The next Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame banquet will be held in May at Stuttgart, a way of coming home to the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie, where the hall is housed.
In the past, the banquet has been held in Jonesboro and Little Rock, but there’s nothing like being in Stuttgart for the first time.
“That’s the home of the museum, the duck hunting capital of the world,” committee chairman Jim Ronquest said. “It is a good place to come back to its roots and have an event.”
The 2024 Hall of Fame inductees also include a few Stuttgart natives, making the new location even more fitting.
Housing the Hall of Fame significantly benefits the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie, said Fara Foster, executive director of the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie.
“It’s a way for us to introduce museum guests to waterfowling and waterfowling enthusiasts to the history of the Arkansas Grand Prairie,” Foster said.
Waterfowling is “a huge part of the culture on the Arkansas Grand Prairie,” she said. The Hall of Fame houses many waterfowling artifacts alongside the inductees, including the Chick and Sophie Major duck call collection and the mural that hung behind Pat Peacock when she became the only woman to win the World Championship Duck Calling Contest.
“The people who visit the Hall of Fame have a reason to come. We learn as much from them as we share with them,” Foster said. “It’s been a huge culture shift for us at the museum. It involves a totally different guest.”
Looking to the Future
The future of the Hall of Fame banquet location is up for discussion; it could stay in Stuttgart or continue moving to duck-hunting staple towns in Arkansas, said Ronquest, but one thing is for certain – the Hall of Fame will only keep growing.
There is a “deep bench” of people to induct, with plenty of new people always coming in, Ronquest said.
The mission of the Hall of Fame is not only to honor waterfowl experts but also “to ensure our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities we had,” Ronquest said.
The Hall of Fame promotes learning the skills and the art of the hunt, but also the science of waterfowl management, Ronquest said. It involves taking care of the land, providing habitats and learning more about what can be done to make Arkansas a better place for ducks to come.
“It’s not just duck hunting; it’s not just calling; it’s not just conservation,” Foster said. “It’s a fabulous repository for all of it.”
Class of 2023
As the founder and owner of Ecosystems Protection Service, Jody Pagan is all about waterfowling. Growing up on a small Arkansas farm, Pagan was immersed in the outdoors from the beginning. His experience is vast; from working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service as a biologist for nearly a decade to revitalizing the hunting scene at Five Oaks as the chief biologist, his impact on waterfowling cannot be understated.
Pagan, who founded his company in 2016, builds and rehabilitates hunting ecosystems throughout North and South America, including significant work in the Arkansas Grand Prairie.
Some of Pagan’s best strategies came from his work as chief biologist at Five Oaks, his eventual first client, including his strategies of graduated flooding, shorter flooding timetables, broadening food sources, nurturing trees and creating an abundance of resting areas.
These strategies have allowed Pagan to be a successful ecosystem manager in not only Arkansas but also many other states and Argentina, where the same actions he uses in Arkansas are wildly successful.
Pagan’s goal is to impact at least one million acres of ecosystems before he dies, a goal he is on his way to meeting.
Ever since he was given his grandfather’s old duck calls at 8 years old, John Stephens has been enamored with duck calling.
Stephens began calling lessons from the legendary late Butch Richenback when he was 11. Now Stephens is the president and owner of RNT Calls, the business Richenback founded in 1976. There, Stephens creates some of the most premier duck calls you can find. His artistically crafted calls are not only good-looking but championship-winning.
He was the youngest to ever qualify for the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest at age 13 and eventually went on to win the World’s Championship for the maximum of three times in 1995, 1998 and 2005. In 2015, he became the Champion of Champions. During his competition years, he never finished below the top five.
His custom, handcrafted and private line of calls, J. Stephens Calls, are some of the most sought-after calls in the industry, and it is important to him that the heritage and craft of duck calling continue with integrity for years to come.
Otis McCollum and his brother Roy are considered the fathers of Stuttgart’s commercial duck hunting industry.
When McCollum was starting, the farmers in the prairie hated the ducks that were swarming to eat their rice, but McCollum loved them.
His hunting and guiding were ahead of his time; his practices, then viewed as stringent, are now commonplace in the industry. He pioneered the strategy of building levees to hold water for greentree reservoirs, 15 miles of which still stand today. He built all of them with a handheld sight level.
McCollum also standardized the sport. Before he began guiding, hunters would come and get as many ducks as they could carry, sneaking past the single, overwhelmed game warden. But McCollum only hunted legally, seeing the effects of overhunting. He never shot after 10 in the morning and left one-third of an acre as a rest area — uncommon practices at the time, but commonplace now.
At his peak, McCollum had built more than 7,000 acres of huntable land, most of which had previously been farmland. Now, that land is the most sought-after duck hunting acreage in the world.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation inductee is Joe Mosby, a longtime professional writer who covered Arkansas outdoors for decades.
Mosby wrote thousands of newspaper articles, most of which were with the Arkansas Gazette as their outdoor editor. In his early years, he worked with rural newspapers, where he was immersed in hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.
After the Gazette closed in 1991, Mosby went on to write for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission until his death in 2015. He also produced the Arkansas Outdoors newsletter and wrote countless other articles for magazines, brochures, books and publications.
Mosby even wrote his own obituary, saying, “I was something of a different kind of outdoor writer because I was a newsman assigned to the outdoor beat instead of an outdoorsman becoming a writer.”
That never held him back, though, as he is perhaps Arkansas’ best-known outdoor writer.
As a journalist, Mosby was fair and a stickler for the facts, always presenting both sides of controversies and the “why,” which sometimes led to regulations and reform in hunting, fishing and habitat work.
Mosby was inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2002,
was recognized by the Arkansas Press Association for 50 years in journalism and was given the Arkansas Activities Association’s Distinguished Service Award. He has also been inducted into the
Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.