Arcadia Bud Walker has no trouble remembering the moment he discovered the special magic of the Kansas outdoors.
It was in the late 1950s, shortly after Walker and his family had moved to Ohio for his job. Ohio was opening a quail season for the first time in almost 50 years, and Walker was one of many who was excited about participating.
But it didn’t take him long to realize that it wasn’t Kansas.
“I flushed a covey of quail, and they flew over a hill,” said Walker, 79, who lives in Pittsburg. “I thought, ‘This is going to be fun, working all those singles.’
“But I got over the hill, and there were five or six hunters already working my birds.
“I came back home and told my wife, ‘Pack up, we’re going back to Kansas.’ “
Some 50 years later, Walker has never regretted that decision. He found success in the PVC pipe business, but just as important in his eyes, he knows the riches of the Kansas outdoors.
He was born in Kansas City and moved with his family to Pittsburg when he was 9. And he grew up in an outdoor setting.
“It was a year-round lifestyle for us,” Walker said. “We were always outdoors, hunting or fishing.
“And we had a special tie to the land. My great grandfather pioneered this land in 1859. Our family was some of the first settlers in Kansas. And we were proud of that fact.”
Walker remembers his parents buying him his first gun, a .22 rifle from Sears, Roebuck and Co., when he was just a little guy.
He also remembers going to the strip pits on his family land and using a Heddon topwater bait to catch big bass.
Quail, ducks, geese, bass, catfish and later trophy deer and turkeys — those were, and always have been, Walker’s life.
But his great joy? Living in a fishing and hunting paradise.
“I’ve been all over the world fishing and hunting,” he said. “But I still haven’t found anything that compares to Kansas.”
Now retired, his involvement in the Kansas outdoors is even greater. In 2000, he became co-founder and owner of T&C Wildlife, a private hunting and fishing club between Fort Scott and Pittsburg.
The operation features duck marshes, timber to hunt deer and turkey, and lakes that contain big bass, crappies, catfish, smallmouth bass and walleyes.
A large lodge features everything from comfortable sleeping quarters to a dining lodge where gourmet meals are served by a chef.
But today, Walker gets his biggest pleasure by “giving back.” When he heard about the Kansas Wildscape Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps raise funds for outdoor projects conducted by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, he became intrigued.
When he sat down and talked to Charlie Black, executive director of Kansas Wildscape, about the group’s ambitious program to put 150 cabins in state parks, wildlife areas and other recreational sites, Walker bought in.
He initially gave $10,000 to sponsor three cabins at Crawford State Park near his home. By 2009-10, he donated $412,000 to Wildscape for the construction of all 150 cabins that have been planned.
“I remember the fun our family would have when we’d go to the lake and rent a cabin,” Walker said. “Not everyone likes to go out and pitch a tent and rough it.
“I’m proud of this project and happy to be involved in it. It’s bringing a lot of recreation to Kansas.”
A recent trip to Crawford State Park only fired his enthusiasm. As he visited the first cabin he had financed, a large family staying there gave him the celebrity treatment.
As they ate at a picnic area that included a plaque honoring Walker’s involvement in the cabins program, a woman rushed up and said, “Thank you so much for all you’ve done. We’ve rented out all the cabins here this week, and we’re having a great time.
“We’re staying right on the water, and we’re having a great time boating and fishing and cooking out.”
Walker smiled and replied, “This is what we were after when we went with this cabins program — people like you and your family.”