A Vital Way Of Life

Sportsmen are defined by the lands they hunt

By: Michael Roberts   Photography: Nancy Nolan

Gunning for birds on the wing requires a good eye and an accurate weapon. Most hunters develop a fierce loyalty to a particular firearm, and this sleek Browning 125th Anniversary Edition 12-gauge (one of only 15 in the world) certainly inspires it. Courtesy of Mack’s Prairie Wings in Stuttgart.

Gunning for birds on the wing requires a good eye and an accurate weapon. Most hunters develop a fierce loyalty to a particular firearm, and this sleek Browning 125th Anniversary Edition 12-gauge (one of only 15 in the world) certainly inspires it. Courtesy of Mack’s Prairie Wings in Stuttgart.

 
 

As summer’s heat bows down to the crisp, sharp air of autumn, outdoor lovers all around Arkansas trade water skis for waders and swimsuits for hunter orange. Rifles and muzzleloaders are cleaned and oiled, while tales of seasons past are brushed off and lovingly embellished. Hunters all around the Natural State reacquaint themselves with their favorite spots—or discover entirely new places full of abundant prey. Arkansas may not be a large state in terms of landmass, but our various regions are truly greater than the sum of their parts.

The Mississippi Flyway may stretch from the Gulf of Mexico all the way into Canada, but if it were to have an epicenter, Stuttgart would be it. Nearly half of North American waterfowl and shorebirds travel along this corridor every year, and people from all over the world flock to the self-proclaimed Duck Capital of the World to harvest them. And when they get there, outdoor outfitters like Mack’s Prairie Wings stand ready to supply all the hunting supplies, duck calls, guns, ammunition, decoys and clothing anyone might ever want. 

The U.S. Census Bureau In 2011, Arkansas boasted 363,000 hunters who spent, on average, 30 days a year hunting.

Elsewhere in the state, deer hunters scout stand locations, get camps cleaned up and ready and share stories about those big bucks that got away. The first day of deer season is such a big deal that some Arkansas schools take a holiday, knowing that most of their kids are going to be out before dawn chasing after whitetails. And of course, everyone has a favorite piece of gear, opinion about firearms or the perfect hunting technique—and the debates about who is right and wrong are nearly as ubiquitous as bright orange clothing.

There was a time when hunting was a means of survival, and there are certainly still hunters in the Natural State who derive much of their yearly protein from animals they kill. But for countless others, hunting is a way to connect the most primal instincts we possess as humans with our modern culture. Living the sporting life in a state like Arkansas bridges the gap between generations, strengthens the bonds of friendship and reconnects each of us to the land we call home. It’s a way of life as unique as the bends of our rivers and swell of our mountains and hills, and it’s one we celebrate as a vital and thriving part of Arkansas’ culture. 

 

Arkanas State Records

BUCK

Overall: Jacob Ayecock Typical, Modern gun: 195 2/8” (2015)

Bow: Wayne Lindsey, Typical, Bow: 177 7/8” (1998)

Muzzleloader: Charles Marcum, Typical, Muzzleloader: 171 7/8” (1994)

Crossbow: Greg McKnight, Typical, Crossbow: 174 1/8” (2007)

BEAR

Crossbow: Donald R. Patterson, Searcy County: 21 8/16” (2007)

Bow: Don Barnett, Saline County: 21 7/16” (2008)