Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame set

by George Jared ([email protected]) 376 views 

Courtesy Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie announced inductees into this year’s Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame. An induction ceremony will honor these individuals on March 2 at the Embassy Suites in Jonesboro.

Bill Byers, Gail Camp, Dave Donaldson, Kody Riggan, and Leonard Sizler are this year’s inductees.

“The waterfowl industry in Arkansas is recognized as the best in the nation due to the time and talents these individuals have invested,” said committee Chairman Jim Ronquest. “The Waterfowler Hall of Fame is an opportunity to highlight significant efforts and impacts of inductees while honoring their legacies.”

Byers settled in Hunter in the early ‘40’s and in 1953 opened the doors to Hunter Club. Originally, 1,800 acres of green timber, he continued to purchase adjoining land as it became available. A short season combined with a one duck limit forced Byers into farming and the timber was cleared to make way for rice production. The Byers Hunter Club still exists today and attracts thousands of waterfowl each winter.

Camp, a Memphis native married her high school sweetheart, Frank Lee Camp, Jr. immediately following WWII. The newlyweds joined OK Hunting and Fishing Club in Weiner and built one of the first cabins there which Gail and the family still use to this day. Camp took up hunting so she could spend more time with her new husband who insisted on hunting every day of the duck season.

She picked up a duck caller and started calling one day while sandwiched in between two men in a duck blind because she didn’t have any room to swing or shoot her gun. She quickly became better than all the men at duck calling and from then on, they always wanted to include her on hunts. Not only was Camp a good caller, but she was and still is an excellent shot.

Camp competed and won the Women’s State in Tennessee duck call contest and also competed and placed in other contests such as Gulf Coast Championships. In 1959 and 1960, she competed in the World Championships in Stuttgart and won the Women’s World Championship both years. She retired from contests after having her daughter, Ann Camp Lee in 1961 but she still managed to win the Herb Parsons International Championship Contest in 1962.

Donaldson served in several capacities in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. After earning a wildlife biology degree from Texas A&M University, he went to work for the agency, ultimately serving as the state’s waterfowl coordinator. He also was instrumental as an engineer, leading the design and implementation for many of the agency’s Greentree Reservoirs (GTRs) located in east and northeast Arkansas. These GTRs include his namesake, Black River Wildlife Management Area (WMA), as well as Big Lake WMA and Shirey Bay Rainey Brake WMA.

Donaldson’s work on the Black River WMA was considered cutting edge at the time as the design and implementation of inverted siphons created a gravity flow system that allows flooding of about 5,000 acres. In addition to his work as biologist and engineer, Donaldson was also a pilot and conducted the first aerial surveys for waterfowl in Arkansas.

These surveys provided the agency with a better understanding of waterfowl movements and patterns as well as identifying species and estimating their numbers. His aerial efforts also played a major role with the AGFC’s Canada Goose restoration efforts in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. He was named Conservationist of the Year by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation in 1975 for his extensive work in Arkansas and Canada on behalf of migrating waterfowl and their habitats. Donaldson retired in 1977 after serving as the AGFC’s waterfowl biologist for over 30 years.

Riggan was a landowner and waterfowl enthusiast with a vision to make duck hunting a family tradition for generations to come.  From a young age, Riggan worked alongside his grandfather and father in the family business, Corning Implement. In 2010, Kody played an integral role in forming Legacy Equipment, a John Deere retail agricultural and consumer products dealership with seven locations across Arkansas and Missouri, where he was currently serving as CEO/President. He was a member of the board at Legacy Equipment and the Midwest-Southeastern Equipment Dealers Association. He owned and operated Square Shooter Hunting Club and wrote for and was a member of the pro staff for Greenhead Magazine and the Duck Hunter’s Magazine.

Sitzer, a lifelong resident of Northeast Arkansas, dedicated his life to the agriculture and wildlife that was crucial to the community in which he resided. He managed the flooded timber duck woods that he owned near Bayou DeView. His commitment to conservation was recognized by both Ducks Unlimited and the National Turkey Federation to which he was a lifetime member of each. In 2008, at the age of 90, he was honored by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation by being named Conservationist of the Year for a lifetime dedicated to the preservation of Arkansas’ precious wildlife. Sitzer was also inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2010.