October 17, 2012 Edition

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Stan Jones (left) worked with his contractor, Keith White of Paragould, in the design and building of Stan Jones Mallard Lodge at Clover Bend. A painting by Sean Shrum, a Jonesboro artist, is a focal point of this seating area in the lodge's lobby.

Jones opens first-rate
duck-hunting lodge

John Bland

A world-class duck-hunting lodge is now in operation right here in Lawrence County. The Stan Jones Mallard Lodge at Clover Bend opened its doors at the beginning of fall.

On first thought, it seems unlikely to find such a grand establishment in what to many would be the middle of nowhere. But on second thought, the remote location, with its sweeping fields, waterfowl habitat and bordering timber, offers the perfect spot for hunters, especially for those wanting to go first-class and seeking a true refuge.

From all indications, the lodge is off to a great start. Corporations and groups have already booked dates for approximately 60 percent of the hunting season, as well as for retreats, while half a dozen weddings have been scheduled at an amphitheater on the elaborately landscaped grounds that slope behind the lodge.

Stan Jones, owner, explained that the lodge has access to four Suburban vehicles, and each can accommodate a guide and five hunters. The 15,000-square-foot lodge sleeps 28 people, and every guest room has two queen-sized beds.

"I visited nine hunting clubs, and they all had twin beds," Jones said, explaining that he wanted to give his guests something extra.

Another extra is Jay Taggart who serves as the lodge's chef. Taggart is a native of upstate New York. He lived for 13 years in Florida, where he had three restaurants, and has lived in Jonesboro for 17 years, where he and his wife had a catering business for approximately 12 years. Now, he is preparing five-star meals for guests at the lodge.

Jones said he had two main reasons for choosing his location for the lodge. One is the massive tree, thought to be the largest in the county that stands behind the lodge. The other reason is that the fields in front of the lodge tend to fill up with ducks and geese, a fact that Jones said should delight visiting hunters. Jones, a long-time rice farmer, also owns the acreage in and will beyond the lodge.

Keith White of Paragould served as contractor for the building of the lodge. "He and I both talked about this together and made decisions," Jones said, explaining that he did not use an architect.

"Stan's been real good to work with, said White, whose business is Keith White Custom Homes. "He (Stan) knows what he wants. He had a vision, and I feel like we've done that."

"Most of our houses are custom built, and this (lodge) is just like a big home," White added.

Jones also offered White's daughter the use of the garden and amphitheater for her wedding next May. Another wedding booked at the lodge is that of Miss Arkansas, who looked all over the state and selected the lodge as her favorite location, Jones said.

Jones also noted that his two children, Britt and Lindsey, have played a big role in the lodge since its inception. "They were a part of building it," he said. Britt helped with the design, pond and building. "Britt and I came down here almost every day," he said. "Britt has been shouldering more responsibility on the farm, so I could do this."

Lindsey helped with the interior decorating and with selection of furniture and accessories.

Daughter's wedding first for lodge

Lindsey's Sept. 22 wedding was the first major event at the lodge. She wed Matthew Hendrich, who is studying at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science in Little Rock to become a surgeon.

Their wedding weekend consisted of a rehearsal dinner for 70 people at the lodge on Friday night. Members of the wedding party and their spouses stayed at the lodge.

The male members of the wedding enjoyed a skeet shoot on Saturday, while a hairdresser and cosmetologist assisted the females in preparation for the wedding. That evening, 230 guests attended the wedding and reception on the grounds of the lodge.

Lodge is a natural fit

When you review Jones' life, building the lodge has been a natural progression for him. Jones said he probably started hunting as a five-year-old when his father, the late Wendal Jones, took him hunting. Stan's mother, Delois Jones, is still relatively healthy and able to ride her bicycle, he said.

After playing football at Arkansas State University, Jones began farming. For some 30 years he also had a duck-hunting club and offered guided hunts.

In 2004, Jones quit guiding duck hunts, when his son, Blake, died, which proved predictably hard for Stan, as well as Britt and Lindsey. Jones wife, Kathy, and the mother of his three children had died several years before.

"My priorities just changed," he said. He got out of guiding duck hunts and leased his ground to a man from Illinois for a period of six years.

Then, about two years ago, Jones bought a new farm that had big green timber and cypress sloughs. This new farm adjoined the farmland that he already owned.

"With the land I already owned and the newly acquired land, I felt like I could build a world-class duck hunting lodge," Jones said.

From all indications he has done just that.

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