BATESVILLE Gary Stroud of Batesville has been a hunter most of his life. And he was recently rewarded for his love of the outdoors.
Stroud was inducted into the Arkansas Turkey Hunters Hall of Fame by the Arkansas chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He received the honor at the state banquet Jan. 6 at the Benton Event Center.
“It was based on several years of volunteer work,” said Stroud, 69. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the number of turkeys I’ve killed. I wish it did. It’s based on volunteer work for the Turkey Federation.”
Stroud, who has been hunting for more than 60 years, is a member of the Independence County chapter of the Turkey Federation. Stroud is the treasurer of his local branch and the banquet committee chairman.
“Without my committee, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “They work hard. It’s all volunteer work. We have banquets and raise money for the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of our hunting heritage.
“I’m a big-time hunter. One of the [sayings] I grew up with is, ‘If you’ll teach your kids to hunt, you won’t ever have to hunt your kids.’ And I believe that.”
Stroud said receiving the Hall of Fame honor was a big surprise.
“Like I told them at the awards banquet, I feel very honored to be chosen as the seventh one to be put into that with the people who have been put in in the past,” Stroud said. “I definitely know that they’ve gone many miles and worked very hard in the conservation situation and for the preservation of their hunting rights. It was just an extreme honor to be named alongside those people.”
Previous Hall of Fame inductees from Arkansas include Gene Denton in 2007, Bob McAnally in 2008, Paul Holloway in 2009, Mike Widner in 2014, and Gary Watts and Larry Linder in 2015.
“Gary is only the seventh person to receive this honor in Arkansas,” said Terry Thompson, president of the Arkansas State Board of the National Wild Turkey Foundation. “It’s normally given to those who have shown a lifelong dedication to the mission of the National Wild Turkey Foundation and what we do.
“The Arkansas Turkey Hunters Hall of Fame is dedicated to those outstanding individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the service to their local and/or state chapters. They have excelled in the promotion of our sport, the wild turkey restoration, as well as the preservation of the wild turkey and the turkey hunting in our great state. These special individuals are successful hunters, promoters and teachers who have a great love for the wild turkey and the state of Arkansas.”
Thompson said Stroud has been instrumental in working with many people.
“What makes Gary so special is his commitment to the youth, community and our servicemen and women across the state,” Thompson said. “He’s modest and always gives credit to those around him. He has, for the past several years, used his connections for the chapter to donate more than 1,700 pounds of food around Christmas to those less fortunate in their community. He has taken many first-time hunters and allowed them to harvest their first turkey. If something is needed, all you have to do is call, and consider it done.”
Stroud was raised near Batesville, and for the most part, he has lived in the area his entire life. His appreciation for hunting started when he was 7 or 8 years old.
“By the time I was 12, I was really into hunting,” he said. “I don’t like to use the word ‘love’ because my parents taught me not to love anything that can’t love you back. I really enjoyed it.
“Back then, we had an abundance of quail and no turkey. I grew up learning and loving to quail hunt. I’ve been hunting 60 years, at the least.”
After the quail population thinned out, Stroud said, he turned his attention to the whitetail deer.
“I was and still am a big-time whitetail hunter,” he said. “I taught both of my boys, [Kristopher and Jermy], and they loved that. We’ve taught our daughters-in-law to do that. We’re teaching our grandchildren to do that.”
In addition to the award that Stroud received, the Independence County chapter took home several other honors:
• The highest gross income for the state.
• The highest net income.
• The highest JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) members with more than 300 youth hunters.
• The highest sponsor membership.
• The highest wheeling-sportsman membership for hunters in wheelchairs.
“They are the top fundraising chapter in Arkansas,” Thompson said. “This chapter, for the past two years, received national recognition and awards for what they have accomplished. Gary’s leadership has taken them from a struggling chapter in about 2000 to the top, but full credit has to go to that chapter’s entire committee and their dedication for the state conservation efforts.”
Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.