Rural Missouri - February 2018 - 14
Hall of the Callers
Mound City museum honors legacy of waterfowling
by Zach Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
t's the ﬁrst day of winter. The pools at East
Side Farms hold nothing but decoys and clouds
are the only things ﬂying. Birdie, the chocolate
Labrador, whines impatiently. After all, this is
certainly the time and place for retrieving a duck.
It's also where a memorial for local hunters has
become a gallery honoring the sport and supporters
"It's become a little bit of a
museum," says Joe Laukemper,
board president of the WaterfowlCity
ers Hall of Fame in Mound City. "It
started out as a way to remember the
guys from the '30s and '40s who were
kind of the local legends of waterfowl
hunting. They shared the resource
and made it a welcome place."
Joe grew up in the shadow of many
of those legends. He recalls coming to his father's
car dealership after school, picking up his shotgun
and heading out across what is now Interstate 29 to
hunt ducks that he would later bring back for people
in town. But Joe doesn't mind a highway behind his
blind. It's helped introduce more people to the hunting haven he considers himself lucky to call home.
The agricultural area in the Missouri River ﬂoodplain is one of the country's premier waterfowl
hunting destinations. And one of its crown jewels is
the 7,440-acres habitat at Loess Bluffs - formerly
Squaw Creek - National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge's unique combination of prairie, wetlands and
woods draw in tens of thousands of migratory birds
every year. But it's the geese and ducks in particular
which draw in the hunters. Located in the country's
Central Flyway, this part of northwest Missouri is
still the happy hunting grounds for 78 gun clubs.
"It's always been the big draw - you have 80
years of tradition built around it," Joe says of the
refuge established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. "When we have our Ducks Unlimited
dinner here, I would say probably 80 percent of our
money comes from outside the community."
Top: A Storz Brewing Co. decoy ﬂoat, a mounted bluewinged teal, a wood duck carved by inductee Jim Pettijohn,
a goose call and an inﬂatable duck decoy are just a few
of the items in the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame. Below:
Under the watchful eye of Birdie, Joe Laukemper makes
adjustments to a decoy at East Side Farms.
The hall's inception can be traced to the late "Doc"
Bruce McRae. An osteopath and Ontario native,
Doc's philanthropic efforts highlighted aspects of
Mound City that made it a great town in which to
live and play. A few of those projects particular to
the water birds still stand today, including the refuge welcome sign, the whimsically huge mallard
weather vane in the nearby McDonald's parking lot
and naturally, the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame. It's ﬁtting then that the hall should be housed in a room
of the McRae Community Center.
"He was always looking for something to promote in the community," Joe recalls. "So he
built this cabinet, put some pictures and
stuffed birds in it and had this plaque
From those humble beginnings one
homemade cabinet grew to more than a
dozen display cases stretching ﬂoor to
ceiling. They collect all manner of waterfowling memorabilia: dozens of calls, shell
boxes, photographs, trophies, decoys, art and
other odds and ends from local gun clubs and family
members. Visitors can grab a bite to eat at The Klub,
a restaurant which shares the community center
with the hall and keeps the same hours.
A long list of benevolent donors and dues from 150
active members have helped fund the hall's expansion over the past 28 years. The original plaque of
40 names inducted in 1990 now numbers
more than 140. New names are added at the
November induction dinner, and admission
to the hall is free.
"When you're capturing the person and
their history there's really nothing to sell,"
Those honored are primarily locals -
folks that anyone who has spent time in a
duck blind in northwest Missouri knows at
least by name if not personal acquaintance.
They range from the old-time market hunters to local businesspeople, doctors and
writers. Other honorees might be familiar
to out-of-towners such as champion duck
callers Mike Keller, Sam Hoeper, golf great Tom Watson and baseball legend Ted Williams.
The hall isn't a men's-only club. Take Sportsman's Lodge operator Georgia Stone and Bigelow
native Addie Walden, who for more than 30 years
plucked birds at $1 per duck and $2 per goose. All of
them are honored for carrying waterfowling's torch.
It was an odd fall for Mound City gunning, with
drought the chief culprit. Joe estimates the area has
seen less than an inch of rain. When he checks in
with Iron Duck Hunting owner and guide Dan Guyer
in the next blind, Dan notes his hunters in the area
have shot 95 geese and 65 ducks. The same time
last year the total Mound City harvest was 472.
But all that could be about to change. Weather
that would turn most people indoors, particularly
this time of year, is what the waterfowlers await.
Cold fronts mean huge ﬂocks of birds should be on
the move from Canada and the Dakotas. As the wind
turns sharp and cold pellets of rain start to fall, Joe,
like many of the hall's honorees before him, turns
his face to the graying sky and smiles.
"This could be a good sign," he says, searching. Somewhere above in the swirling mists, as if in
answer, a goose honks.
For more information on the Waterfowlers
Hall of Fame, call Joe at 660-491-5439 or visit
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2018
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