We decided to take a short float trip one afternoon, down the river bordering some public hunting land. We have killed several deer in such a manner; just drifting along so slowly and so quietly you are scarcely noticed by wild creatures along the stream. Often we cover the boat with a blind, but that afternoon, we didn’t. Not much reason to disguise it when the occupants are wearing blaze orange caps and vests.
An hour into the trip, we passed a harvested cornfield, and I heard an unusual sound, something like a Canada goose honking, but louder, coarser, a longer note. In a matter of a few seconds, big birds soared up out of the field and turned upriver at treetop level. One of them continued to uh, well… sound a little like a trumpet. It was the first time I have ever heard a trumpeter swan, and though I have seen a one or two at a time on the water in various places over the past twenty years, I have never seen a flock of them.
But there they were, eleven trumpeter swans in a line just over us, big and graceful. My friend Dennis was paddling, and neither of us could reach a camera in time.
Trumpeter swans are rare sights, but they gather in the winter in good numbers at a semi-refuge in Arkansas, south of Greer’s Ferry Lake. Obviously they are gaining in numbers little by little. That flock of eleven is something I will not forget seeing.
We didn’t get a deer that afternoon; in fact we never even saw one. We did see a wild gobbler and a half grown wild pig, coal black, and hard to see in the underbrush. Had I seen him in time we would have some pork in the freezer tonight. Squirrels of course were thick. If you are a squirrel hunter you should have a good year, with all the acorns and nuts and berries we had this fall. They should be fat and good to eat. It occurred to me that I ought to pass along more wild game recipes with this column, so here’s one I call ‘squirrel pizza’.
The first thing you do is fry a couple of young squirrels and take all the meat off the bones. Then buy a pizza and remove all those little round pieces of meat that you always see on pizza, about the size of a half dollar. They are not good for you, and you need to take all of them off. Then distribute the squirrel meat all over the pizza and warm it up a little. There you have it. Next week I will perhaps give you my recipes for duck pizza and rabbit pizza!
As I was typing this column on this computer this past week, the screen went black, accompanied by a loud blast like a shotgun. I knew what it was, because the same thing happened in the summer, when a grey squirrel jumped from a hickory limb to the electric transformer. It had happened again, and he lay there on the ground transformed completely. So I am wondering if he will be just fine for squirrel pizza or if the meat will be ruint by the high voltage.
The trumpeter swan brings back memories of the time when I was the outdoor editor of the Arkansas Democrat down in Little Rock. I wanted to take a new job as a naturalist with the Park System and continue to write my Sunday outdoor column. It was agreed to, but I was very worried about the fact that the fellow taking over the layout of our whole outdoor page knew very little about the outdoors. The very first week after he took the job, he ran a photo of two fellows holding a big white goose they had killed while duck hunting. It was as tall as they were!! You guessed it… a trumpeter swan.
The men were fined about 2000 dollars for the mistake which all of Arkansas knew about thanks to a picture on my outdoor page of two hunters with a swan.
Someone sent me an outdoor page recently, from a large daily newspaper in the Ozarks, which showed a photo of a big hornets nest that had fallen to the ground. Their outdoor writer called it a wasp nest, obviously not having spent enough time outdoors to know what it was. He dutifully noted that he had left it there because it was a part of nature. It won’t be part of nature long!
Hornet’s nests are collected in the winter by many, who know that woodpeckers and other birds will tear them to pieces trying to get the larvae inside. No hornet’s nest I ever saw survives the winter. But if you take one into the warmth inside a building, you need to be sure those larvae aren’t going to mature and create a swarm of hornets in your home next spring. That has happened on occasion.
No newspaper would allow glaring errors on their sports page. If a sports writer didn’t have better than average knowledge about basketball, football and baseball, he wouldn’t last long. There was a time when outdoor writers were men who grew up outdoors and had a great deal of experience in their field. Those days are nearly gone. Today if an ‘outdoor columnist’ makes glaring errors, who knows? Newspaper editors in larger cities don’t know a fly-rod from a flatfish, so if mistakes are made they seldom see it. And I doubt they care much because they figure readers don’t know much about the outdoors either.
If you want to see some spectacular wildlife photography, go to the National Geographic 2013 photo contest winners and see some of those outdoor and nature photos. Unbelievably spectacular! I don’t know if I can get that slide program that I was sent on my website, but I am going to try. It will be on www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot. com if it works.
In a couple of weeks I am going to put one of our better photographers in a special camouflaged and covered boat, and drift down one of our rivers with me at the paddle, to see what kind of photos we can get. I’ll have to leave my gun at home or I would be tempted to shoot some ducks for duck pizza.
On Saturday, December 7, I will be at Bob Wolf’s bookstore in Joplin… Always Buying Books, out on north Main Street from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I will be signing and selling my seven outdoor books at discounted prices for Christmas gifts, and giving away free copies of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal magazine. If you would like to see the new magazine we are putting out, “The Ozark Journal” I will have a limited number with me.
And on the evening of December 9, I will be at Buzz’s Barbecue restaurant in Nevada, giving away our outdoor magazine to anyone who wants a copy. It will be the monthly meeting of the local Common Sense Conservationist group, and if you live close to Nevada you should stop in and join up. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. and I will have some news about what the Conservation Department is doing, and would just as soon no one knew about. Please join us if you can.
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are still about 50 of our new magazine left, the Journal of the Ozarks. Call or write and we will tell you how to get one. Our office phone number is 417 777 5227.