An unwavering passion for the world of duck hunting and all it encompasses brings the champions of Arkansas’ waterfowling industry together year after year.
Celebrating those industry icons, who once moved from season to season altogether unnoticed, is the mission of the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame.
“From day one, [the goal] was to recognize true visionaries and patrons to the sport well beyond who kills the most ducks,” said Brent Birch, one of the hall’s originators. “We set out to acknowledge conservationists, educators, mentors and makers that added great value to the sport.”
Conservationist George Dunklin, Jr., a 2016 inductee, is passionate about the education the hall of fame provides to future industry leaders. When the Arkansas Museum of the Grand Prairie expressed interest in constructing a new wing in which to house the hall of fame, a healthy donation from his foundation helped bring the vision to life.
“I thought it was a brilliant idea to house it at the museum because Stuttgart has such a rich history and reputation of being the leader of great duck hunting experiences in the country,” Dunklin said. “I was happy to be a small part in helping make that happen.”
Construction on the wing was completed in 2019, and the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame moved into its new home. This September, the annual class induction makes its official comeback after a two-year hiatus.
Beginnings and Beyond
The Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame was launched in conjunction with Greenhead and Arkansas Business Publishing Group (ABPG). After the second event, organizers decided to use the 2018 year to evaluate and improve upon the foundation they’d built over the first two years.
When the Arkansas Museum of the Grand Prairie expressed interest in housing the hall of fame, Birch met with ABPG President Mitch Bettis to make a proposition. By the end of the day, the two had executed a bill of sale and Birch became the official owner of the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame brand.
“It’s hard to imagine anyone in our state with more passion for duck hunting and more reverence for its history than Brent,” Bettis said. “We want to see this unique hall of fame thrive for years to come, and putting it in his hands made all the sense in the world.”
In the ever-unpredictable year of 2020, no plan is safe. The coronavirus pandemic scotched the planned induction ceremony at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock, but there is still hope for a safe alternate.
“Like countless other events, we are hopeful that there is a reprieve that will allow us to gather in a safe, CDC-approved way to recognize the inductees and their families for their contributions to the sport we love,” Birch said. “If not, we will absolutely ensure that they have their well-deserved time in the sun when the moment is right.”
The 2020 Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame Inductees
Five individuals make up this year’s Waterfowler Hall of Fame induction class as they are honored for their unparalleled contributions to the industry:
• Pat Peacock (1938-2020), the first “Queen Mallard,” won duck calling titles including Junior Worlds, Women’s State, Champion of Champions and World’s Champion. She is enshrined in the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame and was Conservationist of the Year for Arkansas. Peacock served on the Game and Fish Board and was a national advocate for duck calling, conservation and Stuttgart.
• Dr. Scott Yaich, retired chief scientist for Ducks Unlimited, initiated the Greenwing Conservation Camp for youth interested in Arkansas waterfowl conservation. In 2015, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies gave him its highest honor, the Seth Gordon Award. Yaich testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about the Clean Water Act and the value of wetlands to waterfowl and the economy. Yaich earned the International Canvasback Award, the NAWMP Committee’s highest honor, in 2018.
• Wallace Claypool (1885-1973), founder of the legendary Claypool’s Reservoir, prioritized the conservation of a thriving ecosystem for Arkansas waterfowl. Claypool’s Wild Acres became a national phenomenon in 1956 when 4 million viewers watched NBC’s live footage of hundreds of thousands of ducks in flight there. He was inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2012. Claypool won the 1940 World Duck Calling Championship and was nationally recognized as a conservationist.
• John Olin (1892-1982), founder of the Old Winchester Club, also known as Greenbriar, near Hazen, established Olin Corporation as a mainstay in the industry. He made Winchester Arms and Ammunition the leader in outdoors America and, with his name appearing on more than 20 patents, was considered a master inventor. He founded Nilo Farms where his legendary labrador retriever, King Buck, began his still-unmatched career. Olin played an integral role in the development of modern wildlife management.
• George Purvis (1925-2008), known to a generation as “Mr. Arkansas Outdoors,” will be the first Education category inductee. Purvis was instrumental in developing hunter and boater education and the mandatory use of fluorescent orange garments for hunters. His weekly outdoor program was broadcast statewide on the Public Education Network. Purvis photographed the iconic famous images, consistently featured on national media, of hundreds of thousands of ducks in flight at Claypool’s Wild Acres.