The First Lady

Anne Marie Doramus makes history at AGFC

By Dwain Hebda

 
Photo by Andrew Miller Studio

Photo by Andrew Miller Studio

A few months ago, as Little Rock native Anne Marie (Hastings) Doramus was hosting a table at a Partners in Conservation luncheon in Northwest Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchison approached, shook her hand and uttered words that were a prelude to history: “I’ll be calling you in a few weeks to talk about a possible appointment.”

The governor made good on his promise and on June 26, Doramus became the first woman appointed a full-term Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner. It wasn’t the first role the Little Rock executive filled in support of the environment, having served on the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation board and as a founding member of the Arkansas Outdoor Society. She also sits on the board of directors of the Arkansas State Fair. 

Arkansas Wild sat down with the state’s newest AGFC commissioner to talk ducks, dogs and attracting future generations into the Arkansas outdoors. 

ARKANSAS WILD Do you feel any additional weight being the first woman appointed to a full term? No. I’ve gotten to know each of the commissioners over the past year and I’ve learned something from each of them. We each bring something to the table. In the end our goals are the same, and that is to work with the commission staff and other organizations to do the right thing and to make our state a better place. Even if it’s not the most popular decision, we’re going to do it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not being a man or a woman, it’s being qualified for the job.

That’s true, but understanding younger consumers and women is a part of what you bring to the table, right? I want to be that person who reaches out to, yes, my generation, but I also want to be the person that reaches out to everybody else. What I’ve come to learn is, not everybody’s a hunter or fisherman. There are people that are kayakers. Kayak anglers are on the rise. Hikers, mountain bikers, that’s gotten really big in Northwest Arkansas. I want to keep making those connections between other organizations and people. 

I also want to remove barriers and make [outdoor activities] not as intimidating to get into and make them accessible. With anybody, not just women, you just don’t show up to the deer woods or to Bayou Meto with your boat and your gun and say, ‘Hey, I’m here to duck hunt today.’ That’s just not how it works.

Hunting and fishing numbers are down. Are these things Millennials just aren’t interested in? Take Northwest Arkansas, which is booming right now. People are moving in from all over the world, all these people coming into The Natural State, and they’re hearing about hunting and fishing. People see a cool video on social media catching a rainbow trout on the [Little] Red River. “Gosh, that looks like fun, I want to do something like that. Maybe I’ll go take a fly-fishing 101 class.” If they’re parents, maybe they’re thinking, “I want to take my kid to do this.” 

How do they learn how to do that? That’s what’s difficult. [AGFC] overcomes that with educators out in the field who are readily available to teach people who are willing to learn. So then it becomes a matter of messaging. Simplifying our message is something we desperately need to do.

Doramus and her Lab, Baron, get out on a beautiful Arkansas morning.

Doramus and her Lab, Baron, get out on a beautiful Arkansas morning.

Being in Arkansas, hunting and fishing are always going to be big. I know the numbers say differently, but it’s always going to be big. I hope to get in touch with that new generation. I want to be relatable to that generation and approachable.

What barriers remain for women in the outdoors? There is a stigma, but it’s gotten better. I feel like women need that boost of confidence and that’s hard to find. Because of my experiences and what I was raised around, it’s given me confidence and confidence is key. 

As far as the gender gap goes, I see more women getting involved in the outdoors and they’re welcomed with open arms. I really haven’t run across any boundaries in my experience. Maybe I’m just lucky.

I really haven’t run across any boundaries in my experience. maybe I’m just lucky.
— Anne Marie Doramus

What response have you received following your appointment? Nothing but positive. As far as the press goes, they’ve been extremely positive and I’m grateful for that. There’s been a few people out on social media hiding behind their computers and always have an opinion, but I knew that going into it. That’s just a part of it. If the people at the Commission and the Foundation did not see me fit to take that kind of heat, I wouldn’t have been recommended to the governor, I can promise you that. But the good outweighs the bad.

What is your perfect day in the outdoors? Wake up 4:45 a.m.; get my coffee; go to the big hole, one of those flooded timber holes either by myself or with my husband; limit out on mallards. Even if it’s gadwalls, I’m not picky. Get a limit of ducks and go back, clean them. I clean my own ducks. I find some joy in that, feel like it goes along with the sport. Eat breakfast cooked by my father – biscuits and gravy. Take a nap, feed the dog. Go back out that afternoon in my Bass Tracker and catch a whole bunch of crappie.

What’s your dog’s name? My retriever is Baron; he’s wonderful. All my dogs’ names start with “B”. I’m determined it’s good luck. At one point, we came home to four labs in the backyard – Hasty, Drake and another one in the mix – and none of those dogs ended up being good hunting dogs. So, I said we’ve got to stick with the “B” names. I’ve also got a wiener dog named Bocephus.

You mentioned hunting with your husband; who’s the better shot? Oh man, really? (sighs) Joe’s a really good shot, I’ll give it to him. Joe is a better shot than me. That’s the one time I’m ever going to say it. You can put it in writing and I will frame it and put it in his office.