State of the Hogs: Duck Hunt

Everything about Steel Wings is legendary, even a visit from Ryan Mallett

The duck hunting didn't last long. It took longer to get the limit Saturday morning than it did Sunday. Either way, there wouldn't be any afternoon hunts either day. It was that good.

So was the rest of what you go to duck clubs for -- the stories, the food and the football and basketball games on the big flat screens. And make no mistake, there are state-of-the-art televisions everywhere you go at Steel Wings.

You get to Steel Wings by turning off of I-40 at Carlisle. It's about 11 miles south. Or, you can come through south Arkansas to Humnoke and go five miles north. Once there, you'll slide into comfort. There is no roughing it anyway you look at this duck club located at Snake Island, Ark.

You can play golf in one entertainment room. Or you can slip away to your room and forget the rat race in what you might find at a Ritz-Carlton.

I was the guest of Wayne Reed, who works for Tom Schueck at Lexicon Steel. Wayne, project manager/duck guide, is my fishing buddy on my Norfork River trout trips. He rotates between trout, deer, turkey and ducks. Once a fishing partner with Dave Whitlock on the Norfork, Reed has taught me plenty about fly fishing. He asked me to join two other mutual friends, Harold Horton and Louis Campbell, at Steel Wings for the first weekend after football season.

Louis and I aren't much as far as duck hunting. This trip was viewed as a negative, a lost trout trip -- until we got to Steel Wings. It was worth it just to see the way Horton called and shot ducks. I knew what we'd see. My wife's family is from DeWitt. Harold's brother, Don, is my wife's uncle. I've heard stories of Harold and his 10 gauge shotgun at Christmas dinners from Don and his boys since I married into the family 32 years ago.

There was much talk in the evenings about the Sugar Bowl. And we watched every second of the Arkansas basketball victory over Tennessee, along with every play of the two NFL games on Saturday.

Every play of the Cotton Bowl was consumed, too. Harold predicted an LSU victory after Texas A&M held an early lead. That was like his promise on the trip down. He said before we hit the tunnel on Friday afternoon, "Clay, we'll kill ducks. This place is really good."

There was talk of Ryan Mallett during our stay at Steel Wings and how much he had meant to the Arkansas football program the last two seasons. That's when another legendary page was added to Mallett's reputation. Ryan's cousin's husband, Jay Hauk, is the farm manager at Steel Wings. Mallett had been there and displayed the strength and accuracy of his right arm.

It seems Mallett stopped a critter with a rock. No, it wasn't a duck. That would have been too perfect. This kill was an armadillo, cave-man style.

A critter was sighted from inside the lodge crossing the parking lot. A group went to investigate. Hauk was stunned when Ryan picked up the rock and chunked it. The armadillo was struck squarely in the head -- on the first throw -- and it flipped over dead on the spot.

It wasn't a long throw, no more than 20 yards (although some day it will be remembered as 50). And it was good riddance. Armadillos are a nuisance to all operations and nasty to boot.

The only regrets are that the armadillo wasn't immediately taken to a taxidermist to add to the Steel Wings collection of elk, deer, ducks and turkey hanging from the walls and ceilings.

For the record, I did throw a rock at Steel Wings. I walked to the edge of the woods on Saturday afternoon and spotted ducks paired up in the flooded timber. I threw my rock deep into the woods and the mallards took flight. But, as was mostly the case on our morning hunts, I didn't hit a thing. I'm no Ryan Mallett and I'm no Harold Horton.

Clay Henry stands near a tree with Harold Horton alone in the blind.

The duck hunters with their kill (left to right): Clay Henry, Louis Campbell, Wayne Reed and Harold Horton.

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