watching fishing cycling hiking festivals competitions travel gear geocaching conservation climbing hunting hikin
SOME “WILD” IDEAS FOR
Holiday Gifts pg. 16
GATOR Tales WHOPPERS FROM STATE’S FALL HUNT
cowboys owner looks forward to duck season Plus
Bass Pro Shop
Ten-year wait is over for Retailer
Rich-N-Tone’s Richenback Always On Call
Hunting Public Lands Takes Work, Worth the Effort
Big Buck Classic Is Already In Gear
Fall on the White River
2 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 3
Where has the year gone? Only a short time ago, as the 2013 duck season was winding down, I received a call from Michelle Miller, who was serving as publisher of Arkansas Wild. A few weeks before that, I’d spoken with someone at Arkansas Times about taking over as editor of the magazine, but like the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” apparently what we had here was a failure to communicate. Michelle was calling wanting to know how I was coming along with my editorial copy, while I thought I hadn’t even accepted the job. Michelle made it an easy sell to join the team, though, and the need to be busy after ArkansasSports360.com had been shut down by the owner didn’t leave me with much reason to say no. I’d never edited an outdoors publication, but I’d been around it all my life and I’d been around sports, sports writing and sports publishing most of my life. So, I said, “Why not?” What a whirlwind few months it’s been, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Arkansas wild. What started with a trip up to Bull Shoals and through the scenic beauty of the Arkansas Ozarks on a sunny winter’s day to meet with Jim Gaston at his trout fishing resort turned into a terrific experience for me in 2013. I hope that feeling has been conveyed to you, the reader, and I hope you’ll help me make 2014 even better. I ask again, as someone who has spent a half-century in Arkansas but admittedly learns something new about this state every day, to help me bring to the readers more interesting stories about Arkansas outdoors, whether it’s through hunting, fishing or by experiencing the Natural State’s wondrous beauty in so many other ways. We’re moving into what’s always been my favorite time of the year, when the days grow shorter and the sun’s angle is just so that you sense it’s duck season again, when a chill is felt on the face as we motor out along a bayou and as we watch for flights of ducks or when we’re caught napping as a merganser or teal whizzes through the decoy spread. Holiday anticipation and the thoughts of family gatherings and Christmas parties make those days even more special. I hope you enjoy this issue and share it with others who may not yet have seen Arkansas Wild. We visit with Jerry Jones, Butch Richenback and others in this issue, with an eye toward a fantastic 2014. Happy holidays,
Table of CONTENTS 8 16 20 28 34 38 44 48 50 52 58
BASS ON THE HOOK
A 10-year dream to bring Bass Pro Shops to Central Arkansas has finally been realized with November’s opening of a fullsize outdoor store near Otter Creek.
ALL WRAPPED UP
The Wild editorial and advertising staff offers a few favorite things, or at least some most-wished-for items, as holiday gift suggestions.
Arkansas’ inviting public hunting grounds are a destination for ducks and for hunters the world over. Here’s where to go and what to look for.
FIRST A HUNTER, THEN NFL MOGUL
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones grew up enjoying the Natural State for its hunting and fishing and exposed his sons to the experience, which they in turn are passing along.
Ducks come to eat on the Grand Prairie on the way south, and hunters require some nourishment too. Here’s some favored spots in the Stuttgart area.
A chance to hunt elk in Arkansas is a cherished experienced anyway, but one 12-year-old saw a dream come true.
GATOR GOTCHA GRANNY?
Arkansas isn’t Louisiana or Florida when it comes to alligator hunting, but some whoppers were hauled in earlier this fall.
Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs provides the scenic photography spread in this issue by Arkansas Parks and Tourism’s Chuck Harrelson.
PLANNING FOR THE BIG BUCK
Catherine and Tommy Murchison have spent 24 years turning the Big Buck Classic into a must-do January event.
An amazing array of watercraft is lined up for early 2014 by the Griffeys.
DREAMING OF DUCKS
The editor takes his parting shot for 2013.
COVER PHOTO: Larger-than-expected alligators were harvested in Arkansas this fall.
Arkansas Wild is Interactive Jim Harris Editor 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! Read the current issue for free at facebook.com/ArkansasWild or download the enhanced PDF to read any time on your iPad, laptop or other portable device! 4 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 5
alan leveritt Publisher email@example.com
Editorial Jim harris Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Jones Editorial/Creative Art Director email@example.com
An Arkansas Tradition January 24-26, 2014 ArkAnsAs stAte FAirgrounds For Trending inFo
ArkAnsAs Big Buck clAssic
Ellen Weiner Account Executive firstname.lastname@example.org
Lesa Thomas Account Executive email@example.com
Rose Gladner Account Executive firstname.lastname@example.org
Show timeS & info at www.bigbuckclaSSic.com
Brian Chilson Jeff Williams A.C. “Chuck” Harrelson
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WildThings Side notes and other diversions
Butch Richenback: Always on Call Butch Richenback mastered the duck call at a young age, and he invented the famed Rich-n-Tone call in his hometown of Stuttgart. He’s been giving back ever since, teaching the art to anyone who wants to give it a try. From April to October, on his own dime, the Stuttgart native drove to and from Cabot to teach a duck-calling class every Tuesday. As many as 40 would-be duck callers, young and old, learned Richenback’s tricks of the trade. In recent years, he’s journeyed to Missouri to meet with duck-calling pupils, and he’ll show up at Ducks Unlimited sponsored events to give impromptu lessons. “Anytime they ask me, I’ll do it,” he said from his office in the RNT duck call company building north of downtown Stuttgart, on Highway 63. Some of his newest, youngest pupils will kick off the World’s Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart with a contest on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. These children, from first to fifth grade and beginners to “semi-advanced” at calling, participated up to three days a week for five weeks in Richenback’s class, held at the University of Arkansas-Phillips Community College campus south of town. In what’s designed as a fun event, Richenback’s kids will be judged by some of the former World’s Champions in town for the annual duck calling extravaganza that runs through Saturday, Nov. 30. “Everybody wins a prize, nobody loses,” Richenback said. It’s hard to imagine anyone losing when he or she spends time learning Richenback’s craft. He’s says he’s taught 45 people who eventually went on to win championships in the contest. One of those pupils, John Stephens, eventually bought Rich-N-Tone from Richenback in 1999, when his mentor began suffering from heart problems that required more time at home than at work. In August of 2006, Richenback underwent a heart transplant at Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock. These days the 67-year-old Richenback is regularly in his RNT office, answering phone calls, tuning duck calls or anything else needed around the shop. Asked why he’s willing do teach would-be callers for free, he simply says, “I’ve been doing it since 1969.” The local Chamber of Commerce charged the youngsters (or their 8 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
parents) $20 for the recent class, but that was to rent the college classroom. Richenback also says he didn’t think twice about making the drive to Cabot one day a week for six months. “I did it because they asked,” he said. Not a lot of people these days, especially one who would be considered a pro at his craft, would undertake such an endeavor without some financial assistance. “I’m not a lot of people,” he responded quickly and gruffly. “I’m a dying breed.” We mentioned our own need for some serious duckcalling help before the season kicks off. “Well, you come by and I’ll see if I can get you calling right,” he said. “I’ll spend some time with you. I can’t spend all day with you now, though. I have other things I have to do around here.” Richenback grew up across the street from the legendary “Chick” Major, who created the Dixie Mallard call and raised three daughters who became champion callers. Richenback started calling and learning from Major at age 5. “I was first in my family to learn to blow a duck call. Chick is the one who taught me, how to blow a call, how to make a call,” he said. Richenback made his calls by hand until about 1994. Calls in general “have changed a lot” in the 60-plus years he’s handled them. “Used to you had one type, but now you come out with different types. Some of them are louder, more aggressive. There’s so many now,” he said. Richenback is famed around Stuttgart also for leading various levels of youth baseball in the town for 40-plus years. He coached American Legion baseball for 18 years, ran the Little League and Pony League programs, and he ran the youth center from 1969 to 1994. Then he was Stuttgart’s mayor for 12 years. “I would have still been the mayor after that but my heart went bad.” Butch Richenback This summer, under a scalding hot sun, Richenback was still out on the baseball diamond, coaching an 11-year-old all-star team in a state tournament in town. Come the week of Thanksgiving, he’ll be watching his other young charges with duck calls in their hands, continuing a legacy from the Arkansas prairie.
Ooh, That Smell: Hog Controversy Near Buffalo River Continues More concern seems to flow out of north Arkansas over potential pollution of the Buffalo River by hog farming. In September, the Arkansas legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review joint subcommittee approved Gov. Mike Beebe’s request for nearly $350,000 to implement pollution testing and monitoring at C&H Hog Farm in Mount Judea in Newton County. The farm is in close proximity to Big Creek, which is a tributary of the Buffalo River, the U.S.’s first national river. According to an Arkansas Times report, the study was to be conducted by water and soil experts at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and paid for out of Rainy Day funds. Dr. Mark J. Cochran, the UA’s vice president for agriculture, testified before legislators that the plan has three major components: •M onitoring nutrients and bacteria resulting from the land application of liquid fertilizer, with intensive monitoring at three of the 17 application fields; •T esting the impact of the farm — both the manure holding ponds and the application of liquid fertilizer — on water quality on and around the farm: •R esearching the effectiveness and sustainability of alternative manure management techniques, including the possibility of solid separation and transporting nutrients out of the watershed rather than using them as fertilizer on nearby fields. The UA researchers will provide quarterly reports of their findings to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. If a problem were found, ADEQ could revise the permit and/or nutrient management plan under which the farm is operating under, in which case the farm would then have to adjust its practices to comply. C&H Hog Farm is the first facility in the state to receive a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permit. The permit allows C&H to house 6,503 hogs: 2,500 sows, 3 boars, and another 4,000 piglets, which at 3 weeks old will be trucked off to another facility to be fattened for slaughter. Cargill is the sole buyer of the hogs from C&H. According to the Times, the C&H farmers were on board with the testing program. Cargill “does not object to monitoring
programs that are based on accepted scientific protocols,” according to Cargill spokesman Mike Martin. A testing program of this type would run at least five years, according to the UA. However, the Times reported, the testing program is likely to leave conservationists unsatisfied. “They’re spending at least half a million dollars to fix a problem that shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Robert Cross, president of the Ozark Society, told the Times. The Ozark Society is one of the groups suing federal agencies over their loan guarantee of the farm. Others involved in the suit include the Arkansas Canoe Club, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance and the National Parks Conservation Association. The group sued the Farm Services Agency and the Small Business Administration, saying those agencies failed to perform adequate environmental assessments and offer adequate public notice. The coalition has also been sharply critical of the ADEQ and the state permitting process that approved the facility. Other environmental impact concerns about the farm including the area’s karst geology and the movement of groundwater, as well as whether the study would cover a sufficient area to identify potential problems. C&H’s nutrient management plan indicates the farm will generate 2 million gallons of manure and wastewater per year. After waste collection and drainage into two manmade ponds, the farm will remove the liquid waste and apply it as fertilizer on more than 600 acres of surrounding fields. Ten of the fields reportedly are adjacent to Big Creek, which flows into the Buffalo River less than six miles away.
Catch and Release: More Largemouth Bass on the Way
According to an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission report, agency fisheries personnel recently drained the Dardanelle Nursery Pond into Lake Dardanelle. An estimated 30,000 largemouth bass, averaging 6½ inches in length, and a large number of green sunfish and bluegill sunfish were released into the lake. The Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke stocked 66,000 fingerling largemouth bass into the pond on May 31. The pond was previously stocked with 900 pounds of fathead minnows to serve as food fish for the bass. The pond was fertilized three times to produce a plankton bloom (food for the minnows) during the summer months. Largemouth bass are predacious and literally eat each other up unless sufficient forage is available. Once these fingerlings begin to outgrow their siblings, then the bigger ones feed on the smaller ones regardless of the forage available. Once the water in Lake Dardanelle began to cool down from 85 degrees, the AGFC released the pond. Activities at the pond this year included painting project signs, replacing a gate at the upper access, repairing the fence in one location and having the pond perimeter mowed. Expenses incurred in producing this year’s production of 6½-inch yearling bass including transportation, manhours, fence posts, 12-foot gate, fertilizer and cleanup after the pond was released came to a total of almost $5,000.
Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 9
Arkansas’ Hook Little Rock Store of Famed Outdoor Chain Is Unveiled and Open for Business By Jim Harris • Photos by Brian chilson A wish of many Arkansas hunters and fishermen more than 10 years in the making has finally come to fruition for central Arkansas — and for the entire state, really. Bass Pro Shops has opened its first store in Arkansas off Interstate 30 in southwest Little Rock. Bass Pro’s version of pomp and circumstance fitting of a first and long-awaited store in Arkansas featured some of the company’s big celebrity names in town to meet customers at the store’s grand opening on Nov. 13. That night, 50 cents of every dollar collected on all purchases made at the Little Rock Bass Pro went to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for its conservation efforts. What people have discovered among entering the 104,000-square foot store is that Bass Pro has made this first Arkansas venture all about Arkansas. Even the store’s manager, Will Anderson, is a native Arkansan, from Morrilton. After several years with Lowe’s, Anderson worked for Bass Pro Shops in Memphis before relocating here to get this store opened. “It’s been quite an adventure to get it in,” Anderson said. “A lot of that was finding the right location and finding what would suit Arkansans best, and we found a great fit.” Like the Bass Pro Shops stores one might see east of Dallas on I-30 or in Nashville near I-40, the Little Rock store is a full-size Outdoor World Bass Pro Store 10 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
Knox Bradford (left), whose Bradford Marine will handle Bass Pro Shop’s boating section, and store manager Will Anderson.
and the anchor of a huge development overseen by Tommy Hodges. But unlike those stores in other cities, Little Rock’s is unique. “Our store will have the largest waterfowl section in a Bass Pro location,” Anderson said. “We have definitely catered to Arkansas, knowing that Stuttgart is nearby and is the duck capital of the world, that we needed to make sure we address with those folks with the largest waterfowl section.” Murals high up on the walls and the taxidermy throughout the store all reflect an Arkansas feel. Visitors will see a recreation of Hawksbill Crag, a famous Ozarks rock protrusion. Wild hogs, turkeys, elk and ducks — all stuffed, mind you — are placed throughout. A 28,000-gallon aquarium is fed by a waterfall that starts at the top of the building’s structure. Inside the aquarium are more than 150 native fish (bass, crappie, carp and more that are familiar to Arkansas’ fishermen). “Some of the other murals, as you’re going through, are a lot of landscaped things,” Anderson said. “In our camping department, there is a sunset scene with a waterfall cascading down a bluff. That scene would remind you of being on Pinnacle Mountain and looking out over the Arkansas River. “Over our hunting department, we have a fall scene in which we’ve created a 3D effect. There are mounts of turkeys that look like they are coming out of that scene. It looks like an actual scene of deer with turkeys or hogs.” Fact is, it’s not simply an outdoors accessories store. It’s rather a wonder, almost museum-like. A customer might temporarily forget he came to buy something for his next hunt of fishing excursion. And, as Bass Pro’s creators know, a lot of visitors come first simply to see it. “It has a museum feel to it when you start looking at the various aspects we put in that you don’t see at an average retailing store,” Anderson said. “The attention to detail, it’s special. But it’s not only special but specific to that particular region.” Customers visiting the footwear department might think they were suddenly transported into a marsh outside Stuttgart, with mallards cupped and landing from the ceiling above. “When you see things like that it puts a totally different spin on the experience,” Anderson said. With a lodge-type effect, the archery wall features a “King of Bucks” exhibit with mounts of record deer taken in the state.
A DECADE OF WAITING
John L. Morris started a fishing accessories section in the back of his father’s liquor store, Brown Derby, on a road out of Springfield, Mo., to Table Rock Lake and Branson. Morris’ homemade bait proved popular enough that he incorporated the business as Bass Pro Shops in 1971. The popularity of the baits led to a Bass Pro Shops catalog in 1974 and soon became, according to the company, the world’s largest mail order sporting goods store. American Rod and Gun sprung from Bass Pro’s growing merchandise line, and then came the Bass Tracker, the first fish-ready complete boat motor and trailer package. Eventually, this had to evolve into a centrally located catalog showroom, and the company began building one in Springfield in 1984. The company opened Big Cedar Lodge near Branson in 1988. By 1995, Bass Pro Shops had expanded beyond Springfield, opening a Sportman’s Warehouse in Atlanta. The Springfield Outdoor World store was so popular as a tourist attraction, Bass Pro opened the Wonders of Wildlife museum next door in 2001. Now, Bass Pro Shops is a company with nearly $4 billion in revenue and 18,000 employees. It has created 12 house brands for merchandise, and the company has more than 70 existing or proposed stores in the U.S. and Canada. But simply getting a store into the Natural State, barely a stone’s throw from the company headquarters seemed like a dream. Other developers had a site in North Little Rock just south of Interstate 40 and west of North Hills Boulevard as a target for Arkansas’ first Bass Pro Shop and began plans in 2003. The proposed site was close to the junction of two interstates and other feeder roads, but after plenty of discussion and concerns about the wetlands in that area being disturbed, those plans fell by the wayside.
Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 11
In the meantime, Tommy Hodges had also been working on Bass Pro to look at his area in southwest Little Rock as the cornerstone of a development of retail, hotels, restaurants, an outlet mall, and more. Finally, in June 2012, Bass Pro officially revealed plans to build in the Hodges development, in the northwest corner where I-30 and I-430 meet at Otter Creek.
Along with the initial “wow” factor when a customer makes a first-time visit, Bass Pro encourages potential buyers to tryout the equipment first hand. Such is the case with its archery merchandise. “When we outfit someone with their first bow or 50th bow, it’s tuned in to make sure they feel comfortable with it before they leave the building,” Anderson said. Or perhaps someone unfamiliar with a fly rod might want to give fly casting a try in the store’s small pond. Yes, someone at Bass Pro can teach a customer how to fly fish before he or she goes on an actual trip. Bass Pro Shops tries to be at the forefront of conservation efforts, Anderson said, hence the donation on opening night to the AGFC’s Foundation. Bass Pro is conversation partners also with such organizations as the Turkey Federation and the National Rifle Association. “It’s a way to come out of the gate with the understanding that we try to sell things but we try to do more than sell things,” Anderson said of the 50 percent donation to the AGFC Foundation. “We try to have an impact and we can do that through these partners.” Anderson, well aware of Bass Pro’s start-and-stop12 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
and-start-and-finally-arrive history of coming to central Arkansas, said the time is right for the company’s entrance into this market. “It is a natural marriage to what you said, Arkansas is the Natural State. In that, Arkansas probably has more distinct seasons for fishing and hunting than any other state. I think it’s properly planned, not only our store but the future development of the area that we’re in. I think it’s perfect timing.” National outdoor accessories chain Cabela’s has a store in Rogers but is not in the central Arkansas market. Bass Pro Shops sees Little Rock as the best location “to facilitate much of the state,” Anderson said. Certainly the proximity to the Mississippi Flyway and duck hunters was a major consideration. “In our waterfowl section, it will have a larger selection of calls and decoys. A bigger focus with an actual section of our store that is dedicated to that customer as opposed to having it in line with the rest of the hunting. There will be a section that calls out to that, with a stronger line of products for that both in the accessories and the calls and the decoys.” The store will have a full line of guns from the main manufacturers, Anderson said. “We’ll have a gun lineup that, quite honestly, I don’t know if anybody in the state would come close to. The entire back wall of our hunting department is our long guns, and in front of that are the cases with the pistols and optics and accessories. We’ll have all the ammunition you need.” Easiest access to the store off I-30 is at exit 130 if coming from downtown and exit 128 from the west.
“...Arkansas probably has more distinct seasons for fishing and hunting than any other state.”
Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 13
www.littlerock.org The City of Little Rock is proud to welcome Bass Pro Shops to our community. Just one more reason to appreciate and enjoy living in our great city!
Facebook.com/CityLittleRock www.littlerock.org Follow us on Facebook to learn more about the events and opportunities in our community.
Buy a diamond receive a FREE Benelli shotgun See store for details
Downtown Stuttgart â€˘ 800.631.1999 14 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 15
2013 Gift Guide
GUNNING FOR SUCCESS
The Beretta 391 Xtrema2 12-gauge shotgun is for the serious duck hunter. No other inertia or gas autoloader can match it for corrosion protection, reliability, recoil reduction and simplicity of maintenance. Available from many retailers for less than $1,500. Throw in some Avery Neoprene shooter’s gloves, our personal favorite, from www.averyoutdoors.com.
KEEP ’EM COOKING
Your hunter will be the favorite at duck or deer camp arriving with this Stainless Steel 3-in-1 combo cooker with spigot from Bass Pro Shops. Fry turkeys, boil crawfish and shrimp, steam anything. The complete package includes a 12-inch deep-fry thermometer and a marinade injector.
FLY RIGHT ON THE WHITE
What a great way to get a friend or spouse into the sport of flyfishing with a two-day fly fishing school at Gaston’s Resort in north Arkansas. Classes begin in April and are held for one weekend a month through November. Your teacher is veteran fly fishing guide Frank Saksa. $240. Call (870) 431-5202.
Whether navigating timber or big rivers this 2014 XTS (Xpress Tactical Series) platform features ALL NEW HD3 Hull, longitudinal rib design, open floor plan, large storage in the bow and a Seelite LED light for those morning runs. Chosen by champions, this is the choice of RNT-V crew, the original all-welded aluminum boat, Xpress Boats.
FOR A LIFETIME
A lifetime hunting and fishing license from the Arkansas Game and Fish will provide a lifetime of smiles. Available from the AGFC for $1,000.
TIME WILL TELL
If we’re going to tell everyone what time shooting time begins and ends, let’s do it in style with the Men’s Citizen Nighthawk Sport watch, Black tactical ion bracelet and case with screw down crown, 200 meter water resistance, eco-drive power so you never need a battery. Available at Wilkerson’s Jewelers in Stuttgart for $337.50. 16 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
A REAL MCCOY
Every outdoorsman needs a genuine McCoy knife from the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. This Rebel pocketknife has an oak handle with lockback, stainless steel, 3 3/4” closed. $45 from the Historic Arkansas Museum.
The new Honda multi-use vehicle Pioneer 700-4 isn’t a truck, a jeep or a four-wheeler, but something in between. One of the coolest things about it is the ability to convert from a two-seater to four seats in about five minutes. Richards Honda of Little Rock has the 700-4 in red or green for $11,699 (MSRP) or $12,299 in camo.
THE DUCK HUNTER’S JACKET
Cabela’s presents the perfect and needed holiday gift for our waterfowler in its Brush Buster GORE-TEX Waterfowl 4-in-1 Systems Wading Jacket. Its shorter design is great for putting out decoys and retrieving the kill, maneuvering quickly and shouldering your gun.
MOSSY OAK VARIETY SAMPLER
SEEING IS BELIEVING
The Leupold BX-2 Cascades 10x42 binoculars feature twist-up eye cups and offer long eye relief for comfortable extended viewing. For coastal birding, hiking and camping and wildlife observation use and in a Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity finish. Academy Sports.
Features some of the best from the Petit Jean Smokehouse, perfect for the outdoors and beyond. EZ Carve Sliced Smoked Ham (16 oz.), Hickory Smoked Bacon (24 oz.), Jalapeno & Cheese Deer Summer Sausage (16 oz.) and Shelf Stable Summer Sausage (16 oz.). $60. Mail order available. www. pmeats.com.
RIDING IN STYE
You’ll be the king of the hunting camp with the four-wheel drive GMC Sierra from Gwatney Buick GMC in Sherwood. Also ask the good folks at Gwatney about gift certificates for vehicle detailing ($129).
Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 17
18 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
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OF A FEATHER Arkansas Abounds With Public Waterfowl Hunting Opportunities By Andi Cooper
20 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
Living up to its name as the Natural State, arkansas attracted more than 1.3 million people to wildlife-associated recreation last year.
Many of these people took advantage of the spectacular public lands across the state to hunt, fish and watch wildlife. Without the essential ingredient of habitat, wildlife would not be available for such recreational pursuits. This basic principle – that habitat drives and supports wildlife populations – is the fundamental belief underpinning Ducks Unlimited’s conservation work since 1937. While Ducks Unlimited’s primary mission is to conserve North America’s waterfowl habitats, the second part of the mission statement says: “These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people.” Waterfowl habitats like wetlands and grasslands are critical for clean water, flood protection, myriad other wildlife and provide excellent recreational opportunities. Fortunately, in addition to producing and supporting ducks, many Ducks Unlimited habitat projects also provide places to hunt ducks, deer, turkeys and other game. Of the more than 70 conservation projects on Arkansas public lands in which Ducks Unlimited has been involved, most are open to public hunting. In Arkansas, Ducks Unlimited has worked to enhance habitat on every public land managed for waterfowl. And
Ducks Unlimited continues to work with public land partners like the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to ensure not only habitat for waterfowl, but also public hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters. The partnership effort has clearly been successful as waterfowl hunter harvest in Arkansas for the last couple years averages slightly more than 23 ducks per hunter annually (USFWS Migratory Bird Hunting Activity and Harvest for 2011-12 and 2012-13 Hunting Seasons). Hunting Public Lands For those willing to work for their birds, good public hunting is available across the Natural State. In fact, Arkansas has some of the best public waterfowl areas in the country. The reputation of Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area (WMA), for example, is known far and wide, which means that it can draw large crowds and heavy hunting pressure. Still, there are some areas of Bayou Meto WMA that are overlooked, and days when pressure is significantly reduced, so hunters willing to put in the effort can find quality hunting opportunities here. Other public lands in Arkansas are often underused Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 21
by waterfowl hunters, providing additional chances for a great hunting experience. Public land hunting can be a nightmare or a dream come true, and much of that depends on preparation and timing. Here are a few strategies that can assist in making the most of these opportunities: • Scout the food. As with most hunting, scouting is an integral part of successful waterfowling. Due to the migratory nature of waterfowl, it’s equally important to scout habitat and where the birds are at any given time. Knowing where waterfowl foods are in abundance, though they may not yet be flooded and available for waterfowl, is critical. Be familiar with how different river stages flood various huntable areas on public lands like the White River within the White River National Wildlife Refuge. Heavy rains can also flood new areas, making fresh food supplies available for migrating and wintering ducks. As new areas with strong food supplies are inundated, waterfowl will pour in to utilize the newly available foods. If you’ve done your homework, you can be there waiting for them. • Know the regulations. Knowing and abiding by state, federal and other regulations is the responsibility of each hunter. Many public lands have regulations specific to that area in addition to standard state and federal migratory game bird laws. These most often have to do with days and times of allowable hunting, but also 22 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
include blind assignment procedures in some places. • Time it right. Arriving early to hunting areas managed on a first-come, first-served basis will ensure you get to pick your spot. If you have the flexibility, hunting on weekdays makes your competition lighter as many folks have to be at work. Some public areas have rest days, when hunting is not allowed. Researchers have shown that hunting success is greatest on days immediately following rest days, so schedule your hunts on those days if possible. Though many public lands in Arkansas require hunters be out of the area by 1 p.m. to allow ducks to settle in for the afternoon, staying well into the morning can increase your success. In heavily hunted areas, waterfowl will often fly later in the morning after many hunters have prematurely called it a day. • Remember the Golden Rule. Demonstrating basic consideration for others certainly applies to hunting on public areas. In all regards, treat others as you would like to be treated. Don’t sky-bust, block ramps because you’re not fully ready to launch, or encroach on other hunters already set up. Respectful behavior will translate into better hunting and greater pleasure for all who share an area. Andi Cooper is Communications Specialist for Ducks Unlimited in Jackson, Miss.
TAG YOUR RIDE SHOW YOUR PRIDE
Show everyone your support for Ducks Unlimited 24/7, 365 days a year. Purchasing a Ducks Unlimited license plate for your vehicle benefits Ducks Unlimitedâ€™s habitat work in the breeding grounds and here in Arkansas and ultimately, Arkansas duck hunters. Pick one up at your local Arkansas Department of Finance today, or visit Arkansas Ducks Unlimited online at AR.Ducks.Org for more information. Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 23
All Spruced Up Improved Hunting Opportunities Across the State By Andi Cooper Central Arkansas
Ducks Unlimited and the AGFC recently improved 80 acres of moist-soil habitat at Holland Bottoms WMA between Jacksonville and Cabot in central Arkansas. Development of this important wetland area was made possible by North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) funding. While managed as a rest area by the AGFC, these moist soil areas provide critical resting and foraging habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, as well as numerous shorebirds that migrate through the area each fall and spring. Many area birders enjoy watching ducks and shorebirds on the WMA from the south levee of Lake Pickthorne. Waterfowl hunters will also enjoy the areaâ€™s location next to a popular green timber hunting area open to the public. DU, AGFC and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are partnering on wetland habitat improvements on Bell Slough WMA. Bell Slough WMA offers residents of Little Rock and Conway a convenient opportunity to get out and enjoy more than 2,000 acres of woodlands and wetlands. The Palarm Creek Rest Area offers birders and photographers excellent opportunity to view waterfowl, shorebirds and neotropical migrants while providing important habitat for waterfowl that can be hunted elsewhere on the WMA. Continued on page 26
Hunters on Raft Creek WMA found success in the early teal season this September.
Moist-soil wetlands provide a variety of seeds and invertebrates important for migrating and wintering waterfowl. Many Ducks Unlimited projects in Arkansas enable proper water management to optimize moist-soil habitats like this one for waterfowl. 24 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
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All Spruced Up Continued from page 24 Eastern Arkansas
The Steve N. Wilson/Raft Creek Bottoms Wildlife Management Area is a clear win-win for waterfowl and waterfowler alike. A partnership between Ducks Unlimited, AGFC, NRCS and others brought this 4,063-acre wetland area into public ownership in 2000. The dual objectives of the project were to conserve and restore an important part of the White River wetland system, one of the most important wintering areas for waterfowl in the Mississippi Flyway, and to provide public hunting opportunity. The new WMA enabled AGFC to experiment with ways to improve the quality of public waterfowl hunting, something in which many public-lands hunters in Arkansas expressed interest. Hunting on Raft Creek WMA has been good so far, and hunters have been pleased with the overall quality of the hunting experience. Raft Creek is slated for more habitat improvements this spring through a cooperative effort between Ducks Unlimited, AGFC and NRCS. Recently, Ducks Unlimited and AGFC partnered to restore hydrology on approximately 125 acres at Lee Leblanc Rest Area on Black Swamp WMA in east-central Arkansas. Black Swamp WMA is situated adjacent to Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, providing a large block of important bottomland hardwood forest and moist-soil managed habitats. Restoration efforts funded in part by a NAWCA grant include new water control structures, a new electric pump and power line. Improvements at Lee Leblanc will improve management of high quality duck food, which is critical for wintering waterfowl. While not open for hunting, Lee Leblanc Rest Area provides important rest area for ducks using adjacent Cache River NWR and Black Swamp WMA — both open for hunting. In partnership with the USFWS, Ducks Unlimited has also delivered habitat improvements on several national wildlife refuges in Arkansas, including the Cache River NWR. In 1970, at the request of local landowners, the state slated 232 miles of the meandering Cache River and Bayou DeView for channelization to control flooding on upstream fields. In response, a group of concerned sportsmen and conservationists led by Dr. Rex Hancock of Stuttgart joined conservation agencies and organizations to launch a campaign that eventually brought a halt to ditching nearly all of the lower Cache. During the battle, seven miles of the river were channelized. Soon afterwards, a partnership of agencies,
conservation groups, businesses and landowners began working together to conserve the remaining forests in the lower Cache basin. Major victories included securing federal funding that created the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most critical areas for wintering mallards in the country. As one of the few remaining areas in the Lower Mississippi River Valley not drastically altered by channelization and drainage, the Cache and White River basin contains a variety of unique wetland communities, including some of the most intact and least disturbed bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi Valley region. Ducks Unlimited, AGFC, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Clarendon, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and Arkansas Audubon are working together to restore a 4.6-mile portion of the channelized river upstream from Clarendon. Construction on this historic project is slated for completion in early 2014. Ducks Unlimited also partnered with the USFWS on Cache River NWR to restore more than 300 acres of moist-soil habitat at Plunkett Rest Area, Dixie Farms Hunt Area near Little Dixie and Bank of Brinkley hunt area. Funded in part through a NAWCA grant, the restoration work at Plunkett Rest Area provides increased management capability and improved water delivery. Rest areas are important to ensure waterfowl have sufficient opportunity to feed and rest, particularly in late winter and early spring, but they also enhance hunting opportunity on adjacent areas as waterfowl wing their way to and from these havens. Similar work at the Dixie Unit and Bank of Brinkley unit has created several moistsoil units open to public hunting. Western Arkansas
Ducks Unlimited is working with AGFC and NRCS to enhance waterfowl habitat on Frog Bayou WMA. Frog Bayou is one of Arkansas’ newest WMAs, established in 2005 in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, AGFC and NRCS. Frog Bayou WMA offers excellent waterfowl hunting in western Arkansas and important waterfowl habitat along the Arkansas River. Connecting the Central and Mississippi Flyways, the Arkansas River serves as a corridor for waterfowl winging their way from the prairies through Oklahoma and on to the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. To learn more about Ducks Unlimited’s work in Arkansas, check out www.ducks.org/arkansas. AGFC staff plant millet on Holland Bottoms WMA and other public lands to provide excellent waterfowl food resources.
Bottomland forests like this one on Bayou Meto WMA need dry cycles for tree health and regeneration as well as wet cycles to provide waterfowl habitat. 26 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
Hunting along the White River and other public waterways can yield excellent results.
Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 27
S Y O B COW
A r k ansas
H u n t er
Jerry Jones Finds A Family Bond With Hunting, Fishing By Jim Harris
Photo by Nelson Chenault
28 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
As traditional as the Dallas Cowboys playing every Thanksgiving at home is the team’s owner, North Little Rock native Jerry Jones, hustling back home to Arkansas after the game’s conclusion to enjoy the state’s duck hunting and big events surrounding the first week of the season. It’s not unusual to see Jones at Stuttgart’s Wings Over the Prairie festival and the party scene of the Duck Gumbo Cook-off. Mostly, though, it marks a return for Jones and his sons, who are also involved in the Cowboys’ day-to-day operations, to Red Hill, the family’s hunting club a few miles south of Stuttgart, as they add to the memories of lives spent around hunting. “Before the Cowboys my principal activity — in fact, I intertwined it with work — was hunting and fishing,” Jones said during a recent visit to Little Rock. “I return to Arkansas a lot now and usually 90 percent of it I’m involving a hunting or fishing outing when I come.” Jones found a bond with his father, Pat, through hunting and fishing while growing up in Rose City. Similarly, Jerry Jones has spent special times in the duck woods, on a deer stand or in a fishing boat with his sons, Stephen and Jerry Jr., and his son-in-law Shy Anderson. “I think it’s healthy for youth, hunting,” he said. “I got to grow up with a dad that exposed me to hunting and I got excited about it. And consequently, we’ve done that. All four of us are avid hunters.” Nine years ago, Jerry Jones was the recipient of the Central Arkansas Duck’s Unlimited chapter’s first Sportsman’s Award, in which the organizers asked the Cowboys owner if they could name it in his honor. The award, honoring contributions to the state’s outdoors, has since gone to such avid state sportsmen as former Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Arkansas Game and Fish commissioners Sheffield Nelson and George Dunklin. Jones has been helping many of the local Ducks Unlimited chapters in Arkansas for many years, donating the use of his hunting lodge or trips to see the Cowboys to help generate funds for the chapter. But few people outside Stuttgart may know of his efforts to help boost the Wings Over the Prairie Festival. Sheffield Nelson said Stuttgart’s main annual festival that now draws 30,000-40,000 a year during the Thanksgiving weekend was suffering financially with no sponsor when Jones, who had bought the Cowboys in 1989, rose up to help. “He stepped in with the strength of the Cowboys, his name, brought the [Dallas Cowboy] Cheerleaders up, brought the Cowboys [memorabilia] bus up, and was instrumental in getting people attending again,” Nelson said. “They continue to flow money into it. The Cowboys are
“Before the Cowboys my principal activity — in fact, I intertwined it with work — was hunting and fishing,”
a major sponsor and Jerry helped revive it, and Stephen has continued that. Jerry came up with making it a big deal. Of course, he had close ties being out of North Little Rock. He loves it and he means a lot to the operation of that event.”
ON THE HILL Jones and his sons are only about a 15-minute drive south of Stuttgart when they encamp at Red Hill — it truly is the only elevation of note in Arkansas County, hence the name — which is in close proximity to George Dunklin’s Five Oaks Hunting Club. Jones says that before he bought the Cowboys, duck season had his complete attention. “Sometimes, I would go down to the club and just stay there for days on end, not even shaving, just hunting all the time,” he said. He intended to call the lodge by a different name, and he even sent out invitations to a first event there inviting friends to “The Magnum Club.” But he soon learned that everyone referred to the area where the lodge sits as Red Hill, and that name stuck. Jones leases a reservoir not far from the lodge and in close proximity to the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area for duck hunting Red Hill became the traditional site for the Jones Family Thanksgiving, and it stayed that way even after he purchased the Cowboys. “These guys have hunted up a storm there,” Jones said of his sons and son-and-law, who were with him in October during a visit in Little Rock. “It’s a big part of our lineage. We’ve been hunting it for years. It just feels good to be there, to be at the Gumbo Cook-off, to be a big part of the whole festivities that are there. It’s an important part of our life.” Nelson said of Jones and Red Hill, “He used to spend a lot of time there. I never thought of how many days he was there, but he loved to hunt and had a lot more time back then. More critically he was bringing up his boys at the time and got them into hunting. “I’ve gone hunting there many times through the years with Jerry, Stephen and Jerry Jr. and the people they would bring or that I would bring. He has a great operation there, great people working with him. It’s a tremendous place to hunt and to have fun. It’s really matured through the years. There are a lot of ducks on it and it’s a great place to get away.” Now, with the Cowboys, the Joneses don’t get away as much during the late fall, they admit. Having to maintain “America’s Team,” they have to take their free time when they can get it. Jerry Jr. said, “I have an annual trip with members of the [Catholic High School] class of ’88, about three or four of them, and they bring their wives or their sons and daughters. It’s a memory that you get to share not only of Continued on page 32 Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 29
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Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 31
Continued from page 29
coming back to Arkansas, but a little bit of Catholic High’s involvement as well.” Jerry Sr. also owns deer hunting land in Missouri and south Texas acreage where the family can dove hunt. HOME IN LITTLE ROCK Jones was a star football player in high school at North Little Rock and later went on to start for the 1964 Arkansas Razorbacks national championship team. His sons and son-in-law Shy Anderson all attended Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys. Jones says he attended Catholic “vicariously” through his boys’ exploits in the 1980s. Nelson says the story is true that Jones at times would hurry back from business and return to his office in a high-rise near Park Plaza where he could observe the Catholic High football practice field to see Stephen, a Rockets quarterback who eventually played defensive back at Arkansas. Catholic High then was ruled by the iron hand of discipline of the late, legendary Father George Tribou. It was the reputation of Tribou and Catholic High and the success of graduates Jones knew that led Jones to send his sons there. “Yes, I was part of some of the things they got detention hall for,” he confessed. One involved deer hunting with his friend, Nelson. “Sheffield decided, and I love him for it, that Stephen should go on a very special deer hunt in about the 10th grade,” Jones said, adding that unlike many Arkansas rural high schools, Catholic didn’t have a break from the schedule for deer hunting. Stephen was skipping school. “There we were, at this great place. As luck would have it the biggest buck that I had ever been a part of anybody shooting showed up. Stephen makes his first shot, a great shot, hits this big buck right in the forehead. Doesn’t do anything but knock the deer silly. And Stephen goes on out there and finishes him, a story that you could just almost write a fable about, it all happened right there. “We get up and he’s so excited, he’s shaking … they call it deer fever, you start shaking when you have that experience. But we got the deer. The very first thing when we quit patting each other on the back and celebrating that deer, the very first thing that Stephen looked up and said, and I think he was 16 or 15, is, ‘I’ve got to go to Little Rock and show this deer to Father Tribou.’ “So full blown he comes in, he’s got that big deer strapped down on the car, drives up right here [in the Catholic High parking lot] and shows Father Tribou, and he’s as proud of it almost as much as Stephen is, if he had any interest at all. But I’ll tell you what, he was as quick to say, ‘It will be a week in study hall for you.’” Jones shared that story with hundreds of Catholic High School students and other dignitaries on Oct. 10 when the Joneses announced a major gift to the high school of $10 million. Also participating in equal shares of the gift were 32 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
John York, a 1967 graduate of Catholic High School who is co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers with his wife, Denise DeBartolo York, as well as a donor who chose to remain anonymous. Coincidentally, before Stephen Jones and Shy Anderson arrived in Little Rock that day for the announcement, they had been dove hunting in south Texas. “I obviously love hunting to this day,” Stephen Jones said. “I remember it as time you get to spend time with your father. I take my son hunting now and it’s a wonderful way for us to get to spend time together and be outdoors and not be around the normal pressures of every day. He’s away from school and I’m away from work and it’s a good time.” And his father added, “The bottom line is, we think hunting is a great way in our business to entertain and it’s a wholesome way for families to have activity together.”
Stephen Jones Will Be Honored Dec. 12
The ninth annual Ducks Unlimited Jerry Jones Sportsman’s Award, presented by the Central Arkansas DU chapter, will be presented to Jones’ eldest son, Stephen, at Chenal Country Club on Dec. 12. The event is 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 each, and $350 for DU Bronze Individual Sponsors, which includes two dinner tickets, when sponsors pay their dues via the banquet. Banquet Table Sponsorships are $1,350 for a table of 10, which includes a limited edition Arkansas Sponsor Print. Other sponsorships available include Silver ($2,500), Gold ($5,000) and Diamond ($7,500), all which include a table for 10 plus other perks. The event also will feature raffles, silent and live auctions, and an open bar. For tickets, call Mike Rohrer at (501) 428-0004. Proceeds from the event go to support DU’s Green Wing initiatives.
Jerry Jones Sportsman Award Past Honorees 2005 Jerry Jones 2006 Mike Huckabee 2007 Sheffield Nelson 2008 George Dunklin 2009 Mark Pryor 2010 Marion McCollum 2011 Steve “Wildman” Wilson 2012 Butch Richenback
Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 33
Chowing Down Where To Eat on the Grand Prairie, From Greasy Spoons to Sit-Down Dinners Ducks migrate through the Grand Prairie of Arkansas looking for nourishment to help them on their flight south. But even for those birds, the landscape has changed over the years. Rice is harvested earlier in south-central and east-central Arkansas, and what’s left on the ground isn’t much to stop for. Their way south has been slowed also by newer feeding grounds further north. And those landscape changes through the Grand Prairie, in and around Arkansas county, aren’t just reserved for the ducks. Hunters who have made Stuttgart and the surrounding areas their destination have seen many changes as well in their search for the perfect meal to complement a perfect day after wading the woods or hiding in a field pit. Gone from Stuttgart are such old favorites as the Little Chef, which was razed to make way for a new overpass over U.S. Highway 79. It never surfaced elsewhere either. Lu and Ann’s Little Cajun is gone, but there still is south Louisiana-style food where that pair once plied their skills. It’s now called La Petite Cajun Bistro. The Teal Room was a fabulous sit-down restaurant in Stuttgart earlier in this decade that apparently couldn’t attract enough diners out of season; we loved it. Hunters in the De Witt area reminisce about past favorites Irene’s, the Sahara and the Domino Parlor, as well as Virginia’s in Bayou Meto or Billie’s in Reydell. Even the One Horse Store south of Lodge’s Corner is but a memory to middleage hunters who have worked the bayous and lakes in Arkansas County. Like a field turning over, so do many of the restaurants in an area that sees its best traffic during a two-month period starting in late fall. 34 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
So, where are the hunters to eat? We’ve stumbled across a few places that will serve the cause well. Some may have exteriors that might scare off the more picky of diners. But you are hunters; you’re in coveralls and muddy boots and you haven’t shaved or maybe even bathed in days. Some of our favorite places don’t worry about appearances either, but are good nonetheless. Here are some Grand Prairie restaurants to keep on your jeep’s GPS during the duck season (all are in Stuttgart unless noted):
Papa Joe’s Country Store and Cafe, Humnoke
There’s no longer even a stoplight to halt you where Highways 165 and 13 intersect, and tiny Humnoke, like so many Arkansas farming towns, has dried up somewhat over the past 30 years. But you’d be missing out if you thought there were no dining options. Papa Joe’s fills up starting at 8 a.m. for breakfast daily. But Friday night and Saturday night dinner is where this filling station/diner shines all year long. Steaks (including prime filet and rib-eye), shrimp, catfish and more are dependable items, along with salads. Service is attentive. There is backroom space to seat 30 or more people if you plan for a big group, but call ahead. Breakfast platters include the two-egg omelet, pancakes and french toast. 12295 U.S. Highway 165. (501) 275-8000.
Seriously, no duck hunt in the Stuttgart area is complete
without a double cheeseburger with bacon and jalapenos (or about any other way you might want it). French fries and some cold refreshment (preferably a Budweiser brand for us, but again, other selections are available) at this longtime favorite. The place changed hands a couple of years ago; it got a freshening up, but the well-seasoned griddle is still in place where more heavenly burgers are flipped onto warm buns. There’s an extensive menu of other favorites for the hunter, from hamburger steaks to catfish and more. The place stays open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. throughout the duck season. Sportsman’s is a block south of Michigan Avenue (Highway 79) or Porter Street on the north side of town. It’s basically a cinder block; it’s also basically another one of those classic Southern places whose exterior belies the wonderful goodness within the walls. 804 N. Porter St. (870) 673-7462.
La Petite Cajun Bistro
All your basic Cajun favorites and fried seafood are on the menu, but even more choices can be found for the nonseafood or non-Cajun eaters such as steaks. We love the gumbo, crawfish bisque and froglegs, but ask about the alligator before you order (it can be hit or miss). There’s also wine on the menu. It’s a fun, lively place during duck season and seemingly a destination for a lot of visitors from South Carolina and Georgia to our state’s duck woods — at least that’s been our experience. Open nightly and for lunch during the duck season. 1919 Main St. (870) 673-1833.
If you’re familiar with the Larry’s Pizza outlets in the Little Rock area, then you would know this one as well. The many varieties of pizza (even chocolate chip pizza, yum) keep coming. Pies are brought around by the wait staff and you grab what you want until you say “no mas.” Salads are available too. Game room for the youngsters. Open daily 9-9. 806 E. 22nd St. 870-672-7000.
then this is the place, and it’s pretty good, typical buffet fare as well as a sit-down menu that won’t overwhelm. Even has fresh, fried catfish. 1623 S. Main St. (870) 673-4060.
A rival to the Sportman’s burger is this terrific familyowned shop near the north end of downtown. A massive burger and French fries, all at a very nice price. Other plate lunches are available as well, changing daily. But we will swear by the burger. 112 E. Michigan St. (870) 672-7333.
Troy’s Drive-In, De Witt
Folks we know claim the best drive-in in Arkansas is the Bulldog in Bald Knob. Troy’s would be De Witt’s answer to the Bulldog, with all that you would expect from a smalltown drive-in that’s a throwback to days gone by. Burgers, of course (get the chili burger during duck season), and more. 1024 S. Jefferson St. (870) 946-1201.
We were stunned by the large amount of food you can get for your money at this longtime favorite of travelers on I-40/U.S. 70. The barbecue and catfish sampler is the way to go. The hickory smoked barbecue is fall-off-the-bone terrific and the catfish has that impeccable breading and seasoning that has us looking forward to more trips to the Carlisle area. Lots more choices on the menu, including some tasty pies. 1012 Bankhead Drive. (870) 552-3887.
Craig’s BBQ, DeValls Bluff
Further up the Grand Prairie from Stuttgart and east of Hazen on Highway 70 is THE classic barbecue joint, Craig’s. It’s another tiny cinder block with only a handful of tables, and at times you may find yourself picking up and eating on the road back to duck camp. The sandwiches on toasted buns are very good, the slaw is great, and the hot sauce is the bomb. But we personally love the rib plate for a true, smoky taste of Arkansas Delta ’cue. Highway 70. (870) 998-2616.
There is a Kibb’s at Harrison Street and Park Avenue and another at 2nd and Buerkle, both streets that run north-south and get you through town, though Park is the easiest drive as it extends from the newer bypass north of town. Which is the better Kibb’s is a matter of taste. There are two here because a husband-and-wife team, the Kibbles, split up a few years back and the wife took the original Buerkle location while the husband opened in Pine Bluff and on Park Avenue here. The Park location has a drive-up window and you can get tasty ’cue (the meaty ribs are good!) in whatever size required for your hunters from either store. Might be better just to try them both at some point. Call ahead if picking up. 1102 Harrison St. (870) 673-2072; 436 W. 2nd St., 870-673-4261.
If you’re hankering for Asian/Chinese/Thai in Stuttgart,
Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 35
36 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
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Rack ‘Em Up 12-Year-Old Downs Big Elk During October Hunt By Arkansas Game and Fish The field of elk hunters was shortened by the federal shutdown, but those in action did well during the Oct. 7-11 season in Buffalo River country. Twenty hunters had permits for public land while dozens of others hunted private land with permits. Doug Young of Malvern took bragging rights in the first hunt with his 7x7 bull. He was hunting on the Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission facility. Close behind Young’s bull was the 6x7 bull downed by Cain Lusk of Hector. Lusk is just 12 years old, but he put his rifle shot where it needed to go. Lusk was hunting in the Bearcat Hollow area of southwestern Searcy County, a rugged region open this year for the first time to elk hunting. Ridge Fletcher of Little Rock, 14 and a student at Little Rock Catholic High School, scored with a 4x5 bull on Gene Rush WMA. Billy Burleson of Lead Hill had an antlerless permit for Bearcat Hollow, and he took a cow elk. Dr. Shane Lyerly of Jonesboro got a cow elk in the Richland Valley Sonny Varnell Elk Conservation Area on the eastern side of Gene Rush WMA. Two hunters who were scheduled to work Buffalo National River land were sidelined by the shutdown, but they have permits for 2014’s elk season. Weather was close to ideal for the hunt with cool nights then moderately warm days and sunshine all five days. Public land applications and permits are free. May is 38 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
application time each year, and the permit winners are drawn during the Buffalo River Elk Festival on Jasper’s courthouse square late in June. AGFC biologists are on hand at the hunts to take samples from elk for testing. No diseases or other health issues have been found in the 16 years of permit hunting. The Arkansas elk herd numbers about 600 and is stable with limited hunting. The Boxley Valley area, where thousands of visitors come to view elk in fields, has never been open to elk hunting. Last, Then First Shane Lyerly of Jonesboro was last, then first, in the 2013 Arkansas elk hunt in Buffalo River country. Lyerly was the last person drawn for a public land elk permit in June at the Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper. But he was the first hunter to down an elk in 2013, scoring Monday morning, Oct. 7. He used a compound bow for the first time in any kind of hunting, and took a cow elk in the Richland Valley Sonny Varnell Conservation Area just south of the river. It was the first time a cow elk had been taken by archery equipment in 16 years of limited hunting. Two bull elk have been taken with bows – in 2011 and 2012. It was Lyerly’s first time hunting elk. He had a helper, Rick Hunter of Bono, who had hunted elk four times in Colorado. “In the last drawing for an on-site permit at the festival, a name was drawn, but that person was not
“They had to draw again, and they drew my name.” present,” said Lyerly, a family doctor. “They had to draw again, and they drew my name.” Lyerly and Hunter scouted the area Oct. 5 and found a bull elk with 14 cows. In the next field, they spotted a lone cow elk. After the required hunter orientation Oct. 6, they went back to the area and saw the cow elk by itself again. “That was the one we went for, figuring that was just one elk to detect us compared the all those others in the next field,” Lyerly said. “We got there early and found the cow, but we had to get close enough to shoot [with a bow]. We took about two hours to move about 40 yards closer. Then a tree was in the way. “That elk and I played peek-a-boo around the tree, and finally she moved where I could get a shot. The range was 40 yards. I hit her but a little high, and she ran. We found my arrow with tissue and blood on it. I waited again, and she finally turned broadside and I put an arrow through her. The range this time was 14 yards.”
Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 39
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On Edge Bowie Knife Exhibit Opens at HAM in December
The Historic Arkansas Museum will present the exhibit “A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America” in the Horace C. Cabe Gallery beginning Dec. 13 and running through June 22, 2014. A free opening reception is planned for Dec. 13 from 5-8 p.m., in conjunction with downtown Little Rock’s 2nd Friday Art Night and the museum’s eggnog competition, the 9th Ever Nog-off. There will be live music and a surprise guest of Bowie knife fame is planned. As part of 2nd Friday Art Night, a free shuttle is available to transport visitors to other Art Night venues. Shuttle service ends at 8:30 p.m. Admission to the gallery is free. “This exhibit is the largest and most important ever done on America’s iconic contribution to the world of blades,” said Bill Worthen, director of the Historic Arkansas Museum. “A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America” will trace the history of this country’s most famous knife from just before its birth in a rough melee on a sandbar above Natchez, Miss., in 1827, to the skilled craftsmen who keep the classic blade alive to this day in the form of hand crafted reproductions and modernized versions. Visitors to the exhibit will have the opportunity to see knife designs associated with Alamo martyr James Bowie and his less famous brother Rezin, and to examine bowie knives once owned by such historic figures as Davy Crockett, Theodore Roosevelt, General Winfield Scott and John Fox “Bowie Knife” Potter. The role of the Bowie knife in the Antebellum era is explored along with the Civil War and the opening of the west, and there’s a
42 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
special focus on the role Bowie knives played in the events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Among the 19th century knives featured will be those attributed to Arkansas’s own James Black, known knifemakers to the Bowie brothers Henry Schively and Daniel Searles, master silversmith of Texas and Tennessee Samuel Bell, and the highly skilled makers of the California school including Michael Price and Will & Finck. Fine English Bowies are also well represented with knives by such makers as Samuel Wragg, W. & S. Butcher, J. Walters and Charles Congreve; as are some of the finest known Northern and Southern blades from the Civil War. Visitors can also expect to see a superb group of folding Bowie knives, and a variety of other knives that served as backup weapons during the Bowie knife era, such as push daggers and dirk knives. More than 200 knives are included in the exhibit. A full-color catalog documenting this historic exhibit is planned, and will be available from the museum’s gift shop and online store. The Historic Arkansas Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the galleries and parking are free; tours of historic grounds are $2.50 for adults, $1 for children under 18, $1.50 for senior citizens. The Historic Arkansas Museum Store is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1-4 p.m. on Sunday. Historic Arkansas Museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, which was created in 1975 to preserve and enhance the heritage of the state of Arkansas. Other agencies of the department are Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and Old State House Museum.
our mer y t f ry v i L o ices!
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This year, join in the chorus on the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights. More than 60 communities participate in the annual celebration. Pick up a brochure at one of our partner locations or visit Arkansas.com to locate festive activities. “Like” Arkansas State Tourism on Facebook. Share your photos on Instagram and Facebook by using #VisitArkansas. Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 43
State Hunters Take Aim at Rising Alligator Population During Fall Hunts
T R O P H Y
GATORS By Jeff Williams • Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Hunters bagged 44 Arkansas alligators during two seasons – Sept. 20-23 and Sept. 27-30 – using a mix of private- and public-land permits. Of course, that’s not many compared to Louisiana and Florida, states known for huge gator populations. Louisiana has two alligator hunting zones, both of which run 30 days. Florida’s hunt this year ran Aug. 15-Nov. 1. Louisiana issued about 38,000 tags and Florida had 5,000 available. Both states have alligator habitat border to border, although Arkansas’s gators are every bit as large. Of the 44 taken this year, half were at least 10 feet long, including six 12-footers and two longer than 13 feet. “I didn’t check an alligator under 10 feet that first weekend,” said Mike Harris, a natural resources program technician with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in Hope. Harris says he was surprised by the number of large alligators in this year’s hunts. “In order to grow a big alligator, it takes lots of time,” he said. “I’d say a 10-footer would take close to 20 years.” Alligators grow quickly when they’re hatched, and growth rates can be phenomenal if habitat is supportive, but growth slows as they age. Harris says the 13-footers taken this year probably were 30-35 years old. “When they reach about 35, they can’t replace their teeth and they go on the decline,” Harris said. “I doubt we’ll ever get a 15-foot alligator, but I doubted we’d approach 14 feet.” Harris says about 70 percent of the hunters were successful in alligator zone 1, which is in southwestern Arkansas. Success rates have varied from 40 percent to 95 percent in previous hunts. For the state, the success rate was 61 percent. Mark Barbee, an AGFC biologist in the Monticello office, also says the number of large gators is out of the ordinary. “Usually, we have one that breaks the 12-foot mark; this year we had three [in zone 3],” Barbee said. “I think it’s like deer hunters who go after big bucks. These [alligator hunters] went after them early and they got them.” Barbee says the weather might have played a part. “The temperature was surprising. It was cool the first 44 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
weekend – in the 50s at night. I wouldn’t have expected to have that high of a harvest.” He says all the hunters he talked to reported seeing alligators. How Big? Members of Lost Lakes Hunting Club in Hempstead County knew there were some big alligators in the three lakes on their property, but they weren’t sure how big. They found out Sept. 21 during the first weekend of alligator hunting season. “Biologists have done surveys and we knew we had a lot of them, so last year they gave us two [hunting] permits instead of one,” said Little Rock’s Drew Baker, who snagged one of those permits because no one else wanted it. “I knew we had some in the 10-foot range, and a couple of our club members swore we had something in the 14-foot range.” What Baker bagged certainly was within that range. He harpooned a 13-foot, 9¼-inch beast, the longest gator taken since hunting began in Arkansas in 2007. “We were on the water about 7:45,” Baker said. “We turned on our beams and started to troll.” Baker was in a 16-foot boat on Red Lake, a 15- to 20acre oxbow, with Terry Jerry of Cabot and Clay Berry of Arkadelphia. They were armed with a harpoon, a noose and a few shotgun shells. At about 8:30, Baker was on his phone with Mike Cottingham, who killed the previous record last year, when he spotted his prey. He told Cottingham he had to go and hung up. “His back was really wide,” Baker said. “I grabbed the harpoon; I had an 8-foot pole. I started shaking because I couldn’t believe I was getting a try at this. We were in position and he started swimming away, which is what we wanted.” Baker had a 6-inch window to hit, which he did. The harpoon landed below the gator’s hard back and planted solidly in front of a hind leg. “In my excitement, instead of letting go of the rope, I dropped my pole, but I had a buoy on the line,” Baker said. “He didn’t run until I put some tension on the line. We worked on him for 40 minutes. It was hard to get him close
enough to get the shot.” But they did – then they noosed the gator and towed it to shore. They used a truck to pull it from the water. “We couldn’t move him,” Baker said. “A friend of mine came and the four of us still couldn’t move him.” They eventually tugged and rolled the gator into the boat, and took off to have it checked by Eley Talley, an AGFC biologist. By then it was midnight. It was field dressed by 2 a.m. and iced down by 4 a.m. It was loaded on a truck with a tractor by Dave Corley, owner of Fin, Feather and Fur Taxidermy in Jacksonville. The meat was delivered to Hogg’s Meat Market in North Little Rock. The truck and gator were weighed at Love’s Travel Stop in Prescott and Pilot Travel Center in North Little Rock; Baker figures the gator’s weight could have a margin of error of 25-50 pounds. The question is: What do you do with 1,135 pounds of field-dressed gator? “My family wants a full mount,” Baker said. “I guess we’ll have to move a couch and some chairs to make room.” Quick Minute Picture a small, swampy lake, full of stumps and no boat ramp. Melissa Vickers of Hope, along with hunting partners Heath Phillips and Luke Russell, slipped a boat into the water about 7:40 p.m., Sept. 21, in search of an alligator – one she hoped would stretch 12 feet. “It’s kind of funny,” said Vickers, a recreation-natural resources management major at Henderson State University. “I had an internship at DeGray Lake [Resort State Park]. I told people I wanted a minimum of 12 feet. They were blown away by the pictures.” Who wouldn’t be? She got her 12-foot gator right on the nose during an eventful minute. “We had a push pole that we tapped one on the head with. He went under but didn’t go to the bottom – we could see part of his tail and his belly.” The boat was between two cypress trees and Vickers was trying to avoid a wasp nest. Meanwhile, the gator was in suspended animation. “I had my snare rigged but I couldn’t see the head,” Vickers said. She tried to snare it by feeling underwater but couldn’t. With a different boat angle, she worked the snare around
Drew Baker (left) and hunting partner Terry Jerry show the massive jaws of a 13-foot, 9¼-inch alligator. Photo courtesy of Drew Baker.
the gator’s neck. “Heath pulled the snare tight and he took off,” Vickers said. “We had about 30 feet of rope.” The rope drew tight and wedged the boat in the trees. After working some slack in the rope, Vickers freed the boat. The gator dove under the boat but Phillips and Russell were able to pull it up. “He was shaking his head and I hit him with a .20-gauge. The whole thing took about a minute.” Vickers says she’s getting the hide tanned to make boots, belts, purses and holsters. “I’d love to kill one again,” she said. “But I don’t want to skin one again.” New Furniture Brent Hutchins of Jacksonville understands Baker’s problem of finding a home for a huge mount. He filled his tag with a 12-foot gator Sept. 27, taken in the Arkansas River near Arkansas Post. He was hunting from a 15-foot duck boat with friends Ryan Schatz of Maumelle and Todd Underwood of Lonoke. The other member of the team, Cary Copeland, owner of Wildlife Illusions Taxidermy in Jacksonville, couldn’t make it. “It was the first one we saw that night,” Hutchins said. “We trolled right up to him. He kind of went down and I lunged and gave it to him as hard as I could. I got lucky.” The harpoon hit mid-back and the fight was on. “He rope-burned me pretty good and he jerked the buoy out of my hand. We put the big motor down and caught up pretty quick. He pulled the boat around. We wore him out but then he went straight to the bottom; it was about 25 foot. When he came up, his tail almost hit Ryan.” Hutchins shot the gator with a .20-gauge three times, although it took a fourth shot to subdue it after it bit a boat paddle. The trio rolled the gator in the boat and headed for the ramp to get it checked. “We cleaned him, bought 600 pounds of ice and brought him home,” said Hutchinson, who is getting a trophy body mount made. “I never dreamed I’d kill one that big. I’ll be putting in for a permit every time now.” This article appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of Arkansas Wildlife, produced by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. To subscribe to the bimonthly magazine, visit www.agfc.com or call 800-283-2664.
Heath Phillips (left) and Luke Russell (right) helped Melissa Vickers bag a 12-foot alligator. Photo courtesy of Melissa Vickers.
Left to right, Ryan Schatz, Brent Hutchins and Todd Underwood with a 12-foot alligator they pulled from the Arkansas River. Photo courtesy of Brent Hutchins. Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 45
As the year winds down, we look back at 2013 with some of the photos submitted to our Facebook page. Want to see yourself here in 2014? Feel free to share with us your good times in the Arkansas Wild.
46 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013
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Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 47
Garvan WOODLAND GARDENS Photos by A.C. “Chuck” Harrel0son
Garvan Woodland Gardens is presented in its spectacular late fall beauty in the photographs by A.C. “Chuck” Harrelson of the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department. As the year draws to a close and the holidays approach, the gardens will take on a festival look again this year when they are dressed up with nearly 4 million lights. Walking tours complete with holiday music and complementary hot chocolate will be offered. The Holiday Lights 2013 Opening Night Concert, featuring the Village Big Band, is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 23, in Anthony Chapel. Holiday Lights will be up through Dec. 31, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). The 210-acre botanical garden is located at 550 Arkridge Road, approximately 6 miles from Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs. It is owned by the University of Arkansas and open every day for a fee; memberships are available that provide free admission. Holiday Lights 2013 will cost $10 for adults and $5 for children 6-12 (free for ages 5 and below). Golf cart rides are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $10 per person. The gardens are open from noon to 9 p.m. through Dec. 31 (9 a.m. -6 p.m. during the rest of the year, closed all through the month of January). The Chipmunk Cafe will be open each day from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. during Holiday Lights. Garvan Woodland Gardens is easily accessible off the Highway 70 bypass (Martin Luther King Expressway) by taking the Lake Catherine exit. Follow the signs. More calendar information for the gardens may be found at the website, garvangardens. org, or call (501) 262-9300/(800) 366-4664. 48 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 49
Behind the Scenes Big Buck Classic a Labor of Love for Murchisons By Jim Harris
When the weather turns cooler and an Arkansas hunter fells that long-awaited buck, the one with the antler rack that hunters only dream about, thoughts often turn to late January and whether this deer head or antler rack could measure up well among the latest harvest. That’s what 24 years of the Big Buck Classic has provided — an opportunity to show off the year’s best deer. But long before that last weekend in January, long before that deer has been dropped, the husband-andwife team of Tommy and Catherine Murchison has been thinking about thenext Big Buck Classic. In fact, they start thinking about the next event at Little Rock’s Barton Coliseum about the day after the previous year’s festival ends — or maybe a few days later, after they’ve caught their breaths. Many plans are well in place before deer season opens in Arkansas. Sponsorships are being nailed down, booth space is being rented to vendors, and the other fun exhibits that appeal to both children and adults during the three-day festival are already coming together. Little Rock certainly benefits economically as thousands of Arkansans from all corners of the state are drawn to the fairgrounds on Roosevelt Road for the three-day event. The 2014 Classic is slated for Jan. 24-26. “The entertainment value is certainly there when you can pay $10 and stay as long as you want,” Catherine Murchison says. “Compare that to a movie where you pay and stay for 2 hours and then they kick you out and you have to pay again.” There’s something for the entire family, Murchison proudly notes. “If you look at how many little kids were there this past year, it’s just amazing.” This coming January will mark the 24th event that the Murchisons began in an archery field in Jacksonville. “That just kills me to think about, because, like I say to people at the Classic, I promise I was about 10 when all this started,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll start talking about it to someone in their 20s or 30s and they’ll look at me like I’m crazy and say, in their mind there’s always been a Big 50 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
Buck Classic. Well, it probably started when they were 5 and they’ve been coming for that many years. But I’ll just think of the time that’s passed and think, oh my gosh. So then I say I was 6 when I started it instead of 10.” The growth in size of the event and the crowd that shows up has been enormous since those first days of the Classic, which moved to Rick’s Armory briefly before finding large-enough quarters off Interstate 30 at what then was known as the Little Rock Expo Center, which the Murchisons loved, Catherine said. When Pulaski Technical College bought the property, though, the Classic had to move out. What was at first a disappointment eight years ago proved to be a boost to the Classic with its move to Barton Coliseum and ability to draw thousands of fans, young and old, who keep coming back. “Once they come, they remember it, they want to come back,” Murchison said. “The more they learn the better our future hunters will be. Even if you don’t hunt, you can have an appreciation for the entertainment. And it’s fun just to look around.” From the beginning, Murchison says, the mission statement has focused on conservation of deer and ethical hunting. The mission statement is found on the Big Buck website, wwwbigbuckclassic.com. “What the festival has shown, at the beginning people weren’t aware Arkansas was capable of producing this quality of deer,” she said. Tommy and Catherine also are hunters, though she says, “I’m not a hugely successful one. But I’ve taken some really good pictures of them when it’s not in season. Just recently [early in the fall] I was out all day. I take a lot of photos. “Now, I can cook venison really, really good. I am a good deer cook.” TRADITIONAL DATE Hunters who chase both deer and ducks and don’t want to miss what has traditionally become the last weekend of duck season in Arkansas lament the fact that the Big Buck Classic falls on the same weekend. Now that Arkansas has
that the antlers alone are acceptable as entries while the taxidermist may still be working with the mount. Hunters are on their honor that their Big Buck was taken in the most recent season’s hunt. Don’t expect to fool these folks. The website and entry form also state that hunters who enter are subject to a polygraph test. “Believe it or not, we have very few problems,” Murchison said.
Photos courtesy of Arkansas Big Buck Classic
a 60-day season, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission sets the duck dates in August and usually draw out the season to that last weekend. “It wasn’t always the last weekend of duck season,” Catherine remembers. “We probably had our date in place for 10 years before they extended the end of duck season. Then they extended it and it fell on our date. “We did seriously look at moving and we knew we did miss some of the duck hunters who might still come to our festival. But it was difficult to change a date we had set with our vendors. You set those sometimes years in advance to get on their calendars. “Scheduling becomes a problem when you start jumping around with dates. We stuck with it and said this is what we would have to live with.” The Murchisons have grown the festival to reach every deer hunter in Arkansas, giving awards to the biggest buck (in points based on antler size) from each of the 75 counties, with Remington sponsoring the awards. Also, every child 15 and under who enters a deer is recognized on stage. Murchison admits that it makes for a long awards presentation late on Sunday afternoon, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. The smiles on the faces of the youths on hand last January would attest to that. “They are the future of our hunting and conservation in our state,” she said. Every hunter’s deer that scores a 130 or above earns the hunter at least an honor roll ribbon. “We were trying to educate and promote and encourage a little bit bigger deer. A 130 is not going to win an overall prize, but it’s certainly a nice deer,” she said. And really, she adds, for the majority of these deer hunters, “ it’s not about the prizes. The deer itself is your trophy, but still hundreds of prizes are given out.” The event may be centered around deer, but there’s plenty more to bring out even the non-deer hunter. Last year, the Texas rattlesnake exhibit inside the coliseum was a huge hit all three days, and there are plenty of Donald Rhinehardt’s animals from West Virginia on hand, now for the seventh straight year — his show changes regularly; this year look for a couple of baby tigers as well as a baby bear born about the time of last year’s Classic. For the younger set, “Bwana Jim” annually brings his smaller animal act from that entertains and educates. He typically presents animals such as raptors that, through some incident, have lost the ability to get around or fly. A knife-making exhibit with audience participation was another memorable exhibit outside the coliseum last year. The event also draws hunting and boating companies as well as food vendors toting their goods. The daily admission fee includes secured parking around the coliseum. “To be quite honest, our show has really grown since we’ve been at the fairgrounds,” she said. “It’s a busy 25 hours crammed into three days. To get the full effect of the event, you have to come on Saturday.” Information on entering a “big buck” is available on the website at bigbuckclassic.com. Some enter entire, mounted heads with the racks, but some hunters may not know
Every child 15 and under takes the stage at the Big Buck Classic (top), while Matt Bain (middle left), Shane Womack (middle right) and Kyle Vansickle (bottom) all have potential Big Buck prizes with recent kills. Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 51
a u ry n a Means
As traditional as the hunting seasons in Arkansas, the start of every new year welcomes the biggest of boat and RV shows in this area: the Marine Expo and the Arkansas RV show Arkansas’ premier boat show will offer special low “boat show pricing” on hundreds of boats — bass boats, ski boats, deck boats, duck boats, wakeboard boats, party barges, personal watercraft and much more. Marine Expo also presents the opportunity to shop and compare dozens of dealers and hundreds of boats at one time, in one place. Visitors can also check out discounts on fishing tackle, as well as many other boating related displays, while checking out the boats. Arkansas RV Show is the state’s largest RV Show and will feature nearly 100,000 square feet of RV exhibits. More than 125 recreational vehicles will be on display — motor homes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, toy haulers and camping trailers, plus exhibits featuring resorts, campgrounds, RV accessories and other items related to the RV industry. Manufacturers will have factory reps on hand to answer any consumer’s questions. Whether it’s an experienced RVer looking to trade up or a first-time buyer looking for answers, this is the opportunity to shop and compare dozens of dealers at one time in one place. In February, the Hot Springs Boat, Tackle and RV Show is the shopping destination for outdoor enthusiasts, whether their interest is activites on land or on the water. This is the largest show of its kind in Arkansas, with exhibitors filling well over 100,000 square feet of exhibit space with hundreds of boats, RVs and specialty booths filled with marine accessories and travel destinations. The show is the best place to shop, compare and buy everything needed for the next outdoor adventure. All of these events are presented by Denton and Griffey.
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Winter 2013 ď‚§ Arkansas Wild | 53
CAROLING IN THE CAVERNS
DEC. 1-22: Starting after Thanksgiving until the Sunday before Christmas, caroling every Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. Marvel at the beauty of astonishing formations coupled with the sounds of caroling resounding through the caverns at Fifty Six as musicians perform your favorite old-time Christmas songs. For more information contact Dee Hanrahan at 870-269-8068.
HOLIDAY HIGH TEA AT GARVAN WOODLAND GARDENS
DEC. 3: Enjoy more than 2 million twinkling lights illuminating the Gardens after this festive tea. The traditional English tea style offers patrons a sampling of assorted scones, finger sandwiches and desserts, all accompanied by a variety of flavorful hot teas. Call the Gardens at 501-262-9300 for reservations. Seating limited. Admission: $25 for Garden members; $30 for nonmembers.
BASKET WEAVING WORKSHOP
sporting collectibles show, Junior World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest, Senior World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest, World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook-off in Producer’s parking lot on Park Avenue, Women’s World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest and 78th Annual World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest. Most events are free; admission charged to Duck Gumbo Cookoff and Sportman’s Party. For more information on dates and times visit www.stuttgartarkansas.org.
16th ANNUAL PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN RENDEZVOUS
2013 WINGS OVER THE PRAIRIE FESTIVAL
Nov. 23-30: All in Stuttgart. The festival begins Saturday, Nov. 23, with the Queen Mallard and Junior Queen Mallard Pageants, and Duck Widows Tennis Tournament. Wings Over the Prairie Festival opens on Main Street Sunday, Nov. 24, with carnival and midway. Youth Duck Calling Contest is Nov. 27 (open only to Butch Richenback students). Registration opens Friday, Nov. 29, for all of the duck calling contests to be held Fri.-Sat., Nov. 2930: Children’s Duck Calling Class, Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest, Junior Women’s World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest, Intermediate World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest, Last Chance Regional Duck Calling Contest. Friday: Carnival and midway, arts & crafts fair, commercial exhibits, sporting collectibles show, off-road village, Sportsman’s Party at the Grand Prairie Event Center. Saturday: Great 10K Duck Race, arts and crafts fair, commercial exhibits, 54 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
Nov. 29-Dec. 1: Step back in time around 200 years. Learn survival skills through a variety of demonstrations. Admission: Free. Location: Petit Jean State Park. For more information contact Cheyenne Cohee at 501-727-5441 or visit www.petitjeanstatepark. com.
MOUNTAIN HARBOR RESORT LIVE AUCTION & SPAGHETTI DINNER
Nov. 30: Come in casual attire for an evening of good old-fashioned socializing with spaghetti and all the fixings, and a live auction featuring local crafts and artwork, resort giveaways, and more. All event proceeds go to the Joplin Volunteer Fire Department. Location: Harbor Lodge. For more information contact Adriane Barnes at 870-867-2191.
FALL HAYRIDE AND CAMPFIRE
Nov. 30: Jostle, bounce and laugh your way across the fields and through the woods on a guided hayride. Followed by a warm campfire with stories, hot chocolate, and marshmallows. Advance payment required. Admission: $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 6-12. For more information call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at 501-868-5806.
DEC. 6: The mounds at Toltec were built by the Plum Bayou people one basket of dirt at a time. Come join a park interpreter and learn to weave your own basket to use, display, or give as a gift for the holidays. The educational and fun workshop starts with a brief presentation on Southeastern American Indian Basket technology given by resident archeologist Dr. Elizabeth Horton. Reservations suggested. Admission: $30. For more information contact the park at 501-961-9442.
CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE AT PETIT JEAN
DEC. 7: Come see Petit Jean State Park dressed in its Christmas finery. Enjoy family-oriented arts and crafts activities and seasonal entertainment. Contact the park for a schedule as the event draws near, 501-727-5441.
WINTER DISCOVERY LAKE CRUISES
DEC. 7: Come prepared to discover Lake Maumelle as it springs to life in the middle of winter. Pinnacle Mountain State Park and its surrounding water bodies host thousands of animals that have migrated south for the winter. A park interpreter will guide the way as visitors search for critters of all kinds that spend the winter around the lake, including a few bald eagles. Dress for extremely cold and windy lake weather. Advance payment is required. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children ages 6-12. For more information or reservations call 501-868-5806.
22nd ANNUAL LITTLE ROCK JINGLE BELL RUN/ WALK FOR ARTHRITIS
DEC. 7: A holiday themed fun 5K run/walk or a 1-mile fun run/walk with costume contest, funfilled kid’s zone, door prizes and pictures with Santa. Everyone will have an opportunity to participate regardless of fitness level. Your canine friends — they are also susceptible to getting arthritis — are also welcome to come join in on the fun. All proceeds benefit the Arthritis Foundation. Clinton Presidential Library. For more information
contact Angela Harris at 501-664-4591.
HIKE IN THE HILLS
DEC. 8: Challenge yourself with a guided hike to one of the seven peaks of Pinnacle Mountain State Park on this off-trails expedition. Wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water. For more information contact the park at 501-868-5806.
BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY: WILD & SWINGIN HOLIDAY PARTY
DEC. 9: 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s remarkable arrival onto the music scene. In their first years, having secured legendary residency at the Derby nightclub in Los Angeles, they reminded the world — in the middle of the grunge era, no less — that it was still cool to swing, big-band style. Today the high-energy nine-piece ensemble continues the party. The band’s originals rocketed the group into its first phase of stardom when “You & Me and the Bottle Makes Three (Tonight)” and “Go Daddy-O” were featured in the 1996 indie film “Swingers.” Big Bad Voodoo Daddy hit pop music superstardom with its appearance in front of millions during the halftime show of the 1999 Super Bowl. In 2004, the band recorded a Christmas album, “Everything You Want For Christmas,” and since then its Christmas shows have become legendary. Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA, Conway. Admission: $30-$40 for adults, $10 students. For more information call 501-450-3265.
FORT SMITH TROLLEY MUSEUM’S ANNUAL POLAR EXPRESS
DEC. 13: Children and their families will enjoy a reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic Christmas story “The Polar Express” in the vintage railroad dining car. They will then be treated to hot cocoa and cookies. After a visit and photo shoot with Santa, they can take a ride on the Trolley. Children are encouraged (though not required) to wear their pajamas, as the children on the train in the story do. Free admission. For more information call 479-783-0205.
winter. Learn how to identify a bald eagle in flight, so you can keep your eyes on the sky all winter long. Event begins at 2 p.m., Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center (602 President Clinton Ave.). For more information call 501-907-0636, ext. 104.
DEC. 14: The Toltec Mounds Visitors Center at its archeological park outside Scott provides a perfect backdrop for viewing the night sky. A park interpreter will guide you through the constellations and tell American Indian stories while you explore the site in a whole new way. Space is limited so make reservations and meet at the Visitor Center. Whether you are a novice star gazer or an astrophysicist, come and relax while appreciating the earth’s natural night lights. Admission: $4 adults, $3 kids ages 6-12, kids under 6 get in free. For more information call 501-961-9442.
DEC. 14: Jostle, bounce and laugh your way across the fields and through the woods on a guided hayride with a warm campfire, stories, hot chocolate and marshmallows. Advance payment required. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children ages 6-12. For more information call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at 501-868-5806.
CHRISTMAS MUSEUM OPEN HOUSE IN SCOTT
DEC. 14: How about a new holiday tradition to start this Christmas? The Plantation Agriculture Museum will be opening its grounds and buildings to the public for its third annual Christmas Museum Open House. All items in the museum gift shop will be 20 percent off. Enjoy a relaxed atmosphere for the holidays while shopping, making crafts, sipping hot apple cider or coffee, and nibbling on homemade treats. Making memories are lifelong possessions that you can always carry home. Admission: $3. For more information call the Cotton Patch Gift Shop at 501-961-1409.
DEC. 14: Bring the family for a day of free fun activities for children in kindergarten through fifth grade starting at 11 a.m. at the Heifer Village. Admission is free. For more information call 501-907-2697.
DEC. 21: What is it about a little bundle of feathers, with a beak on one end and sticks for legs on the other, that makes us at once peaceful and calm and pleased with the world? Birds are one of the most successful animals the world has ever seen. They have survived for eons and have mastered the land, sea and air. Birds are both works of art and marvels of engineering. Join park interpreters as we discover the birds around us and how to identify them. Admission fee includes a “Pocket Guide of Arkansas Birds” and a drink mug. Reservations are required and space is limited, so call early. Admission: $10. For more information call Lake Catherine State Park at 501-844-4176.
ANNUAL NEW YEAR’S DAY BICYCLE RIDE
JAN. 1: Meet at Kroger parking lot at North Hills and McCain Blvd. Be sure to call to check on the time. We will ride through east Pulaski County and have lunch when we return. For more information contact James Britt or visit www.arkansasbicycleclub.org.
ROCK CITY RUNNING’S SOCIAL
JAN. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29: This is a morning social fun run. Runners will meet at 5:30 a.m. at 10300 N. Rodney Parham, Suite D3. For more information contact Bill Bulloch at 501-313-4689.
EAGLE LAKE CRUISE
JAN. 4: Join Pinnacle Mountain State Park interpreters for a cruise on Lake Maumelle to seek wintering bald eagles. We often see several eagles and migratory waterfowl. Dress in layers for extreme cold and windy like weather. Advance payment is required. Admission: $12 adults, $6 children 6-12. For more information call 501-868-5806.
VENOMOUS SNAKES SEMINAR
DEC. 13: Many people are fearful of snakes, mostly due to lack of knowledge. Through a live snake show, local reptile enthusiasts Jeremy Sloan and Brad Birchfield will help the audience learn how to identify Arkansas’ most common snakes, venomous versus nonvenomous, and how to avoid them. 6 p.m., Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center. For more information contact Kendra Ingle at 479-452-3993.
LIL’ WILD ONES: NATURE STORIES AND ACTIVITIES
DEC. 14: Some bald eagles can be found in Arkansas all year long, but many more pay Arkansas a visit during Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 55
calendar events LIL’ WILD ONES: NATURE STORIES AND ACTIVITIES
JAN. 11: Tag along with Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel as they scurry through their daily routine. These nervous nutcrackers are known to stash hundreds of acorns in secret hidey holes for later. How do they remember where they put them all? We’ll save that secret for the class. 2 p.m., Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center (602 President Clinton Ave.). For more information call 501-907-0636 ext. 104.
Protection in The Home” handbook, NRA “Gun Safety Rules” brochure, the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification booklet, and course completion certificate. Students must be lawabiding adults (at least 21 years old) and experienced shooters (shooters able to show mastery of the basic skills of safe gun handling, shooting a group, zeroing the firearm, and cleaning the firearm) to maximize what can be learned from this course. Proof of shooting experience can be the following: NRA Basic Pistol Certificate, NRA FIRST Steps Course Certificate, NRA pistol competitive shooting qualification card, military DD-214 with pistol qualification, or passing the Pre-Course Assessment. For more information call 501-444-2378 or visit www.arkansasselfdefense.com.
EAGLE AWARENESS WEEKEND
JAN. 11: Bring the family for a day of free, fun activities for children in kindergarten through fifth grade starting at 11 a.m. at the Heifer Village. The event will focus on caring for the Earth and other people. Free admission. For more information call 501-907-2697.
JAN. 11-12: Petit Jean State Park plans to kick off its 2014 Special Events and Activities by spending two days devoted to our national symbol, the bald eagle. A variety of programs is planned, including field trips to nearby Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge to look for wintering eagles and other birds. Contact the park for a schedule as the event draws near at 501-727-5441.
JANUARY PARK OF THE MONTH
ARKANSAS TACKLE, HUNTING & BOAT SHOW
JAN. 11: Come enjoy a fun-filled family day. All ages are welcome. Free admission. 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., Martin Street Youth Center (201 Martin Street, Jacksonville). For more information contact Dana Rozenski at 501-982-4171.
NRA PERSONAL PROTECTION IN THE HOME COURSE
JAN. 11: This event will take place at the Arkansas Self Defense Training Suite located at 1 City Plaza in Cabot from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. This is an eighthour course with a fee of $75 per person. Students should expect to shoot approximately 100 rounds of ammunition. Students will learn basic defensive shooting skills, strategies for home safety and responding to a violent confrontation, firearms and the law, how to choose a handgun for self-defense, and continued opportunities for skill development. Students will receive the “NRA Guide to the Basics of Personal
JAN. 17-19: If you love the outdoors then this show is for you. Get new and updated products at this show before they ever hit the public market. Find out the latest fishing and hunting techniques from the pros and get the products of their success. This event brings together the best of the best boat, tackle and hunting dealers with products, apparel and services all under one roof. The show is packed with more than 250 vendors, seminars, kids’ events, food, contests, and giveaways. Great fun for the whole family. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children. Fort Smith Convention Center. For more information contact Vance Montgomery at 918-343-4868 or visit www.arkansastackleandhuntingshow.com.
48th ANNUAL COIN, STAMP & SPORTS CARD SHOW
JAN. 17-19: This event is presented by Tri-Lakes Coin Club Inc. in association with A.N.S., also featuring Civil War memorabilia. Event times: Friday 1-6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Hot Springs Convention Center. Free parking and free admission. The Tri-Lakes Coin Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Garland County Library (1427 Malvern Road, Hot Springs). We welcome new members and guests. For further information contact Gene Johnson at 501-624-0074 or visit www.hotsprings.org/events.
LAKE CATHERINE BALD EAGLE TOURS
JAN. 17-19: There are few moments in nature more awe-inspiring than seeing a bald eagle in the wild. Take a boat or hiking tour for a chance to see this memorable site. Bald eagles are migratory raptors that pass over Lake Catherine in the winter. Sign up in advance for a boat tour or just show up to a hike. We will offer other daily programs about eagles so you can learn even more about this national emblem. A detailed schedule will be posted online as the event approaches. For more information call 501-844-4176.
ANTIQUE ALLEY ARKANSAS ANTIQUE SHOW
JAN. 18-19: More than 100 exhibitors from 10 or more states will fill more than 200 booths. Shoppers will find architectural salvage, old advertising, antique toys, linens, primitives, glassware, antique furniture and more at the show. Admission: $5 adults; $1 children ages 12 and under. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Conway Expo Center. For more information contact Ashley Norris at 501-230-5728 or visit www.antiquealleyarkansas.com.
PROFESSIONAL LANDSCAPE AND NURSERY TRADE SHOW
JAN. 22: Here’s an opportunity to meet an expert professional that provides personal advice and information in this subject, and visitors will be able to fill their bucket of knowledge regarding how to expand their business. Exhibitors and visitors from around the world are expected to attend. Exhibitors will get an opportunity to promote their business because they will get the targeted customers participating in the event. Many digital platforms and live events, including extensive exhibitors, conferences and awards. The Professional Landscape and Nursery Trade Show is dedicated to bringing the best new products, ideas, equipment and advice: delivering first-class industry insights and information to everyone. This event will take place at the Summit Arena (134 Convention Blvd., Hot Springs). For more information call 501-321-2835.
24th ANNUAL BIG BUCK CLASSIC
JAN. 24-26: Come to the Arkansas State Fairgrounds for the largest hunting event in Arkansas. Hours: 1-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12, and kids under 5 admitted free. Kids concessions are $1 on Friday only. Awards presentation at 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information visit www.bigbuckclassic.com. 56 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS BIG GAME BANQUET
FEB. 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 more than 6.3 million acres of wildlife habitat. RMEF also supports hunting heritage programs and help restore wild elk herds. Along the way, RMEF has helped open access to nearly a half-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 the Northwest Arkansas Chapter banquet contact Chris Schnurbusch at 479-531-3328.
LIL’ WILD ONES: NATURE STORIES AND ACTIVITIES
35th ANNUAL EAGLES et CeTERA
JAN. 24-26: Arkansas’ longest-running eagle awareness event is back. See live birds of prey, meet a raptor rehabilitator, learn about the ancient art of falconry, or join an eagle tour to look for wintering bald eagles in the wild. An activity room and loads of bird and conservation themed presentations will round out the weekend. A detailed schedule will be posted online as the event approaches. For more information call 501-8655810 or visit www.degray.com.
BLUEBIRD NEST BOX WORKSHOP
FEB. 1: The Eastern bluebird is a charming, easily observable, year-round resident of the state. Join us to build your own bluebird nest box. We will also discuss how to maintain the boxes and how to attract bluebirds. Register by Jan. 24, 2014, to reserve your spot and materials. Admission: $20. Event place: Marianna’s Visitor Center MultiPurpose Room. For more information and to make your reservations call 870-295-4040.
ARTS & SCIENCE CENTER’s A TASTE OF WILDLIFE 2014
FEB. 7: The center will be having its bi-annual wild game dinner and benefit at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff. For more information contact Rebekah Ray at 870-536-3345.
FEB. 8: Arkansas used to have so many bears that it was nicknamed the bear state. Learn what happened to all those bears and how we helped them come back to The Natural State. Listen in as we explore all about these magnificent animals. 2 p.m., Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center (602 President Clinton Ave.). For more information call 501-907-0636 ext. 104.
26th ANNUAL HOME AND GARDEN SEMINAR & SHOW
FEB. 8: Plants, herbs, crafts and other items for sale; distinguished speakers on various horticultural topics; “How To” sessions throughout the day; door prizes; kids’ corner, and youth activities are a few of the things that you can expect at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Free admission. For more information contact Dennis Bailey at 870-534-1033.
BEGINNERS TEA AND TATTING WORKSHOP
until 1 p.m. Event place: Martin Street Youth Center (201 Martin St., Jacksonville). For more information contact Dana Rozenski at 501-982-4171.
FEB. 8: Bring the family for a day of free, fun activities for children in kindergarten through fifth grade starting at 11 a.m. at the Heifer Village. The event will focus on caring for the Earth and other people. Free admission. For more information call 501907-2697.
VALENTINE’S DINNER AT GARVAN WOODLAND GARDENS
FEB. 14: Treat your Valentine to a special night at the Gardens with a gourmet dinner, drinks and entertainment. Last year’s banquet was a sold-out success, so make plans now to come. Tickets will go on sale after Jan. 1, 2014. Call 800-366-4664 for information and reserve your tickets.
GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT
FEB. 14-15: Mississippi River State Park in Marianna is all about citizen science and the Great Backyard Bird Count is an ideal project for individuals to enjoy nature and help wildlife biologists with research. All across the country, participants will be counting all the birds they see in order to obtain a real time “snapshot” of where the birds are across the continent. You can help by participating in one of Mississippi River State Park’s bird walks this weekend. All skill levels and abilities are welcome. The park interpreter will be there to help you with identification and instructions on how the count is conducted. Bring binoculars if you can, or we have some to share. Free admission. For more information call 870-295-4040.
HIKES, HEARTS AND HUGS WEEKEND
FEB. 14-16: Enjoy the newly renovated yet historic Mather Lodge on Petit Jean Mountain and be treated to a romantic weekend. Activities such as guided trail hikes are geared toward couples. The event’s highlight is a romantic “sweethearts’ candlelight dinner.” Reservations required. For more information call 501-727-5441.
WILDWOOD’S LANTERNS FESTIVAL
FEB. 8: Memories are lifelong possessions you can always carry with you. Join a park interpreter at the Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park to learn about tatting, an age-old American art in lace-making that you can recreate using simple techniques with just your hands and a shuttle. Enjoy sipping an assortment of hot teas while joining in with others in the frolic of tatting knotted patterns and taking home new ideas and homemade memories. Please pre-register due to a limited amount of space. Admission: $10 (covers materials). Cotton Patch Gift Shop. For more information call 501-961-1409.
FEB. 14-16: A magical evening designed to delight children and adults alike, the event celebrates the first full moon of the lunar year with a profusion of lanterns, entertainment, gourmet treats and warm beverages. Lighted walking paths and fire pits along the lake lead visitors into winter woodlands to discover vistas representing a variety of eras, cultures and geographical locations, from Venice to Bavaria to the Caribbean. Admission: $10 adults, $5 for ages 6-12; 5 and under get in free. For more information contact Rachael Montunnas at 501-821-7275.
FEBRUARY PARK OF THE MONTH
VAN DAVIS 5K MEMORIAL RACE
FEB. 8: Come enjoy a fun-filled family day. All ages are welcome. Admission: Free. Event time: 11 a.m.
FEB. 15: National Park Community College Foundation has organized a 5K race to benefit Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 57
local experts and learn about gardening at the educational presentations. Shop for your home and garden from more than 100 garden-related vendors. Statehouse Convention Center. For more information contact Krista Quinn at 501-821-4000.
2014 HOME SHOW IN FORT SMITH
FEB. 21-23: Presented by the Greater Fort Smith Association of Home Builders. More than 4,500 people are expected to walk the aisles to view more than 100 exhibits chock-full of new building ideas, products, designs and money-saving advice. Home Builders are on hand to discuss your long-planned new home; remodelers will discuss renovating the home you have; and the list of suppliers and retailers with home products is long. For more information contact the Fort Smith Convention Center at 479-788-8923.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS BIG GAME BANQUET
the Van Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund. The race route will be the same as last year: start at Whittington Park in Hot Springs, down Whittington Ave. to the turnaround before Central Ave. and then back to finish at Whittington Park. Race start time is 9 a.m. and registration can be done online. Entry fee is $25 for early registration. For more information contact Lisa Carey at 501-760-6582 or visit www. hotsprings.org.
GARVAN WOODLAND GARDENS DAFFODIL DAYS
FEB. 15-MARCH 15: Typically around midFebruary, Garvan’s thousands of sunny daffodils begin blooming. The Gardens boast a total of around 200,000 daffodils in various shades of yellow and white. Many are concentrated on the Three Sisters of Amity Daffodil Hill on Warren’s Woodland Walk in the center of the main garden grounds. Event time: 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children ages 6-12, 5 and under get in free. Check the Gardens facebook page for current photos of the Gardens bloom, or call the Gardens for more information at 501-262-9300.
23rd ANNUAL ARKANSAS FLOWER & GARDEN SHOW
FEB. 21-23: A fun and family-friendly celebration of gardening in Arkansas. Walk through live indoor garden displays and view sensational floral arrangements. Get gardening tips and advice from 58 | Arkansas Wild Winter 2013
FEB. 22: 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 more than 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 the Central Arkansas Chapter banquet contact Terri Williams at 501-847-4009.
SURVIVAL SKILLS WEEKEND
FEB. 22-23: Start or add to your knowledge of
surviving in the great outdoors. This weekend will be filled with survivor skill workshops such as map and compass, fire building and shelter building and more. Contact the park for a specific workshop schedule as the event draws near. Advance payment is required for in-depth workshops, other programs will be free. For more information call Pinnacle Mountain State Park at 501-868-5806.
LITTLE ROCK MARATHON HEALTH & FITNESS EXPO
FEB. 28-MARCH 2: The 12th annual Little Rock Marathon Health & Fitness Expo will kick off the marathon weekend Friday, Feb. 28, and run through March 2. Times: 2-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. The Expo offers vendors in health, beauty, fitness, apparel, nutrition and the course overview will be offered. Bart Yasso, chief running officer of Runner’s World magazine, will be on hand to sign autographs and share his wealth of knowledge and many great stories. With a focus on the latest in running, fitness and lifestyle improvements, the Little Rock Marathon Health and Fitness Expo is the ultimate opportunity to showcase products and services to athletes, family members, sports enthusiasts and guests. More than 2,000 registrants and more than 25,000 expo attendees are expected based on last year’s participation. For more information visit www. littlerockmarathon.com.
ORCHID SOCIETY SHOW AND SALE
FEB. 28-MARCH 2: Annual show and sale includes judged exhibits in beautiful displays and a wide variety of orchids for sale. Members offer classes on orchids during the weekend. Proceeds benefit the Society and the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. Admission: $10 for reception; $5 for show/sale. Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville. For more information contact Judy Smith at 479-750-2620.
PARTING SHOT Dreams of duck hunting Lots of people who attended college, myself included, relive a dream where — years removed from those crazy days on campus – you’ve found you’ve missed the last “drop day” for a class you didn’t attend all semester, and now you have to take the final exam with absolutely no knowledge of the subject. It’s been analyzed, I’m informed, as an anxiety dream. Something else current in your life has triggered memories of the past and manifested them as your worst fear. My other anxiety dream is a little more enjoyable, though similar to the college class dream. In this one, we’re in a duck blind and many mallards are circling, cupping, coming in, dancing over the decoys on a string. “Take ’em,” somebody says. Maybe it’s the deep-throated voice of my longtime friend from the DeWitt area, Steve Keffer, with whom I shared a few hunts on a regular basis when I could duck hunt a lot more on Mill Bayou, and the seasons were just 30 days. Steve was the guide, a great shot and a great caller. Anyway, in my dream I shoulder a 12-gauge, take aim, pull the trigger – and the trigger won’t pull. The ducks are there, and now they’re vertically hurtling upward, and it’s frantic in the blind, and try as I might the trigger still won’t pull, and I’m nearly ready to toss the malfunctioning gun into the water. That dream is so vivid, and repeated nearly identically every time, like a dreamy “Groundhog Day.” Those mallard drakes have the most spectacular green and glistening heads contrasted against their brown necks and gray breast, the blue-violet on their wings shines beautifully, and their feet are nearly Tennessee Volunteer orange, if not a little red. They scatter in all directions, and I’m unable to get off a single shot. Like the anxious moments of college days, I think part of these dreams are
fueled by couple of instances that really happened on Mill Bayou. The classic semiautomatic Model 11 12-gauge of my grandfather’s that I first hunted with was faulty by the time it ended up in my hands, and cleaning it didn’t make the shells eject any better when it did fire properly. It ended up as a mantle piece. The other instance that still may be the most spectacular moment I’ve ever spent alone in the duck woods came nearly 30 years ago. My aforementioned friend, Steve Keffer, had decided the ducks were done for the day — and this was a time when the limit was a mere three per day, water was everywhere in Arkansas County, and the season was half as long as it is now. There were no spinning wing decoys and the like then. The breeding grounds were still a ways off from producing great numbers again. I stayed in a blind to while away the rest of the morning. I was several hundred yards off the main bayou, with a expansive thicket between the bayou and the blind, but as I sat there on a bluebird morning, I began to hear calls of mallard hens, many of them. They seemed to be all centered in one area well east of me, probably near the bayou, I thought. I was not an experienced duck hunter by any means, and I still have limited ability to call. I wouldn’t need a duck call this day, as it turned out. I decided, for the heck of it, to see what was up with all those ducks, as well as the groups that suddenly seemed to be joining in. Anyone who has hunted at all knows how hard it is to slip up on ducks with any kind of movement, but I gave it a shot. My steps through the water and the brush were by the inch — it probably took an hour or more to cover this distance. I wasn’t even sure where I might end up, but I knew the bayou was
at least top-of-my-waders high and it was getting deep as I moved toward all this commotion. Suddenly, I had reached a spot where I could still be hidden but see what I’d been hearing. I was one wide-eyed young hunter looking at several hundred ducks all having lit in the bayou, with dozens more pouring in. They were also completely oblivious to me. Today, I would just stand there and watch this scene for hours. But that day, I decided I’d get my limit with as little as one shot. I shouldered the gun at the moment hundreds of ducks realized I was less than 20 yards away. I attempted to take aim at one duck cupped just over this live-decoy spread, thinking that one shot would hit either that duck or nail a trio getting up. The problem was, I was so overwhelmed by this majestic sight, I wasn’t close to hitting a moving duck. I fired three wild shots, trying not to drown myself in the high water in the process.. Out of those hundreds and hundreds of ducks, two fell. Steve heard the shots and motored out from camp. He arrived as I collected a drake and a hen. Yes, there had be 500 drakes in that group, many of them on the water, and I came away with a hen. At least the gun fired properly.
Winter 2013 Arkansas Wild | 59
Drive with pride.
Now available at a revenue office near you.
agfc.com Visit an Arkansas Revenue Office near you or call 1-800-364-GAME to purchase a gift certificate now. Of your $35 purchase, $25 benefits the scholarship program and other educational efforts of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. 60 | Arkansas Wild ď‚§ Winter 2013