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Arkansas Wild

Sporting Shooting Is On the Rise


Fire Away! pg. 16

Some Hidden, Floating Treasures in the Natural State


Less Traveled Delta Utopia Hunters, Shooters Discover Resort Near McGehee

Plus Youth Is Served at Dry Run Creek

Age Doesn’t Matter at 28th Big Buck Classic

Central Arkansas Lakes Full of Crappie

pg. 42

pg. 32

pg. 38

2 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014




It’s the little things that make a vacation big. Like settling into a spa bath fed by a natural spring. Or spending a leisurely day fishing on a clear blue lake. For a big vacation that’s just a small tank of gas away, visit or call 1-888-SPA-CITY. #SpaCity Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 3

Not to step on the toes of our good friends across the hallway at our sister publication, Savvy Kids, but as this issue of Arkansas Wild began taking shape, we noticed a youthful feel to some of the stories, with opportunities for bonding in the outdoors enjoyed by parents with their children. We had 7-year-old Cooper Cannon of Elaine joining nine adults on the big stage of the Big Buck Classic in late January with his amazing buck, which scored 164-7/8 to finish in fifth place overall in the Classic. Cooper needed his dad’s and granddad’s help in lugging that monster back home, of course, but you also haven’t seen two prouder men than dad Kyle Cannon and grandfather Steve Cannon. The Cannons soaked up every moment of the Big Buck Classic late Sunday afternoon; little did they expect on Friday when they dropped off the rack that it would total out so well among 338 entries. Cooper Cannon’s deer mount had blue ribbons galore hanging from the antlers, including the championship of the youth division. Of course, a prouder dad there has never been than my brother, Stephen, who was sending photos by text all over the country of his daughter Catherine’s 8-point buck she took just after Christmas. Consider Uncle Jim also flabbergasted, too; when I was her age, my father took me for the first time (at least that I can remember) to his deer camp somewhere near McGehee. Sad to say, the “processing” of the deer was disturbing to me, and I rarely again desired to stand still for hours waiting for a deer to come into sight. Yet here was my little niece helping her dad clean her kill and beaming with pride, as I was for her. I told Stephen that after his tear-jerker of a story in our September issue about the passing of his beloved Lab, he had to come back with this 180-degree tale of a dad’s proud day with his daughter. Joey Moll, who I have gotten to know well through Junior Deputy Baseball, has been telling me about the great times he’s had with his boys and others trout fishing the Norfork. I finally told Joey, “You’ve got to write about a trout trip; I’ve really never been so I don’t know what I’d say.” He did, describing the thrill of two dads watching their boys grow up one cold weekend at Dry Run Creek. There is plenty more in this issue, from the growing interest in shooting sports, especially among youth — there we go again — to an examining of some hidden treasures for the canoeing set, to a profile of crappie opportunities abounding at Lake Maumelle and Lake Conway. Come to think of it, canoeing and crappie fishing would be great if the adults took a kid along, too. That theme just never seemed to escape us in this issue. So, sorry Savvy, but for the February Arkansas Wild: Youth is served. Thanks for reading, and keep your comments and suggestions coming to

Table of CONTENTS 12 16

20 24 28 32 37 38 42 46 50


Arkansas Wild looks at six rivers that probably don’t get the acclaim of some others in state, but are well worth the paddle.


Shooting sports are taking off among the state’s youth, particularly with innovative state programs and growing access to shooting ranges.


Real-estate developer Gary Gibbs rediscovered his honey hole after nearly a 30-year wait, and he’s turned it and surrounding acreage into the Delta Resort and Conference Center.


Express Boats has a long association with Arkansas, starting with its long-ago founding in Hot Springs.


Chuck Haralson of the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Dept. takes readers on a two-wheel tour of some prime views.


Seven-year-old Cooper Cannon joined nine adults, including eventual overall winner Ryan Sullivan, with the biggest bucks in Arkansas at the Big Buck Classic.


First shot with her Christmas present results in a first deer kill for young Catherine Harris, as a proud dad relates.


Lakes Maumelle and Conway are only a few miles apart, but they require different approaches to reeling in crappie, which are abundant in their waters.


Two dads take four boys on an unforgettable winter excursion to Dry Run Creek off the Norfork River.


Highlights for the outdoors lover.


Thanks to a throwaway line, and some expert help, the editor has a duck season to remember.

COVER PHOTO: The Kings River offers paddlers tranquility in many spots.

Arkansas Wild is Interactive Get everything Arkansas Wild has to offer every issue by reading the interactive edition on your computer or handheld device. Arkansas Wild is full of links to useful websites, apps, videos, documents, valuable hunting information, tutorials and more!

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Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 7

H o w Wa s Y o u r

Duck Season? Changing Weather Had Hunters and Birds Confused, but January Finished Strong By Craig Hilburn, Ducks Unlimited 8 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

As the old saying goes, there are two things you never talk about in a group setting: politics and religion. These topics invariably result in passionate debates by those who hold firm and unyielding beliefs. If you find yourself in the heart of Arkansas’ duck country in December or January, you can add duck hunting to that list. Stop by any small-town cafe in East Arkansas during duck season and you’re likely to hear a hearty debate on just about everything to do with ducks — where they are, how to call, when to call, how to spread your decoys ... you name it. If you find yourself in Arkansas in the fall and looking for conversation, just ask the closest camo-clad person how duck season has been. It’s impossible to get one common answer to that question, largely due to each hunter’s perspective on what constitutes a “good” duck season. For some, it’s about numbers of ducks harvested, while others may view the opportunity as more important. Such is the nature of duck hunting and duck hunters — one of the most passionate assemblages of sportsmen and women anywhere. From my perspective, the 2013-14 duck season in Arkansas was anything but normal. But that takes us to the old debate of trying to define “normal.” It seems like each season is so different than the last – the weather, the water, the ducks, the hunting effort – that there is no way to compare them accurately. Fortunately, scientists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are keeping unbiased tabs. Let’s take a look at what this past season held for the Natural State. Duck season began with very dry conditions across Arkansas. Reports from across the state indicated there were lots of ducks, but the majority were concentrated on private properties that had the ability to artificially flood fields and woods. Most public waterfowl areas are rainfall dependent, thus were dry or held very little water and ducks. November waterfowl surveys conducted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission the week before the duck season opened supported these reports. Observers counted an estimated 980,000 ducks in the state, with the majority in agricultural fields and reservoirs. Hunters

with access to these early flooded acres generally reported very good success during the early part of duck season. December was a tale of two seasons in Arkansas for weather and ducks. Several cities across the state reported record high temperatures on Dec. 4, including Stuttgart with a high of 79 degrees. Three days later, Stuttgart reported a second record — a low temperature of 21 degrees. Both ducks and hunters appeared confused by the drastic changes. It seemed from that point on, Arkansas was on a roller coaster ride of temperatures — a run of 60-degree days followed by a string of belowfreezing days. Unfortunately, for many hunters dependent on rainfall for flooding their favorite spots, much of the state remained fairly dry until significant rains arrived Dec. 2021. Quickly turning around the drought situation, much of eastern Arkansas received three to five inches of rainfall in 48 hours. That water opened up lots of habitat for ducks. It both brought them into new areas and gave them lots of room to spread out, so some hunters saw increased success while others found their honey holes abandoned. DECEMBER DUCK SHORTAGE

Keeping in mind that migration is motivated by what happens north of your hunting grounds, duck hunters are constantly watching for cold fronts they hope will push “new birds” into their areas. Harboring no ill will against our northern friends, Arkansas duck hunters pray for a lot of snowfall north of Arkansas to help bring ducks south. Well, our prayers for cold and snow were answered this year as much of the Midwest experienced bitter cold temperatures and significant snow accumulations. Finally, the ducks had to be here. December aerial waterfowl surveys by AGFC estimated about the same number of ducks as in the November survey (888,000), which was about half of the December average of nearly 1.6 million total ducks. Mallard numbers did increase significantly, making up over one-half of the total ducks counted, but even mallard counts were about half of the 2009-13 average. So, what happened? The moon and stars finally aligned and northern states were frozen and under snow, which is

Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 9

Jerry Holder Jr. of DU proudly has a stringer with three wood ducks (left) and gets help from his son gathering up the decoys.

10 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

what Arkansas hunters needed. But where were the ducks? The aerial survey by AGFC occurred in mid-December, before Arkansas received the heavy rains later in the month. All our prayers for cold and snow, and we forgot about water? The ducks definitely weren’t north of us. Apparently, the cold weather and ice in Arkansas, along with the dry conditions, caused ducks to keep on heading south — looking for warmer temperatures and water. Hunting reports improved as duck season progressed. Still, most of the harvest seemed to be on private lands until the heavy rain in late December. Afterward, good reports began to be heard from many of Arkansas’ public hunting grounds. The rising waters in many rivers were drawing

ducks and hunters. Still, there were grumblings of hunters not seeing as many ducks. Now we had the weather and the water, surely the ducks were somewhere. Aerial surveys by the AGFC on Jan. 6-8 did show an increase in ducks from December, but the numbers were still way below recent January surveys. Extremely cold weather in early January had most water bodies frozen solid. BIG MALLARD NUMBERS

Biologists noted that ducks were confined to major river floodplains and other moving water, or areas where large numbers of ducks kept the water open. Mallard numbers did show a significant increase. Of the 963,000 ducks estimated in January, 825,000 were mallards — the second highest mallard count in the last five years. According to AGFC biologists, the low overall duck numbers in January were not surprising given the extreme cold weather. Most non-mallard ducks appeared to have moved out of Arkansas due to the ice. Those that were brave or crazy enough to duck hunt during early January can probably relate — if you found open water, you likely found ducks. I was one of the crazy ones. The hunting was spectacular if you could stand the bitter cold. Finally, after the thaw began the second week of January, all the pieces seemed to be in place. There was

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plenty of open water, moderate temperatures, and ducks. The warming temperatures brought lots of ducks northward. Reports from hunters in late January were generally good, with many reporting that being the best part of their season. Arkansas’ duck season of 2013-14 definitely was one for the record books as far as the weather. Most hunters will agree Writer Craig Hilburn and his dog Canvas with on that, at least. Here’s the day’s harvest. hoping you were able to get out and enjoy good times with family and friends. Perhaps a memory or two was made over a cup of coffee and spread of decoys. More than ducks in the bag, sharing a sunrise over a marsh or glimmering through a stand of flooded hardwoods nourishes a special part inside many duck hunters. If that’s how you measure your duck season, then you probably have a good one every year. Craig Hilburn is Duck’s Unlimited Manager of Conservation Programs.

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Kings River 12 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014


streams and rivers Off the regular paddling path are canoe trails worth checking out. By Jim Harris Our endeavor didn’t seem so daunting at first: We’d highlight five or six rivers or water trails in Arkansas that don’t draw the same publicity as, say, the Buffalo River, and we’d highlight their plusses as springtime pursuits for paddlers. Right off the bat, we spoke with Debbie Doss of the Arkansas Canoe Club, and she presented us with a conundrum. “Well, do you mean most scenic or prettiest, or the best whitewater, or the most difficult padding? We have a lot of great streams and rivers in Arkansas,” said the club’s conservation chair. Yes, the state does have plenty from which the canoeist and kayaker can choose. In fact, author Tom Kennon in the most recent update of his groundbreaking Arkansas floating and canoeing book, “A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to the Ozarks,” lays out the land and water of 54 streams running in and around the Ozark mountains in Arkansas, plus another 10 that are in Oklahoma and Missouri. It seems that everyone has his or her favorites, and it often depends on the skill of the canoeist. For some, only the Class III or IV will do, where quite a bit of training and some daring is required. Others might want a Class I stream, where all is somewhat peaceful and easy and the Eagles are playing through earphones, cold brew and coozie in hand. Or maybe a Class II is in order where there’s a little bit of rock and thrill at a quick turn or two for the novice paddler. Streams and rivers are rated using the International Scale of River Difficulty. Waterways are divided into six classes, and within those classes include three additional grades (such as Class II+ or Class III-) so that there are 18 levels. Class V is the expert level and Class VI is extreme and exploratory and has runs that have rarely been attempted. We decided to narrow down our five choices to some Canoe Club members’ and others’ favorites of the unsung streams, focusing mostly on Class II or III waterways. What we came up with is not a be-all, end-all list. This

feature doesn’t signify that these five streams are the best of the bunch outside the ones everyone already knows. Some may know these as well as they know the Buffalo or the White, but relatively speaking they fall under the radar. What we can guarantee from the experiences we’ve heard is that you’ll have fun and you’re unlikely to forget the experience. These are waterways that don’t demand expert level in most spots, but they’re the kind of treks that will leave you wanting more. So, here we go:

Kings River begins: Near Boston in Madison County and flows north before running into Table Rock Lake in Missouri (Boston is also the headwaters for two other notable state streams: the Mulberry River and War Eagle Creek). Put-in: (a) Arkansas 74 two miles west of Kingston to Marble (U.S. 412); (b) Marble to Marshall Ford (c) Marshall Ford to Rockhouse. Distance: (a) 13.3 miles; (b) 11.25 miles; (c) 15.85 miles; river continues another 34 miles. Doss, who lives in Conway and has paddled most of the state’s best streams, says, “This is a really nice river for novices. A really pretty class I-II stream with beautiful, clear water. A lot of people do paddle it and it’s a great fishing river. It’s a little bit far away from Central Arkansas.” Kings River has been designated by the state as an Extraordinary Resource Water for its pristine nature and its biodiversity. “I have some good friends with the Nature Conservancy working diligently trying to preserve that river,” Doss said. “They’re getting land and bank stabilization, and lots of stuff is going up there to preserve that river because it’s so Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 13

beautiful. And it has a great biodiversity, a lot of different species because the water is clear and clean. There is an outfitter who rents canoes up there.” The particular first section of the Kings noted here, (a), has no major difficulties, Kennon writes, but one should be on the lookout for downed trees and brush piles. The second section, from Marble to Marshall Ford, has a faster pace and bluffs appear, according to Kennon. “This section is one of the better kept paddling secrets in Arkansas,” he writes. “The scenery rivals that of the Buffalo River without the crowds. Some of the bluffs in this section are just as spectacular as those on the upper Buffalo.”

opening trail. “This area is one of the best places for wildlife viewing because you’re paddling through woods instead of hiking,” Bartlow said. “You can do that so quietly – beavers sunning on logs, great blue herons, prothonotary warblers, barred owls, all kinds of woodpeckers. You usually don’t get to see things like that if you’re walking through the woods. Viewing from a boat is my favorite way to see wildlife.” Fishing is good on the bayou, especially for crappie, bream and catfish, Bartlow said. The area is popular with hunters seeking waterfowl and other game, especially during winter migrations. The trail is among Doss’ favorites; she said she’s paddled it many times and she helped jump-start the trail creation with the AGFC. “It’s every bit as spectacular in its own way as the Buffalo,” Doss said. “But it’s completely different. There are cypress trees that are between 800 and 1,000 years old. Just incredibly large, spread out, a braided stream through gorgeous swamp land.”

Little Red River, South Fork Bayou Deview Water Trail

Bayou DeView Water Trail Sheffield Nelson Dagmar WMA, Benson Creek Natural Area and Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe County. Distance: 15.2 miles. Camping: Primitive campsites available on Dagmar WMA. Bayou DeView Water Trail, meandering near I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis, is covered by a canopy of cypress and tupelo trees, some up to 1,000 years old and more than 100 feet tall. Although I-40 is sometimes within earshot, a paddler can find himself in his own world, lost in trees and thought. Bring a GPS or compass, though. Bayou DeView is a flat-water float, free of rapids at moderate water level. However, heavy rain and high water – usually during spring – can create dangerous situations as the bayou widens and rolls through the Big Woods. The trail has five access points. “When people experience it, they feel like they’re stepping back in time,” Kirsten Bartlow, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s watchable wildlife coordinator, said. The AGFC manages Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, which is on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. It has joined the Arkansas Canoe Club, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create this eye14 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

Clinton to Greers Ferry Lake (river begins as a creek about 20 miles west of Clinton in the Boston range of the Ozarks) Distance 3 miles from U.S. Highway 65 It flows under U.S. Highway 65 at Clinton before dumping into Greers Ferry Lake. “It’s got a twin stream there, too, the Archey Fork. Those are very rarely paddled but they are very nice whitewater streams,” Doss said. One possible put-in when the water is good is just off Highway 16 west of Clinton, off Shake Rag Road. Also, the South Fork runs by Clinton’s city park, bends south of town, and then takes a large southerly hook, then back northeast to the man-made lake. The South Fork Nature Center is located at 962 Bachelor Road off Highway 330 southeast of town. This is maybe the only paddlers’ stream that hasn’t made Kennon’s book, even in three printings of the 2004 edition. So consider it a real find and definitely a stream less traveled. While information may only be recorded within a 120-day measuring period, check the gauge height, precipitation, temperature and other variables for the river and many others via the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Streamflow Information Program on the Internet (waterdata. Little Red River

Saline River

river for novices.”

Little Missouri

Saline River Begins: Near Caney Creek Wilderness Area off Highway 38. Put-in: Below spillway at Shady Lake. Distance: 2.9 miles. As Kennon writes in his guide, don’t confuse this stream with the calmer Saline River in Saline County near Benton. When water spills over the Shady Lake Reservoir, paddlers “are treated to a very narrow and fast class III run below the lake,” Kennon writes. Hardwood forests line the banks, and abundant plant and animal life are part of the landscape. Now, farther down into Central Arkansas are the more tranquil forks of the Saline and easier paddling when there is water, and much of the undeveloped land along the banks is accessible only by boat. However, in the winter the river was not floatable. Call Saline River Canoe at 501749-2266 for information on when the river can be floated, as well as more information on floating the area. Saline River Canoe had relocated to the Ouachita River for the winter season. Doss says of the Saline in the Benton area, “This is a really nice Class II. It’s a fairly easy stream, a real pretty scenic

Canoe Club on the go The Arkansas Canoe Club has grown to 1,400 members and, though it carries “Arkansas” in its title, it has seven chapters in four states —Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. “The whitewater those people outside Arkansas go to paddle is in Arkansas,” said Debbie Doss, the conservation chair of the club. Elizabeth Caldwell, a journalist, is the club’s present. The Central Chapter is led by Tim Eubanks. On New Year’s Day, the Canoe Club annually tackles the Little Maumelle. This past New Year’s, the club had 37 boats participate. “It’s not a whitewater stream, it’s one of our eastern swamp streams. It just became a water trail,” said Doss, who suggested the river as a good trip for Central Arkansans, with its easy access at Pinnacle Mountain State Park providing an easy one-way trip of 4-1/2 miles to Pinnacle Valley Road. Some canoeists proceed eight miles

Begins: At Caney Creek WMA and flows southeast to Greeson Lake, cutting through Ouachita Mountains. Best put-in: Albert Pike Campground. Distance: 8.5 miles. Doss says, “It’s a small watershed and not as paddleable as some of the others. I’d call it an easier version of the Cossatot. It’s a really pretty stream, it’s got some flat parts.” Putting in above the Albert Pike Campground is not recommended. “It’s too small,” Doss said. “But if you put in from Albert Pike, it’s a beautiful river, very scenic. There are a couple of class III rapids on it. It’s one that I like real well. It’s a little challenging.” While the Albert Pike Campground is no longer open to camping because of the tragic flood there almost four years ago, canoeists can put it at the park. Kennon describes the first mile as “very exciting, with constant class II rapids, moderate standing waves and sharp turns. Paddlers can expect to find several rapids with large boulders in the river that require the ability to use eddies for scouting purposes.” Little Missouri

to Two Rivers Bridge. “It’s a really pretty float,” she said. “There are some flowing water down by the cypress knees when you first put in and then it opens up. When you look back you have Pinnacle Mountain right behind the cypress trees and you have kind of this prehistoric scene right before you. And to think it’s right by Little Rock. “For a great time to be still and watch wildlife, it’s really nice. Practically anybody can go out there and do that.” Watch it during flood times, but most of the time the water has little current and paddlers can work upstream or downstream, Doss said. The Canoe Club will expose canoeists to other like-minded folks. Doss said members “are always active. Whatever the weather is, even in the winter, we’re out.” Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 15

On target with

clay pigeons Youths the focus for sport to grow By Jim Harris

Joshua Gibbs takes a difficult crossing pair on the Bluewing Course at the Delta International Open near Tillar.

16 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

Imagine what the People for the Ethical Treatment international bunker trap, you got kids who want to of Animals (PETA) would think of sport shooting in shoot skeet, you got kids who want to shoot [American America if it were practiced the way it started in the Trap Association] trap, and kids who want to shoot 1800s in England. sporting clays. The term “clay pigeon” came about because, before “Even though it’s all done with a shotgun, each clay pigeons, shooting competitors would employ live of those are different disciplines that you have to pigeons for targets. When someone finally noticed the accomplish. It’s like you might play football, basketball, numbers of live birds dwindling, another someone baseball, golf or soccer, and all are played with a ball smartly developed a clay target, as well as a device to but you play them differently. Even though you do these “throw” it airborne in front of the shooters — hence the shooting sports with a shotgun, they are all different.” clay pigeon. Sporting clay competitions use anywhere from 10 to Such was the infancy of what we know now as 16 stations that toss clay targets, some at different sizes, shooting sports, which encompasses such disciplines as at various speeds and angles. It’s considered by most sporting clays, trap and skeet. shooters as the closest sport to actual field shooting. More than 6,000 youths in Arkansas are expected Basic trap shooting features targets thrown downrange to register this year for the Arkansas Shooting Sports from one centralized box. Skeet shooting, meanwhile, Youth Program (ASSYP), which was created in might throw targets high or low from a box or machine 2006 by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. on either side of the shooters. Meanwhile, the sport continues to draw more adult Besides his many tournament championships, Kelly participants as well. was the first master class shooter in Mississippi and New ranges such as the elaborate setup at the Delta a multiple all-state team member there. He’s been an Resort and Conference Center near McGehee (see instructor and coach for 18 years, including coaching related story on page 20) and public shooting ranges men and women on the National Sporting Clays run by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or Association’s Team USA. companies such as Remington Arms near Lonoke offer Interestingly, Arkansas’ youth program is influencing gun enthusiasts the opportunity to hone their skills. Kelly’s native state in improving the shooting Barry Kelly, general manager of the Delta Resort opportunities for its youth. and multiple winner of regional and major sporting “The Game and Fish commission in Mississippi is just clay championships, is the state’s new director of now starting to pursue it,” he said. “Tennessee has very the Scholastic Clay Target Program. His charge is strong clay target programs, all over the state, much like to continue to grow shooting sports among youths, Texas does. Tennessee has trap teams that compete in traveling to schools throughout the state and signing up sporting clays, trap and skeet.” boys and girls. The majority of sport shooters range in age from 45 “Right now, both Arkansas and nationally, it’s in a very to 65, Kelly said. Kelly hopes Arkansas can continue to pivotal point because of our youth shooting,” Kelly said. grow its numbers of youth competitors who can advance “We’ve got to get as many youth shooters involved in from state tournaments to regional events and on to shooting as we can. With all the anti-gun stuff out there national competitions. and video games, if we ever skip a generation in the “The numbers are up, however many million gun shooting sports, it will just die on the vine.” owners there are in the U.S., but we’ve got to get the The good news in Arkansas is that the numbers youth involved,” Kelly said. “There has to be a push continue to rise in the ASSYP, run by Chuck Woodson. on a local and state and national level to get as many The discipline involved in shooting used for the sports as we can. state program There are tens of is trap shooting. millions of dollars Kelly, who favors in [college] shooting sporting clays scholarships that go over the other unused every year.” disciplines, will Some of the top be working with younger shooters Woodson and in Arkansas, Kelly said, “What we’re said, are Austin going to try to do Odom from Little is get all these Rock and Kaley youth shooting Browning from programs Wooster. to overlap. About 80 Because, you’ve participants are got kids who expected in the want to shoot Bill McGuire takes aim as he strives to stay atop the leader board at the 2012 Delta International Open. McGehee area Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 17

April 2-4 for the Arkansas Junior Olympic Qualifier for international bunker trap shooting at the Delta Resort, the third year in a row that the AYSSP-sponsored event has been held there. Delta Resort will play host to the Arkansas State Sporting Clays Championship on Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27. The event is open to any age competitor. Registration can be found at The resort will hold the Delta International Open in September, an open event featuring both pros and amateurs, Kelly said. Meanwhile, the resort is open Top shooters enjoy the Delta International Open competition (L to R) Bill McGuire, Brad Kidd, Jr., Anthony Matarese, Jr.

18 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

every day for sport shooting and lessons. Kelly says that resort owner Gary Gibbs is “trying to build not only one of the nicest shooting resorts but getting kids involved in shooting and hunting.” Scouting and Shooting Not only does Barry Bray lead Little Rock area Boy Scout Troop 12, he’s also a National Rifle Associationcertified Level 1 shotgun coach. That allows Bray to take his charges weekly to learn how to shoot at Blue Rock Shooting Range, a private club where he is a member. Bray’s wife, Penny, is also a certified coach. They decided to earn certification when a planned Boy Scout trip to a shooting range was sidetracked by a parent worried that the group wasn’t in compliance with Boy Scouts of American safe scouting guidelines. Bray also knew that some boys in the troop who were competing in tournaments were not improving their skills. Some were using the less-dominant eye for targeting. From that need sprang Bray’s idea of starting a shooting venturing crew. Bray’s scouts, like participants in the AYSSP program, shoot trap targets from the “low” house on the typical No. 8 station at a shooting range. His shooters who have completed the AGFC Hunter Education course, which Bray teaches, are eligible to be on a competing team in the AYSSP, run by Chuck Woodson. “He’s just a phenomenal guy,” Bray said of Woodson.

Ashleigh Hafley is the 2012 DIO Women’s High Overall Champion. She is flanked by Jeremy Gibbs (L), Joshua Gibbs and Gary Gibbs, owner or Delta Resort.

“He and his wife both put this thing on. It’s just phenomenal what they do.” Like Kelly and Woodson, Bray endeavors to build the interest in youths for shooting. “The best thing for the kids is, you’ve demonstrated you can break clay at each station, now break 25 consecutive. That’s tough. Shooting is about 95 percent mental,” Bray said. “You can hit a golf shot, but to consistently do it and to putt good, that’s mostly mental. Shooting is like that.

“It makes the kids’ concentration level go up. It teaches them discipline, it gives them something to look forward to and it gives them a sense of accomplishment. It’s not a damn video game where you get points for it and all that.” As the son of a naval gunnery instructor, Bray took up shooting early in life, then got away from it for several years when he lived in Texas. He took it back up when the need for a certified instructor arose three years ago with his local troop. The Quapaw Council of the Boy Scouts has an active shooting sports program, Bray said, with a new skeet and trap range at Camp Rockefeller near Damascus. Remington Arms supports the Quapaw Council with ammunition, firearms, and safety equipment such as hearing and eye protection, he said. As a fund-raiser, the council puts on a sporting clays tournament every year for adults. “Shooting is a great, fun family sport when handled correctly,” Bray said. “And for youth, first of all, it teaches responsibility. I tell these boys, ‘Never forget that what you are holding in your hand can kill somebody.’ So there is great responsibility. But done correctly it is safe. In scouts there are more injuries in wood carving or basket weaving than in the shooting sports and in climbing.”

Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 19

A shooter’s utopia

in the Delta

Developer Gary Gibbs continues to build multimillion-dollar resort near McGehee. Story and photos By Jim Harris Almost from the first moment he laid eyes on the land and experienced its duck hunting in the late 1970s, Gary Gibbs told himself that if he ever made enough money he’d buy the Lester Banfield farming spread in Desha County. Nearly 30 years later, after building a fortune as a real estate developer and entrepreneur based out of Nashville, Tenn., Gibbs’ dream became a reality. “I had heard large parcel of land was for sale in an area, and it sounded like it was where I started hunting back in about 1978,” the Shreveport, La., native recalled. “Sure enough, when I checked it out, it turned out it that within the land was the very place where I had come up to hunt all those years ago.

20 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

“I walked in and told my wife, ‘I know it might take all I commercial hunting club, but that only accounts for 60 have, but we’re going to buy it.’” days in Arkansas’s usual season. There are 300 more Good for Gibbs, his wife was A-OK with that. days that Gibbs and his Delta Resort crew plan to put to Gibbs, who had been dealing with some health issues at use, too. the time, decided there was no point waiting any longer Gibbs envisions the Delta Resort as a regular site for major to purchase his dream. But that was just the beginning of national and international sporting clays competitions. what Gibbs has managed to do on his nearly 2,000-acre The facility has already entertained major professional property in creating the Delta Resort and Conference tournaments for the past two years and will serve as a Junior Center, smack in the middle of almost nowhere, between Olympic sporting clay facility qualifier in April. U.S. Highway 65 and state Highway 1, six miles or so north The property is dotted with ranges, which allows of McGehee. The address lists Tillar as the nearest town, shooters to enjoy trap, skeet, sporting clay, 5-stand, though it’s closer to Rohwer, which is most famous as the duck flurry and the FITASC discipline, plus Olympic site of the Japanese-American internment camp during shooting bunkers. World War II. Delta Resort’s general manager, Barry Kelly, was Gibbs is on the way to spending somewhere around instrumental in expanding the shooting range and the $36 million total on what is a duck hunter’s or shooter’s available quail and deer hunting at Tunica, Miss., resort, Shangri-La. He’s made use of tax breaks and the like for The Willows, before joining Gibbs at Delta. start-ups in severely depressed areas, of which Desha Kelly, a master-class shooter and a nationally County is one. certified instructor, was drawn to Gibbs’ vision of a Gibbs, whose family, friends and employees say is hunter’s paradise. hands-on with every project, started with a spacious “I came down to the first events Gary had at the resort lodge for family and guests that he ultimately designed in 2011 and helped run those events,” said Kelly, who lives and built himself. It wasn’t meant to be so stunning sitting in Greenville, Miss. “I came to help them, we got to know just across from a reservoir, it just ended up that way. It each other and Gary hired me.” came in handy a few years back for a major Little Rock law firm and lawyers from Chicago defending Bayer Corp. in a Ducks and Guns major civil case that took place in nearby Arkansas City. Anna Grayson, a Wabbaseka native and former But Gibbs was far from finished. McGehee schoolteacher, saw what Gibbs was planning Now, in the middle of rice, bean and milo fields, a hotel and signed on as resort’s de facto office manager, booking and conference center, complete with full-service bar and hunting parties and group and political gatherings and restaurant. A first-time visitor who happens upon Gibbs’ spreading the word about the Delta Resort. original, impressive lodge might first think (and expect) Kelly, who also serves as a guide for duck hunting that’s all there is, yet is soon wide-eyed by driving a little parties, also found his dream in Gibbs’ project. further up the road. “I saw his vision of trying to build the sport of sporting One two-story hotel appears on the right amid a grove clays and youth shooting, not to mention international of trees and asphalt parking. A three-story hotel has also bunkering and skeet and trap, all the shotgun disciplines,” been built just a few yards west and will be ready for occupancy in mid-March. The two buildings provide Gibbs with 132 rooms and 196 beds. The conference center has a large meeting room complete with the usual AV equipment and other amenities found at similar event facilities. The restaurant serves up fine dining from the sure hands of Chef Rodney Jones, who joined Delta Resort after years cooking in the Hot Springs Village area. Connected to the same building and opposite the conference center is a spacious hunting locker room with personalized placards for guests on their lockers. In between is a fully stocked Out-of-state hunters belly up to the bar with sporting goods store. Delta Resort GM Barry Kelly (far end). Delta Resort operates as a Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 21

Josh Gibbs (from left), son of Delta Resort’s owner, enjoys a hunt with guest Miles Goggans, Delta GM Barry Kelly, Goggans’ nephew Jack Thomas, and guide Jason Cole.

Kelly said. “But not only the shooting, my lifelong love is duck hunting. When you have a guy who has two things he’s very passionate about and you’re offering him that, you start drinking the reel.” Gibbs and friends hunted his land for the first few years he owned it before he began offering commercial hunting this past season. He moved dozens of trees to provide a green-timber setting in one area, while pit blinds were set up in many other areas, offering several hunting options depending on the wind and weather. Kelly said every hunting party that came to Delta this past season has already rebooked for next year, no doubt wowed by the accommodations and service. Hunters are driven in four-wheelers right up to the pit blinds with decoys in place. They return mud-free and happy, likely with a limit reached in a matter of minutes on some days. Even if the morning runs longer before the bag limit is attained, waiting for hunters back at the restaurant is a full buffet breakfast. Perhaps afterward, since the morning probably began around 5:30 a.m., a nap is in order. The midafternoon awaits with a chance to try 5-stand or other sporting clay target shooting. The night winds down with dinner and drinks. The chef likely has had fresh red snapper delivered through Greenville to the resort, and he might stuff it with shrimp and oysters and drizzle a Hollandaise sauce on top. Maybe a perfectly grilled and seasoned rib-eye is on the menu for the next night. When it’s time to go, the two days’ duck kill has been dressed and prepared for travel back home. Fishing and More Gibbs’ property could comfortably handle parties of up to 24 hunters for the 2013-14 season, and that will jump next season to 60 or more hunters when Gibbs adds another nearby acreage he is renting from local farmers once the rice harvest is finished. Gibbs also has fields at Delta Resort that are farmed, while some plots are left untouched for habitat maintenance. Just to the north of the conference center is one of several sporting clay stations and the Olympic-designed stations. A few hundred yards north of that is an L-shaped bass lake designed by famed professional Bill Dance (think 22 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

a golf course with a PGA star’s design touches, only with water and fish). The lake will be stocked with bass this spring, but it will not be ready for fishing for another two years as the bass grow. In the meantime, the property has yet another lake where lunker-sized crappie have been reeled in for the past couple of years. Someday, as Gibbs continues to develop the property, the Delta Resort might feature quail hunting, he said. He also anticipates employing more than 100 people at one point, in a part of the state that has been devastated by recession and unemployment. All the bigger towns along the two major highways near the resort have seen populations drop as farms became mechanized and fewer humans were needed to work. Jobs in other industries left, and people left the Delta. Gibbs has attempted to bring his business sense to change that direction. He is in partnership with George Dunklin of Arkansas County and others in expanding Internet service to the underserved Delta area. Gibbs has developed housing additions in recent months in McGehee, Lake Village and Warren. Where many see the Delta of Arkansas and Mississippi as desolate, Gibbs has seen opportunity. There has been interest in McGehee to honor the Japanese-Americans who were interred in Rohwer with a museum that would draw interest from coast-to-coast. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has developed the Freddy Black Choctaw Island WMA just beyond Arkansas City. The conference center and hotel complex is large enough to entertain companies with nearly 200 employees who could retreat and experience hunting, shooting and fishing in Southeast Arkansas. A sporting clays tournament that might draw 300 or more shooters from throughout the country would be an economic boon to the towns in the area. Where most have seen fields as far as one can see, Gary Gibbs has envisioned something special, something that wouldn’t have happened had he not experienced Arkansas duck hunting at its finest some 36-odd years ago.

One mallard drake among 11 teal, the day’s limit for two hunters.


Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 23

Hot Springs-based

Xpress Boats Trendsetter in Aluminum-weld boats

Family, beginning with founder Kermit Bryant, is hallmark of company Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” One supposes that must have been the mindset when the founder of Aluma Weld — which would later take on the name Xpress Boats — set out to resolve the problem of leaky, riveted aluminum boats.

24 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

Kermit Bryant knew there had to be a better way to manufacture a superior jon boat, and the best solution was to weld it, all of it. In 1966 Bryant began a quest, and “sharpening his axe” was the first step. The answer to joining two pieces of aluminum was by using an inert gas welding process, and to this day the technology Bryant pioneered in the boat business is still the standard for all that have followed. From humble beginnings out of an abandoned schoolhouse in Friendship (Hot Spring County), one man changed the boating industry by revolutionizing its manufacturing process, and the DNA of this company was firmly seeded for generations to come. As Aluma Weld began to grow, so did its reputation as the premier aluminum boat manufacture. And, as demand for this new all-welded boat increased, so did the needs of the company as it pertained to resources, facility and capacity. Where else does one go first to find talented assets? Your immediate family, of course, and that is exactly where Kermit Bryant found and nurtured the next generation of quality boat builders. Rodney Herndon, Bryant’s son in-law, proved to have the aptitude and vision to lead Xpress Boats to its next phase of growth. The quiet, humble sportsman took the reins of Xpress, and under his guidance, through good times and bad, the company has continued to flourish. The company’s growth prompted a move in 2000 from its facility in Friendship to Hot Springs. With 240,000 square feet under roof and acres of land to grow, this state-of-the-art plant employs more than 175 people. The maturity of the product line includes high performance bass, bay, crappie and catfish boats featuring an oftenimitated-but-never-duplicated Hyper Lift hull. The Hyper-Lift, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2014, is an engineered pad hull design capable of providing an amazingly fast, comfortable, dry ride that all discerning sportsmen desire. Many other manufacturers profess to have a pad hull design, yet none are capable of replicating the performance of the Xpress Hyper-Lift, according to an Xpress company spokesman. In addition to its high-performance line, the company also manufactures its Hydro Dynamic, HD:3, Bayou hulls for other models and applications. In 2006 a new line of boats emerged

from the Hot Springs plant. Veranda Marine, a luxury pontoon series with a patented interlocking deck system, revolutionizing the construction process in the pontoon industry. An all-welded, all-aluminum construction provides a stable, better performing platform. While most manufacturers are building their pontoons with plywood decks, Veranda Marine leads the industry by guaranteeing its deck construction for a lifetime of enjoyment.


The Herndon family views their employees as family. Whether it is Easter, Thanksgiving or just a random act of kindness, the Herndons will have meals served for all of their employees. In addition, archery and “baggo” tournaments are organized, drawings for big-screen TV’s and other prizes are held, and this family approach makes Xpress Boats and Veranda Marine one of the best places in the region to work, employees say. “When it is time to work, no doubt we work very hard to produce the finest all-welded aluminum boat on the market. Yet when it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labor the Herndon family is the first to express and demonstrate their appreciation,” said Skip McCallister, production manager. Xpress Boats and Veranda Marine have one of the most enviable dealer networks in the industry. These dealers represent the products, the brand and the reputation as true professionals and are as much a part of the family as anyone else, maybe more so. With an extensive list of dealers located from the Midwest to the Southeast, Xpress Boats and Veranda Marine are represented in most markets. Family-owned, family-operated is not just a cliché. Xpress Boats and Veranda Marine’s DNA is firmly secured with Rory Herndon, Rodney’s son, as the next generation poised to take the reins. Rory Herndon will lead the company with a talent and desire to remain on the cutting edge of technology with a clear commitment of quality that has preceded him. Rory Herndon’s boundless energy and hunger to exceed the successes of his forefathers sets the tone for great things to come. New markets, new products and better processes are the future of this successful Arkansas family company.

Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 25

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Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 27


Revving up the motor through Arkansas Photography by A.C. “Chuck” Haralson 28 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

Rest assured, Arkansans, the snow and ice of Winter 2013-14 will shortly be a thing of the past. When the obstacles of nature are gone, it will be time to hit the main roads and back roads again. Have you ever seen Arkansas while riding a motorcycle? Many highways in the state offer some of the most scenic views one could imagine. Maybe being on a bike isn’t your thing, or you haven’t tried it. A.C. “Chuck” Haralson of the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department takes you there with this photography spread, from Highway 14 near the community of Marcella in Stone County to the close-by area of Mountain View, to Petit Jean State Park and on to the Talimena Scenic Byway through the Ouachita Mountains. And, if this gets you excited to hop on a bike and check out this spectacular state, be safe and enjoy the ride.





6 8

7 1. Highway 14 by motorcycle near Marcella (Stone County). 2. Mountains, music and motorcycles — where else but Mountain View in Stone County. 3. Petit Jean State Park. 4. Petit Jean State Park. 5. Talimena Scenic Byway in the Ouachita Mountains 6. Talimena Scenic Byway in the Ouachitas 7. The curvy Talimena Scenic Byway meanders through the Ouachita Mountains. 8. More curves of the Talimena Scenic Byway through the Ouachita Mountains. Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 29

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Thanks to Arkansas Wild readers for sharing some of their photos on our Facebook page. Follow us on Facebook and feel free to share your outdoors pictures with us.

Rhonda Sylvester is a happy camper with this mallard.

Asa Henry a 12-year-old from Bryant, holds his first duck, shot at Bayou Meto WMA during the youth waterfowl hunt.

(Left) Jack Foster hooked this monster brown trout in a creek off the Norfork River. (Right) John Glidewell brought down this 9-point near Murfreesboro in mid-November.

Benjamin Luneau put his bow to good use in the fall and brought in this nice buck. Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 31

Starting young in search of a

Big Buck 19-year-old wins overall title, and a 7-year-old joins him on stage By Jim Harris Ryan Sullivan started hunting at about age 6 or 7, he said, so he could look back with admiration at 7-year-old Cooper Cannon, who was right behind Sullivan with eight other adults on the Barton Coliseum stage as the Big Buck Classic drew to a close. Sullivan, a bow hunter from Burdette in Mississippi County, was the overall winner of the Classic with a score of 212-1/2 inches for the antler spread of his massive buck. After a good half-hour of photos and interviews, Sullivan said he wished he could have shaken young Cooper’s hand before he left. No problem. Cooper Cannon, who finished in fifth place with a 164-7/8 score and whose deer mount was covered in blue ribbons from various category wins, was the last competitor waiting below the stage, and a new mutual admiration society had been formed by a 7-year-old and a 19-year-old with two of the biggest deer harvested in 2013 in Arkansas. They spent several minutes talking about hunting while equipment and scaffolding was loudly cleared from the coliseum floor, the 28th annual festival having wrapped up successfully with thousands of people attending the three-day event. In all, 338 deer were entered, topping last year’s record 333 deer. “I thought that was awesome,” Sullivan said of Cannon’s being on stage with nine adults. “What it’s all about is starting when you’re young. He’s already ahead of me because I didn’t kill a deer that big when I was that little. 32 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

So, he’s got a bright future ahead of him to already be killing deer that big. That’s pretty cool.” The Cannon family had dropped off the deer head and driven off for the weekend in Oklahoma before returning Sunday afternoon, not expecting such a big day for little Cooper. His answers for the media mostly were one word — “yep” or “sure” — but he did say he had plans for an “even bigger deer next year.” His father, Kyle, and grandfather, Steve Cannon, laughed. “He’ll be chasing that one the rest of his life,” Steve said knowingly. Kyle Cannon took his son hunting on the family farm near Elaine with a tripod for Cooper to rest his .270. Two weeks earlier, dad had brought down a deer as well. Cooper remembered the event as just standing in his stand before pulling the trigger. “His legs were moving a lot,” the boy recalled. “My dad was telling me to get up but I was so excited I couldn’t move. I needed some help getting it.” Dad and granddad were happy to oblige. Sullivan’s parents, Mike and Cynthia, on hand for the grand finale, were equally proud of their 19-year-old in his first entry into the Big Buck Classic. Sullivan won an assortment of prizes, including a 4-wheeler from Bradford Marine. Sullivan brought down his deer with a Mathews Heli-M compound bow and 100-gram railed broadhead arrow tip. He stood 25 feet above the ground on a lock-on tree stand. Sullivan had been watching this deer for four years on

trail cameras and had been running, just blowing like crazy. “I usually hunting it on weekends. Whenever she did, he took three hunt on He attends Arkansas State steps back into my opening.” transition University as an agriThe deer still ran about business major; he was 150 yards, Sullivan said, from food coming home on weekends before dropping. to bed, but throughout bow season to Sullivan guessed the deer was claim his long-sought prize. 7 1/2 years old. He had found this time it What he calls a perfect last year’s sheds that measured was during morning for bow hunting — roughly 193 inches. a sunny, clear and crisp fall I knew what I had ’cause I had the rut day — arrived Nov. 15. been watching him. It was more and he was “I usually hunt on transition of a bittersweet moment really chasing a from food to bed, but this time because that’s all I’ve been doing it was during the rut and he was for the last three years is hunting hot doe.” chasing a hot doe,” he said. “I was him and trying to kill him, and when in the middle of the woods where I I finally killed him it was like a weight know that they rut. lifted off my shoulders, because I finally “I run trail cameras on our whole got it done,” Sullivan said. property and I watch him pretty much all year He said the hardest part of hunting the deer was round … He’s pretty much nocturnal except during the rut. not telling anyone about it the past three years. “This During the rut was the only time I could catch him in the year I wouldn’t even send my dad a trail camera picture daylight. The last two years, I had seen him and he had because I didn’t want him showing it to anybody,” he said. just skirted a 60-yard circle around me. That was too far Sullivan said he hasn’t hunted with a gun in several years. to shoot with my bow. This year he came in.” He brought down an 8-point with a bow last season. His The buck was just 28 yards away and well within aim is to only hunt mature deer, such as this one in 2013. Sullivan’s comfort zone with the bow among thick woods. “It’s not going to change anything,” he said about his “He stood at 35 yards for 40 minutes, and I had to Boone & Crockett record book qualifier at 42 measured just stand there for 40 minutes in my stand before I got inches over the minimum. “I still love deer hunting and the shot. I wasn’t drawing the bow, just standing. He I’m going to kill a mature deer. It’s not so much about the decided to start walking towards me. When I drew my size as the maturity. If a deer is old or to his peak, I’m bow back, the doe that was with him saw me and took off going to kill him. That’s how this deer was.”

Ryan Sullivan is the 2014 Big Buck Classic overall winner.

Young Cooper Cannon had a big day.

Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 33

The Sullivans farm rice and soybeans near Burdette. The deer in that area feed on the beans, which Sullivan says provides them the best protein for growing large. “People ask me all the time, “How do you grow a big deer?” I tell them, ‘I just let them grow,’” he said. “People shoot 3 ½- or 4 ½-year-old deer and they wonder why they don’t have giant deer. Well, if you let them deer grow two or three more years ... obviously not every deer is going to be this big … but if you let ’em grow, they’ll get to their highest potential.” Along with the prizes Sullivan collected from the Big Buck Classic, he also ended up with a free hunting stand thanks to one of the booth operators on the coliseum floor. “After I won, this guy walked up to me and asked me if I’d take a picture by his stand,” Sullivan said. “I said, ‘I guess.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll give you a free stand if you’ll take a picture by it,’ so I said OK. We’ll see how I can shoot a bow out of it. He said he’s going to try to adjust it for me. But I don’t gun hunt, so we’ll see how I can shoot a bow out of it.”

Joe Martin brought back his Texas rattlesnakes exhibit, to the delight of many Classic attendees. Rock climbing kept the young ones entertained all weekend.

The line was long for the mechanical bull ride outside the coliseum.


Arkansas Big Buck Classic

Top 10 Overall Results Name Score Category Hometown County of Kill 1. Ryan Sullivan 212 1/8 Bow Burdette Mississippi 2. Scott May 205 7/8 Modern Gun Parkin Cross 3. Phillip Norton 165 3/4 Muzzleloader McCrory Woodruff 4. Sean Warmack 165 1/8 Muzzleloader Springdale Benton 5. Cooper Cannon 164 7/8 Youth/Modern Gun West Helena Phillips 6. Jarrod Hart 189 5/8* Modern Gun Benton Randolph 7. Jim Shempert 164 5/8 Modern Gun Marion St. Francis 8. Clay Eifling 189 1/2* Modern Gun Dumas Lincoln 9. Kagan Walls 162 1/4 Ladies England Jefferson 10. Blake Robbins 161 5/8 Bow Helena Phillips Note— * is a score of a non-typical rack (in inches), which affects the final placing. All other scores are typical scores. The rankings of the top 10 came closest to or exceeded the score needed to make the Boone & Crockett record book. A score of 170 typical and 195 non-typical are required to make the record book. 34 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

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First shot first deer A hunter and his 8-year-old daughter relish her first buck. By Stephen Harris I remember all too well how the actor William Conrad introduced the “Outdoor Life” television show on Saturdays back in the mid-1980s. “Outdoor life, where a man can be alone but never lonely.” This had no truer meaning, and his words resonated with me. Deer hunting had always been something I enjoyed alone. I have been on the deer stand from daylight to dark on many occasions, and never bored, never lonely. This mindset took a dramatic change this past deer season as my 8-year-old daughter, Catherine, accompanied me on a couple of deer hunts. I had taken Catherine and her 4-year-old brother, Sam, duck hunting and they loved it. My wife, Loretta, and I agreed it was time to get Catherine her own rifle and for her to start deer hunting with me. So on Christmas morning 2013, Catherine opened the box to her brand new Savage .243. The look on her face was priceless. I’m still not sure if it was the excitement of getting a new rifle or being scared to death of shooting the thing. Nevertheless, the next morning we were packed and off to the deer woods. We arrived in plenty of time for Catherine to fire off some rounds to get used to how the gun handled. I had sighted the gun a few weeks earlier and she was hitting the bullseye every time with her new gun. Although she had shot .22 rifles on several occasions, I was still very impressed. We geared up, jumped in my boat and headed for the north ridge of our hunting camp. I was taking her to my favorite deer hunting spot, a place I have killed many a buck, including one that just missed the 140-mark the previous year. We got to my ground blind around 2:30, a little earlier than I wanted because I didn’t want her to get bored. I had seen several small bucks and does and was fairly certain one of these would step out. We climbed in, set up the tripod, practiced shouldering her gun and discussed where the deer would likely appear. After that, her Nintendo DS was making all kinds of noises as I watched for deer. The problem was, no deer came 36 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

out. For the next two and a half hours nothing moved, including squirrels and birds. The woods were just dead. Catherine was getting anxious, and just about the time I thought she was going to say “I want to go,” I saw movement. I told myself that if it was a buck, not to overreact and make her nervous. Well that plan flew right out the window as soon as I saw his nice eight-point rack. I immediately put Catherine into deer frenzy when I announced, “That’s a good buck!” She got to her gun and placed it to her shoulder, just as the buck stopped in an opening. “Just put your crosshairs on his shoulder and squeeze the trigger,” I said in an overly exited manner, I’m sure. The buck crossed the opening but she didn’t shoot. I asked her why she didn’t and she exclaimed, “I’m too nervous!” This situation was obviously created by me, but I got lucky. The buck stopped, turned around, and walked right back into the opening. Catherine got her second chance. This time she fired and the buck went straight down. I couldn’t believe it; I grabbed her and hugged her like I never had. I have killed many deer in the past, but nothing came close to the excitement I was feeling then or to this day. That night she was the talk of the camp. She had to tell the story over and over. I was sending pictures all over the country, showing the world what my little girl did. This solitary deer hunter is not interested in hunting deer alone again. Even though circumstances will dictate that I will, I’m already thinking a 7mm-08 ought to do quite nicely on my son’s first deer hunt. We shall see. The writer, who is the younger brother of Arkansas Wild editor Jim Harris, is an avid outdoorsman and employed as a pilot and instructor at Camp Robinson as a chief warrant officer. He wrote an earlier piece for Arkansas Wild last September about the passing of his longtime hunting companion, the black Labrador Woodrow. We decided he needed to tell readers a happy Daddy hunting story this time.

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Local angler Mark Hedrick chooses to cast for crappie on Maumelle instead of jigging or trolling.

A Tale of

Two Fisheries Neighboring Lake Conway and Lake Maumelle Are Worlds Apart By Randy Zellers

38 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

About nine miles separate the shores of Lake Maumelle west of Little Rock and Lake Conway to the north. Both were made by man and both produce strong stringers of fish during winter for anglers who know their secrets, but their purposes and their personalities are worlds apart. “The real dividing line between the two is the Arkansas River,” said Matt Schroeder, fisheries management biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “That’s what separates Conway in the Arkansas River Valley and Lake Maumelle in the Ouachita Ecoregion.” At 6,700 acres, Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir was constructed in 1948 by the AGFC to provide angling opportunities for residents of Central Arkansas. It remains the largest reservoir constructed by a state conservation agency and a hot spot for fishermen throughout the state. “I’m partial because it’s in my district, but I think Lake Conway is the best all-around fishery in the state,” Schroeder said. “It’s extremely productive, with lots of nutrients flowing into the lake, which is good because it’s too large for us to fertilize to increase productivity.” Those nutrients fuel massive plankton blooms, which feed shad and other baitfish at the base of the lake’s food web. “The lake is basically an old flooded forest,” Schroeder said. “In fact, the biggest problem most anglers have fishing the lake is figuring out which cover holds the fish.” Many anglers continue to sink brush and other cover to increase their chances at a good catch of crappie, bream or bass, which seems like adding one straw to a hay bale, but Schroeder explains the benefit of the brush. “Most of the natural cover is now simple stumps, but this brushy, more complex cover concentrates fish better.” During winter, anglers often find crappie stacked up on Conway in what would seem an unlikely area. The upper reaches of creeks, particularly Gold Creek, tend to hold large populations of papermouths during the coldest part of the year. The middle of the creek and an adjacent pond reach 10-12 feet deep, but many crappie are plucked from 40-degree water only a few inches from shore. “I think we give fish a little too much credit sometimes,” Schroeder said. “There are only a few things that make fish do what they do – reproduction, food and shelter or comfort. In a lake as shallow as Conway, runoff entering the lake in winter is warmer than what is in the lake. Shad follow that warm water upstream. The crappie are looking for food, so they follow the shad.” Schroeder says he’s been fortunate enough to go fishing with some Lake Conway regulars and has learned a lot from them about the practical side of fisheries management. “A local angler, Chris Johnson, showed me some practical meaning to barometric pressure and fishing on Conway,” Schroeder said. “There have been studies on barometric pressure and fish activity, but Johnson

The lack of nutrients in Maumelle may not produce the sheer volume of fish found on Conway, but its deep water and sparse nature help concentrate the fish for anglers who know where to look. breaks it down from years of observation at Conway. If the pressure’s high, fish the deep part of the creek and pond; if the pressure’s low, go shallow.”


While anglers pursuing crappie on Conway rarely probe more than a few feet deep in winter, Maumelle fishermen are dredging the bottom as deep as 30 feet to fill their live wells. Lake Maumelle was created as a drinking-water reservoir for Central Arkansas. Most of the timber in the 8,900-acre area was scoured from the lakebed before the deep, clear reservoir was impounded in 1956. “Decaying wood and vegetation add nutrients to the water,” said Ben Batten, AGFC fisheries management biologist for the Little Rock area. “Central Arkansas Water tries to limit any organic input to the lake to preserve the quality of the drinking water and minimize the steps they must take to treat it before it reaches our faucets. Anglers can’t place additional cover on the lake for the same reason, but CAW and the AGFC have worked together to add artificial cover that won’t rot like natural vegetation.” The lack of nutrients in Maumelle may not produce the sheer volume of fish found on Conway, but its deep water and sparse nature help concentrate the fish for anglers who know where to look. “When one resource is limited, it becomes more valuable,” Batten said. “If you find a stump, brush pile or other cover in deep water on Maumelle, mark it with your GPS unit. Even if no fish are on it right then, it may likely be a hot spot during a different time of the year.” Local angler Mark Hedrick has been working the depths for Maumelle crappie for years, and he offers these tips for finding and catching fish on this tricky reservoir. “Study a topo map to get an idea of where the main channel of the lake runs,” Hedrick said. “Then spend some time just motoring around, watching your depth finder and marking the edges of the channel on your GPS. Anywhere along that channel that has some cover is likely to hold some fish, but pay particular attention to sunken Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 39

Winter is prime time for slabs at lakes Conway and Maumelle.

bridges, culverts and river turns. That’s where washed out trees and artificial structures will accumulate.” Hedrick says he always keeps an eye out for loons when he’s looking for crappie in the winter. “If you go outa there right now and see a loon swimming out in the middle of nowhere, I guarantee he’s found some fish and is likely sitting on the edge of the channel somewhere,” Hedrick said. “Get out there and watch your sonar. The schools of crappie will look like haystacks sitting just off the bottom.” Instead of the traditional vertical jigging or trolling approach, Hedrick prefers casting and retrieving a jig and twister-tail grub at a snail’s pace to find his fish. “Almost all the bass anglers I’ve shown it to really enjoy fishing for crappie this way,” Hedrick said. “Just pitch out 40 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

a marker buoy over the cover you’ve found, back away and cast to it, letting the jig sink to the bottom before crawling it back to the boat. If you think you’re going slow enough, slow down some more. Even stop occasionally.” Slow presentation is one thing both lakes have in common. “When it’s cold, everything’s metabolism slows down and fish just aren’t going to chase things very far,” Hedrick said. “That’s why they’re concentrated like this where the shad are. It’s like having the table right next to the buffet.” This article appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of Arkansas Wildlife magazine, produced by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. To subscribe, visit www.agfc. com or call (800) 283-2664.

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T r o u t

F i s h i n g


DRY RUN CREEK Dads turn the fly-fishing over to their boys. By Joey Moll and Jeff McKay Sure it’s important for young boys growing up to experience touchdowns, home runs, game-winning baskets or to earn fairly good grades on report cards. But none of those events will define and lay the groundwork for lifelong relationships and memories like a campfire, a fishing or hunting trip or a hike or walk in the outdoors. Arkansans, blessed to have a large expanse of great outdoors, should go look at it with their kids. You have the Arkansas wild inviting you.

42 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014


Two dads found mommas — were as good as it themselves sitting around in can get. January with cold weather We awoke Saturday morning full on. Youth basketball to frozen RV pipes, but that did was in midseason and even not deter our overwhelming preseason baseball practices excitement and high were in full swing. But expectations of Dry Run Creek. something else was begging. The boys chattered, yelped DRY RUN CREEK So we loaded up Landon and cheered with expectations McKay, Carson McKay, Eric of catching “the big one,” FISH HATCHERY Moll and Logan Moll for an possibly even breaking state, RV camping trip to Mossy national and world records in Shoals and Dry Run Creek, the process. As genuinely as a trip that would likely be possible, each kid committed the grand finale into the his support to the others in the Arkansas wild for the next event they happened to hook several months to come for onto the world record. It’s quite these busy boys. an event for dads riding with four boys ages 10, 12, 13 and Dry Run Creek is an amazing place and a blessing for 13 and listening to their thoughts and plans and pleasures youth. It is a catch-and-release stream for youths under of the Arkansas wild. 16 and fishermen with disabilities. A single barbless hook Saturday brought bluebird skies, with some expected is required, too. Dry Run Creek runs parallel with the high winds later in the day. Only one car was in the Norfork Hatchery and spills into the Norfork River. parking lot at Dry Run Creek, which seemed a little A Friday night campfire was a prerequisite at our unusual. The truck had not come to a complete stop RV campsite. The temperatures fell into the teens. We before its doors flew open. Scurrying and chattering all discussed the weekend’s itinerary and just how much the way around to the tailgate, four young fly fishermen, activity we could fit into it. completely filled with excitement, began the daunting task Although the campfire was warm and refueled the of preparing their gear. spirit, the cold forced the six of us into the warm RV. Logan, the youngest of the Moll boys, completely Electronic devices should be and typically are disallowed overcome by the excitement, had to be the first to the on our trips; however, we brought along a television. river. It wasn’t long before the other three followed in. But The old reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show,” with some the younger Moll had already brought one fish to hand, popcorn and late-night sodas — please don’t tell their followed by a larger trout ripping off the fly and tippet —

Landon McKay and Eric Moll with doubles. Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 43

Logan Moll proudly displays his rainbow hooked at Dry Run Creek.

the opportunity to hone in their outdoor skills, to plan, discuss, implement and catch their trophies. There were no teachers, no coaches and no parents watching from the stands. There were no fouls, penalties, or flags on the play. There was no overzealous coaching, no homework — none of that stuff. There were no phone calls, text messages, instant messages or emails. But there was tranquility, excitement, blessings, hugs, high-fives and laughter and echoes of cries of “FISH ON, DAD!” Most importantly, four young men and dads (guides) enjoyed and treasured and protected the outdoors of the Arkansas wild.


that was dad’s fault, of course. This was the first time we had seen Dry Run Creek this quiet and free of young fly fishers, which was OK for this particular day. (Parents, if you’ve never been here, you must add this to your list of Forced Family Fun trips. It does not matter if you are well versed in fly fishing or the outdoors; there are fly shops in the area and around Arkansas who are more than willing to assist.)


To our young fly fishers’ delight, the trout were sipping their daily meals below the surface and willing to provide the excitement of a fun fight. I sat with Eric for a long while watching him lay out the fly line so graciously, and Landon McKay would soon join us. It wasn’t long before it was trout versus fly fishermen, with several instances of doubles on lines. I sat and watched and admired these two young men do what two young men should do more often. Landon and Eric were laying out fly line and fly as artistically as I have ever witnessed. If you get a chance to sit and watch a talented fly caster perform his motions, it is simply gorgeous. Landon’s choice of fly was a red soft hackle, while Eric decided on the olive soft hackle. Obviously their choices were spot on because of the numbers being caught. Each fish brought to hand had to be larger than any other fish, of course. And each fish was respectfully handled and released. I sat and watched these young fly fishers doing it right, and I’ll never forget these moments. I was the guide netting the fish, I was the photographer taking pictures of what will be life-long visual reminders, and I was a “dad,” not a father. Throughout the day, Jeff’s reports about the two younger fly fishermen, Carson and Logan, would come in. These two took on the stalk, cast and catch method. They were portraying their most inner being of what nature created men to be, and that was to be in the outdoors. The day went on until late afternoon when, with some major resistance, the four fly fishermen had to untie the fly, break down the fly rods and leave. It was difficult for the dads to leave, too. On this day the youngsters had 44 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

Sunday morning began with the young fly fishermen waking up early to dress appropriately for the cold and head out for what likely was the final archery hunt of the season. The four made their way to two different stands, and I watched happily from the warm dining room table in the RV. No picture or any words could fully describe the emotions I had watching these four young men journey out on their own into the Arkansas wild. I wondered if this journey for these young men is the part of commencement to explore on their own the wilderness of life. Carson returned around 9:30 a.m., shivering just a little, and button-poppin’-proud to show dad his camo-painted face. There stood, before his dad, bow in hand and larger than life, a young outdoorsman who just completed his first archery hunt. Before it was time to pull out, the weekend at Mossy Shoals concluded with burgers and hot dogs over the campfire — unfortunately without ketchup and mustard, yet another result of dads planning and buying the groceries. Arkansas has many fine dining establishments, but there’s no better meal than a campfire cookout with family and friends beginning with a blessing in the Arkansas wild. When you decide to visit Dry Run Creek, teach your youths how to respect the surroundings, the ethics of fishing next to others and, most importantly, respecting the livelihood of the fish. Remember, you are now the parent being the guide to what are the future guides in and of the Arkansas wild. Joey Moll is a senior vice president at OneBanc, a devoted volunteer coach for Junior Deputy Baseball, a father of four boys and a huge fan of the Arkansas outdoors. Jeff McKay also loves taking his five boys and one daughter to the outdoors.

Carson McKay with a big smile and a big rainbow.


Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 45

calendar events LITTLE ROCK 5K

March 1-2: Celebrate the 12th anniversary of the Little Rock Marathon race weekend. The 5K kicks off the weekend beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. The marathon, half marathon and 10K are Sunday. The “race for every pace” starts in the River Market at President Clinton Avenue and Sherman Street. The 5K is a running and walking tour through the scenic streets of Arkansas’ capital city. For more information contact Geneva Hampton at (501) 371-4639 or via e-mail


March 2: Have you ever wanted to hike the Ouachita Trail or any of Arkansas’ other backpacking trails? Join us as we cover advanced hiking information for those who wish to hike long stretches of trail. Advance payment and registration required. Admission: $5 per person. For more information call Pinnacle Mountain State Park, (501) 868-5806.


March 6-8: It’s time for the Annual Spring Mountain View Bluegrass Association’s Bluegrass Festival. This twice-annual event is held at the Ozark Folk Center State Park and is sponsored by the Mountain View Bluegrass Association. Contact the Mountain View Bluegrass Association,

46 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014, for tickets and complete list of performers.


March 7-8: The Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program (ANASP) State Tournament will take place at the Summit Arena in Hot Springs. For more information contact program coordinator Curtis Gray at (870) 319-5136.


March 7-30: Make DeGray Lake Resort State Park your spring break destination. Hiking, boating, kayaking, games, crafts and much more are here for you to enjoy while taking a break from your studies. The park has activities scheduled every day to make your break enjoyable and memorable. The golf course, marina, horse stables, Blue Heron Spa, Shoreline Restaurant, tennis court, basketball court, hiking trails and every other facility will be open. For more information call (501) 865-5810.


March 8: This event will take place in Brinkley, take exit 216 and travel ½ mile north on Hwy. 40. There will be antique tractors, trucks, engines and more. Contact Lonnie Caudle at (870) 734-1539 or via e-mail for more information.


March 8: The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Since 1984, the RMEF has protected and enhanced over 6.3 million acres of wildlife habitat. RMEF also support hunting heritage programs and help restore wild elk herds. Along the way, RMEF has helped open access to nearly half a million acres for public hunting and other recreation. The RMEF believes that hunting is conservation. Hunters and anglers were among the first crusaders for conservation and RMEF remains today’s most important conservation leaders. The RMEF is encouraging everyone who supports hunting and conservation to get involved and take greater pride in our legacy. For more information about contact Louis Schluteman at 479-965-5317.


March 8: This event will take place at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center (602 President Clinton Avenue, LR). Event time: 2 p.m. First Impressions: Simply Snakes will be the topic for this event. Slithery, sneaky snakes can be scary, but after you take a close look, you’ll see that they’re beautiful in their own way. Come with us as we show you a glimpse of the world from these bellycrawlers’ point of view. For more information call the center at (501) 907-0636 ext. 104.


March 8: Country singer Billy Currington will play Verizon Arena with special guests Brett Eldredge and Chase Rice at 7:30 p.m. For more information visit or


March 8: With March being Archeology Month

in Arkansas, spend a day finding out about the archeological treasures of Petit Jean Mountain, including the genuine American Indian pictographs of Rock House Cave. Contact the park for a schedule and more information at (501) 727-5441.


March 9: Take a hayride through fields and woods followed by a cozy campfire. Blankets and snuggling recommended. Advance payment and registration is required. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children ages 6-12. For more information or to make a registration call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at (501) 868-5806.


March 14: Native Arkansas will take visitors on a tour of the state at a time when Euro-Americans began to explore the territory that eventually became Arkansas. Visitors will experience early Arkansas through the eyes of some of the first Euro-Americans to write about the state and will encounter some of the native flora, fauna and geology of the state’s five geological regions. For more information call the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at (501) 320-5700 or visit


March 16: Spring is a great season to take a boat cruise on Lake Maumelle. Many migrating animals are arriving from the south to nest for the summer, while the rest are preparing for the long journey up north to Canada. A park interpreter will serve as your guide and help you to discover ways the animals change to get ready for summer. Three cruises are scheduled throughout the day. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children ages 6-12. Advance payment and registration is required. Call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at (501) 868-5806 for more information or to make a reservation.


March 18: Take off from the Big Maumelle boat launch and experience the beauty of spring on this guided evening canoe float. Admission is $35 per canoe. Advance payment and registration is requiredd. Call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at (501) 868-5806 for more information or to make a reservation.


March 22: Winter is ending and families can enjoy a variety of spring activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Heifer Village. Take photos with our animal guests from Heifer Ranch such as sheep and chickens, and learn how livestock can change lives for farmers in need. Kids plant seeds to take home and explore the education garden, or “bee” an explorer to learn how bees can help gardens grow and provide income for families. Come see what spring discoveries you might find throughout the wetlands and have some fun with our interactive games. For more information call (501) 907-2697.


March 24-29: Kids can create their own “sheep”

craft to take home and learn more how animals provide materials like wool that can be made into marketable goods such as gloves, scarves and blankets. Visitors also learn about a simple technology used in the developing world to stop erosion, called an A-frame. Participants will see a bee hive, try on beekeeping suits, and create pollination mobiles to take home while learning about the benefits of bees in the garden. Free admission. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information call (501) 907-2697.


March 28: Cher’s previous tour “The Farewell Tour,” later dubbed “The Never Can Say Goodbye Tour,” was one of the most successful tours ever by a solo artist and played for a record-breaking 325 dates and seen by more than 5.5 million people. Cher will play Verizon Arena at 8 p.m. For more information visit or


March 29: The first Fort Smith Ducks Unlimited Western Arkansas Duck Gumbo Cook-Off runs from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Join us for a one-of-akind event in this part of the state. Cooking begins at 10 a.m. Doors open to the public at 11 a.m. Live entertainment by Tragikly White from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Judging 2-3 p.m. and awards at 5 p.m. For entry fees or more information contact David at (479) 806-7761 or via e-mail


March 30: Take off from the Little Maumelle boat launch and experience the beauty of spring on this guided 4.5-mile paddling adventure. Prior experience is not required but participants should be comfortable around water. Admission: $35 per canoe. Advance payment and registration is requiredd. Call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at (501) 868-5806.


April 4-6: The rocky, rolling terrain of Devil’s Den State Park will make your brakes squeal with excitement during this family fun weekend of mountain biking. There will be guided rides for every skill level from the little trikes to daredevil pedalers. All riders are required to wear a helmet. Contact the park at (479) 761-3325 for a complete listing of the fun events.


April 5: Having something homemade in your own home is a rare gift to have. This month at the Plantation Agriculture Museum in Scott we will be exploring the cold process of lye soap making. Come out and make your own homemade gifts. Visitors will each receive a pamphlet of soap recipes, several bars of soap, and memories to take home. Wear appropriate clothing and close-toed shoes. Bring lunch or visit some of the local eating places. Space is limited and reservations are required; call (501) 961-1409. Admission: $25.


April 5: Join amateur astronomers at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park visitor center for an evening with the stars and other celestial phenomena. As twilight settles in, the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society will provide telescopes for viewing objects in the night sky. If cloudy skies prevent observation, an indoor program on astronomy will be presented at 8 p.m. For more information call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at (501) 868-5806.


April 5: This is a daylong celebration to honor, remember and welcome home Vietnam veterans. Due to the controversial nature of the Vietnam War, returning soldiers were not given the greeting they deserved and some were publicly mistreated. Through this celebration the Jacksonville Museum of Military History hopes to provide Vietnam veterans an official welcome home with an opportunity to fellowship and share their experiences and war stories in a safe and friendly environment. It’s also an opportunity for the public to express their gratitude. The day consists of a parade, Honor and Remembrance Ceremony, and dinner on the grounds. For more information contact DannaKay Duggar at (501) 241-1943.


April 5-6: It’s all for the birds. Programs all weekend will feature our feathered friends, including hummingbirds, raptors, waterfowl, backyard birds and more. Contact the park for a detailed program schedule at Pinnacle Mountain State Park (501) 868-5806.


April 10-13: FLW is a tournament fishing organization providing unparalled fishing resources and entertainment to our anglers, sponsors, fans and host communities. Through a variety of platforms including tournaments, expos, international media, and creative marketing strategies, FLW is committed to providing a lifestyle experience that is the best in fishing, on and off the water. Location: Prairie Creek Park. For more information contact the Rogers Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-364-1240.


April 12: Enjoy crafts, games, children’s books and outdoor activities designed to teach kids about caring for the earth and other people. Activities are geared for children in grades K-5, and all materials are provided by Heifer Village. For more information call (501) 907-2697.


April 12: This event in Stuttgart kicks off with a 5K run/walk, followed by a bratwurst cook-off, Germanic beer and wine tastings, a live polka band, children’s activities, food and beverage vendors. Spring 2014  Arkansas Wild | 47

calendar events Race starts at 9 a.m. at the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie located at 921 E. Fourth St. For more information contact Melanie Baden at (870) 673-7001.


April 12-13: Over 100 exhibitors from more than 10 states will join us to fill more than 200 booths at the Conway Expo Center. Shoppers will find architectural salvage, old advertising, antique toys, linens, primitives, glassware, antique furniture and much more at the show. 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and noon until 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $5 adults, $1 children ages 12 and under. For more information contact Ashley Norris at (501) 230-5728.


April 18-20: This annual spring celebration at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View features handmade crafts, frontier life demonstration, parade, lots of folk, mountain and bluegrass music, dancing on the courthouse square, and window decorating contest. A great fun family festival weekend marking the Ozark Folk Center’s season opening. Free admission to the Crafts Village during this weekend. Free shuttle from downtown to the Folk Center. For more information contact Delinda Hanrahan at (870) 269-8068.


April 18-20: Arkansas was the edge of the American frontier in the early 1800s. Witness the rugged life of explorers and trappers at this time as re-enactors dress in traditional period attire and camp in authentic lodges and tents. Demonstrations include the crafts, games, and survival skills needed during the era of the fur trappers. Admission: free. Event place: Woolly Cabin in Greenbrier. For more information contact Woolly Hollow park at (501) 679-2098.


April 19: The Arkansas Earth Day Foundation hosts the 2014 Earth Day Festival from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Come have fun while discovering how Heifer International is working to end hunger and poverty while caring for the earth. Free admission. For more information contact Heifer Village at (501) 907-2697.


April 19: Discover astronomy with members of the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Activities include solar viewing in the afternoon, special indoor programs, and viewing through telescopes from 9 to 10 p.m. Clouds permitting, the evening’s 48 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

telescopic sights include several planets, the moon and other celestial objects. This is a great, free family-friendly activity for all ages to experience. For more information contact Pinnacle Mountain State Park at (501) 868-5806.

this guided 4.5-mile paddling adventure. Prior experience is not required, but participants should be comfortable around water. Advanced payment and registration is required. Call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at (501) 868-5806. Admission: $35 per canoe.



April 24: Main Street Russellville’s award-winning tasting party and fund-raiser event featuring a delicious assortment of food and drink provided by River Valley restaurants, caterers, vineyards, and food service institutions. Live entertainment provided throughout the evening by local musicians. For more information call Main Street Russellville at (479) 967-1437.


April 24-27: For more than 10 years, this threeday celebration of classic rock and motorcycles has attracted more than 10,000 visitors. Whether you love motorcycles, music of the ’60s and ’70s, contests and games, great food, or just the idea of the “Ms. Wild Hog” beauty pageant, this festival has something for you. Admission: $20 without bike, $30 with bike. Location: Wild Hog Saloon and Main Stage in Helena-West Helena. For more information contact Jeff Steele via e-mail at


April 25: Gates open at 10 a.m. at Saracen Landing, Pine Bluff. Kidz Zone from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Live band performances and line dancing start at noon. Mouth-watering catfish and gumbo samples ready at noon until pots are empty. Winners announced at 4 p.m. For more information contact Trudy Redus at (870) 536-0920.


April 25-26: This arts and crafts festival at Spring Park in Heber Springs is loaded with fun and activities for the family. Live music, festival foods, barbeque cook-off, beauty pageant, dog race, inflatables, a butterfly pavilion and more. For more information contact Melisa Gardner at (501) 362-2444.


April 27: This event begins with a special Jewish breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The festival then runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes traditional Jewish foods such as old-fashioned corned beef sandwiches, lox, bagels and cream cheese, kosher hot dogs, rugelach, and many more wonderful Jewish delicacies. The Jewish Food Festival also features cultural and religious booths, an exciting kids area with plenty of activities, and live musical entertainment. Free admission. Location: War Memorial Stadium. For more information contact the Jewish Federation of Arkansas at (501) 663-3571.


April 27: Take off from the Little Maumelle boat launch and experience the beauty of spring on

May 1-3: Benefit charities. Free admission Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Location: Summit Arena, Hot Springs. For more information call the Central Arkansas Corvette Club at (501) 851-8550.


May 2-4: From local and national entertainment to kids entertainment; from art and crafts to anything you can eat on a stick; from the 5K/10K race to the World Famous Toad Races, Toad Suck Daze has something for everyone. This free admission family festival has awarded more than $1.3 million to education initiatives in Faulkner County. For more information contact the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce at (501) 327-7788.


May 3: Bring the whole family to Nature Cabin in Hot Springs to learn the importance of native habitats and the unique relationships between native plants and animals. Guided trail walks, demonstrations and more. Free. For more information contact Lake Catherine State Park at (501) 844-4176.


May 3: Children 12 and under, bring your bike to Lake Dardanelle Park for a bicycle rally. Learn more about the park, the history and nature of the area, and about bicycle safety and skills. Register upon arrival at the Fishing Tournament Weigh-in Pavilion, Russellville. For more information contact Lake Dardanelle Park at (479) 967-5516.


May 3-4: Pioneer Village is a collection of 19th century buildings, farm equipment, and other items of historic interest saved from throughout White County by the White County Historical Society. Crafters, Dutch oven cooking, live music, pioneer demonstrations, and food is what you will find at this event. Crafted items for sale. Free admission, donations accepted. Location: Late 1880s village, Searcy. For more information contact Elizabeth Heard at (501) 580-6633.


May 3-4: Join us for our popular overnight kayaking adventure. The trip includes meals and evening programs as well as information on the history, geology and wildlife of Lake Ouachita. Bring your own kayak and supplies or rent them from us. Space is limited; make reservations early. Meeting place: Marina Boat Ramp, Lake Ouachita. Admission: $85. Contact Lake Ouachita State Park at (501) 767-9366 for more information.


May 3-31: Fort Smith is home to one of Arkansas’ most exciting rodeos. Each year cowboys from all over the world compete for one of the largest prize purses in Arkansas. You’ll see some of the rankest bulls and broncos in America. For more information contact Kay Rodgers Park at 479-783-2393.


May 6: Enjoy crafts, games, children’s books and outdoor activities designed to teach kids about caring for the earth and other people. Activities are geared for children in grades K-5, and all materials are provided by Heifer Village. 11 a.m. For more information contact Heifer Village at (501) 907-2697.


May 9-11: Dealers from throughout the U.S. will be on hand at Jacksonville Community Center buying and selling U.S. and foreign coins, medals, tokens, currency, gold, silver, jewelry and supplies. Admission: $12. For more information contact Robert McIntire at (501) 985-1663.


May 10: Ever notice all the different kinds of beaks birds have? Come on out to learn what purpose these different sizes and shapes serve. After the discussion, we’ll all join in a fun activity to give kids a shot at eating like a bird. 2 p.m., Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, 602 President Clinton Avenue. For more information call the center at (501) 907-0636, ext. 104.


May 10: Judging on the 100-point system starts at 11 a.m. at Hot Springs Airport. Goody bags to first 150 participants. More than 150 trophies, lots of door prizes, vendors, and games for children. Free admission. For more information contact Sonny Hines at (501) 624-3771.


May 10: This year’s event at North Little Rock’s downtown Riverside RV Park features the first Buzz B-Q Rib Eating Contest. If you think you can eat the most ribs, sign up and prove it. Visit the website for rules and more information.


May 10: This family fun day for all ages runs 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Galloway Park, Jacksonville. Free admission. Contact Dana Rozenski for more information at (501) 982-4171.


May 11: Join staff at Lake Charles State Park (3705 Hwy. 25, Powhatan), as we take special moms on a relaxing Sunday afternoon tour. Watch for wildlife, make new friends, and take part in a three-course Dutch oven supper. Evening includes tour, meal and beverage as well as a Dutch oven introduction booklet. Space limited; reservations are mandatory. 4-8 p.m., State Park visitor center. $20 admission. Contact

Lake Charles State Park for details.


May 16: Enjoy a relaxing and romantic cruise under a full moon. Seating limited; reservations can be made beginning noon the day before the cruise at the marina, (501) 865-5840. Must have six people to go. Plan to arrive at DeGray Lake marina 10-15 minutes early, because the boat must depart on time. Cruise lasts 8:30-10 p.m.


May 16-17: Enjoy the famous fried dill pickles, pickle juice drinking and pickle-eating contests, live music, food vendors, arts and crafts, quilt show, canning contest, bingo games, kids games, 5K run, tractor pull, rodeo and parade. Beauty pageants held the weekend before the festival on May 10. Free admission. For more information contact Charles May or Amanda Freemen at (479) 747-0122.


May 17: May is Arkansas Heritage Month, and you are invited to spend Saturday celebrating the state’s rich heritage in Arkansas’s first state park. Historyoriented programming will include a look back at Civil War times in Arkansas. Contact Petit Jean State Park at (501) 727-5441 for more information.


May 18-19: There will be two rounds of 18 holes. Registration is 7:30-9:30 a.m. and tee off is at 10 a.m., Burns Park, North Little Rock. For more information contact Arkansas Disc Golf at (501) 837-8878.


May 23: School will be out soon and we’re having a party at Splash Zone. Grab your swimsuits, towels and friends and head to Splash Zone for an evening swim. Then dry off while watching a familyfriendly movie in the park at sundown. Must be 48 inches or taller to ride the slides. Concessions available. Admission: $5; slides free. 6-9 p.m., Splash Zone. For more information contact Dana Rozenski at (501) 982-4171.

attractions you don’t want to miss. For more information contact Deanna Korte at (501) 370-3500.


May 25: Show & Shine held on the parking lot of the Museum of Automobiles from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., all year models accepted, door prizes awarded. $20 entry fee. For more information contact Rick Wood at (479) 489-5874.


May 31: British car collectors, owners and enthusiasts from around the world come together to show off and check out the Crown Jewels of the British Marques. Ponce De Leon Center (1101 Desoto Blvd., Hot Springs Village). For more information contact the Hot Springs Village Area Chamber of Commerce at (501) 915-9940.


May 31: Triathlon for ages 5-15 at Bishop Park, Bryant. Distances are based on the child’s age. Visit for more information and times.


May 31: Explore the Little Maumelle River from one of the park’s kayaks. This guided 4.5-mile float will provide an opportunity to see otherwise hidden sections of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Advance payment and registration is required. Admission: $35 per kayak. Meeting place: Little Maumelle Boat Launch. For more information contact the park at (501) 868-5806.


May 31: Watching snakes catch and eat their food is an exciting way to learn about them. Some snakes are constrictors, while others inject venom into their prey. Join a park interpreter at the visitor center to see our snakes on display as they are fed. 4-4:30 p.m., Lake Ouachita State Park Visitor Center. For more information contact the park at (501) 767-9366.


May 23-25: This music and arts festival is three days of fun on the banks of the Arkansas River in Little Rock and North Little Rock. Five stages, hundreds of acts, and special

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PARTING SHOT Best duck season ever I hunted a much larger percentage of the duck season when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only allocated 30 days of hunting along the Mississippi Flyway. The best season ever might have been the year Walter Hussman, the Arkansas Democrat owner who had purchased the Arkansas Gazette from Gannett Corp., basically paid me to go duck hunting instead of looking for jobs. All the Gazette employees received an eight-week severance package late in 1991. In that 30-day season, I easily topped 20 days, and it would have been a lot more had I been stationed in Central Arkansas instead of Fayetteville. That would correlate to hunting 40 days now in a 60day season, but no way could this middleaged part-time duck hunter handle that. I’m not Steve Bowman, ESPN’s local outdoors man who has trekked the entire 60 days. I’m lucky to get six days in, eight if I’m lucky and if the weather cooperates. But I can have as much fun in eight days now as I had in 20-plus days more than a generation ago. But the less hunting one does, the quicker the shooting skills erode. Let’s not even get into additional obstacles such as the extra 40 pounds I’m carrying since 1991. Back in younger days, I’d sharpen the shooting with a September weekend of dove hunting. Everything seemed in slow motion a couple of months later when ducks floated into the hole. In recent years, however, I’ve embarrassed myself by unloading the magazine and completely missing ducks barely 20 yards away. For whatever reason, even knowing I’d only hunt a

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little, I took on a more serious approach to shooting as the season approached. By chance I heard a throwaway line in a movie that reminded me of something I’d heard years ago. I caught a cable showing of “Gangster Squad,” the Josh Brolin vehicle about a secret police squad formed to fight Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and his hoods in L.A. in the 1950s. It was pure Hollywood, shoot-em-up entertainment that had little to do with real life and the real Cohen, but what the heck at 1 a.m. What struck a chord, however, was a line from actor Rob Patrick, who played some cowboy-like cop who was an expert at shooting and who was trying to teach a novice the tricks to putting bad guys down. His line was, “Don’t shoot them where they are; shoot where they’re gonna be.” How many of us take aim right at a hovering duck and pull the trigger, only to see we’ve hit nothing? Often, the moment you’ve shot, a startled duck full of an adrenaline rush at seeing four hunters raise up in a blind soon is several feet skyward. Few average hunters ever put enough lead on ducks passing through the decoys. The principle applies: Shoot where they’re going to be. My new motto and confidence took off with my first hunt. My brother and I went out one morning to a bayou blind, and a drake and hen mallard came into our hole moving from left to right. Being on the left side, I had the drake all the way with one shot. Then, I wheeled on the hen and popped her before my brother — who has killed hundreds of ducks over the years and isn’t mad at them anymore — got his gun up. I think he was as proud of my double as

our late father would have been. When we had the chance to hunt with our dad back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, two mallards would have just about ended the hunt. “Damn, Jim,” he said. And that said it all. Not that I had suddenly become an expert, as a few misses during the next few hunts would prove. Luckily, I met Barry Kelly, the general manager at Delta Resort and Conference Center near McGehee (featured earlier in this issue). Kelly is a champion sporting clays shooter. A group of hunters from North Dakota and myself took in an afternoon of 5-stand sporting clay shooting at the resort. It looked simple, but it wasn’t. Lots of clay pigeons went untouched, particularly when the speed was amped up considerable from one course to another. Kelly is a coach of some of the best shooters in the world, and it didn’t take long for him to position me correctly. The hard part was getting me to stop “aiming” down the barrel. American shotguns, he said, unlike English guns, have a BB at the end of the barrel for no reason whatsoever. Novices often use that to aim when they should place the gun in thee correct position and let their mind bring the barrel on target. That helped, because my duck hunt with Kelly for two days just before New Year’s at Delta Resort was a teal shoot — more like going dove hunting. Teal came from everywhere; some wanted to light in the decoys, others zipped past. One shot teal came tumbling into out pit blind. I’d never experienced anything like it before. I capped the season off with two more days in mid-January at my brother’s club, as the mallards had arrived in full force. Now, I was I finally tuned shooting machine. Well, I’d like to think so, anyway. And without a doubt, THIS was the best season ever.

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 for more information.

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Hunt one down at your nearest revenue office.

Choose conservation license plates from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Request yours at your revenue office. Which one will you pick?

Conservation license plates make great gifts. Get your gift certificate by calling 501-682-4692 or visiting 52 | Arkansas Wild  Spring 2014

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Arkansas Wild - Spring 2014