WALLACE CLAYPOOL’S WILD ACRES/RESERVOIR AND TIMELINE
Aldo Leopold, the famous conservationist and father of wildlife ecology, said: “when we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Wallace Claypool would be the EPITOME of that statement.
He knew that being a duck hunter was not just about hunting, SO HIS DREAM WAS to be a true steward of the land and leave a legacy behind him. he would engage almost his entire life into conservation with unwavering passion and gratitude.
Wallace Claypool received recognition as a conservationist after establishing Wild Acres near Weiner, Arkansas.
- In 1969 HE WAS AWARDED THE HONOR OF BEING DU’s OUTSTANDING SPORTSMAN FOR WATERFOWL CONSERVATION.
- 2012 The Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame’s Foundation presented posthumously to Claypool their new new Legacy Award which recognizes individuals whose lifelong commitment to the outdoors, conservation and the passing on of our outdoor traditions to the next generation benefited Arkansas and Arkansans.
- 2020 INDUCTED INTO THE ARKANSAS WATERFOWLER HALL OF FAME.
He did more than anyone in northeast Arkansas in putting Weiner on the same footing with Stuttgart as far as ducks were concerned. He did it out of his own pocket, spending a fortune on dikes, water, crops, and enforcement, spending some $10,000.00 each year.”
Claypool started his project in 1941, with construction being completed by the fall of 1942. 1,351 acres were devoted to the duck reservoir, 800 acres of which was under water contained by levees Only five shooting areas existed in the Weiner area then, and at the end of 1955 there were over 30.
By 1948, it was a common sight to see a quarter of a million ducks on Wild Acres. Conservation leaders from different parts of the nation came to marvel at Claypool’s reservoir. They couldn’t understand how a private citizen could do so much for waterfowl in such a short period of time.
In the early years of 1950s, it was estimated that Wild Acres, at times, had close to a half million ducks and this together with the large concentrations at other reservoirs and ponds in the area added up to the proposition that Weiner was the “New Duck Capital of the World” in 1954.
It was then Claypool realized that Wild Acres had fulfilled his dream a dream that required a dozen years of exhaustive work and planning to bring to fruition a dream that made Poinsett County a duck-hunter’s paradise and a dream that made Weiner the New Duck Capital of the World.
Claypool allowed shooting at Wild Acres to begin at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, and even when shooting was slow which was seldom no shooting was allowed in the afternoon.
Control of water and prevention of “burn out” shooting was the answer according to Claypool thus giving the ducks a chance to rest and remain happy with their environment. By this, Claypool demonstrated that ducks could be held for a long time through creation of natural habitat close to feeding grounds and through insistence on controlled gunning. He was a strong advocate of half-day shooting. He believed that ducks should be given more time to feed in safety in the afternoon. He wrote hundreds of Set featured image 2 letters pointing out the evils of late afternoon shooting.
OVER THE YEARS State and federal conservationists came to Wild Acres. They marveled at what he had done. It was printed in a newspaper “With Claypool showing the way the Arkansas Game and Fish commission created a number of public duck shooting projects in East Arkansas”
For the four-million viewers who saw Dave Garroway’s Wide Wide World’s live TV nationwide broadcast on December 23, 1956, it is etched in our memory forever—a magical moment frozen in time and captured in our memory bank It was also an epochal transition moment, giving us one last view into what it was like in the olden and golden days and what it is like today when everyone asks where are the ducks?
Through his conservation effort and management foresight the life-long dream of WALLACE Claypool was realized. It required YEARS of exhaustive work and planning to bring Wild Acres to fruition.”
Today, the legend of Wallace Claypool lives on because Wild Acres still attracts ducks due to the effort put forth by the four deceased owners and their offsprings in upholding the standards and rules that Claypool established and believed so strongly in.
In closing, I hope to say that Wild Acres was one of the wonders of America during the middle and late 1940s and first nine years of the 195os. No place else on earth could ducks be seen blackening out the sky when rising from the reservoir and be heard in such profusion, or go into the timber before daybreak and listen to the chatter of great rafts of ducks on the water or watch them as they soared gracefully over the treetops with whistling wings, and see the brilliant colors of their heads, necks and wings from the reflection of the morning sun that was living to so many waterfowlers.
- Golf was his game back in the 1920s. That is until he became interested in ducks.
- His first adventure at duck hunting occurred in 1925 at the famous earthquake-created Reelfoot Lake.
- The next year, 1926. he hunted at the legendary and still existing Hatchie Coon Hunting and Fishing Club in the Sunk Lands near Marked Tree.
- Through Chip Barwick, who owned the Chevrolet dealership in Memphis and duck hunted near Hazen, he was introduced to brothers Art and Verne Tindal. In 1927 and 1928, Claypool leased the first reservoir built in the Stuttgart area from the brothers. It was constructed in 1926 and poached mercifully by hunters so for they leased it to Claypool
- For the 1929 season the brothers established a commercial duck-shooting business on their reservoir, realizing they could make more money that way
- In 1929, Claypool purchased one-half interest in a new club of 1,800 acres of cutover timber, located in Bayou Meto, and it was named the “Claypool Club” or as others knew it later the “Stuttgart Hunting Club.” The other owners were J. Roger Crowe and Roy McCollum, of Stuttgart.
- In 1933, during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl drought years, his car dealership suffered, so he sold his half-interests to Roy McCollum. He had read of the Illinois’ small-pond corn baiters, so he decided he would try it, purchasing land adjoining the Wapanocca Outing Club, where he built a small pond and baited it. Baiting was legal then, but when baiting was outlawed in 1935, hunting there declined markedly.
- It was Claypool’s experiences with baiting on his pond and reading about the slaughter that was taking place on Tindall’s reservoir during this time that he had an epiphany that he wanted to be a conservationist and leave a legacy behind him.
- Between 1936-38, he joined several clubs “and was able to kill a few ducks each year.”
- In 1939, Frank Vestal, outdoor writer for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, hooked him up with “Fritz” Ruesewald, of Weiner, there to hunt at Ruesewald’s Swan Pond. After the season ended, he tried to buy Fritz’s land at Swan Pond, but “you don’t have enough money,” Fritz replied. There, however, he met Ed Priestley and Ernest Hogue, both of Weiner.
- For the 1940 duck season, the Armistice Day Storm of November produced a Grand Passage, flooding Arkansas and the Weiner area with massive numbers of ducks. He hunted with club member Priestley on the Mallard Ponds Duck Club, about seven miles south of Weiner. That year, he also won the National Duck Calling Championship at Stuttgart.
- In the fall of 1941, Claypool hunted again with Priestly at Mallard Pond
- On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. immediately entered the war. He sold his car dealership and contacted Priestley who contacted Hogue, who was chairman of the local drainage district and also mayor of Weiner. He located 5,000 acres of land for him east of Weiner, which he bought April 1942 and began construction on a 1,351-acre reservoir of which 800 acres would be permanently flooded
- After 1943, the duck population increased steadily and heavily for the next two years. He hunted very little as the ammunition was being rationed due to the war.
- As to how to drive ducks to get them in front of the camera, Purvis had learned from Mull, who had learned some tricks and techniques from Queeny at Wingmead who had had learned from George Wilcox near Crocketts Bluff on how to drive ducks in front of the camera.
- “Back-to-back Grand passage” as we call it, occurred during the duck seasons of 1955-56 and 1956-57
- Dave Garroway’s Wide Wide World live TV broadcast nationwide on Dec. 23, 1956.
- December 27, 1959, Wernher von Braun, who championed the development of the Saturn rocket that sent American astronauts to the moon and the father and superstar of our space program, hunted at Wild Acres on a Sunday, where he got a limit of greenheads. Early in the morning, his mother died in the hospital in Germany, upon which he was notified at noon after he had returned to the clubhouse.
- In 1961, Maynard Reese, famous wildlife artist, and his wife Evelyn paid a visit to Wild Acres.
- On June 14, 1963, Claypool and “Miss Sally”, his second wife, sold about 1,500 acres to J.A. Biggs for an unknown amount, with the largest acreages, however, being sold to Roberts Rice Mills, Inc. for $275,000,00. The down payment of $175,000.00 from the latter sale was used to purchase a new house in Memphis. Each sale was part of the acreages he bought in 1942.
- He sold his land to four Memphians on June 10, 1966. He and Miss Sally would continue to hunt during the duck season and advise the four on taking care of the land. After the four Memphians bought the 1,351 deeded acres, they added additional shooting holes and changed the names of some of the holes. What was nine shooting holes became eleven, such as Well’s Island Hole, which was Johnny Riley’s favorite shooting hole. Some of the others were Mystery Hole, 5th Avenue, Lucky Hole, Round Island, Snowden Hole, Browns Hole, and Tower Hole, the latter a 20-foot, steel-structured tower blind
- After the sale, the four Memphians, mainly on the recommendation of Snowden Boyle, one of the Memphians, hired Johnny Riley in 1966 to be their caretaker, thus becoming a legendary figure in his own right.
- In 1969, during a mid-winter survey, over a million ducks in Arkansas were recorded. That year, Wallace and Sally paid their last visit to and had their last duck hunt at Wild Acres.
- In 1970, DU recognized Claypool at a dinner in Memphis as the “outstanding sportsman in this area.”
- Claypool died July 21, 1973, at the age of 87. Nine years after his death, on the very same day, July 21, Dave Garroway died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in the Philadelphia suburb of Swarthmore. He was 69 years old and considered the “founding father of morning television,” having hosted the popular NBC’s Today show that premiered in New York on January 14, 1952.
- In 2012, the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame’s Foundation presented posthumously to Claypool their new legacy award.
- In 2020, he was was voted into the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame.