AR
501.663.2245 www.archers-advantage.com ARKANSASWILD.COM | 7
BEHIND THE SCENES
IT TAKES A TEAM Wesley gets the shot as Ken and Devin land on Byrd’s grass airstrip.
Pilot Ken Duncan and Devin O’Dea.
Devin was a great sport walking back and forth across the airstrip until we got the perfect shot.
Time to take off! 8 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
PHOTOS BY WESLEY HITT, MANDY KEENER AND RUSH URSHEL
On the morning of July 10, Devin O’Dea and pilot Ken Duncan took off from Drake Airport in Fayetteville, and plotted a course for Byrd’s Adventure Center in Ozark. We could hear them before we saw them, and as they circled around photographer Wesley Hitt snapped the landing shot. Next, we set up for our cover shot, and spent the rest of the beautiful day at Byrd’s. Check out our favorite behind the scenes shots, and read the whole story beginning on page 30.
Time to refuel! The gang took a lunch break at Byrd’s Riverfront Restaurant before heading out to finish the afternoon shoot.
Explore one-of-a-kind, American made pieces, conceived and crafted by our founder. Our Paul Michael Company Exclusive pieces are made from locally harvested wood and other reclaimed materials, handcrafted, and finished at our woodshop in arkansas.
www.PaulMichaelCompany.com 800.732.3722 | Lake Village, AR ARKANSASWILD.COM | 9
PATAGONIA WOMEN’S LOS GATOS VEST
THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING
She’ll love the sleek styling of this extremely soft, versatile, deep-pile polyester fleece vest. The tall cozy collar and handwarmer pockets promise warmth and protection from the elements, making it perfect for any outdoor adventure. Shown here in pebble gray.
With tonal wools that complement waterproof leather, the fold-down Barbary boot is a cold-weather crossover with a touch of Chaco: all mountain, fully lifestyle. She’ll be stylish and comfortable whether out on the trail or running errands.
PHOTOS BY BRIAN CHILSON
The staff at Ozark Outdoor Supply in Little Rock offers their picks for fall adventure in the great outdoors.
CHACO BARBERRY BOOTS
A WARM AND FUZZY LAYER
PATAGONIA MEN’S REVERSIBLE SNAP-T GLISSADE PULLOVER THROWBACK STYLE WITH MODERN COMFORT This heritage-inspired, water-resistant, reversible pullover is made with 100-percent recycled polyester with mechanical stretch, and has a zip neck and a kangaroo-style pocket on one side, Micro D® 100-percent polyester (85-percent recycled) fleece with a four-snap placket and snap chest pocket on the other. Popular with everyone in the store, the Glissade pullover is lightweight, breathable and great for layering. Shown here in arbor green. MSRP $179
10 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
OPTIMUS ELEKTRA FE COOK SYSTEM
A LIGHTWEIGHT CAMPING ESSENTIAL
KEEP YOUR COOL
When it comes to the Elektra FE (Fuel Efficient) cook system, it‘s all in the name: It uses less fuel and at the same time is more powerful than other systems. The Elektra FE cook system consists of the Crux Lite gas stove, a heat exchange pot with a lid, a convenient clip-on windshield (which reduces gas consumption and boil time) and a handheld piezo ignitor. Due to its compact size the Elektra FE cook system fits easily into a daypack and adds hardly any weight.
The YETI Colster, part of the Rambler series, represents the next evolution in caninsulating, hand-protecting technology. All the powers of modern science were brought to bear on this heavy duty stainless-steel drink insulator to keep the contents of your 12-ounce can or bottle chilled, including double-wall vacuum insulation and a ThermoLock Gasket that locks in the cold.
Get hooked on
this Place We are making a place for
Hot Springs Village is an anglersâ€™ paradise located in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, featuring eleven lakes, miles of natural trails and within minutes of world-class hunting & fishing. Join our Ouachita Rod & Gun Club and find your place in a community made for outdoor lovers! Visit OuachitaRodGun.com for information on upcoming clinics, workshops, guest speakers, member exclusive discounts & much more!
Hot Springs Village is evolving, visualize the change with us:
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 11
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FLOURISH IN ARKANSAS BY CALVIN VICK
Believe it or not, at one time elk were a pretty common sight in Arkansas. The eastern elk, to be more specific, was once part of the state’s natural fauna. But that all changed. The eastern elk was last seen in the 1840s, and has since been listed as an extinct species in Arkansas. Over-hunting and loss of habitat are thought to be the primary factors in their disappearance. Logging and agriculture cleared much of their habitat, and unregulated hunting damaged populations faster than they could recover. Combining both factors, it was just a matter of time before the eastern elk officially went missing. There are examples of eastern elk genetics in other populations around the world. For example, the elk given to New Zealand by Theodore Roosevelt showed characterizations of eastern elk. The chance of finding any pure bloodlines is very unlikely, however. So it seems there will never be a return of the eastern species. After the eastern elk went extinct, it was almost 100 years before Arkansans saw another elk in the wild. It was in 1933 that the U.S. Forest Service released 11 Rocky Mountain elk. They were transplanted from a wildlife refuge in Oklahoma and released in Franklin County, Arkansas. The herd thrived for 20 years before vanishing in the 1950s. No one is certain what happened to the elk, but there are some speculations… perhaps poaching and disease. In the 1980s, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began another elk reintroduction program, this time along with the help of dedicated Arkansas citizens. During this second reintroduction, 112 Rocky Mountain elk were set free in the Buffalo National River. The new herd thrived, and is today thought to number around 450 animals. The elk can be seen in a number of wildlife areas, but are particularly abundant in Boxley Valley. The
12 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
herd roams more than 85,000 acres of public land. And with the significant amount of work invested in improving habitat, the herd is expected to prosper. Now in spite of elk being over-hunted in the past, there is a hunting season in place—a well-managed program with limited harvest. Hunting began again in 1998 after the population was determined to be stable. To participate in the harvest, hunters must enter a state lottery for the hopes of getting an elk permit to hunt public land. Hunters wishing to harvest on private land must apply for a special permit, as well as have written permission from the landowner. (This year, applications were received in May, and the winners announced on June 27. The actual season opens in October.) It might sound like hunting elk in Arkansas is a bad thing, given their history of extinction. But the truth is that the herd is now highly managed and hunting is not expected to have any significant negative effects on overall herd size. Plus, hunting has been a boon for tourism, not to mention generated more overall interest in wildlife. The elk population in Arkansas is solid, and with continued management, is expected to remain for years to come.
FAMILY OWNED AND OPERATED SINCE 1959! There are many brands of beef, but only one Angus brand exceeds expectations. The Certified Angus Beef brand is a cut above USDA Prime, Choice and Select. Ten quality standards set the brand apart. It's abundantly flavorful, incredibly tender, naturally juicy. 1701 MAIN STREET 501-376-3473
10320 STAGE COACH RD 501-455-3475
7525 BASELINE RD 501-562-6629
7507 CANTRELL RD 501-614-3477
2203 NORTH REYNOLDS RD, BRYANT 501-847-9777
www.edwardsfoodgiant.com ARKANSASWILD.COM | 13
GAME & FLAME
cracked fennel seeds
BY MICHAEL ROBERTS PHOTOS BY HATCH & MAAS
Just off the Bentonville square sits Oven & Tap, a restaurant that in only a few short months has generated a great deal of buzz around northwest Arkansas and the rest of the state. The comfortable dining room is a study in sleek design and warm wood tones, and the artisan cocktails, craft beer and fine wine that flow from the custom tap wall make the place a wonderful watering hole for anyone who enjoys to imbibe the best. Oven & Tap’s chef, Luke Wetzel, is about more than just great drinks, though. He’s taken the “oven” part of the restaurant’s name and created a stunning, eclectic menu of foods cooked over a smoky wood fire, including dishes one normally wouldn’t expect like edamame and lasagna. Given the stunning way in which Wetzel works his wood-fired menu and Oven & Tap’s commitment to fine drinks, it seemed natural to ask the chef for a way to bring both together: spirits-based glazes for meat. The play of natural sugars and flavors over an open flame results in compelling flavors, great textures—and clean plates for everyone who comes to supper. 14 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
cracked black pepper
Glaze Tips Use spirits worth drinking: Just as an inferior product makes for an inferior cocktail, spirits used in glazes should be of good quality—and more importantly, they should be spirits that appeal to the cook’s palate. Don’t be scared to dip into that batch of Rock Town Distillery Single Barrel Reserve Bourbon or a rich anejo mezcal for these glazes, because the same flavors that please the tongue in a drink will do the same for the finished product out of the oven.
Don’t glaze too soon: One of the biggest mistakes cooks make with these sugarheavy glazes is applying them as soon as they begin cooking. The cures listed here do a great job in flavoring the meat and allow for a majority of the cooking to be done before the glaze is applied. Glazing too soon pushes the sugar in the glazes past the point of delicious caramelization and can result in a burned taste to your meat.
Notice the heat: When cooking poultry on the grill, try to utilize indirect heat. Shift coals to one side of the grill when using charcoal or place chicken on an upper rack or cooler spot in the grill. This keeps the bird nice and moist, ensures even cooking—and most importantly—makes sure the delicious glaze does not scorch. Don’ t be afraid to experiment: Like things spicier? Milder? Sweeter? Saltier? There’s no end to variation with these glazes. Use different spirits to see which ones taste the best, and change up the proportions of spice and seasoning until your perfect balance is achieved. If nothing else, experimentation means getting to eat a lot more chicken and pork—and that’s never a bad thing.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 15
Glaze Tips Branch out: Use glazes on other meatsâ€”or even vegetables or tofu. Vegetables like squash, zucchini, potatoes and cherry tomatoes can all benefit from a brush with a tasty glaze, and any vegetarians at dinner will appreciate the flavors that these glazes add to non-meat proteins. The only limits to what can be glazed are the amount of glaze you make and your imagination!
16 | Arkansas Wild Â¸ fall 2015
Bourbon, epper P t o H & Peach e z a l G k r o P *
This glaze is perfect for slow- roasted pork belly, pork shoulder or ribs. It utilizes a salt and sugar cure so be sure to allow some time for preparation.
Cure ½ cup kosher salt ½ cup brown sugar ¼ cup cracked black pepper Rub the sugar, salt and pepper mixture liberally into the pork, and let the meat cure for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.
Glaze 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons bourbon 1 cup fresh peach puree ½ cup honey 3-4 dried chilies, rehydrated in 1 cup red wine vinegar and 1 cup hot water, then pureed with the soaking liquid pinch of salt 1 bunch fresh rosemary sprigs, bound together with butcher’s twine
such as local favorite rock town distillery.
directions 1. Ready your coals, gas grill or oven to an initial temperature of 450 degrees. 2. Mix all ingredients except rosemary until well blended. 3. Place pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes at 450 degrees, then lower temperature to 250 degrees, and continue to roast for 1 1/2 hours. 4. Remove pork from oven or grill, and use the rosemary sprigs as a mop to baste the pork with the glaze, applying several coats to start. Return the pork to the oven and roast for an additional 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes. 5. Let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving and serving.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 17
Mezcal, tillo a m o T Citrus & Glaze Chicken
This sweet and tangy glaze is perfect for poultry, resulting in a moist bird with a crisp, crackling skin loaded with flavor. This recipe utilizes a cure, so allow ample prep time.
Glaze Tips Reserve some: Glazes make for excellent dipping sauces at the table, but it isn’t very safe to serve an uncooked glaze that has possibly been crosscontaminated through contact with undercooked pork or chicken. To work around this food safety issue, reserve some of the glaze before applying, and serve the reserve when it’s time to eat.
18 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
Cure ¼ cup salt ¼ cup cracked black pepper ¼ cup cracked fennel seeds Butterfly the chicken by removing the backbone, breastbone and wishbone. Rub the salt and spice mixture into the bird and let cure for a minimum of 2 hours, up to 8 hours.
Glaze 1 cup roasted tomatillos, smashed in a mortar and pestle 3-4 cloves garlic 1 jalapeño, halved 1 tablespoon whole cumin seed 2 tablespoons of mezcal (or tequila) ½ cup honey juice and zest of 2 limes juice and zest of ½ orange
directions 1. Heat oven or grill to 450 degrees. 2. Remove the husks from the tomatillos, then toss them in enough olive oil to coat. Season with kosher salt. 3. Place the dressed tomatillos in a roasting pan with the garlic, jalapeño and cumin, stirring until all everything is coated with the oil. Roast until the majority of the tomatillos have burst, approximately 45 minutes, stirring everything vigorously halfway through. 4. Let the tomatillos cool, then smash in a mortar and pestle. Mix with the honey, mezcal, citrus juice and zest. 5. Add enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of a cast-iron skillet, then put on high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 10-12 minutes until the bird is evenly seared to a golden brown hue. 6. Remove the chicken from the heat and turn it over so that the skin side is facing up. Baste with the tomatillo mixture, then put it in the oven to finish cooking. Continue basting every 10-15 minutes, and cook the bird until it has reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees, approximately an hour to an hour and a half based on the size of the bird. 7. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, then baste one final time before serving. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 19
FIN & FEATHER
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SEAARK BOATS
FAMILY FUN &FISHING
Family fun may seem like an oxymoron when it comes to hobbies in which all ages can participate. Fishing and boating, however, are two that offer something for everyone BY KD REEP
Whether you love nature and the environment, need to get away from it all, want to bond with people you love or feel the thrill of something tugging on your line (or being tugged on a line), fishing and boating provide fun for families, friends, adults and kids. The McClendon family knows. The family owned MonArk Boat Company and produced thousands of recreational boats over many years. After selling the company in 1988, SeaArk Boats was created in 1992 and the family re-entered the recreational boat market. The company’s focus was on all-welded, heavy duty aluminum Jon boats, and in 1994, it announced the introduction of the “world’s largest Jon boat” at 24-feet-long with a 72-inch bottom. Today, SeaArk Boats builds many different models for work and recreation, including bass, crappie and catfishing boats, mud boats, bay boats and duck boats as well as basic Jons, tunnel hulls and sport jet models. If family fun and fishing is what you are looking to accomplish, SeaArk has two boat models built just for that. The Easy 200 series offer durability while featuring options that allow for fishing, skiing or spending a lazy day on the lake. Both models feature large livewells and lots of storage for rods and gear as well as lounge seats, a removable table and fishing decks. The 15° V-Hull also gives a smooth ride in heavy chop to ensure a comfortable day on the lake. “We have a Big Easy, and we are pretty happy,” says Brown C., an Easy 200 Series boat owner. “I can fish at night and go tubing and skiing during the day. There is plenty of storage and room to lie down when the fishing is slow or haul eight people around on the water when we do any recreational boating.”
20 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
SeaArk Boats focuses on quality workmanship and continually works to provide customers with models they can customize with a long list of options and accessories to fit their needs. SeaArk also features an excellent warranty, one of the best offered among aluminum boat companies, and with more than 52 years of experience in boat building, SeaArk can offer a quality product built with a family’s promise to stand behind it. In fact, the company is now under the leadership of Robin McClendon, (daughter of MonArk Boat Company founder, Zach McClendon, Jr.) who is the third generation of the family to build all-welded aluminum fishing boats. “There are no other boats built like the SeaArk Big Easy and Easy 200,” says Steve Henderson, vice president of sales for SeaArk Boats. “These models are constructed with all of the amenities to accommodate the serious sportsman and include all of the features for a nice relaxing day on the water. As with all of the SeaArk products, the Easys are built tough with heavy gauge aluminum to help withstand abuse, a 3/16” extruded center keel for added strength needed when docking on land, and oversized cap rails for side strength. The cap rails also include an accessory track that adapts to the many accessories that SeaArk offers such as rod holders, cutting boards, tree grabbers and many other items.” Get your family and friends together to wet a line or just relax on one of Arkansas’ many lakes, rivers and streams. For more information on recreational boating and boat options, visit SeaArk Boats at seaarkboats.com, call 870-367-5317 or like on Facebook at SeaArkBoats.
YOU’LL WISH YOU HAD ROOM FOR TWO TAGS
SHOW EVERYONE YOU SUPPORT DUCKS UNLIMITED 24 / 7. 365 DAYS A YEAR. For over 75 years, Ducks Unlimited’s conservation work has benefited wetlands, waterfowl and you, the Arkansas duck hunter. Purchasing a Ducks Unlimited license plate for your vehicle will help fund Ducks Unlimited’s habitat work in both the breeding grounds and here in Arkansas. Pick one up at your local Arkansas Department of Finance today, or visit Arkansas Ducks Unlimited online at ar.ducks.org for more information.
Hunter founded. Hunter supported. Hunters wanted. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 21
4903 CENTRAL AVE
HOT SPRINGS, AR
VALUE, VARIETY. WE’RE LIKE THE SUPERSTORE OF VACATIONING.
Bring your RV or tent, rent a cabin or lodge room. Hike, bike, fish, relax … it’s all here for you in Arkansas’s state parks. Plan your breakaway today.
ArkansasStateParks.com My park, your park, our parks Mississippi River State Park
22 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
PHOTOS COURTESY OF RICHARD LEDBETTER
This annual squirrel hunt is rich with history, friendship and a most-unique trophy BY R I C H A R D L E D B E T T E R It’s a diverse group who makes the yearly pilgrimage, winding their way up or down the Pig Trail into the mountains above Ozark, Arkansas. Nestled down in a narrow hallow next to the Mulberry River remains a 150+ year-old, one-room, hewn-log cabin that once stood as a stage stop for the Butterfield Line. Today it serves as the first of three fine accommodations for Bucksnort squirrel camp. Within the 200 acres co-owned by a handful of camp members is also the Scott brothers’ much newer cabin, set well up on a bluff above the river. The third camp-house is the “The Love Shack,” situated on Rambo Hill. The hilltop takes its name from Ramsey Ball (Rambo), who insisted the ridge-top be cleared of trees to reveal the Alpine meadow that now looks like something straight out of “The Sound of Music.” Set in the middle of the meadow, beneath the shade of a lone tree is a simple, green, plywood shed with a flat roof and large windows all around to take in the astounding scenic vista. Regulars will tell you, “There’s always a breeze stirring up on the hill, even in the heat of summer.” All this natural bounty is on a great peninsula located within a 180-degree bend of the Mulberry, surrounded on all sides by thousands of acres of Ozark National Forest. What better place to hold a yearly convocation of squirrel enthusiasts? The good-natured gang gathered at the camp comes from many walks of life…professionals, contractors, journalists, engineers, mechanics, equipment operators, Scoutmasters, lawn specialists, inspectors and computer experts to name a few. The singular trait they each share is how they are woodsmen one and all, to varying degrees. The first Friday evening in October before opening morning of squirrel season marks the annual arrival of the scattered associates. The hunt brings them from all corners of Arkansas as well as Colorado, Missouri, Louisiana and Tennessee. Would-be squirrel hunters approach the roaring campfire by ones, twos and threes. Hearty greetings are exchanged between old friends who in some cases have
known each other their whole lives and only reconnect this one time each year. In addition to the old hands of Bucksnort, there are newcomers who are made to feel equally welcome around the fire-lit circle. Bucksnort squirrel camp derives its name from the old stage depot that resided in the log cabin down by the Mulberry. According to a bound document found in the Scotts’ cabin, 32 steamboats plied the waters of the Arkansas River by 1836 traveling from Little Rock to Fort Smith. The stage carried riverboat travelers from Ozark on the Arkansas to the villages of Cass and Jethro over the mountains. Bucksnort was where horse teams were exchanged for more hardy mules to make the arduous climb through steep and winding mountain trails. Looking closely just below the cabin, the remnants of the stage road are still visible fording the Mulberry. Tradition holds how the man and wife who ran the depot raised a dozen children within the confines of the sturdy but tiny cabin walls. Following a big Friday night, not everyone managed to roll out of the rack before first light to take advantage of the squirrels’ early morning feeding time. Saturday dawn found the occasional hunter slipping quietly down the paths through the forest, stopping at intervals to look up and listen for stealthy squirrels scurrying through the branches or cutting hickory and beechnuts. Intermittent shotgun blasts echoed down the valley as fat, gray squirrels were harvested for the pot. Underlying it all was the additional challenge of whoever bagged the most game being crowned “Squirrel King” for the duration of the event. Squirrel King receives the honor of drinking from the “Squirrelly Grail,” a hand-turned, wooden chalice with an actual mounted squirrel serving as the handle. This proud relic leaves the cedar mantel of Bucksnort cabin only once a year for the special, if not so solemn occasion. Additionally, Squirrel King may tell anyone in attendance at camp to fetch him anything desired over the remaining course of ARKANSASWILD.COM | 23
rH e e n Pio
ne. o t s ead
Camp hosts Tom Scott and Kurt Osiyer.
Squirrels cleans a Unlimit ed gray squi president rrel. Joe Wils on 24 | Arkansas Wild 存 fall 2015
Friday night campfire and story telling.
John Bentley finds a horseshoe on the old wagon trail.
the weekend and peons are expected to obey his command, within reason of course. As the morning wore on, a low overcast rested on the shoulders of the hills. The forest quiet was suddenly broken by the excited honk of geese flying at treetop level. The flock flew off east and settled on the river. A stroll in that direction revealed one of the numerous old homesteads occupying so many mountain hollows. The proof is seen in an ample walnut orchard, in the form of a hand-dug, stone-lined well and an abandoned rock chimney where once stood the house. Country legend holds how one should never tear down a fireplace for that is where the spirits reside. As if to drive home that point, a pair of tall, handsome headstones appeared within the tall grass. Pausing to read the inscription, one is reminded of our shared mortality. On 30-year-old John Angus Anderson’s marker it says, “Remember friend when this you see, here lies the last remains of me. But yet while in the prime of life, the victim of an assassin’s knife.” Lying next to him is his 27-yearold brother Anton Wallace Anderson who succumbed to a fever. The loss in the late 1880s of these two stout, hardworking sons, no doubt put considerable hardship on the family in continuing the upkeep of their 160 acre, rich, river-bottom farm, perhaps leading to its eventual abandonment. Back at the Scotts’, hunters were treated to Southern-fried alligator tail, biscuits and alligator gravy prepared by Squirrels Unlimited president Joe Wilson and his buddy who took the gator, Damon Brown. All agreed, “Best gator I ever ate!” For late risers who didn’t manage an early squirrel hunt, there were Bloody Marys to help belay the previous night’s aftereffects. Enthusiastic descriptions of the different adventures delivered of the dawn were swapped around the fire pit. Squirrels skinned and tally taken, a new Squirrel King was hailed. Edging out his nearest competition by a single squirrel, gator slayer Damon Brown took the coveted title. The balance of the
day was given over to various recreations. First order of business was crowning King Damon, who concluded the ceremony by drinking a toast from the Squirrely Grail. Old friends conversed while newcomers got to know everyone. There was lounging beneath clear skies in the cool breeze on Rambo Hill. Others fried up squirrel for an afternoon snack and put the pork butts on for an evening feast. By mid-afternoon, one and all gathered at the river for the annual skeet shoot. Rapid-fire shotgun reports echoed through the river valley as clays flew high and away. In the end, there were more unbroken targets than fragmented shards scattered in the fresh mowed grass. While evening came to the mountains, pulled pork, kernel corn and barbecue beans were served up to 40 folks who ate their fill before adjourning down the hill to the riverside campground. Shadows danced as a great bonfire lit up the starry night. In the hollow, good cheer and glad laughter echoed off the canyon walls. As night wore on, campers weary from a long, leisurely day made each their way to tent or cabin to call it a night. Few if any made the Sunday morning hunt but nary a soul missed the hardy breakfast of biscuits, bacon and scrambled eggs. Following a weekend full of frolic and fellowship, everyone bid fond farewells and took separate paths back to the cardinal points of the compass, pledging faithfully to meet next year, good Lord willing, and do it all again!
The “The Love Shack,” situated on Rambo Hill overlooks the Alpine meadow that looks like something straight out of “The Sound of Music.”
Back from the woods.
m ofpid. o t t o b e h t At g Horse Ra Rockin ARKANSASWILD.COM | 25
ALLIGATORS THE HARD WAY STO RY AN D PHOTOS BY J OH N MCCLENDON
It was a Friday afternoon in late September and I was contortioned into a Little Rockbound airline seat next to a friendly but chatty middle-aged lady from Wisconsin. This fellow business traveler—some sort of traveling nurse by occupation— just couldn’t hide her surprise when the conversation revealed I was anxious to get home to Drew County to alligator hunt later that same night. Immediately she began talking about how much she liked the semi-reality show “Swamp People,” going so far as to loudly provide her own thickly Midwestern accented impression of Troy’s famous line: “Choote ‘em, Lizabett! Choote ‘em!” Over the years, I have encountered similar reactions even from native Arkansans. To learn that we have large pockets of wild alligators spread across southern Arkansas is surprising information for many folks, even for some who share the same latitudes with these giant reptiles. More often than not shows like “Swamp People” are the only exposure they’ve had to alligator hunting. But gator hunting in the Natural State is a very different prospect from the depictions found on Louisiana’s most popular television export. Putrid bait suspended via hook and line from trees and giant treble hooks used for blindsnagging gators underwater makes for great TV but you won’t find these things on an Arkansas hunt. Nor will you find any rifles on board for long distance shots or pistols brandished for those dramatic slow-motion final dispatches. Arkansas gator hunters have no such luxuries. By necessity, the process of hunting alligators in Arkansas is a highly regulated activity. While alligators are found in fair numbers here, they tend to be concentrated in very small areas. When alligator hunting became a legal sport in Arkansas for the first time in 2007, the Arkansas
“You guys have Alligators in ARE-KANSAS?”
26 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) wisely developed a lottery style permit drawing system that would provide as many opportunities as the resource could safely sustain. Currently about 70 tags per year are drawn from a pool of 3,000 applicants. Applicants must designate private or public land choice and tags are awarded based on specific geographic zones to be hunted. The season is a total of six nights long over two weekends—hunters can hunt on the third and fourth Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights of September each year. It all starts with a tag drawing in June, and successful recipients must then attend “Alligator School” in late August about one month prior to the hunt. This mandatory three-hour class conducted by the AGFC educates neophyte gator hunters on technique as well as a long litany of rules governing the hunt. Limitations on the method and type of equipment allowed make it extremely restrictive. For starters, Arkansas’ hunt is completely at night. Hunting begins 30 minutes after sunset and tag holders can have up to three registered “helpers” with them. Alligators must be “caught” by one of two methods: a snare or harpoon tip, both of which are connected to a rope. An eightfoot pole is employed to slip the wire snare over the gator’s head or in the case of harpooning, to drive a special arrowhead into its neck. The snare is exactly what it sounds like: a stainless steel wire hoop with a one-way sliding lock. The “harpoon” however isn’t from Nantucket and isn’t thrown like a spear. It features an oversized bow-fishing style arrowhead that rides on a steel point affixed to the end of the aforementioned pole. Once deployed, it slips off the end, leaving only the barbed tip and a short steel leader attached to a rope. Alligators harvested have to be at least fourfeet-long, and baiting or snagging is not allowed. Hunters cannot use bows or arrows and only shotgun shells of #4 shot or smaller can be used for the kill. (There is no buckshot or any longrange shots in this game.) Shotguns have to remain unloaded and in a case until the actual moment needed to kill the gator. If it sounds like it would be difficult and dangerous to get close enough to do this to a submerged animal 13-feet-long that has spent the last 65 million years evolving to eat things as large as human beings, well, you would be correct. Keep in mind all this is done from a boat, at night, in the middle of some of the most densely vegetated waters in the country. Gators can be hard to spot. Only about 10 percent of their body is above the surface while swimming and they tend to hang around areas choked with things like lily pads and cypress knees.
Adam Rutledge of Fayetteville with his 2013 season 6-foot 3-inch gator (killed while hunting with McClendon).
Paul Beard (L) with a 4-foot 9-inch gator and Mark Meadors (R) with an 8-foot 2-inch alligator they killed on the same night while hunting (with McClendon) during the 2014 season.
(L to R) Anthony Brown, John McClendon, and John Starling in 2011 with an 8-foot 6-inch female alligator killed by Starling on opening night of the 2011 season.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 27
(McClendon’s brother-in-law) Tom Wingard, with his 9 foot 11 inch alligator taken in 2012.
Mark Meadors of Little Rock with an 8’2” alligator taken (while hunting with the McClendon) in 2014.
When they are out in open clear water they usually aren’t just loafing around. They are excellent swimmers that can disappear in an instant; the larger they are the more vigilant they tend to be. The key is to look for red eyes. The glowing ember of a gator’s eye illuminated by spotlight is unmistakable in color and reflection. Frogs’ eyes shine green; snakes’ eyes (and a million other swamp things) shine in varying degrees of white. But gators are always satiny red—a devilish beacon at the waterline burning through the pitch. Once a gator is spotted, getting close enough to reach him with a snare or harpoon is frustratingly difficult. The important thing to understand is that this is a very close proximity sport. Hunters have to get just mere feet away from the business end of an alligator with either method, and it takes a lot practice and patience to get that close. Once a gator is successfully connected to the line the adrenaline really starts flowing. I am not a biologist, but pound for pound an alligator has got to be one of the strongest animals alive. Gators head for deep water as soon as they are touched, and from there it is similar to hand-lining a huge fish; albeit a fish that is mostly teeth, tail and all muscle. The head has to be above the water and within a foot or two for an effective shot. An alligator breaking the surface at the end of a rope is the moment one realizes why they have spent so many boring, mosquito-inundated hours in a dark swamp. Gators go berserk when being hauled up against their will. They spin and spin and spin while thrashing wildly, snapping their jaws in utter defiance of everything around them. Inevitably their tail pounds the boat like a wrecking ball and more than one has actually bitten my boat, clamping the gunnels like a huge pair of toothy vice grips. Did I mention they spin? This all happens pretty fast but can seem like hours for a hunter with an aggressive alligator on the line. At some point the tag-holder passes the off the rope to a helper, freeing him to uncase and load up the shotgun. The ideal shot is placed in the apricot-sized region on top of the gator’s head where the spinal column meets the brain. Unfortunately these descriptions greatly understate the process. There is a lot that can (and does) go wrong: Harpoon tips fall out, snares refuse to close, lines tangle, things are knocked overboard and ropes get severed by the kill shot. 28 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
Feet slip, hands slip and sometimes nerves slip. The list is long and often comical. Every Arkansas gator hunter can recount circumstances so unimaginable they sound beyond belief. But finding, securing and shooting these reptiles is merely half the battle. Once the shotgun hammer falls, the clock begins ticking: alligators must be temporarily tagged, inspected by an AGFC official, and then permanently tagged (a second tag) within hours of the kill. Equally urgent is the need to cool the carcass quickly to preserve the hide and meat. The AGFC guys don’t get much sleep. With such a compressed season, hunters are out every legal minute until filling their tag. There is no way to predict when or where the next inspection will be required, so multiple calls can mean a lot of ground to cover for AGFC personnel. Only after the permanent tag is in place can skinning begin, an activity not for the weak in strength or of stomach, especially at 3 a.m. But despite these challenges, Arkansas alligator hunters are surprisingly successful. By comparing the number of tags issued to the number of gators killed each season, a rough average of the eight seasons conducted so far reveals that Arkansas hunters enjoy a solid 64-percent success rate overall. This is remarkable considering that Arkansas doesn’t have a legacy of hunting alligators (a person has to be a permanent state resident to be awarded a tag and the season only began in 2007, so the majority likely didn’t have experienced mentors or any background involving gator hunting); and due to the lottery system, nearly every hunter participating each season is a first time alligator hunter. That says volumes regarding Arkansans’ outdoor skills. Despite arguably the most restrictive regulations anywhere (including the absence of any hooks or bait) and very limited experience, Arkansas has become a serious alligator state. And even a good ol’ boy from Louisiana named Troy can appreciate that.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 29
A new way to explore The Natural State takes off rom the moment I first engaged with the everunfolding energy of the Ozarks, I longed to see them from a certain sweet spot. On land, you can get lost in the subtle rhythms of the hills, valleys and mountainside and almost forget that you are in the middle of the largest American mountain range between the Appalachians and the Rockies. Ten thousand feet in the air, the finer features of the Ozark Mountains are muted and marginalized by the extreme heights that commercial airlines accomplish. Somewhere special among the two—nestled between 1,000 and 10,000 feet—a perspective, pivotal in the holistic appreciation of the Natural State, appears. Here you can best understand the expansive nature of the Ozarks. How they, crafted by time, maintain a most-natural flow over the countryside, generating a variety of life across all their avenues as they conduct a certain state of energy that pushes everything in contact with them forward, deeper into nature. I’ve always longed for this perspective, somewhere above the treetops, but below the first stratum of clouds, to soar between the two and ride the waves of air above the complementing rolling mountains. In early July, I was given the opportunity to step into this vision as a result of a shift in legislation and backcountry aviation community development. In 2012, a change to the Arkansas Recreational Use Statute (the bill that protects landowners from the liability associated with allowing certain recreational activities on their land) was made. The term, “aviation activities” was added to a long list of some of the most enjoyable outdoor activities in Arkansas—fishing, swimming, mountain biking, camping and hunting. With this small change, hundreds of private airstrips through the state became unlocked, and with them, the soaring potential of recreational flying and training throughout the Natural State. Like never before, the world of backcountry Ozark aviation is accessible to everyone, from young professionals like myself, aspiring pilots, and families young and old, across the state. As a state, we are better because of it. The more we deeply appreciate the astounding nature of our surroundings, the better we understand ourselves, our outdoor community, and how to best connect and progress them.
30 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
PHOTO BY WESLEY HITT
BY DE VIN O ’ DE A
Joe Edwards spotting fish in his Super Legend at Byrdâ€™s. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 31
It is a good thing that landowners across the state can now more comfortably allow various levels of permission to their airstrips, because the Ozarks contain some of the greatest potential for recreational flying throughout the country. There is an innate performance value embedded above the Ozark Mountains. Our ranges of rivers and ridges are nestled at relatively low altitude, averaging around 1,500 feet in height. The higher density of the air here reduces the power needed for take off in the higher altitude settings of Colorado, Idaho or Utah. This reduction in power need unlocks another door of opportunity in the variety of aircraft available for recreational use. Although backcountry flying has traditionally been a recreation pursued in the Western U.S., the compilation of quality conditions for its expansion into the Ozarks has gotten the Central U.S. on the aviation map. The centralized location of the Ozarks and its landing strips provide a huge logistical advantage to cross country pilots, and in one of the most scenic spots to fly over in the Central U.S. Hundreds of acres of deciduous forests, rocky, aged bluffs, and winding rivers paint quite
32 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
the picture from above. Although these features have long been at the heart of Arkansas’ culture and community, backcountry aviation promises lovers of the outdoors a new perspective on them such that they can be appreciated with the fresh eyes included with a new perspective. Although the Recreational Use Statute only recently passed, many of the best destinations for backcountry aviation have been available to the public for years. Gaston’s White River Resort has hosted thousands of aircraft operations over the years and Byrd’s Adventure Center off the Mulberry River has tailored their operations to better host incoming pilots. Petit Jean Airport has a campground specifically for fly-ins, and Bentonville Municipal Airport has reinforced their efforts to be a better base for recreational flying by purchasing loaner bicycles to ride into town. If you’re looking to get deep into the state’s gem, the Buffalo River region, the folks at Buffalo Outdoor Center are also ready to receive flyins. Each of these locations provides substantial opportunities for aviation access to outdoor recreation and serve as the backbone of Arkansas’ budding recreational flying culture.
36.3458° N, 94.2194° W
PHOTO BY RUSH URSCHEL
Everyone’s in the air and headed to Byrd’s.
En route to Byrd’s with pilot Ken Duncan.
“Ozarks contain some of the PHOTO BY RUSH URSCHEL
greatest potential for recreational flying throughout the country”
Although the Recreational Use Statute only recently passed many of the best destinations for backcountry aviation have been available to the public for years
Setting up gear.
PHOTO BY OZARK BACKCOUNTRY
PHOTO BY WESLEY HITT
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 33
As one might have guessed, some effort is required to get up in the air, especially in this most intimate and remote manner. But good news—there are plenty of access points to it and a growing community ready to help you learn along the way. The best approach to this new world is to approach it with a student’s mind. Understand that there is a world of information out there with individuals and organizations to help you learn it, and you’ll be just fine. Make your mind a sponge and in this case, you will literally ascend into the air. Planning a backcountry aviation trip currently requires a fair share of “tribal knowledge” to line out what airstrips allow visitors. A local group, Tailwind Aviation Foundation, has been working with individuals throughout the Ozarks to build out a database of allowed landing area, denotatively named “The Airfield Guide”. Like many niche, emerging community culture projects, The Airfield Guide is being produced by volunteers as a passion project. The more people that join the cause, the quicker that information will be release in public format. If you are not currently a pilot, the skills needed to get started in backcountry aviation are the same set of skills needed to earn your sport pilot or the next step up, the private pilot’s certificate. After learning to fly, the next proper step is to find a FAA certified flight instructor (CFI) who has some experience with “off-airport” operations. If you are planning on hitting some remote spots with rougher terrain access points, you are most likely going to be flying a tailwheel (also know as conventional gear) aircraft. To fly with these planes you’ll need to earn your tailwheel endorsement. As each accreditation adds up, the world becomes more open and accessible. To earn your sport or private pilot’s certificate, the general range for renting a plane, purchasing fuel, and paying an instructor is between $3,500 and $9,000. This will train you to the point where you can legally carry passengers and fly where you’d like but does not allow you to charge for your services as a pilot. To tap into the educational scene, there are freelance instructors and flight schools statewide that base their operations in nearly all of the public airports. To begin, sit down with a CFI and state your personal aviation goals and budget, and outline the time that you can dedicate to studying and flying. If you are ready for this conversation, call your
34 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
local airport, reference learning to fly, and they will put you in touch with the most active school or instructor. It’s a lot of work on the front end, but good things often are. Once dialed in with certifications and independent with your own aircraft, there are plenty of inexpensive options for a weekend excursion with the friends and/ or family. For instance, a family flight from northwest Arkansas to Petit Jean for a three-day stay at the Mather Lodge can be done—complete with food, fuel, aircraft and lodging—for around $500. Backcountry aviation aims to remove the less efficient and/or trouble-filled factors associated with outdoor adventure. For instance, it can eliminate the step of planting a vehicle at the end of a float on a multiple day river excursion. All you would need to do is plan drop-off and pick-up locations and dates with a pilot. You are also given access to campgrounds that might otherwise be dangerous to drive a car through. The multiple financial and prone-to-error factors with car trips—gas, time spent on the road, potential car trouble, food—are all removed in a flash with backcountry aviation. Just as the Internet made the world smaller, moving information around the globe in a flash, backcountry aviation makes the world physically smaller, in a good way, connecting you with diverse individuals, cultures and settings like never before. The potential for personal and social growth is enormous when viewed from this perspective. Ultimately, a more connected world is an empowered one. The more we can understand and appreciate each other, the better set we are to live in peaceful union with an enlightened understanding of the natural world and its expansive, directing character. You see clearly that all the territorial segregations we created over the centuries, all the invisible lines we have drawn to separate this from that, are without real weight from a few thousand feet in the air. The beauty of the outdoors is all connected, nature is and always will be single whole, and the shared responsibility we have to properly protect, maintain, and development binds us together as community. Backcountry aviation sends an electric spark through the roots of the flourishing Ozark outdoor community, putting the subtle beauty of the Ozarks in full frame and joining together the seemingly separated outdoor settings with a flip of a switch and a push of the propeller.
93 .49 31
36 35 .86 PHOTO BY WESLEY HITT
Backcountry aviation aims to remove the less efficient and/or trouble-filled factors associated
PHOTO BY OZARK BACKCOUNTRY
with outdoor adventure
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 35
2500 SW Aviation St. | Bentonville, AR 72712 479-254-0817 36 20’ 44’ N , 94 13’ 09’ W Bentonville Municipal Airport and Summit Aviation are leading the charge for backcountry aviation in northwest Arkansas. The airport is in the final stages of getting a turf runway established along their paved runway. And in addition to the handful of existing “friendly” grass strips in the area, more public-use airstrips are in the works as well. When a pilot flies into Bentonville, they can grab a loaner bicycle to ride up to the lake (which surrounds the north part of the runway) or ride to downtown and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. There are also two very nice courtesy cars for use as well for those not wanting to bike, or in case of poor weather.
PHOTO BY ZEN BOULDEN
Bentonville Municipal Airport
PHOTO BY BOC
Buffalo Outdoor Center 1 Main St, AR-43 | Ponca, AR 72670 buffaloriver.com | 870-861-5514 36 20’ 55’ N, 92 33’ 25’ W Fly in to the Buffalo Outdoor Center on the Upper Buffalo River in Ponca, and land on their 1,300-foot-long airstrip. The BOC’s airstrip—lovingly referred to as “Ponca International”—can accommodate STOL-type aircraft (short takeoff and landing) like Cub, Maule and Cessna. Call ahead and let the BOC know you’re on your way, and owner Mike Mills will be there to greet you. Guests who are staying at the BOC—which includes a number of cabins, a lodge, a gear and grocery store, and loads of outdoor fun from canoeing and fishing to ziplining and hiking—can even make use of a courtesy car to get around the area.
7037 Cass Oark Rd. | Ozark, AR 72949 byrdsadventurecenter.com | 479-667-4066 35 40’ 37’ N, 93 43’ 59’ W Located on the wild and scenic Mulberry River in Arkansas, Byrd’s Adventure Center features two grass runways on 800 private acres surrounded by the Ozark National Forest. A range of on-site lodging options are available, and the Riverfront Restaurant is open seasonally on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Snacks, drinks, ice and handmade sandwiches are available year-round at Byrd’s on-site store. Bring gear for non-flying activities along the Mulberry River including fishing, canoeing, trail hikes and campfire cookouts. Aviation fuel is available at the Ozark (7M5) and Clarksville (H35) municipal airports. Ethanol-free fuel for Light Sport Aircraft is available locally at Turner Bend and the Oark General Store. A courtesy vehicle can be arranged.
PHOTO BY WESLEY HITT
Byrd’ s Adventure Center
36 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
PHOTO BY GASTONS
Gaston’ s White River Resort 1777 River Rd. | Lakeview, AR 72642 gastons.com | 870-431-5202 36 20’ 55’ N, 92 33’ 25’ W Located on the White River, Gaston’s offers a 3,200-foot-long Bermuda grass airstrip. The airstrip is open to everyone, not just guests of the resort. If you do plan to stay at Gaston’s, expect first-class accommodations in the resort’s cottages, as well as a delicious lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch at the on-site restaurant. They even have a “You Catch ‘Em, We Cook ‘Em” option for anyone who finds success in one of the best trout streams in the country. If you’re new to trout fishing, you can sign up for Gaston’s fly fishing school, or just take it easy on one of the nature trails and enjoy the breathtaking surroundings.
Ponca international (boc)
PHOTO BY WESLEY HITT
byrdâ€™ s adventure center
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 37
“If there’s a state that looks like everywhere it must be Arkansas. From the air these carpeted slopes
There’s a place in the Ozarks where my favorite rivers start. It’s along a stretch of Arkansas Highway 16 between the ridgetop communities of Boston and Fallsville. Springs flow from this mountain into the valleys of the Buffalo, Big Piney, Mulberry, White, War Eagle, and Kings. I’ve kayaked these rivers over the years with friends. Today I’m making a solo flight above the headwaters in a light-sport aircraft. If there’s a state that looks like everywhere it must be Arkansas. From the air these carpeted slopes remind me of South America. Sometimes I see Idaho or Colorado among the hilltops and pine-capped cliffs. I’ve heard other pilots recount similar tales of the Natural State. With the right light even Africa appears along the Arkansas River, a savanna mirage between the Ozarks and Ouachitas. I got hooked on backcountry flying decades ago while hang gliding from the cliffs of Mt. Nebo and Mt. Magazine. As an affordable means of flying, hang gliders are less expensive than general aviation aircraft. Like paragliders, they meet the FAA definition of ultralight vehicles. Flight training is necessary for safety, so hang gliding and paragliding instructors are found across the United States. Arkansas hang gliding enthusiasts are capable of flying more than 100 miles with many hours aloft. Not bad for pilots of non-powered flying machines priced in the realm of mountain bikes. Add a motor to a hang glider and you get a weight-shift control trike. That’s what I’m flying today. These are defined as either ultralight vehicles or light-sport aircraft depending on weight, fuel capacity, and number of seats (one vs. two). Add a motor to a paraglider and the result is a powered paraglider or powered parachute. Gyrocopters and light airplanes may also qualify as ultralight vehicles or light-sport aircraft according to the FAA. Like my old hang gliders, the trike is economical and easy to fly. Because it is has two seats and carries more fuel than an ultralight, it is categorized as a light-sport aircraft and requires flying with a sport pilot certificate. Those years of gliding experience helped, but I had to travel out of state to find additional training and earn a sport pilot certificate. Powered parachute folks have an easier time getting help. Instructors can be found in virtually every state. The same can be said for fixed-wing pilots wishing to fly light-sport aircraft. Sport pilot certificates for twoseat airplanes can be earned at many general aviation flight schools. My trike hums along this morning as the old settlement of Fallsville passes below. At this altitude the air is crisp and cool, especially for summer. To the north flows the Buffalo River, where my friend Mike Mills of the Buffalo Outdoor Center has a runway above the cliffs of Ponca. To the southeast the town of Deer looks into the valley of Big Piney. Southwest are the rapids of the Mulberry River, where my flight started on the grass airstrip at Byrd’s Adventure Center. A few miles northwest the White and Kings begin winding through the Ozarks, taking a history of fishing and backcountry aviation with them. On today’s flight Arkansas is like no place on earth. 38 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
remind me of South America
PHOTOS BY ZEN BOULDEN
BY ZEN B OULDEN
Looking to get into backcountry aviation? Check out these lightweight options from North Little Rock-based SportairUSA BY MEL JONES
Savage Outback The Savage Outback is the result of two years of study and collaboration with experienced Alaskan bush pilots. The goal: To produce a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) as close as possible to being the perfect utility airplane for demanding operating conditions. The Outback may also be flown under experimental rules in the USA. The new airframe design is based on experience in the field with Zlin’s previous Savage models that have been successfully used in the most extreme bush-flying activities. The resulting design is light and durable, able to handle more powerful engines, with improvements in safety, payload and performance. With its category leading power-to-empty weight ratio of 4.74 pounds/hp (7.33 at MTOW [Maximum Takeoff Weight] with 505-pound payload), the ECI Titanequipped Outback climbs at up to 2,100 feet per minute. Takeoff roll is 60 feet with one pilot, or 81 feet at MTOW.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SPROTAIR
Like a custom motorcycle, the Savage Bobber is personalized for its owner—the first time this concept has been applied to the world of light aircraft. A Bobber pilot can choose from 15 different colors for the engine, 20 available colors for the welded fuselage, two types of chrome, eight types of high-quality leather, 10 types of luggage holders, three colors of seat belts, two types of seats (including high-quality saddles from the motorcycle industry), 10 different paint schemes, four colors available for the propellers, and two types of original instrument panels (even machined). The guarantee of the Bobber’s reliability comes through sharing, with its older brother the Savage Classic, the wings, the empennage, the landing gear, the controls and the fuselage, which has been narrowed only slightly. The 55-pound lower weight makes it more agile, and the absence of covering on the fuselage makes it particularly resistant to lateral gusts. Learn more about these and other light aircrafts at sportair.aero.
bobber continued on page 41 ARKANSASWILD.COM | 39
Visit your Arkansas SeaArk Dealer at these locations: Peters Sugar Loaf - Higden Horn’s Outdoor - Hot Springs Spencer’s Marine - White Hall
Arkansas Marine - Bryant South Ark Sports - Smackover Camptown RV & Marine - Brookland
Visit our website: www.seaarkboats.com 40 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
na Additio fly in spots
The Savage Outback.........your backcountry vehicle!
x Petit Jean State Park 1285 Petit Jean Mountain Rd. Morrilton, AR 72110 petitjeanstatepark.com 501-727-5441 Petit Jean Park Airport 501-374-5022 35 08’ 19.8000” N 092 54’ 33.1000” W Petit Jean is Arkansas’ only state park with its own airport. Aviation enthusiasts are invited to enjoy the airport’s fly-in campground that features five tent sites with water and electric hookups, picnic tables, grills, lantern holders and tent pads. At the state park proper, campsites are abundant, and include furnished yurts that can accommodate up to six people. Not into roughing it? Mather Lodge offers 24 guests rooms and a wonderful restaurant that’s open daily, and cabins are also available nearby. Activities at Petit Jean are nearly endless, with more than 20 miles of hiking trails, overlooks offering stunning views of the Arkansas River Valley, and fishing, canoeing and kayaking on Lake Bailey and Lake Roosevelt.
Visit www.sportair.aero or buy yours at North Little Rock Airport. Call 501.228.7777
Stuttgart Municipal Airport Highway 63, 7 miles north of Stuttgart 870-673-2960 34 35’ 58.1227” N 91 34’ 30.001” W Duck hunters wanting to fly in for the best waterfowling in the state can do so at the Stuttgart Municipal Airport. Built in 1942 by the United States Army Air Forces to train pilots on gliders and twin-engine planes, the airport was eventually deeded to the City of Stuttgart after World War II. Today, the airport includes two runways on its 2,560-acre site—one that is asphalt and concrete and 6,015 feet long, and one that is all concrete and 5,002 feet long. Fueling facilities and T-hangars are available, and the airport is open until late hours during duck season.
FBO of Choice in NW Arkansas The
• Courtesy cars and bicycles to get you to: - Crystal Bridges Museum - The Bentonville Downtown Square - and a variety of dining options • No ramp fees, ever! • Friendly, knowledgable staff. LEARN TO FLY, MAINTENANCE, AIRCRAFT RENTAL, FUEL SALES, AND CHARTER
Bentonville - 479 . 254 . 0817 or Springdale - 479 . 751 . 4462 ARKANSASWILD.COM | 41
FIELD TRIP WITH DOMESTIC DOMESTIC
Take a Hike
Heather Smith of Domestic Domestic in Little Rock shares the must-have items she packs before she hits the trail. The Natural State is filled with hiking treasures. For a quick trip, head to Collins Creek in Heber Springs. This half-mile marked nature trail is easy for all ages, and follows the 50º trout -filled creek. Don’t forget your camera. The rock formations create beautiful waterfalls.
Find Your Way
How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier is your complete guide to food, shelter and preservation. It’s a great study guide, but also handy in the field.
+ Cook Across the Country
Deep in the woods, every direction looks the same. Use this brass compass to ensure you aren’t hiking in circles.
X Hacked Off
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so start your adventure off right with The American Skillet. Made in Wisconsin by The American Skillet Co., this patriotic cast-iron skillet is pre-seasoned and ready to go.
At 18 inches, and 1 1/2 pounds, the Domestic Domestic x Hardcore Hammers Zombie Hatchet is useful tool will not weigh down your pack, and will only make your trip easier. Splitting wood, gathering kindling, hunting and cooking are only a few of its many functions.
The Saluda from Williams Knife Co. was designed to last more than a lifetime. This workhorse is an heirloom in the making, meant to be field tested by outdoorsmen for generations to come.
42 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
ARKANSAS’ FIRST BIKE PUBLICATION. A SPECIAL EDITION OF ARKANSAS WILD
ISSUE NO. 1 | 2015 ARKANSASWILD.COM #BIKEARMAG
LOOK FOR ISSUE NO. 2 MID-SEPTEMBER For advertising information contact Rebekah Hardin: email@example.com
PICK UP A COPY AT YOUR LOCAL BIKE SHOP
FUN & SCENIC ARKANSAS TRAILS
36 MILES, 6 CITIES
Follow us on & for more information about events and news!
#BIKEARMAG ARKANSASWILD.COM BIKE ARKANSAS ISSUE NO. 1 | 1
BIKE ARKANSAS PROUDLY SUPPORTS RECYCLE BIKES FOR KIDS For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/recyclebikesforkids
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 43
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISION
FROM FAMINE TO FEAST Management techniques focus on health of Arkansas deer herds
BY ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION After the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was created on March 11, 1915, steps were made to curtail overhunting of deer, and restoration, led by Lee Miles and Guy Amsler, began a few years later. The deer population increased with restrictions on hunting and the heavy use of more than 40 game reserves across the state. Hunting restrictions limited the length of deer hunting seasons; bucks were legal but does weren’t. People from out of state couldn’t hunt deer in Arkansas in the early days, but that restriction was lifted. The simple deer reserves system worked fairly well. Hunting was not allowed in the enclosed areas, so natural reproduction soon increased the population. Predators were limited—wolves were gone from the state and coyotes were beginning to move in. Just as deer reserves were making progress, the Great Depression hit, which shut down or reduced most of the AGFC’s deer program. By the late 1930s, deer numbers were multiplying in many areas of the state. This remains the case—many places have too many deer. In 1938, hunters were required to check deer for the first time. 44 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
Just 203 were registered that season. Five years later, 1,000 were checked. During the 2012-13 deer season, 213,487 were checked, a state record.
BASED ON DATA
Today, the AGFC is no longer restoring and building the deer population, instead, the strategy is called Total Herd Management. “We no longer try to estimate the number of deer in the state,” Gray says. “Instead, we focus on indices that give us information on the health of our deer. This includes body weights, lactation in females and age structure.” Gathering data is an essential part of Total Herd Management. Information comes from hunters who check game, from wildlife biologists’ first-hand reports and from study of deer carcasses.
“For many years, southern Arkansas has had the highest number of deer in the state.”
This area is heavily forested, and much of the land is owned by timber companies. It is deer habitat, although some other areas of the state may have better nutrition. Southern Arkansas deer are more numerous, but larger deer often are found in the Delta and in other lowland locales. Today’s hunter tends to be selective in what he or she shoots. The old game plan of “if it has antlers, shoot it” doesn’t suffice any more. The three-point rule that was born in 1998 took out the “anything with antlers” approach. The AGFC’s insistence that does, as well as bucks, need to be taken also bore fruit. For the first time, more does than bucks were harvested during the 2013-14 season. Hunters also are asked to take older does when they can. “As the doe matures, her teeth become worn and the ability to consume adequate amounts of food can become a problem,” Gray says. “At this point, her productivity will decline because her body cannot physically produce a fawn. When a doe is no longer producing fawns, she isn’t helping replenishing the herd. This is a deer a hunter needs to take.” How does a hunter select an older doe? “You look for the ones with longer heads. That’s how you tell an old doe from a young doe in the field. She may also have a swayed back and carry the appearance of a limousine—very long and lean.”
Want to save $$$ this hunting season?
Come see us. You’ll love it! Guns • Ammo • Full Hunting Accessories • Live Bait Fishing Tackle • Bottoms Apparel
51 N. Main St • De Valls Bluff, AR 870-998-7000 • www.thebottoms.us
PLEASE ENJOY RESPONSIBLY
DISTILLED IN LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS FROM ARKANSAS GROWN CORN, ARKANSAS GROWN WHEAT AND MALTED BARLEY. DISTILLERY TOURS HELD DAILY WWW.ROCKTOWNDISTILLERY.COM
1216 E 6TH STREET, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS 72202 ARKANSASWILD.COM | 45
Your Adventure Starts Here OzarkOutdoor.com
5514 Kavanaugh Blvd. | Little Rock, AR | 501-664-4832
MORE BANG for Your Buck Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex is the largest of its kind in Arkansas and boasts the latest in technology and a clean, safe environment. We’re ready to host your next tournament with:
• 14 trap fields • 3 skeet overlays
• Voice-activated controllers • Fields exclusively for shotguns
2800 Graham Road (501) 241-2441 www.jacksonvilleshootingcomplex.com
How do you Arkansas?
Natural State Press Arkansas outdoors themed stickers and apparel www.naturalstatepress.com
46 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
Most of the state does have sufficient deer numbers, according to statistics from hunter checking. Habitat for deer is limited in northeastern Arkansas, where farming is extensive and wooded areas are few. Nutrition is a limiting factor in the Ouachita Mountains, where timber, not agriculture, predominates. Neither of these areas is void of deer, and the harvest strategies are not as liberal as they are in other parts of the state. Before 1998, the goal was to have more deer in the state, and hunters went after bucks. The buckdoe ratio became badly skewed. Although 50 percent of fawns are male, hunters in some areas said they were seeing 20 t0 50 does for every buck they spotted. Arkansas’ deer population has returned from the brink. Early in the 20th century, seeing a whitetailed deer was a rarity; now some cities hold archery hunts to thin the herds. The record harvest of 201213 was followed with a near-record harvest during last deer season. It appears whitetails have come home for good.
experience a true
Wilderness Zip line Adventure
Located in beautiful Ponca, AR.
Experience Arkansas fall color up close and personal – on our zip line adventure tour through the treetops of Buffalo River country! It’s great outdoor fun for ages 7 and older, with Arkansas’ finest wilderness area as the setting. Our zip line tour season continues through November 22nd. Fall weekends are very popular, so advance reservations are recommended. Some health and physical restrictions apply; call us to learn more.
Call us at 870-861-5514 or reserve your tour online at www.buffaloriver.com.
1530 Albert Pike • 501-623-8403 www.traderbills.com • Open 7 Days a Week The Professionals of Outdoor Sports!
We know the Outdoors inside-out
Large selections with competitive pricing • Knowledgeable staff Handling the most innovative sporting equipmentr ARKANSASWILD.COM | 47
48 | Arkansas Wild 存 fall 2015
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 49
OUT & ABOUT
TURPENTINE CREEK BY KD REEP
Turpentine Creek is one of the largest big cat sanctuaries in the country, with more than 100 exotic cats— lions, cougars, ligers (a cross between a lion and tiger), leopards, tigers—and even bears, in natural habitats where they roam and play. Visitors can learn of each animal’s story and history as they meander through a selfguided tour of the refuge. Student interns also lead guided, half-mile walking tours hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, and trolley tours are available during summer months from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
MEET, EAT, RETREAT
Turpentine Creek is an ideal “base camp” for people visiting Eureka
Springs and who are seeking unique accommodations. The Zulu Safari Lodge has five cabins, all fully decorated with incredible views of the mountains and each with its own theme corresponding with different regions of Africa. Secluded in a grove of trees, the tree house bungalow is a fun and quaint structure built on stilts about 15 feet from the ground, a perfect escape for those who enjoy sleeping near the treetops. Turpentine Creek also has six RV/ tent spots that feature fire circles, a reflecting pond and gazebo, and picnic tables.
BIKE, HIKE & BIRD
Just 20 minutes away, Lake Leatherwood City Park boasts 1,600 acres which includes an 85-acre spring-fed
lake. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the park maintains over 21 miles of trails with varying terrains that promise solitude and the beauty of nature. Birders will be delighted to know that Lake Leatherwood City Park is home to more than 120 bird species, from ducks and geese to bald eagles and wild turkeys.
STAND UP & PADDLE
At Beaver Lake, try your hand, er, feet at a cool new way to experience being on the water. Standup paddleboarding (SUP) is a surface watersport where the surfer uses a paddle to move through the water while standing on a surfboard. Intrigued? SUP Outfitters offers rentals, lessons, ECO tours and even SUP Yoga. Check them out at sup-outfitters.com.
Visiting Railway Winery for local wines—have a tasting on the deck that overlooks the vineyard. Enjoying a farm-to-table experience in Eureka Springs—try Fresh for an amazing brunch, and head to The Garden Bistro for a local steak for dinner. Strolling through the Downtown District in Eureka Springs; the entire area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Seeing the works of more than 250 artists in a variety of galleries. Catching a ghost tour at the Crescent Hotel.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge 239 Turpentine Creek Lane, Eureka Springs, AR 72632 • 479-253-5841 www.turpentinecreek.org.
50 | Arkansas Wild ¸ fall 2015
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SUP OUTFITTERS AND TURPENTINE CREEK
Seven miles south of historic Eureka Springs, on scenic Highway 23.
2016 FOREST RIVER CLIPPER POP-UP
$7,998 or $99 a month W.A.C See Dealer for details
For more information on our inventory, visit www.MayflowerRv.com Our Warranty Provides Covered Service Nationwide! With All This Value — Why Would You Buy Anywhere Else!* *see our website for complete details on the Lifetime Warranty
THE EXCLUSIVE HOME OF THE
AT NO COST TO YOU! 8830 Landers Road • Sherwood, AR • 501-835-4000 | 5603 Alma Highway • Van Buren, AR • 479-262-2418 ARKANSASWILD.COM | 51
Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum Piggott
St. Fra nc is
To St. Louis
Big Lake NWR
Marked Tree Whitehall
Pillow-Thompson House Helena-West Helena
Crowley’s Ridge Parkway
issippi Rive Miss r
National Scenic Byway Wynne
Crowley’s Ridge Parkway Loops Great River Road
Great River Road Loops
West Memphis Madison
National Scenic Byway
Brinkley To Little Rock
Clarendon St. Francis National Forest
iv ite R Wh
Crockett’s Bluff Almyra
HelenaWest Helena Lake View
St. Charles Elaine
DeWitt White River NWR
er Riv sas
Lakeport Plantation Lake Village Eudora
To New Orleans
This ad paid for with a combination of funds from the state, the National Scenic Byways program and Arkansas Delta Byways regional association.
Find us online at: http://www.deltabyways.com/