Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Disease You Need to Learn About




 
These are elk along the buffalo river in Arkansas.  Tested animals from this herd have been found to have chronic wasting disease.

         The public is being misled about chronic wasting disease in deer.  If you eat deer meat, you need to know that several Missourians HAVE BEEN diagnosed with the disease, known as Jakob-Kruetzfeldt disease.  It is a horrible disease for humans to deal with and you can learn all about it on the internet.  It has been a disease dealt with in England for more than 30 years because of “Mad Cow” disease-- another name for it.  In the U.S. it exists in deer and elk and goats and is known as “Mad Deer” disease.

         In the fall issue of my magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Journal, on the newsstands in about a week, there is a letter from a Texas doctor you should read, concerning this horrible disease. I am not suggesting that you buy the magazine.  You can just find it and read the doctor’s letter on page 64 without buying it.  It won’t take long.

This is that sick buck found last fall in Polk County.  Stumbling
and staggering, he went down and then couldn't stand.
    Hunters in Missouri have been grossly misinformed about this disease, spreading to new counties each year.  It is likely that it exists to some degree in the Ozarks right now, and there is no holding it back. In the Ozarks of north Arkansas it has been found in whitetail deer and elk in large numbers.  I believe a Polk county landowner found a deer on his place with chronic wasting disease.He made several calls to the MDC asking them to come and check the sick deer, but no one would come.

         I think that state agency is looking at this disease too much in the economic line.  They really stress what it will do to the state’s economy to lose deer hunters.  They say less about what it will cost them in deer tag sales.  What they need to talk about, and do not, is what the disease can do to those of us who eat deer meat.

         My daughter, a doctor for more than fifteen years now, has not been willing to say much to me about it when I question her, because there is so much not yet known.  She did tell me that she saw a case of it in a patient at Columbia Missouri when she was finishing her doctorate at the University of Missouri.  A disease created by something known as a ‘prion’, Jakob-Kruetzfeldt destroys the brain, and it is complicated to diagnose.  The bodies of those known to have died from it are not taken to a coroner, but immediately cremated, as apparently instructed by the Center of Disease Control.

 
This is one of the deer pens operated by Amish
people in Randolph County.  Does are crowded
into a small area, to be bred by trophy bucks in
hopes of creating superior fawns to grow big antlers,
 sold and shot.  This Amish farmer told me he had
just bought a doe in Ohio for 26 thousand dollars.
There is no doubt it could have been stopped in our state fifteen years ago, if the raising of penned deer had been outlawed. That is what Colorado did when they first learned of the disease… they shut down all operations buying and raising elk and deer to be used as hunted trophies. And to my knowledge,
no wild elk or deer tested for ‘mad deer’ disease to date have 
tested positive in that state.

         Why didn’t Missouri do that?  The answer is money!!!  It was becoming a big business.  North Missouri deer pen operators were spending thousands and thousands on deer purchase in Ohio and Michigan, brought into our state without testing. And some of those Amish deer pen operations were making tremendous profits they had never seen in farming or ranching, tens of thousands of dollars off the sale of just one buck. The disease then started to occur in wild deer around those north Missouri operations.

         I am going to continue to eat deer meat only when it is a deer I have killed.  The prions that cause the disease are supposedly not found in blood, but in spinal fluid, and in the brain. If you do not cut the spine or brain in anyway, it may be that you could eat an infected deer and not contract the disease. But who knows for sure?  No one!  The doctor who wrote the article on page 64 of my magazine says that people have been known to get Jakob-Kruetzfeldt disease from eating meat.  Perhaps that was because the meat was tainted by spinal fluid.

         As for me, I will heart-shoot any deer I hunt and remove the meat from the bone without ever cutting a bone.  I worry about the bone marrow as well as the spinal fluid.  If you are a deer hunter, I would suggest you do the same.  I process all my deer meat, and have never taken it to a processor.  There is a worry that meat processors might accidentally get your meat mixed up with someone else’s.  There is no problem if you are very familiar with your meat processor and confident that won’t happen.

         That ridiculous “seven-point-or-better” regulation the Missouri Department of Conservation installed in two-thirds of the state was never biologically sound, never achievable for the majority of deer hunters not using binoculars from a stationary stand.  It was done to bring in more money from out of state hunters who were looking for trophies, and would pay large sums to buy a non-resident tag.  A few conservation agents said they never had enforced it and never would.

         Now that regulation has been ditched in nineteen counties where it is feared the disease exists.  It needs to be repealed everywhere, but the common sense in doing it escapes the decision makers who still think that a fork-horn will always become an 8 or 10 point trophy in just a year or so.  It doesn’t work that way, and never has.  Antlers don’t always progress to trophy size by letting them grow.  Many factors can make a spindly six-point rack remain that way throughout the buck’s life.

         My decision on whether to take a deer on my place will be whether or not he appears healthy and whether or not I can make steaks, stew meat, hamburger and jerky from the meat.  I have enough big sets of antlers laying around for the squirrels to chew on, I don’t need any more.  Any hunter who is out there trying to bag a trophy set of antlers again and again, needs to examine what makes him think that way.

         Human greed created Jakob-Kruetzveldt disease. They created it in England by feeding meat by-products to cattle, a creature God created to eat grass and grain… not meat. Too often, the greedy don’t go along so well with God’s ideas. Their idea was to put more weight on the cow, by making it a meat eater.  The added weight would mean more beef and more money.  Instead, it meant a horrible disease for the cattle, and a horrible death for humans who were infected by eating the beef.  In England there were many, many deaths in humans.

         In the deer and elk pens, similar meat and bone by-products were mixed into the deer feed to try to make bigger antlers and more money from them.  Good idea wasn’t it?  No one knows where it is going to end, or how bad it might get.  When the MDC people talk about controlling chronic wasting disease or keeping it limited, they are doing a disservice to those who believe them. It is not just limited to that 19 county area now, and in the Ozarks, it will move north from Arkansas soon if it isn’t already here.

         Notice that our state conservation department never mentions the disease spreading to humans, but it needs to be talked about, because several known cases have occurred in Missouri.  Talking to their relatives, I learned that in at least three of those deaths, venison was a big part of the diet.  I’ll hunt deer this fall once again, and hope I feel comfortable eating venison for a few years to come.  But I am sure that in time, deer hunting will just be too much of an uncertainty for many.





Friday, September 16, 2016

IF YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER

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            While I was trying to compile the ten issues of a magazine we called The Journal of the Ozarks over a couple of years, I had contact with different types of contributors.  Some of them were hilarious.  There was one lady whom I had went to college with that considered herself a great writer and tried to help with one of my magazines for awhile. I had to brag on her a lot, but she was awful.  I didn’t tell her, but she quit, and really lambasted me and the way we were doing things.
            I decided a long time ago I would never discourage anyone, but always offer optimistic evaluations to everyone who asks me, if I can.  But what the heck do I know.  It is the absolute truth that I don’t know any of the technology of writing.  I don’t know the difference between a predicate and a participle.  That is the truth!  But then, what difference does it make.  
            In all my life I never wrote a thing I didn’t sell somewhere, eventually.  It just takes some resubmissions.  Once years ago, Sports Afield magazine asked me to send a story with photos about Midwest quail hunting.   When he received it, the editor really ripped it apart and said, “after reading this I can’t help but wonder if you ever really go quail hunting!” 
            At the time, Sports Afield paid around 1200 dollars for a feature article with good color photos.  I never touched the manuscript, just sent it to Outdoor Life.  The editor bought it and thanked me for sending it.  Outdoor Life paid 1500 for that article and used several of the photos I sent.  Good advice for anyone who wants to sell their writing… take some good photos to go with everything you write, if possible.  Photos often sell marginal articles.
            Speaking on occasion to a writing group or some high school kids, I tell them that anyone can be a writer.  All it takes is a pen and a tablet and a tree to lean against somewhere.  But truthfully if you are going to call yourself a writer, you have to make a living at it. Otherwise, writing is a hobby.
            One lady called me to say she could do some great work for my magazine and I asked her if she had been published.  She answered smugly that she had been published since she was six-years old.  She sent me a couple of manuscripts flawlessly put together that put me to sleep.  Boring as a soap opera.  But then, someone who loves those soap operas might have loved her work.  And that is a good point.  Just because I don’t like it, or can’t use that doesn’t mean a thing.  Someone else might… just resend it.
            I tell the story often about getting into one journalism class at the University of Missouri’s prestigious Journalism School. At the time I was majoring in wildlife management and the instructor didn’t like the idea of me being in his class.  At the time I was writing a weekly outdoor column for the Missouri Tribune or the Columbia Missourian, I can’t remember which.  One of my assignments received a D, and it was one I had just sold to a Texas Magazine called “All Outdoors” for a whopping sum of 35 dollars.  I dropped the course and kept writing.  I just wasn’t journalism material.

            In past years I was an editor for several magazines, Fins and Feathers, Gun Dog, Wildfowl and Game and Fish Publications.  What a joke that was!  I never knew a thing about editing!  I also never knew a thing about writing, but I have made a decent living as a free-lance outdoor writer for 50 years.  But you won’t make a living as a writer joining writers groups. 
            Those groups are a good thing if you enjoy the social part of getting together with folks who like to write.  It is the kind of setting where folks read something they have written and all the members sit around critiquing it. But should you be in such a group, be smart enough to brag on everything anyone writes.  That way when it is your turn, everyone will brag on what you have penned.
            I once spoke to a large group of outdoor writers known as the Southeastern Outoor Press Association.  One of the members of that group is Jim Spencer, whom I think is the very best outdoor writer in the U.S. today.  Some of  those hundreds of members make good money as writers and others in the group are would-be’ers and hobbyists. 
            I was really amused to find out about their writers awards program.  Each writer sends in his best articles for several divisions, and he pays 25 dollars to do so. You will never catch me paying for an award!  I don’t have money to throw away.  Brother, could a someone make a fortune here in the Ozarks by contacting all the writers groups and charging them to apply for various writing awards!
            If you are a writer, forget the awards and spend your time selling articles. You can sell one to my magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal if you have a good story.  I am now concentrating on finding articles for February, March, April and May.  The best stories I have ever received are written by folks who never wrote before, and just had one story of an experience in the outdoors.
            I do not care to mess with some cover sheet telling me what and where you have been published, or what your writing background is.  It is just not important.  If you want to sell me an article, send me something I can’t put down when I start reading it.  All I need with it is name address and phone number.  Whatever your writing group tells you isn’t of any value with me.  What I am looking for is hunting and fishing STORIES.
            It is funny to me that all the outdoor magazines I have written for in years past say that they aren’t interested in “me and joe” stories.  But I have sold them a hundred just such stories.  What they mean is, don’t send something boring! I couldn’t care less about a duck story telling me what chokes are best and what size shot to use.  It is stuff that  average writers have written for decades. Paint me a picture of a duck hunt with your words and I will buy it in a minute.  Convince me you have been there and done that.
            Here’s parting advice for someone who wants to write.  Go find some experienced older person who has a million stories from the good ol’ days and write about them and what they have done and who they are.  If you can’t sell a story on that kind of person, try painting scenery, or something of that sort.  The very best of magazine articles are interviews with colorful, unforgettable people.  Often they are also good book material.
            Some more advice, don’t be so determined to have a book published that you pay through the nose to do it.   Publishing companies lie at times.  They will often publish awful books if you have some money to give them.  I helped an old man get a book of poetry published once that was absolutely awful… as bad as you can imagine.  We saved him a ton of money by steering him to a printer, but he has no chance of breaking even on that awful book. 
            I tried to tell him that, but I take pride in knowing I kept him from spending about twice what he had to spend with one of those shyster publishing companies.  I am proud to say that Lightnin’ Ridge publishing company has published eight of my own books and dozens of others for really, really good writers and mediocre writers as well.  But I try to be honest and encouraging as I can be.  If you feel that a writer will never sell enough to pay publishing costs, you should tell them, and I do.  But it is a waste of time, always.
            Only a very few books in this day and time actually make money for the writer.  They ALL make money for the publisher.  Remember those two sentences.  And remember too that the term ‘writer’ is really overused, sort of like the word ‘professional’.  Try this experiment… write four good articles and start sending them to “paying” magazines. DO NOT SEND MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS!  If any or all send them back, send them out again and again and in time you should sell them all.
            No one can really teach you to be a writer, you have something in you that makes you want to write and write and write,   That’s All you need.  Write like you talk, and write from the heart.  Even if you aren’t a good writer, you might do good at it if you know more about the subject than most anyone else.
             If you do good at it, then you can call yourself a writer, but really, I would just as soon be known as a top notch boat paddler or a great duck hunter, or a great Labrador breeder.  I have made a fair living writing stuff for more than fifty years, magazine articles, weekly newspaper columns and books.  I’ve done good at it.  But to tell the truth, I ain’t never considered myself a writer neither!  But who would know?


PS.  You can join our Lightnin’ Ridge Writers Group, forming soon with no membership charges.  In fact you can make a little money at it, because we will meet at my place one night a week and shoot pool and snooker and bet a dime on each game.  We will also drink coffee and eat donuts and throw darts and play shuffleboards.  Might get a t.v. put in for those who want to watch football.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Dove Fields Versus Squirrel Woods



--> too cute to shoot?  no…  good meat to eat! 

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                                  waiting for a dove or two
 
            It is a nice time to hunt squirrels because there are lots and lots of them, mornings are cooler, and the understory vegetation is thinning a great deal.  There are still plenty of ticks of course, and this time of year there is one thing a woodland wanderer has to deal with that drives me crazy… spider webs. Down in Arkansas there are those doggone timber rattlers. 

            In the big trees behind my porch up here on Lightnin’ Ridge, there are fox squirrels and grey squirrels alike, and they give away their presence by dropping pieces of hickory nuts and acorns from the boughs above in the mornings as I sit out there and drink coffee and watch birds.  

            For every fox squirrel, there are about 5 or 6 grey squirrels.  The woodland habitat of the two is comparable, but different.  Gray squirrels do not like to leave the confines of what we look at as brushy woodlands, lots of vines and small trees mixed among the bigger ones.  Fox squirrels prefer a more open woodland.  But then, if you ever hunted squirrels, you know that.

            This week, a great deal of attention will be given to dove hunting.  Comparing dove hunting and squirrel hunting isn’t often done, but I like the shade of the woods much better than the open sunlight of a sunflower patch where it gets hot in a hurry.  Early dove hunting always finds me itching and sweating because dove hunters usually are hiding in the weeds.  

            But if you have done much hunting, you know that in the cool of the evening as the sun sets, you can hunt water holes with barren banks where doves will come to water before going to roost. Doves like to alight several feet from the water’s edge and walk to get a drink. And they do not like to roost in trees filled with foliage if they can find the barren branches of a big dead tree close to the fields where they feed or small ponds where they water.

            Once years ago I was fishing Bull Shoals lake when I noticed that doves liked to come to a shallow point with bare or short grass ground behind it late in the evening, because some trees which had been killed by high water years before, stood just up the bank aways and were perfect roosts.  On opening day, about dusk, without another dove hunter within twenty miles, I killed a limit, and my Labrador got some great experience retrieving them, some from the water beside that point.  I didn’t go back there for two weeks, and then some new doves had moved down and I got a limit again.

            I have often written about hunting doves at a little pond north of Columbia Missouri when I was a student at M.U.  I took a rod and reel with my shotgun and caught several catfish while waiting for birds to come in, and finally just figured out I couldn’t do both at once.  A catfish seemed to always bite as I reached for the shotgun and doves wheeled over the pond when I was trying to land a fish.
            I have written about embarrassing times too, like the morning when I took Ol’ Rip, a black Labrador that a north Arkansas hunter had given me when I lived there.  She bolted at each shot, so I tied her leash around my boot.  Boy was that a mistake.  Imagine firing one shot and then being jerked into a milo field by one foot, trying to aim at another dove.  I never did get Rip to stay when she saw a bird, so she didn’t go hunting much, but she started me in a lifetime of raising hunting Labradors with a beautiful litter of puppies.

            Maybe the most embarrassing thing I remember is the very first dove hunt I was ever on.  Of course we never hunted doves on the Big Piney.  September was teal time, and smallmouth time and trotlining time and squirrel hunting time.  My dad thought dove hunters were right up there with fly fishermen and skeet shooters!

            So my first job was in Little Rock, Arkansas as the very first outdoor editor for the Arkansas Democrat newspaper.  I was only 21 at the time and when dove season opened, six months after I got there, a fellow who worked in the printing shop asked if I wanted to go dove hunting with him some evening after work.  I bought a box of dove loads and grabbed my old Model 12 Winchester, and off we went.  

            He took me to his favorite spot, a shallow little waterhole next to a junkyard and as I recall we hid behind a rusty old piece of farm equipment.  The doves were thick that evening and I was proud that I wasn’t missing many when I caught sight of a bird flying around behind me to my left.  I knew when I pulled that trigger that I had goofed up.  The bird I dropped behind me was a robin!

            The guy told me later he was a little surprised that I had done that, considering that I was an outdoorsman who had been published in Outdoor Life magazine.  But he said he was impressed by the fact that I cleaned the robin and counted it as one of my limit.  Truthfully, I didn’t much like the habitat we hunted that evening, but the company was good and Gloria and I made a good meal of the doves. When you are just starting out, any free meal is worth something. 

            I told her the robin was just a smaller dove!  She said it had a different flavor than the others.   Even today, I do not like those cut grainfields in early September, nearly as much as I like walking a wooded creek bottom with a .22 rifle watching for chewed up hickory hulls and falling acorn bits. You cannot beat a small-bore rifle when it comes to hunting squirrels.  

The light rifle is more of a challenge than hunting with a shotgun, as I always did as a boy, but I definitely cleaned more squirrels when I took my little 16 gauge Iver-Johnson. A squirrel, cut up and marinated and grilled over mesquite charcoal, is better eating than a dove. You can pressure cook the older ones for awhile to make the meat tender, but this time of year most of the squirrels are younger, probably 6 or 7 young to 1 old one.   

            It is best not to kill older females because they will produce lots of young squirrels.  Here are some tips to help you identify older female squirrels… 1. They are a lot fatter.  2. They really do a lot of barking and chattering.  3.  They watch TV all afternoon!   ---Just joking about that, a little humor there!
 
            Well, when these city folks go home after Labor Day, I think I will go fishing.  When it gets a little chilly later on, I may take ol’ Bolt and waste some shells on doves. Then I think I’ll go out and bag a squirrel or two amongst the yellowing leaves announcing the coming of the greatest of all months… October.  But shucks, I love the woods in September…except for those danged spider webs.

Monday, August 29, 2016

CENSOR OR NOT???



One of my newspapers refused to print this, calling it a rant.  What do you think!   I believe that no newspaper should censor something that offers solutions to problems.

I cannot understand why we can’t join forces and do the simple and easy things here in the Ozarks to make the natural world better.  Our rivers are in such a declining state, and it doesn’t have to be that way.         We can do this.  Why don’t we?  In fact I can do some of all by myself if the MDC will just agree to put up the money that those landowners must initially spend.  And it amounts to so little to put in water wells or buffer strips of native grass or young trees. You cannot possible spend time on our Ozark rivers and not see the problem as it grows each year. It is time to go out there and participate in turning this problem around now.  In a matter of years it will be too late and on many of our smaller rivers…it already is. 

There is another idea I have that I don’t think has ever been looked at before.  Right now the Missouri Department of Conservation manages about a quarter of a million acres of land we citizens own.  It is our land, but if they wish to remove all the large trees on any tract of it, they just do it. Much of this land being destroyed was given to the Department by people who thought it was the way to preserve it.  The department of conservation only profits from the cutting of these big trees because the logging companies pay them a percentage of the money the trees bring at the sawmill. 

         Why then couldn’t citizens raise the money, with the help of large conservation societies and wealthy people in our state, to match the bids of the logging companies to preserve those trees, many of them between 200 and 300 years old?  That way, the trees stand, and the MDC can still have the money they want.
         Then the den trees which are virtually worthless as lumber, the ones discarded when logging crews think they are just in the way, could remain there, dens for dozens of songbirds and furbearers.

A logged-over forest has very little value for any kind of wildlife in Missouri.  Anyone who tells you different is lying to you.  Those trees will not return in any consequential form as a forest for more than 100 years.

                  So I wonder, if I had enough money to buy those trees and the MDC could make just as much or more from me than the logging companies will give them, WHY COULDN’T WE MAKE THAT WORK FOR THE BENEFIT OF DOZENS AND DOZENS OF BIRDS AND MAMMALS AND PEOPLE WHO LOVE WILD PLACES? 
        


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Smallmouth Eaters--- Repent!!

Smallmouth and River Runt


          If you are someone who fishes the rivers for smallmouth bass, I urge you to do this… return the brownies 14 inches or larger, and if you must eat some, eat the ones under 14 inches.

          This comes from someone who ate a million of ‘em as a kid, and guided fishermen all through my teen-age years who seldom returned a fish.  The idea was to string the “keepers” and throw back the little ones.  It was a different time.  Now, if we want to have quality smallmouth fishing, we need to think differently.

         How many times do you think I have lay on some riverbank or bluff or big rock watching river bass spawn?  Do you think twelve-inch bass are fanning out nests in the gravel and producing those fingerlings that will weigh three pounds in about 10 years?  They aren’t.  Smallmouth that are spawning are usually the 15- to 18-inch bass or bigger.

         Two thousand eggs per pound of female bass!  And I would wager that there are many nests in which no fingerling will live past two years.  You wanna make a difference?  Resolve now to never keep a smallmouth above 14 inches, even if you have to eat baloney and cheese for supper.  Or just ignore me and be a part of the reason that there aren’t near as many smallmouth today as there were yesterday.


         I cannot understand why we can’t join forces and do the simple and easy things here in the Ozarks to make the natural world better.  Our rivers are in such a declining state, and it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can’t make them the kind of streams they once were but we can improve them, and we can stop the destruction of declining water pollution from cattle, and small town sewage and manufacturing plants.  We can ease the choking of aquatic life by gobs of slime and algae, and the eroding of banks which fill the holes with gravel and sand.  It can be done… why aren’t we doing it?

         Recently I offered my time--free of charge-- to the state department of conservation to arrange for some work with landowners along rivers like the Niangua, Pomme de Terre, Big Piney and others.  I know that many of them want to help with the preservation of watershed along the rivers where they own land, and it can be done for a minimum amount of money.  They need “up-front” money, which the Missouri Department of Conservation has plenty of, and can quickly recover through Soil Conservation Service programs from the Federal Government.

         We can do this.  Why don’t we?  In fact I can do some of all by myself if the MDC will just agree to put up the money which those landowners must initially spend.  And it amounts to so little to put in water wells or buffer strips of native grass or young trees.  It is easy to do! SO WHY THE HELL AREN’T WE DOING IT?

          Is there no one who cares, anywhere?  We have clubs like the Ozark Paddlers, the Smallmouth Alliance, Stream Teams, the Nature Conservancy and others.  You cannot possible spend time on our Ozark rivers and not see the problem as it grows each year.  Where are all you folks who talk a good game?  It is time to go out there and participate in turning this problem around now.  In a matter of years it will be too late and on many of our smaller rivers…it already is.  Gosh-darn it, come and join me in helping.  You may not believe what you can learn and how a few people can make such a big difference.


     There is another idea I have that I don’t think has ever been looked at before.  Right now the Missouri Department of Conservation manages about a quarter of a million acres of land we citizens own.  It is our land, but if they wish to remove all the large trees on any tract of it, they just do it.  Roaring logging trucks and buzzing chain saws from private logging companies which are getting rich off these mature forests take away the reason it was set aside in the first place.

         Much of this land being destroyed was given to the Department by people who thought it was the way to preserve it.  They were wrong.  Those hardwood trees are worth more than they ever were because of the great demand for hardwood flooring. The department of conservation only profits from the cutting of these big trees and a devastation of our forests because the logging companies pay them a percentage of the money the trees bring at the sawmill. 

         Why then couldn’t citizens raise the money, with the help of large conservation societies and wealthy people in our state, to match the bids of the logging companies to preserve those trees, many of them between 200 and 300 years old?  That way, the trees stand, and the MDC can still have the money they want, the reason they exist nowadays. 

This tree is a den tree, cut because it was in the way. It was likely 240 years old, ----a place where year after year, all kinds of birds and mammals raised young. There may be a way for the MDC to get the money they want and for the trees to be purchased and saved.  I wish more newspapers would consider printing more about this. caption
         Since they operate on a measly 200 million or so a year, (more than all but three or four state conservation agencies in the country) that should really make them happy.  And then the den trees which are virtually worthless as lumber, the ones discarded when logging crews think they are just in the way, could remain there, dens for dozens of songbirds and furbearers. A logged-over forest has very little value for any kind of wildlife in Missouri.  Anyone who tells you different is lying to you.  Those trees will not return in any consequential form as a forest for more than 100 years.

         Years ago an MDC wildlife biologist whom I went to school with many years ago at Missouri University said this when he and I walked through a state “Conservation Area”… “It is the foresters in the department who have all the say now.  Those of us who are wildlife management people are ignored.  It’s all about the money and the trees are worth a lot more than flying squirrels and wood peckers and nature-lovers.” 

         As we walked along a ridge top he showed me that all the red oaks and white oaks and walnuts had red rings around them, marking them to be cut, hundreds of them.  My old classmate said that in a couple of months that ridge would be one of the ugliest spots you could imagine, with dead slash and stumps and muddy ruts.

         So I wonder, if I had enough money to buy those trees and the MDC could make just as much or more from me than the logging companies will give them, WHY COULDN’T WE MAKE THAT WORK FOR THE BENEFIT OF DOZENS AND DOZENS OF BIRDS AND MAMMALS AND PEOPLE WHO LOVE WILD PLACES? 

         WHY NOT?


SOME NONSENSE



The Man in Mourning



I saw him kneeling there, grasping a tall, thin wooden post with a crooked cross piece, all of it entwined with dead and dying vines.  There were others nearby much like it.  As I watched him, I noticed a tear dripping from his cheek on occasion.  He was an older gentleman, his face wrinkled and brown from the sun.  I walked up to him and asked if I could be of any help.  “No”, he said, “I can do it…it was me who put them here.”  With that he grasped the gnarled, weathered stick and it’s cross bar and flung it angrily to the side. I put my arm across his drooping shoulders and tried to offer my condolences.  As he reached for another shabbily constructed cross, he said.  “I shouldn’t feel this way,” he said, “Next summer I can come out here and reuse these same stakes.  “And there will be more tomatoes next year!  It is just so hard to see them go and know how long I will be without them!!”

L.A.D.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Only Two and a Half Million





         I thought about this letter years ago, to Bass Pro Shop's owner, Johnny Morris.  But knew if I sent it, the letter would be tossed in a waste can in the Bass Pro Shop's office and never read.  I believe by including it in whatever newspapers will print it, there may be a chance that someone will listen, and some things can finally be done in the Ozarks that are badly needed.


         Dear Mr. Morris…   Not long ago it was reported on a local television station that you have become one of the richest men in our country, and I saw the big pyramid version of Bass Pro Shop in Tennessee which some say cost a billion dollars. Quite a place.

         Remember the 2.5 million dollars the Missouri Department of Conservation gave you a few years ago.  It looked a little fishy at the time because right after he helped you get that gift, the MDC director who orchestrated it went to work for your company.  I always wondered how your company kept the news media from writing or broadcasting one word of that!

         I think it is time you return that money to the common folks of Missouri from whom the Missouri Department of Conservation draws tax and license money…  the hunters and fishermen of our state who are not the elite people you hunt and fish with, but folks who live week to week with a paycheck that may not allow them to do as much hunting and fishing and enjoying of the outdoors as they would like. 

         As for how the two and a half million might be best used for all citizens, I have a couple of proposals for you that I hope you will at least consider.  With this letter I am enclosing two of my columns. One talks about the constant decline of our rivers. 

         We can do some repair and preservation, and do so much with landowners along the stream, but no one will do it.  The MDC, operating on 200 million or so each year, doesn’t have the money to work with landowners to get cattle out of the river or repair badly eroded banks. They need to put their money into things that help the little people of our state, like stocking elk and arranging out of state trips on their airplanes for commissioners.

         With your 2.5 million, I can get miles and miles of the Niangua, the Pomme De Terre and other streams, repaired so that the eddies stop filling in, and in turn create new fish habitat and spawning water.

         And with only a small part of that two and a half million bucks we all gave you, I think I could set up some of the greatest quail and pheasant hunting anyone could find, on public ground around Truman Lake, where thousands of acres now sitting in cockleburs, pretty much devoid of the covey’s that once were found there, could likely host thousands of hunters year.

         Please see my recent article about a place called Ozark Wings, owned by an ex-state senator by the name of Chuck Purgason.  His operation on only a thousand acres is actually restocking breeding coveys of quail and providing hunting of game birds which duplicate the hunting of wild birds.  And you know what, it doesn’t take millions of dollars!  It only involves three employees!!  Isn’t that remarkable? And it gives common low-income sportsmen a place to hunt.  Anyone can afford it.  Even those who don’t hunt could enjoy it, for hiking, photography and enjoying nature.  Such a place would increase songbirds and other wild birds by ten times.

         If we could figure out a way for the MDC to make money out of such a place on Truman, by selling some inflated quail and pheasant permits, I think they’d be interested.

         It is hard for them to afford such a thing without your help, what with their important projects like building private waterfowl marshes for a group of lawyers on the Sac River, or working for days and days to remove wild hogs from land you own via helicopter, like they did a year or so back.

         I understand how important it is for you to build the best golf course in the world, and I know that you do not often meet with common folks like me, but how about it, couldn’t you set aside a day to let me show you how much that two and a half million could do for these two projects and other conservation projects in our state. 

         I am sure that two and a half million dollars is a drop in the bucket for you, and the projects could some day bear your name, or maybe the name of that MDC director who helped you get the money and then went to work for you.  I am sure he’d like that.

         Mr. Morris, as satirical as this letter may sound, I am serious as a heart attack.  You and I could make so many good things happen with amounts that pale in comparison to the cost of your Tennessee pyramid or the Ozark golf course.  And I will do it for nothing… I don’t want a cent for my time, from anyone.

          Would you please meet with me and let me show you what conservation really is and some marvelous things we could do.  It will take only one day…just one.

         I envision the time some day when you could buy some of the big timber on our public MDC managed land so they could stop butchering those lands to make more money, contracting private loggers. Wouldn’t it be great if a hundred years from now folks could enjoy some of those big forestlands?           Wouldn’t it be great if we could leave some big timber standing for the people of Missouri to enjoy?  The way things are now, it won’t happen.  The Missouri Department of ‘Conservation’ (notice that word conservation in their name) will take them all in time for the dollars it makes them…  They look at those trees and speak in terms of “billions of board feet of lumber.”

         There are great things you can do with those millions we all gave you for that museum, and I want to show you that.  Isn’t it ironic that so many Missourians who made it possible to give you that two and a half million dollars have to pay the exact same amount to visit your museum as someone from New York or California?

         I appreciate you reading this letter. Please just give me one day to take you out and show you what can be done for common ordinary people in the name of conservation.

Respectfully, Larry Dablemont