Monday, May 23, 2016

Becoming a Farmer, For Wildlife – 5-23-2016


 


 
My daughter Christy was talked into spelling ol' Dad for a round or two on the tractor.  Didn't last long… she kept thinking it was about to turn over!





A deer antler and two arrow heads found at Panther Creek Ranch. Only a few of the treasures youth may have the experience of finding and learning about at the ranch.
 

























         In all my life, I never drove a farm tractor until just recently. I spent most of the day last Sunday on a 1948 Farmall Cub disking up four different plots of ground along our Panther Creek bottoms.  My maternal Grandfather, Bert McNew told me once that riding a tractor working on the farm was a great way for a man to talk to the Lord, because it was something he did all alone.  He was right!
 
         It is another way for a man to get his mind away from this messed-up world. I have spent my life escaping to the woods and the river as a naturalist, hunter, fisherman, guide, and explorer, but never did I try to work the land as a farmer.
 
         My recent experiences on that little red tractor of mine have nothing to do with harvesting grain for sale.  I am putting in wildlife food plots strictly to feed wildlife. Six miles from me there is a Conservation Department wildlife management area of considerable size that has no wildlife.  They have recently killed some of the smaller fringes of trees there with herbicide, and expanded gates to facilitate the machinery of a tenant farmer so he can harvest a large crop, of which the MDC gets a percentage.

         A year or so ago, a friend and I turned loose five beagles there and in more than an hour of hunting, we didn’t see one rabbit. That place, owned by all of us as public land, is basically an ecological desert.

         My place has rabbits and birds in abundance.  I have been taking care of a big covey of quail.  Going into the spring, there were 18 of them and I hope the careful combination of these small plots of food, escape cover and nesting cover, plus the control of egg-eaters like armadillos and possums and skunks, will allow these eighteen birds to expand their number.  Wildlife is increased by what is known as edge and interspersion.  I am creating that. 

         There was a time long ago when state-owned public wildlife areas were managed to produce edge and interspersion, and rabbits and quail, deer and turkey, and furbearers and birds.  These places are now for producing bushels of grain, or harvested logs, all for maximum profit, not wildlife conservation.  My intention is to make this small 50-acre tract an example of what can be done, when preserving wildlife is the goal. I am planting one of them with turnips and clover for deer and turkey, and another is planted in a wildlife mix, some sunflower, milo, soybeans, millet and others.  This will help feed my quail and rabbits.
          
         On Lightnin’ Ridge, where I live when not working on this Panther Creek project, there is nothing to plow and plant except the garden.  It is a high ridgetop of big trees, and they will not be cut down by contract loggers as so many landowners seem anxious to do today.  My office is a museum, and I have a long trail built through those big trees that I have opened for anyone to hike.  Visitors seem to enjoy it.

         We have similar trails along Panther Creek Bottoms and on the timbered ridges above it.  If you have been reading this column you know we are proud to be making the place a completely free retreat for underprivileged children of all ages.  We are in bad need of someone who owns a bulldozer to create an athletic field there.  That is one of our last projects left unaccomplished.  About everything else I have been able to handle with that old Farmall Cub tractor.
        
         The big fish fry we had last Saturday to show the place off, let over 40 folks see what we have to offer with our lodge and two cabins, enough room for a church wanting to bring 20 or 25 kids.  We had representatives from several churches show up to see it.
        
         When a church from Springfield brought seventeen boys for a weekend of fun at our place, I wrote about it, and got a phone call a few days later that I will never forget.  The lady who called me was crying, and asked me if she could get her little boy into such a group.  I explained that she needed to contact that church and likely they would include him.  Then she went on to say that he needed help, because his father had left them and he was becoming morose and difficult.

         I hope that lady is reading because she and other parents like her can enroll troubled young boys in a week-long stay at our Panther Creek project, running from June 13 to June 16, four days and three nights.  I will have on hand four other Christian men, whom I have known for years and years, as counselors.  There will not be a time when any boys will be alone with me or anyone else.

         We will act as a group, building trails and hiking, learning to swim, handle canoes and kayaks; hunting arrowheads and shed antlers, and working on daily classroom assignments involving our biggest purpose there…nature and  conservation.
 
         For those whose parents give permission, there will be a hunter safety course for their boys, teaching the safe handling of firearms and involving shooting clay pigeons with one twenty-gauge shotgun and one .22 rifle at stationary targets.  We have White River guide and fly fishing expert Jerry McCoy, from Arkansas, coming up to spend an afternoon teaching boys to fly-cast and use fly-rods right there in the creek.
 
         What I intend to do with these boys involves teaching them self-worth, emphasizing that God gives us all certain talents, and that each of them have some special gift they should pursue as the grow into men.  We’ll emphasize the evil lurking in the use of drugs and alcohol and the health aspect of using cigarettes.  It isn’t intended to be just a week of play and fun.  They will indeed have fun, but they also will LEARN.

         If you want to send your son, my email address is lightninridg@windstream.com or telephone me at 417-777-5227 and we’ll have you fill out a form which tells us all about him, especially any physical or medical limitations. We’ll be glad to show you our place and explain what we will be doing. I should point out that later in the summer we will do this again if we have more than we can take during this first camp.  And we will do the same thing for girls at some time in the summer and fall, with women counselors, if there is an interest.

         I will be glad to furnish references for all of our counselors and myself.  Our purpose is to show the outdoors and the best of God’s creation to boys, to steer them towards interests they might have as individuals…  our purpose is to use nature and good men to change young lives of many boys for the better.

 



        


Friday, May 20, 2016

Terror on An Old Log … 5-9-16


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--> Only a few seconds from sudden death via heart attack… there I was about to step down on him. --> And there he was longing to bite me on the leg.  

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         It was perhaps the worst turkey season I ever saw or seen or heard about!   I won’t venture a guess as to why, but the late morning gobbling which I have enjoyed so much in past years just was non-existent.  I usually kill gobblers that gobble a lot after ten o’clock, and there are always plenty of them. That way, as I get older I don’t have to get up before dark anymore. Not this year.  I should have got up before daylight and shot one off the roost.  They deserved that kind of treatment!

         In my region of the northern Ozarks, the gobbling was poor, the gobblers seemed fewer and I actually missed one.  I know that is hard for some folks to believe, seeing as how I am a grizzled old veteran outdoorsman and professional turkey hunter and champeen turkey caller.  I couldn’t believe it myself!

          I did have lots of excitement however.  Late one morning I pulled my boat over to the bank of the Sac River to tie it to a log on a small sand bar.  Wild turkey lived in the woods beyond and though it was getting up late in the morning, I had fished enough in a tributary to the river, and it was high and colored in the wake of a good rain the day before.   I didn’t catch nothin’!  Likewise with the turkey hunting… I hadn’t kilt nothin’!

 
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I have seen several really big cottonmouths…. this is one of them.
    About to step from the bow of the boat with my shotgun and turkey call I looked into a crevice in the log and there was a terrifying sight… one of the biggest cottonmouth snakes I have ever seen.  My foot was right above him!  My balance was just about to shift forward!  I was close to limping around for weeks and being able to write about being bitten by a cottonmouth!

         Due to extraordinary reflexes and sheer panic, I stayed in the boat.  I only had two high-powered turkey loads or I would have killed him deader than Uncle Jake’s mule.  As it is, he or she, whichever, still lives.  But someday I will go by that log again with more shells.

          I have seen cottonmouths all over… in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana.  The biggest one I have ever seen was on Truman Lake a few miles west of Warsaw.  He was a monster in girth, but no cottonmouth gets very long.  When people tell me they saw a four or five-foot cottonmouth, I know they have seen a non-poisonous water snake. There are places to the south where common water snakes are huge.  They bite too, if you are dumb enough to fiddle with them up close and personal, but they don’t have the fangs nor the venom. 

        This cottonmouth was in the top five of any I have ever seen, about two feet long and as big around as a mink! Fatter than a bullfrog! The Sac River, which I have traversed often from one end to the other, has more cottonmouths than I have seen on any Ozark river.  Their venom is as deadly as a similar sized rattler, and they are often more aggressive than any rattler or copperhead you have ever seen, especially during that late summer molt.  For me it was a close call, the nearest hospital would have been an hour or so away.  And remember that last year a man in good health died from cottonmouth bite here in the Ozarks. 


         But I saw more pleasant things while turkey hunting.  There was a nighthawk on the branch of a small tree that flew as I walked by and landed on the limb of a big oak, so I could get a good look at him.  As he flew or maybe I should say ‘fluttered’ away, those bright white bars on his wings looked like white pinwheels.  Nighthawks are much like whippoorwills and chuck-wills-widows in that they lay a couple of eggs on the ground with no nest whatsoever and all three species are declining because of the number of egg- eaters roaming the woods; ‘coons, skunks, possums and worst of all… armadillos.

         They all feed in flight, on insects.  Nighthawks do not sit on tree limbs very often.  The little short-billed, long-winged bird sat still and watched me watching him, and it was something special that morning, as the three old gobblers I was trying to call had ignored me. I should have left the shotgun at home and brought the camera.  Nighthawks range all over North America, all the provinces in Canada, down into Mexico.

         Whippoorwills and chuck-wills-widows overlap in Missouri and Arkansas, but the former lives and nests to the north and east of the Ozarks primarily while the latter dwells to the south and east.  Lordy I love to hear them on a summer night, as it brings back so many memories from my youth, camping on river gravel bars, and just living amongst them in the woods.  There are fewer and fewer to hear.

         Along my place on Panther Creek, there’s a nest of fish crows… and they don’t sound anything like a regular common crow.  They are about twenty percent smaller, and they warble and squawk and make sounds that really puzzle lots of folks.  If you look in the bird books, the range maps show they come as far north as the Oklahoma-Kansas border and up the Mississippi to about St. Louis, but they aren’t suppose to be in the Ozarks at all.  They weren’t when I was younger.  They just began to show up about ten years ago up in the northern Ozarks, maybe 15 years ago down in north Arkansas.

         They do indeed eat fish, and they DO NOT nest on ridges… they nest along the waterways, small creeks and rivers and marshes.  Here on Lightnin’ Ridge, I don’t think I have ever heard a fish crow, but on Ozark streams, I have heard plenty of them.  The sight of them won’t give you a clue to what they are, as they look so much like a common crow, but when you hear one you will know it.   That’s all we need… something else moving in that likes to eat fish!

         Fish crows make some of the strange sounds that Canadian ravens make but the raven doesn’t get down this far to the south, preferring to stay in the northern reaches of northern states, Canada and well down into the mountain states west of us.

                 
         If you would like to come and visit our place on Panther Creek and hike our trails and see the fish crows, don’t forget our fish fry on May 21. If you come, bring water containers to fill from our artesian well, flowing out from nearly 500 feet below the ground.  The water has been tested and it is cold and clear and full of healthful minerals.  Actually I don’t even know if it has any minerals but I have been drinking it and it has made me look handsomelier and younger day by day.  I know it is the water, as nothing ever worked before.

         But we need to know who is coming to our fish fry and dinner, so just call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, located in our executive offices here on Lightnin’ Ridge… 417 777 5227.  Ms Wiggins doesn’t drink enough of my spring water, as she is perhaps homelier than she has ever been, and crankier.  She constantly complains about my Labradors having the run of the office and my big chocolate male, Bolt, sometimes growls at her.  She says that he bit her once, but Bolt says that she bit him first!  I believe him because he has never lied to me and Ms. Wiggins has!

         You can email me at lightninridge@windstream.net or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Record Holders, and A Fish Fry -- 5/2/16

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This is surely an alternative method record, a big bass caught by 7 year old Jack Luraas

-->         I think it was back in the 1950’s or 60’s that some good ol’ boys down in Kentucky got to yearning for fishing fame, and therefore figured out a way to have their names in the record books.  From some lying and paying off the right people they were soon the proud possessors of two world records.  One was a fictitious walleye weighing 25 pounds and a fictitious smallmouth bass at 14 pounds. 

         Trouble is, one of them had a conscience and when he got old he started thinking about how all that deception would play with St. Peter, whom he was getting closer to meeting on a first person basis.  So he spilled the beans and the records were cleared from the record books.

          Now the Missouri Department of Conservation has made it possible for perhaps hundreds of Missourians to get their names in the state’s record books in an honest though somewhat questionable manner, and someone has already taken advantage of it.  He is in the newly formed fishing record book with a three-pound white bass, a good two pounds smaller than thousands of other big white bass caught from Missouri waters.  I imagine in my lifetime I have caught a hundred white bass weighing four pounds or better myself.  Caught four of them in one night!  

         Many years ago when I was guiding fishermen on Bull Shoals I took a Nebraska fisherman out in May and he caught a five pound, two ounce white bass under the lights on a shad.  His name is Gary Butts, and he now lives down at Branson and is a well-known taxidermist.  I don’t know who caught the three pounder that was touted as an ‘alternative-methods’ record.  The MDC has just created that category and the three- pound white bass is a record for trotline fishermen since the fish of mediocre size was caught on a trotline!

         Now you probably know that you do not set trotlines for white bass or walleye or black bass or crappie, you set trotlines for great big catfish weighing 20 or 30 pounds.  Back in 1967 my old college buddy Darrel Hamby, and I caught a largemouth bass on a trotline that weighed almost eight-pounds and when we ran the line the bass was dead.  Today that bass would be a state record under the new alternative methods category.  Heck, anything you catch on a trotline now can probably be a record fish, say a one-pound crappie or a two-pound walleye, a three-pound bass.  For awhile anyway.

         But who cares!!!   What ARE all the alternative methods?  Can we include jug fishermen and cane pole fishermen… how about limb-line fishermen?  How about someone who catches something on a chunk of baloney, or a piece of cheese? That’s pretty alternative compared to a minnow or a night-crawler. If you grab a yeller sucker with a treble hook this spring is he a new record too?  If you bow-shoot a gar now or a carp, call the MDC and tell them about it because that’s got to be some kind of record, at least for awhile.  Alternative methods!

         Not many fishermen are going to want to get their name in the record book for catching a little old eight-inch green-sunfish on a trotline, or a ten-inch goggle-eye, but you can bet somebody will.  I think maybe up at Jeff City they may have some employees who don’t have much to do. Now they will.  Call in those alternative method fish you catch but be careful about it.  You don’t want to call in a two-pound smallmouth that you gigged. That’s illegal. And I would say dynamite is not considered an alternative method.

         I’d hate to say I caught another bass on a trotline.  But I caught a big eel once on a trotline and I caught an Ozark hellbender on a limb-line.  There’s two good alternative records right there that might never be broken. 

         We have a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame that has hundreds and hundreds of people in it. Lots of them didn’t grow up here and don’t live here now, they just played a sport in St. Louis or Kansas City and then got the heck out of Missouri.  Lots of the actual Missourians, no one has ever heard of. 

         They need to dedicate a wing to Missouri fishermen, and include those alternative methods folks who catch eels and hellbenders, black perch and punkinseeds… and white bass on trotlines!!  Now there’s you some hall-of-famers!


         I speak all over the Ozarks to various groups but as I remember I have never had a speaking engagement in my hometown of Houston, Mo. On May the 13th I will speak to a group at 1:00 oclock at the Catholic Church.  I understand it is open to the public and it doesn’t cost anything, so you can come and join us if you live close to Houston and can find the Catholic Church.  I will give away a bunch of my magazines and sell and sign my books. If you already have some of them you can bring them over and I will sign them for you.  I have no idea what I will talk about that day and may not know until I get there!

         If you want to come to a big fish-fry dinner, write this date and address down… Saturday, May 21 at the Panther Creek Lodge and acreage, 7140 SE 1200 Road, Collins Mo..  That is out in the country four miles southwest of Collins about forty miles north of Springfield just off Highway 13.  I am doing this to show our place for underprivileged children to all those who want to see it. 

         The old 1880’s iron bridge there is a real historic attraction, but boy are we going to have a big dinner that day.  We will eat between 1 and 2 p.m. and I need to know who is coming because I don’t want to be short of food.  So if you can come, write a postcard telling me how many there will be, to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  Or you can email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.  You can even call my secretary, Ms. Wiggins at 417 777 5227 and tell her you are coming.  And if you need a map we’ll get one too you.

         But again, we intend to have fresh fish and baked beans and cold slaw (as opposed to warm slaw) and baked potatoes and dessert and coffee, tea or soda.  You can see what a predicament I will be in if….  1. Nobody comes.  2. A whole bunch of people come that I am not expecting… or  3. If it rains.   In case of number 3, we will postpone it until the next Saturday. 

         There will be no charge for the dinner, but if you wish to make a donation to help us run this place, there will be a bucket at the door for your donation. And if there are any ladies out there who wish to bring any kind of dish or dessert, I welcome it.   If I make a pie on Friday I sometimes eat all of it before Saturday gets here.

         I am really hoping that area churches will send youth counselors to see this beautiful place on Panther Creek, and then use this 70 acre-outdoor education center and retreat with enough cabins and beds for up to 20 kids at a time. We have a wonderful place to bring kids who have problems, or boys without fathers…COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE. 

         My hopes for the future for these kids involves hiking trails, a shooting range, a trout pool, a sports field, canoes and kayaks on the creek, swimming and fishing on a clean gravel bar, special speakers and gravel-bar bonfires at night and many other things.   Some of my own friends will be there to help and all are good Christian men I know very well.  And I will always be there myself, anxious to talk to kids about nature and conservation.

Hope you can join us on May 21.  Come and spend the whole day.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Enjoying Life with the Ants -- 4-24-16








Dennis, a friend of mine, with a nice big walleye.




 





























   
As for me, I like these really good eating size walleye
























            I was sitting on the back porch of my little cabin on Panther Creek, listening for wild turkeys.  It was then I noticed the ants, thousands of them! They were climbing a four by four wooden roof support going up to some little crevice at the top, and it was like a super highway, hundreds of ants going up on the right side, and hundreds coming down on the left.  And I know that many of you who think that any outdoor writer who has resorted to writing about ants has probably run out of anything to write about, but that’s not so.

            Some of the things that happened to me in the woods this week turkey hunting would make one heck of a story.  You should have been there.  But then, turkey stories are a dime a dozen right now.  Every turkey hunter has a good one.

            And I could write about how this was the worst mushroom hunting spring I have ever seen.  If I give it a little effort I usually can find a couple or three hundred morels early in April. In a good year it might be five hundred.  But this year I hunted them as hard as ever, and only came up with about seventy-five.  That is really bad. 

            It might be that I can get into a good grove of them this week but I have my doubts.  For instance, I have a special place I always check first that I can figure will harbor 20 or so mushrooms. In good years, that spot will sometimes gives up 40 or 50. This year it had only 13!  Thirteen of course, the bad luck number, told me what was coming… hard times for mushroomers! 

            Thirteen is indeed a very unlucky number!  Once years ago I caught thirteen crappie and had two flat tires on the boat trailer on the way home, nearly cut off a finger when I cleaned them and then found out my best fishing rod had the tip broke off of it.  I won’t bring home 13 of anything now, and when I found those thirteen mushrooms I left one of them to go to seed. We need more mushroom seeds in the woods anyway!  But it didn’t matter.  Up to now I have found twice as many terrapins as mushrooms.  It is shaping up to be a good terrapin year for whatever can eat a terrapin.

            Sometimes in the woods I find where a terrapin has flipped over on its back and is unable to get upright.  I have saved several, but came along too late for others.  That really bothers me.  I saw an armadillo intentionally tip over a terrapin once and it made me so mad I shot the armadillo and rescued the terrapin.  It bothers me to think of a terrapin lying there on his back knowing that he is doomed. It won’t happen quickly either.  I can live with seeing a few hundred of them squashed on the highway because it happens quickly.  He’s just plodding along and wham, he’s on his way to terrapin heaven.


            Next year I may organize a terrapin rescue league, made up of people dedicated to walking through the woods looking for those poor hapless creatures that somehow ended up on their backs.  I know that God’s plan is perfect and what He created seldom has any flaws, but why couldn’t He have foreseen what a problem it would be for a terrapin if it winds up on it’s back?  I think about things like that, when I am off in the woods by myself.  Why did God make so darn many ticks and so few mushrooms?

            I also could write a pretty good story about walleye fishing a few days ago with two of my friends on a stretch of river where walleyes are fairly common after they spawn.  White bass were hitting topwater lures and we filled a cooler with them, but I soon tied on a little multi-colored crank bait, a long slender one that seems to appeal to walleye.  Right off I caught an 18-incher and a 20-incher and one of my friends quickly went to a deep-running gold Rapala, hoping to tempt a couple of those glass-eyed, sharp- toothed fish that everyone says can’t be equaled in the frying pan.

            In only a few casts he tied into a hum-dinger, and I had an idea that he would never land it with the light tackle he was using.  The hum-dinger was perhaps an eight- to ten-pound walleye and it might today be swimming around in the river with that gold Rapala hanging from its jaw.  Later my friend caught a three- or four-pound walleye that he tried to horse a little too much and it got off right beside the boat.  All this makes it sound as if my fishing partners aren’t as good at fishing as I am and I hope I am not leaving that impression because both of them are just almost as good a fisherman as I am!  But I have learned not to brag about my God-given abilities around the two of them.

            Setting all that aside, lets get back to the ants.  Watching them closely I could see that the upward bound ants were carrying little bits of stuff with them and the ones in the left lane, going down to the ground, were empty.  But I’ll tell you what amazed me.  Almost every downward-headed ant was running head on into an upward-headed ant! 

            Now this amazes me, as I am sure it does you.  Is this happening because they are blind and just don’t know where they are going, or is it some kind of behavior mere humans cannot figure out.  Maybe it is a way of communicating briefly… something like, “Oh hi, haven’t seen you for awhile, thought you were dead, heard you got ate by a lizard.”

            I just don’t know, but it was something to see, all those ants head-butting each other, then off to run into another bunch.  I noticed that it didn’t always happen with all ants.  So maybe there is a little animosity there amongst individuals. Some missed most of the oncoming ants only to run into others.  If there is a qualified antologist out there amongst my readers, please enlighten me about all this.

            It would be nice to hear from an ant expert, well educated and perhaps with a master’s degree in ant studies, maybe someone who wrote a thesis about ant behavior. That certainly would surprise the editors of a couple of the newspapers who use this column.  One told me once he couldn’t imagine that I had many readers who had finished high school.
            The thing of it is, those red ants are attending to a queen ant somewhere up that wooden beam and sometimes you could see five or six of them struggling with all their might to move something up it that was too big for them. It seemed to be the kind of struggle akin to the ancient Egyptians carrying blocks for the pyramids.

            The thing of it is, nature is so complex and fascinating that if you get to watching, whether you are observing a pair of eagles in their nest above the creek or a muskrat making himself a mud platform in the middle of it, or a couple thousand ants on the hillside, you can be so fascinated that you forget what a mess the everyday world is.

            For that reason, I quite often think that it would be best for me to stay there at that little cabin, where television and telephones don’t work, and leave the struggles to the folks back in the city, miles and miles away, where, like the ants, they go one way on the right side, and another way on the left.  And like the ants, it seems as if they do a lot of head-butting the more of them there is.  The ant’s queen is already in place, and being well served. Ours won’t be there until November!









Friday, April 22, 2016

Old Gobbler Hunters-- Old Ways 4/16/2016




 
Too many hens per gobbler nowadays.             

 
                          I like it the old way….one gobbler, no hens!


         The old Outdoor Life magazines I bought when I was a young boy sit on my office shelf a reminder of the days when actually living the ‘outdoor life’ was so different than it is today. I picked up a modern-day issue of that magazine recently and I am amazed how different it is now. It was very thin and so absolutely full of advertising, I had to look hard to find a story.  Just like television is today, there is so much advertising I just lose interest.

         I did find one turkey-hunting story though, in that thin little collection of advertising, about how to hunt wild turkeys today as opposed to 30 years ago, as if the bird was a different creature now.  It is what outdoor magazines feel they have to do today…focus on all the new technology and expensive gear. Come up with new ways to do something, even if it is nonsense.  Because the new breed of hunter and fisherman is pretty easy to fool.

         The wild turkey is the same creature today that he was a hundred years ago. The difference is there are so many more of them.  I really think that a flock of turkeys in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, or the Lewis and Clark National Forestland of Missouri, averaged about three hens per mature gobbler, maybe four at times.  

         Now I think there are counties in the Ozarks that have flocks averaging about twelve or fifteen hens per tom.  Well shucks, maybe that’s the future of turkey hunting, learn to call in the hens and get the gobbler when he follows.  That happened to me a time or two over the years. I sold lots of magazine articles to Outdoor Life and Field and Stream over the years but I might not be able to today because I don’t know that I want to write something about new ways you might hunt or fish for something.
 Today’s outdoor magazine readers who are under 40, are really easy to fool. They have money to spend and as a rule, that’s what appeals so much to them, new gear, new gadgets, new methods, tips from the pro’s, advice from the experts.

         I spent many many years guiding hunters and fishermen and though my favorite way to introduce anyone to the Ozarks outdoors was a float trip on a smallmouth stream, turkey hunting was next.  You had your hands full if a client wanted to hunt waterfowl, or go to Canada and catch a big muskie, or see a good bird-dog work grouse or pheasant.  But if you could teach him how to conceal himself and learn to get a gun barrel on a gobbler’s head without spooking him, you’d be a popular and successful guide.

         I can assure you that turkey hunting is the same today as ever. You do not need new gadgets or new methods or a new approach.  The simplicity of it is remarkable. Even if you aren’t an experienced hunter, turkey hunting is simple. You just have to know where they are and you need to be able to hide well and wait. Technology isn’t necessary…patience is. Those are two things I have trouble with, the hiding and the waiting.  I like to explore, not wait. And I don’t like to hide, I want to see that old gobbler when he is strutting toward me a hundred yards away. Often that isn’t being well hidden, and I have paid for that many times.  But there is nothing worse than bringing in a wild turkey that you only saw for a few seconds, only his red and white head sticking above the buck brush.  Heck that’s worse than catching crappie with a broom stick!

         Everything that can be written about turkey hunting has been. I wrote a book about turkey hunting.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  Then you can be an expert too! It’s about my first forty years of turkey hunting an in another forty years I will rewrite it.  I expect it not to change much.  The last time I went turkey hunting was a lot like the first time I went.
 
         One thing continues to impress me; everything I had on my very first turkey hunt, is all I need today…a homemade call, a full choke shotgun, two or three shells and a camouflaged shirt. Some of the best old time turkey hunters I knew didn’t own camouflaged clothing. They just knew how to hide. It is also important to have two good legs and two good ears and two good eyes. A good sense of smell isn’t needed!

         I notice when I am in the company of today’s experts and calling champions and professionals in the turkey hunting field, how many of them are really hefty.  Photos of turkey hunters from a hundred years ago show men who are so skinny they have enough room in their overalls for a hen turkey to nest in, even with them in ‘em.  Lets just say that today’s turkey hunters eat much much better.  And lots of them do not walk much, --they ride. I suggest that a new way to hunt turkeys might actually involved more walking than riding.

         You will find the best turkey hunting in those places where ATV’s and weekend hunters don’t go.  This I have always found to be true… the more steps you take into the woods, the better the hunting gets! And I have found that often, the best of the hunting is late in the morning too.  That’s where patience comes in and you have to have a singleness of purpose.  You can’t be wondering if the yellow suckers might be shoaling or if it would be a good time to set a trotline.  And it is best if you are one of those fellows who is content to mow the lawn for the first time in June.

         But if you are looking for a new way to hunt turkey gobblers I can’t help you.  The old way is not only the best way; it is a tradition worth holding on to.  Forget the little pop-up blinds and the decoys.  Any one who would hunt turkeys that way might as well shoot one off the roost in the moonlight!