Friday, May 29, 2020


All of Larry's books and past issues of THE LIGHTNIN' RIDGE OUTDOOR JOURNAL can now be viewed and/or purchased by going to his web site There is also a way to view and/or donate his upcoming book, THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MISSOURI CONSERVATION

Fish Guts

Carcasses and guts, flies and buzzards... a popular launching ramp that stinks all summer. Corps of Engineers apparently can't do anything about it. 

            I believe that we all should give maximum effort to leaving the outdoors and the world around us as natural and as clean as possible.  Why are there so many who just don’t seem to give a darn?  One of the most disgusting things I have ever seen at an Ozark Lake is at the launching ramp on Truman Lake at a site known as Fairfield.  The history of that place is interesting.  The lake covered a small, old-days village by that name, a few buildings and a post office. There is a campground and small store north of the boat ramp about a mile.  There are several summer homes and likely two-dozen permanent camper-vehicles there and the campground owner has a place to clean fish there.

carcasses on top and underneath the water next to launching ramp
             Each day someone with all those fish cleanings comes down and dumps them at the ramp.  It stinks something terrible in the summer, and as the water drops, you actually step on dead and rotting fish carcasses when you get out of your pickup to launch or load your boat.  All around there are buzzards feeding on those decomposing fish carcasses, entrails and skins and flies. There were 18 there last week. I kind of wonder, why does the Corps of Engineers permit this?  

          Last week I was there in the late evening when the guy arrived in a pick-up to dump two or three buckets of guts and carcasses. He backed his pickup down to the end of the ramp and emptied them.  I asked him why and he told me he was doing it for the campground owner.  He said he did it every day when the people living at the campground clean their fish at the owners designated fish cleaning station. It makes a mess at the campground; therefore it has to be dumped in the lake.

I could not believe people would actually choose to sit at the dumping site next to the ramp... the smell was horrendous
           Of course, all that needs to be done to keep the launching ramp clean is for someone to take those buckets of dead fish out a half-mile into the lake to dump the carcasses each evening in a boat, where they would sink and be eaten by scavenger fish.  Either it is just too much trouble or maybe the campers there like the stink and the flies and the buzzards.  But someone is opening themselves up to a lawsuit from someone who wants to make lots of money. This isn’t just a health hazard.  Last week I saw a man get out of his pickup to launch his boat and he slipped and fell.  What made him slip?  A rotting fish carcass twenty feet up the ramp! With me and others as a witness, all he has to do is find a lawyer.

            The campground owner says he has nothing to do with this, that the dumper who says he does that for him is lying. It would be easy for the Corps to find out who is responsible, who is lying and who isn’t.   A retired Corps of Engineers Ranger I once hunted and fished with doubts what I am writing here, saying that one of the Rangers for the Corps says it happens at lots of launching ramps.  I am doubting that.  I challenge the Corps to show me photos at any ramp that comes anywhere close to that mess at Fairfield.  I have been to lots of launching ramps and I do not see that on any scale close to this.  Instead of thanking me for pointing out a problem, they’ll be mad at me for this column, like that old friend of mine saying I am basically uninformed. I don’t think they will want to do anything about it, from what I am told, because their offices are many many miles away and the problem is out of sight.  Out of their sight…but for hundreds of fishermen who used that ramp over Memorial Day, it was a part of their experience at Truman Lake, and no one should have to put up with it. 

            While the campground owner denies he knows anything about this, it isn’t something that results from a few fishermen cleaning fish at the ramp. It is a wonder is that there are such people in this world who would do this, whoever it is to blame.
As to the Corps of Engineers, they have a regulation that walking their shore and finding an arrowhead is unlawful.  They aren’t going to enforce that, but if you get caught by a Ranger out on the lakeshore with a metal detector and you are going to hear about it.   Apparently there is no law against piling up fish carcasses night after night at a Corps boat ramp. What would make them do something to find answers and end the slime and rot and stench at the Fairfield launching ramp?  Right now you can stand at the ramp and count 50 or 60 carcasses.  They should either erect a sign saying…”Do not dump fish here.”  Or maybe… “Do not dump more than 100 fish carcasses and entrails here at one time!”
            If this bothers you as much as me… please send this column to the address of any Corps office you can find. First, see the photos I have taken. Go to, or to my website,
If you would like to give me heck for writing this, thinking it is no big thing and should just be ignored  (as the corps does)… just email or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

An Uneventful Turkey Hunt…a Spectacular Turkey

A seven bearded gobbler

         I guess in most ways he was an easy gobbler. I can’t say there haven’t been many, many others that were more of a challenge.  From his spurs it was apparent that he was old. But then so am I.  On opening day I was too sleepy to get out of bed, so I didn’t hear him gobbling on the roost.  The night before I had been writing very late so I was still sleepy when I threw my old shotgun over my shoulder and headed for the woods after 8 a.m.  I went down through the woods with the sun climbing high and found a few mushrooms, and then about a half mile away I heard a gobble, and then another.  Even someone who has hunted wild turkey for 50 years gets excited about hearing an old tom on opening day.  I will always head for a wild gobbler’s call like a beagle pup on the trail of a rabbit.

         When I got to the little wooded knoll I thought was close enough, I could actually see two gobblers in a little opening about 200 yards away, courting 5 or 6 hens.  What a sight it was, those toms all huffed up with tails spread and heads blood red in the bright sunlight that found its way through the branches of surrounding oaks.  Well as any grizzled old veteran turkey hunter knows, there are times when calling a gobbler is a waste of time, because he can see the hens before him, and one off in the distance that he can only hear just isn’t of much interest to him.  If he has a shapely young female in a bikini right there in front of him, telling him what a handsome rascal he is and enticing him to come closer, he sure isn’t going to leave her and go check out a distant call from some hen that might be old, fat and ugly!

         On a few occasions over the years I have called in a small group of hens, 2 or 3 usually who have been followed by gobblers.  That is rare, but it can happen.  So I got settled up against a log with some buckbrush before me and gave forth some of the most enticing turkey calling you can imagine, apparently sounding like one of those fat and ugly old hens.  The show out there before me was something to see, a turkey flock orgy of sorts that made me plumb ashamed to be watching.  It was about 10 a.m. when I just gave up and leaned back against that log and dozed off.  I didn’t know I was so tired.  I woke up about 11: 30.  Maybe it was a lusty gobble that woke me up.  The two old toms were about 30  yards closer than they had been and there wasn’t a hen in sight.

         This is where I might brag on my ability as a turkey caller you know.  But I only called once. I doubt if it had much affect, they were coming straight as a string. They just ambled toward me, pecking here and there, not strutting at all.  At 70 or 80 yards they stopped and gobbled in unison, and if you’ve hunted spring gobblers I expect you have seen that too, on occasion.  They did that one more time when they were about 45 yards away.  I couldn’t tell one from the other so I just picked out a red and blue and white target and it was all over as the shotgun blast interrupted the peaceful forest landscape.

          So there I was waiting for the gobbler I had chosen to stop flopping, watching his buddy hotfoot it in a big curve through green grass into a green woodland. 
         I had found a few mushrooms, had a good long nap and was heading home before noon with a hefty gobbler over my shoulder.  I don’t know why I hadn’t paid much attention to the beard, but it was two hours later, when I hoisted the gobbler in my basement to be dressed out, that I saw his beard, and another and another and another.  THERE WERE SEVEN OF THEM!!  The longest was 11 inches long, and the combined length of all seven beards was 49 inches.  The tom weighed 21 pounds and had spurs that were one and a quarter inches long.  You can see his  picture on my blogspot and on Lightnin’ Ridge facebook page, or on my website...   A friend of mine was amazed at that tom turkey.  He said that with the Wild Turkey Federation’s record book, my gobbler would  likely score in the top five!  That’ll be the day… if I start trying to score a wild turkey, somebody come and declare me an idiot and have me locked in my storage shed.  Never will I use a wild creature in such a way.  I may have it taxidermyized just to prove it really did have seven beards.   But to tell the truth I have had much more exciting turkey hunts.  If you don’t believe it, read about many of them in my book, ‘The Greatest Wild Gobblers’.  In the 80’s I wrote an article for Outdoor Life magazine entitled, “The Gobbler Across the Gulch.”  I reprinted it in that book.  Now there was a gobbler to remember.  But he only had one beard.

Next week… A spring outdoor quiz for the ‘Master Naturalists” and a story about fishing in solitude.

Friday, April 24, 2020

That’s Crazy

         Next week, I am going to spend several nights on some lake in my camp-boat and hunt turkeys.  I intend to take a long my johnboat to use for fishing. I will set a trotline, hunt mushrooms and arrowheads, and pretty rocks, catch bass etc.  I may ignore crappie because I catch all of them I want in late April and May at night under lights… and white bass and walleye too.  Now do any of you have any better plans than that?  It is social distancing at its best. 

         Hunting rocks is a great hobby of mine for which I am often looked upon as crazy.  But once when I lived down in Arkansas I went to Bull Shoals lake and filled up my boat with beautiful rocks and in 3 or 4 trips I had my pickup weighed down with them.  Most were only a few inches long but some were larger, up to 10 pounds perhaps.  The next day I packed a suitcase with another shirt and pants and headed for Iowa.  If you had seen me with that pickup sagging in the back you would have said I was crazy then too.  

         But the next day I drove to every fish and aquarium shop I could find and sold that pickup full of rocks for a little better than 800 dollars.  It doesn’t sound like much money but in the early 80’s it wasn’t to be sneezed at.  I did the same thing a couple of times in Illinois. Not once did I bring home a single rock. Aquarim shops went nuts for them.  I told them they were imported from somewhere in Africa. In Harrison, Arkansas I stopped at a local filling station and the attendant, who knew me, said, “Dablemont, you are Crazy!!  So I have gotten use to being called that. 

         Today you could do the same thing on about any Ozark lake, but I found out it is illegal, so be careful; some Corps Ranger might haul you in for aggravated rock-stealing. At the same time, I got a permit to take a whole load of dead cedar poles from Bull Shoals to an Omaha Nebraska landscaper.  You wouldn’t believe how much he paid for them.  He was just as crazy as I was, and the people that paid him for those were even crazier.  On Bull Shoals alone there is a million dollars worth of cedar logs, beautifully white and silver colored, dead since the 1950’s and some of the prettiest decorative fencing you ever saw.  Sounds crazy, but it is true.

         Outdoorsmen are often accused of being crazy.  For instance, what is crazier than setting in some bushes, risking ticks and copperheads, scraping on a little box with a shotgun in your lap and some green and black paint smeared from one ear to the other?  That fits many hunters and from the mid-seventies into the nineties, I made a bunch of money taking those crazy people turkey hunting and camping here and there each spring.

         Often, you will call in a big old wild gobbler and he will start flopping around on the ground and another one will run to him and start fighting with him.  I had to kick one off my dying turkey once and he kept coming back.  I remember telling some of the guys at the pool hall what I had seen and they said I was crazy!  They said the same thing when I told them I had called in a gobbler by with a squeaking gate hinge on my neighbor’s farm.  Heck, when you see a tom turkey trying to escape by sticking his head and neck through an old hog-wire fence in the woods that he could just jump over, you realize that turkeys are as crazy as hunters.

          I am quite sure that as I roam the woods this week hunting wild turkeys with a shotgun in one hand and my camera in the other, I will see some things that will make me think, ‘now that is crazy’.  If I find mushrooms, I will give most of them away.  But if I find a rock that is something special, I won’t give it to nobody.  And if you want to see some of the very best I have ever found, come up here on Lightnin’ Ridge and you can see them scattered all over the place and in my office too.  I’ve got a dandy on my dresser!  I will give away wild turkey meat, mushrooms and fish by the dozens, but no one can have my rocks.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it. Sometime soon I will write a column about how to make bass jump in your boat.  I have done it many, many times, but when I write about it readers think I am crazy.

         Well, this week most of the suburban outdoor writers will be writing about how to hunt turkeys. But not me, because if you need to read about how to do something as easy as hunting and killing a wild gobbler, you probably ought to be hunting rocks instead.  Besides that, there are to many turkey hunters out there, and trying to create more of them seems crazy to me.

         If you want to read a couple of really good turkey hunting stories, and fishing stories too, get your hands on one of my spring magazines… The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, on sale in many stores with magazine racks.  Or call my secretary, Ms. Wiggins, at 417-777-5227, and she’ll send you one.  My new website is and you can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Birds is Worthless and What Ones Ain’t

goose nesting above the river about 20 feet over the water in sycamore tree.

         The virus hasn’t made life much different for me because how I live now is not much different than I have always lived.  Up here on this isolated ridgetop I call Lightnin’ Ridge, the highest point in this county, I have to spend a lot of time watching the birds that come to Gloria Jean’s bird feeders. It is part of my job because I take it upon myself to try to shoot all the brown-headed cowbirds I see.  I sit there beside my Labrador on my screened porch, which is up about 6 feet off the ground, looking out into the branches of oaks, hickories and walnuts wondering when the orioles will get here, or what kind of wren that little bird on the ground might be.  But in almost 30 years of that, I have never seen wood ducks there before.  

         About two weeks ago, a hen wood duck lit on one of the big limbs about ten yards away from my rockin’ chair.  In short order a beautiful drake joined her.  In a minute or so they flew into another tree, then another and then another.  It went on for 20 minutes or so, as they moved just north of my office to the pond I built there about 25 years ago.  In the fall, groups of wood ducks have used that pond, but none have ever nested nearby that I can remember.  Those two were indeed looking for a hollow tree to nest in.  Every time they moved to another tree the drake was just a follower.  The hen was the one doing the searching.  She had an eye on that pond, perhaps because there is corn spread along the shore quite often.  Dozens of doves feed there at times, and my place is a haven for nesting doves. I have seen doves nest on large tree limbs, in head-high bushes and on the ground in thickets. 
         Hordes of squirrels start using the hollow trees on my place in February to bring off their litters and three species of owls nest in them as well; the little ones, the medium ones and the big ones.  You know what species of owls I am talking about it if you are a woodsman or an ornithological enthusiast  (bird lover).  Too danged many raccoons have dens for their young on my tract of woodland, and there are pileated woodpeckers, flying squirrels and honeybees in other hollowed out trees.  Most of those cavities used as nurseries are in trees that are alive, not dead.  There are lots of them, but I sure hope the wood duck hen found one she likes.  If she did, I think there will be some little baby woodies on my pond soon. 
         Here’s a question some of you who have earned your master naturalist certificates in recent years.  True or False… Woodies can and do raise broods two or three miles from water!  True or False… They are the only waterfowl in the Ozarks that will nest in a hollow tree! Then answer this one… baby wood ducks leave the nest shortly after hatching.  That makes them which of the following… altricial or precocial.  While you are at it, name those three owl species which nest on my ridgetop.  And why would a lifetime professional naturalist  ( I wrote that ‘professional’ with in a humorous vein), kill a brown headed cowbird?   Answers later in this column.

         I shot a big old black snake yesterday only a short distance down one of my trails.  He was between 7 feet and 20 feet long!  I only shoot black snakes, copperheads and the occasional water snake in my pond.  Please keep that between us because it is illegal, according to our conservation department, to kill any snake or anything else that they do not mention in their rules booklet.  On a Lebanon radio station a game warden always ended his program with the words, “Remember, if we don’t say you can… you can’t”

         But black snakes, which can slither into any nesting cavity and climb any tree, eat bird eggs and kill baby birds by the dozens, in the spring, and baby rabbits.  My naturalist daughter Christy, who is a science and biology teacher, says that black snakes are valuable mouse eaters, to which I reply that I own enough mouse traps to kill every mouse between my sheds and hers without the help from black snakes.  Besides, a white-footed deer mouse is not anything like a house mouse and should be considered native wildlife. They are important food to owls and other predators that don’t eat bird eggs and baby rabbits!  If you are someone who falls into the class of tree-hugger or fern-feeler  (non-professional would-be naturalists) and you like snakes, I will bring you some of the three I named above.

         As to the questions above… altricial birds are those which have to take care of, and feed their young after hatching.  Precocial birds have fledglings which immediately leave the nests and feed themselves. When I was young, I was precocial! The three owls are… little—screech owls.  Medium—barred owls. Large—Great Horned Owls.  Brown headed cowbirds kick out eggs in another bird nest and lay their eggs in that nest.  They are a parasitic bird known to have done their evil work to more than 200 species of birds.  And lastly, woodies have been know to nest in hollow trees 3 or 4 miles from water, and hooded mergansers also nest in hollow trees near water.  So do some Canada geese, high in hollow trees right over the water.  Many won’t believe that but I have photos. 
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, mo or email me at  My website, where you can see and order one or more of my 10 books or issues of my outdoor magazine, is found on the computer at 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Another kind of Hunting

         It is ‘mushroom’ week here in my area of the Ozarks.  I found the first ones on the second day of April, which is unusual because the average time of eruption over the years has been about 10 to14 days into the month.  I have what I call an ‘indicator tree’.   It is a big ash tree on my place where the very first mushrooms appear each spring, and over a two-week period in past years it has produced from 20 to 35 mushrooms. 

         I found three there a few days back and I know that it will have more.  Then about a week later there will be mushrooms sprouting up on Truman Lake, about 30 miles north of me as the crow flies.  A week or so later there will be mushrooms to find in north Missouri.

         Folks get excited about finding extremely large morels.  I have found one about 12 inches tall with a diameter of nearly 4 inches.   BUT… I am usually in southern Canada on some lake that first week of June, and there, when you find morels, they AVERAGE 10 or 12 inches.  I have found morels there that were 15 inches tall.  I never look for them in Canada; you just find them along the lakeshore here and there.  Some years though you never see one.  But when they are there, they are very big.

          I recommend that if you have never found morel mushrooms, you begin looking for them around very large ash trees.  Ash trees send out long large roots which may curve around as far as 15-feet from the trunk. The tops of those roots stick up out of the ground.  Mushrooms grow up all around those roots.  But over the years I have found morels in cedar groves where larger cedars grow, around big sycamores along waterways, around open areas where May apples bloom, under dogwoods, and… well heck, I have found them in what we jokingly refer to as a ‘lawn’ around my house up here on Lightnin’ Ridge. 

         They grow where nature puts them.  Along small streams I have found them on gravel bars and on a sand bar beneath maple trees.  Those sandbar morels are worthless because there are tiny grains of sand all throughout the indentions and actually inside the meaty part of the mushroom, and you cannot get them out.  When you fry them and bite into one, you are chewing on grains of sand.

         The funny thing about finding morels a little early this spring is that everything that blooms is blooming a little later than usual.  But I am not just going to look for and eat mushrooms around my wooded ridgetop in April.  I will fry up some pokeweed leaves, (only the young small ones) and some cow pasley (parsley to educated folks) lamb’s quarter and crows foot, and make some sweetened sassafras tea out of the roots of small sassafras saplings. If you want to try those plants, look them up on a computer or in a book so you can identify them and learn how to eat them.  If you get ahold of hemlock, which is similar, it can kill you!

         Later in the summer there will be raspberries, and blackberries and mulberries up here within a hundred yards of my home and office, and then in the fall, persimmons, pawpaws, walnuts, and more mushrooms of one type or another.  I built a pond twenty-five years ago to water ridge-top wildlife and it is full of fish and bullfrogs.  All around me there are squirrels, rabbits, quail, turkey and deer.  If the time comes that city supermarkets don’t open or they don’t have food, the natural market allowing survival is right outside the door.  Many country people can say the same thing.

         This week I will eat fried mushrooms until I get sick of them.  And I will give away a bunch as well.  If you want to come and hunt them with me you can, as long as you wear a mask and raincoat and stay 10 feet from me! 

         I might mention that in May and June, when those orange day-lillies are blooming everywhere, that if you collect a bunch of the buds before they bloom, you can roll them in egg and flour and fry them like mushrooms.  Great eating!  They are known by country folks as ‘poor man’s asparagus’. Which means, I guess, that you can fix them like you fix asparagus.  I ain’t never done that… but I may try it this summer.  

         I want to caution prospective mushroom hunters that there is a large rusty-red mushroom known as beef-steak mushrooms that are often found even earlier than morels, and many people slice them and fry them too.  They may be found as big as a basketball and even bigger.  But while some folks eat them with no problem, others get very sick from them.  I don’t know why.  But heck, there are some folks who get sick from eating too many morels, so if  you are a first time mushroom hunter, do this… eat only a small amount of either at first.  Find out if you have a mushroom tolerant system.
 Beefsteak mushroom

                        Beefsteak mushroom
                               at a distance

         Some folks is different than us normal folks, I’ve heered.  I once knew an old boy at the pool hall that got sick ever’time he ate baked ‘possums and another feller who was allergic to peekans and walnuts!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Doggone White Bass

Dablemont column 3/30/20     

      White bass caught on ultra-lite equipment, will outfight about anything in a stream… except smallmouth. And when there is a good current in a tributary to any Ozark lake, if you find a bunch of those big female white bass, you can wear yourself out just trying to get a dozen or so in the boat.

      That awful experience reared its ugly head for a friend and I a couple of days ago.  We were up in a rain-swollen river trying to hook a walleye or two and big hefty female white bass kept intercepting our multi-colored crank baits. Sometimes we just struggled to get them back to the boat.

      We might have caught a nice walleye or two or even a lunker smallmouth if they had just let those lures alone, but they wouldn’t.  We’d feel a hard jolt out several yards into the current and the drag would screech for a minute or two and some big ol’ egg-laden white bass would bend a rod nearly double, whilst we would hang on and hope they would tire a little.  What a fight!

      Finally we just gave up and caught a whole passel of them out of spite. That can be a lot of fun if you wouldn’t druther catch a walleye. White bass are below those shoals of many lake tributaries wanting to spawn soon.  You would think any fish wanting to spawn would be less interested in eating, but now that I think about it, I have known a few pregnant women who just couldn’t get enough to eat, so it may be a natural thing amongst females.

     White bass spawn on gravel shoals in the Ozarks at night, but they didn’t get the name ‘sand bass’ for no good reason.  In the spring, sand warms quicker than gravel.  I mention this because that day we came across a big sand bar deposited by high water, and exposed to an 80-degree sun.  And right there we found some big female whites just hungry as they could be.

      You might keep that to yourself or in the spring when you are out fishing for white bass you may find two or three boats congregating next to any sand bars.  I don’t fish on weekends, because of that problem.  Weekends in the spring, everyone, goes fishing.  For example, last Saturday afternoon I motored up one river to look for some mushrooms and shed antlers and the place was all choked up with boats.  I saw one 17-foot boat with three kids and four adults in it and fishing rods sticking up everywhere like quills on a porcupine… probably looking for my favorite sand bar.

      I passed one small boat with a father and a boy about 10 or 11 and my mind went back to my own boyhood, when I spent hours in an old wooden johnboat with my dad or my grandfather, floating the Big Piney when almost no one did but us.  I couldn’t believe how much that young boy looked like I did at that age.  Discarding my usual contempt for city folks who flock to the Ozarks on weekends, I couldn’t forget the look on that little boys face as he clutched that rod and reel. 
      So I motored over and told them if they would follow me I would show them my secret sand bar.  I got my picture took with that youngster, and found out that his father, from Kansas City, had been reading my fishing book the week before they came down to fish.  Well, for some reason the white bass weren’t hungry that afternoon, but they said they would keep my favorite spot a secret and would only fish there when I wasn’t.  I hope they come back sometime.  I would like to see that little boy haul in a stringer full of those whites.  I cannot get that blond mop of hair and his “I want to catch a fish” face out of my mind.

      I’ll share another secret with all you readers.  I do not like to eat fish!  I guess eating so many as a boy has sorta made me allergic to the taste.  I don’t like any fish, not even crappie or walleye.        But I filet what I catch and try to give them to poor or elderly folks who just love them.  Chances are you will like white bass, hybrids or stripers if you learn to skim off the red meat.  It is a little like skimming the chocolate icing off a cupcake, but it leaves a red stripe down the center of the filet you have to eliminate also.  I think that this week I will put photos of that step-by- step process on my website, That way, many will change their attitude about eating white bass filets. I will add some of my recent photos and what I promised to post about paddlefish.

      Let me add this… if you are a landowner instructed to register your land with the MDC so you can get a landowner permit this spring to hunt wild turkeys, DON”T DO IT!  There is more to this than you know.  I will hunt my land without the permit.  It will be the first time I have ever intentionally broken the law, but there isn’t a conservation agent anywhere who will be able to catch me. Makes me feel like one of them Bostonians who threw the tea in the Atlantic back in the 1770’s. 

      Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email