Sunday, April 19, 2015


            A pair of spring plumage blue winged teal pass through the Ozarks on their way to nest in the northern prairies.

                        I found this vicious snarling creature inside a hollow tree along the river...

             No one is going to believe this and I know it.  I can’t hardly believe it myself. So I am not going to write about it because it just sounds too far fetched!
            Oh what the heck… I do have witnesses.  My two fishing friends ‘seen it themselves’.  The two of them often go along with me in my boat, getting free access to some of the best fishing either of them could ever have due to my experience and adeptness at finding fish in hard-to-get to places.

            Despite that, despite the fact that I have taught them so much, the two of them are constantly making derogatory remarks about the expertness of my fishing ability and underestimating the size of my fish.

            There was no underestimating the size of the walleye I hooked though.  He was a dandy, five or six pounds at least and maybe bigger.  You could see him easily as I fought him alongside the boat, with Rich whackin’ at him with the dip net, something like a great blue heron would stab at a sunfish.
            I just didn’t have my drag set properly on my reel.  Most generally that is something I do at the beginning of every fishing trip, I check the drag on whatever I am fishing with.   When using heavier casting gear it isn’t so important, but when you are using four-pound line with light spinning tackle, that drag better be set right.  I am just getting too darned old to remember everything I guess, and I forgot to check it.  When that walleye saw my fishing partner waving that net around like he was a highway department flagman, he really got wild, and he made a huge lunge for deep water and broke the line.

            The lure was nothing of great importance, it was a Wal-Mart special, one of those one dollar four- or five-inch minnows that look like the old Rapala minnows, one that you can jiggle around on the surface or yank down under maybe three feet or so.  I was catching some really hefty white bass on it, had maybe eight or nine good ones and one walleye just a little better than fifteen inches long.  Then that big walleye came up from the depths and engulfed it and the fight was on.  He won, with the help of Rich and that doggone dip net.

            I don’t mourn the loss of one of those lures; I bought several of them back in February when the Wal-Mart sporting goods department put them on sale.  It was gone and forgotten because I just tied on another one.  And I didn’t throw my hat on the boat floor and utter an expletive and cry about that lost walleye like my fishing partners have seen me do before.  A fisherman with my experience gets use to losing big fish on occasion when using four-pound line and a switch for a fishing rod.
            You don’t become a grizzled old outdoorsman like me without watching big fish disappear in the depths on occasion, leaving you limp-rodded.  You just figure God had a better purpose for that fish than a sizzling destination in my frying pan.  You have to occasionally blame the Great Creator for your dirty rotten luck as a fisherman, unless you want to blame yourself for not checking the drag on your reel or not replacing old line.

            But now we are coming now to the unbelievable part.   I tied on that other lure, just like the other one except different, and almost an hour later, down the river about a half mile, I made a cast and when I reeled the lure back, it had hooked and retrieved the one I lost. 
            That’s right, when I brought it back in the boat, the one which had been broken off, last seen in the toothy jaw of that big walleye, was dangling from the back hook of the new one I tied on to replace it!!!  It sounds goofy doesn’t it, like something an outdoor writer might make up?  But honest, I swear on my camouflaged War-Eagle boat.  If I am lyin’ may it have a hole in the bottom of it, and may my Ugly-Stick break right in the middle!!

            Rich and Dennis both ‘seen it themselves’, and you can ask them, a couple of the most honest men I ever met!  But we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet.  Wait ‘til you hear this!  I tied that lure back on, and reset my drag so that it was perfect.  And I started catching big white bass again.  It was a drizzly, dark afternoon and Dennis caught two walleye that were 16- to 19-inches in length, fish that my previously lost lunker might have sired in his earlier days.

            And nearly two miles down the river from where I lost that big walleye, and a mile and a half from where I miraculously recovered my lost lure, I cast it out into a deep eddy below a shoal and a huge fish engulfed it only four or five feet from the end of my rod.  He looked like a monster coming up from the depths.  He stripped four or five feet of line against the drag and I told my fishing partners I was about to lose that lure a second time in two hours!

            But this time, Rich done good.  He got the net under that big walleye and it was mine.  I don’t know how much it weighed but it was 25-inches long and hefty.  I knew that the Almighty was trying to let me know how sorry he was that I had lost the first one.  Maybe the fact that I am trying so hard not to cuss as much when I lose a fish is paying dividends.  Or maybe he just decided it was that second big walleyes time to finally sizzle in my frying pan, as he will, soon.
            Maybe that second lunker wasn’t as deserving as the first, I can’t say.   But that two hours and the course of events in which a lost lure was found, and a second lunker walleye was hooked on it, certainly makes a man think, something I don’t do a lot of.

            If you don’t believe this story, I don’t blame you.  But I can show you that lure. It has big tooth marks all over it!

            I have made myself a couple of new turkey calls, and will be out there this week hunting gobblers and mushrooms, and fishing for crappie.

              I don’t have to work for a while because both my spring magazines are finished.  But if you can’t find them on the newsstands and you aren’t a subscriber, send six dollars to my executive secretary Ms. Wiggins and she will send you either the Journal of the Ozarks or the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, whichever you prefer. If you send twelve dollars she will send both. And for 14 dollars more you can get a copy of my new book, a humorous account of my first years in college at School of the Ozarks, entitled, “The Prince of Pt. Lookout”.

            Please see the photos I got this past week, whilst outdoors here and there.  They are in color on my website, which has been renewed recently.  I am proud of those photos.   The website is 
Email me or Ms. Wiggins at or write to us at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


     The best place to hunt a wild gobbler is back in the middle of nowhere, where it is calm and peaceful and natural, where there are no snakes, no ticks, and no ATV's

            Probably nothing you do in the outdoors involves less skill than turkey hunting.   If you are really patient, you can become an expert turkey hunter in a hurry.  Despite wariness that will rival about any wild creature, a spring gobbler will occasionally do some really dumb things, because he has such a little brain.  If he isn’t close to any hens, he might just run like a racehorse to some beginner using his box call for the very first time. 

            The guys who call themselves ‘professional gobbler getters’ try to make it into some kind of art, almost a science.  But truthfully, if you can’t kill a wild gobbler you lack either patience or a good place to hunt.

            As the years go by, I have become less intense in my pursuit of wild turkeys in the spring. I have been there and done that, lots and lots and lots.  I won’t even tell anyone how many gobblers I have killed because it sounds like it is a lie.  But outdoor writers who get a chance to hunt in five or six states each year over a period of 40 years ought to bag a lot of gobblers, even if they are an impatient klutz like me.

            I like to hunt gobblers where I can fish.  One year I camped on Stockton Lake and got a photo of a nice tom with a stringer of crappie before noon.  It seems like only yesterday I floated the Big Piney with a kid by the name of Mike Widner and caught goggle-eye and smallmouth in the afternoons and watch him kill his very first gobbler just after the sun came up.  Mike Widner became an expert too.  He spent much of his life as Arkansas’s wild turkey biologist and he knows more about them than any person I know.
            Now there’s a place to hunt wild gobblers-- the mountains of Arkansas.  In west Arkansas, south of the Arkansas River, I saw some real wilderness way back there a few decades ago.  We would camp near the Fourche La Fave River and wear ourselves out fishing the river and hunting wild turkey from dawn to dusk. 

            I pride myself in the fact that I can walk all day in the woods at my age, miles and miles.  I imagine that those days of climbing high, steep hillsides in the Ouachitas has a lot to do with that.  To gain one of those long flat-topped ridges high above some ragged little creek that flowed past big boulders you had to nearly crawl over, a hunter had to go up sheer hillsides where you could hardly stand. 

            It was worth it though.  Flocks of gobblers liked those flat mountain tops, some of them a half mile wide and four or five miles long.  I wrote an article for Outdoor Life magazine, years ago, entitled, “The Ghost Gobbler of the Phantom Ridge”, which has been reprinted in my turkey hunting book.  If you like reading about turkey hunting, I think you would like that book, “The Greatest Wild Gobblers, Lessons Learned from Old-Timers and Old Toms.”

            The ghost gobbler, which I encountered more than thirty years ago, had a bleached-out beard, and every time I went after him I would get lost on that ridge.  It was one of the weirdest things I have ever had happen.   Those Ouachita mountain gobblers were true strain wild turkeys, their genetics not at all watered down by the domestic turkeys which much of the Ozark’ wild turkeys contended with. They were smaller birds with shorter, darker tails.

            In those Ozark and Ouachita mountains of Arkansas, hunting gobblers was a challenge.  Except for a few old wagon roads you didn’t see much civilization, until the National Forest Service devastated so much of it in their quest for pine timber.  They sprayed and injected too much of it, trying to kill the hardwoods.  Forty years ago there were some giant beech trees in those areas and they killed all of them by injecting a chemical under the bark, one tree at a time. 
One year I was sitting up on top of an Ozark ridge-top down south of the Buffalo River, and I had a gobbler down on a steep hillside slowly coming up the incline, gobbling at me, maybe 250 yards away.  Shortly before noon I heard the whining of an ATV motor coming through the woods, and all of a sudden, there he was, riding that camouflaged machine, all 300 pounds of him.  This guy was only in his mid twenties or so, from Little Rock, determined to get himself a gobbler without much work.  He was decked out in the newest camo garb, using a mouth call that he couldn’t really master.   He said he had been trying to find a way to get his machine close to that gobbler, and he said he had heard the tom for two hours.  The reason he had heard him was because the bird was answering my call.

            Finally he left, whining away on that big wheeled, go-anywhere hunting device, and I leaned back and took a nap.  An hour later I got the gobbler going again and two hours later he came strutting through the woods 40 yards away.

            ATV’s have become too important to today’s outdoorsmen, many of them just too fat and lazy to walk very far.  I think about that guy today, wondering if he has started having heart trouble yet.  I wonder if he is out walking in a mall everyday or along some paved road following a doctor’s advice.  So many of those turkey hunters who never get very far from their ATV, will be intent on walking for their health as they get old.  You wonder, why don’t they do it now?

            I believe ATV’s should be used by those who are handicapped or disabled in some way, or by old men who would prefer walking but can’t. They are a great invention for those who have no choice but to ride them.  But if you truly want to be part of the outdoors, to blend in and fit in the woods, use your legs… walk!  It might be better to do it now in the woods than to have to walk in a shopping mall somewhere when you are only fifty years old.

            I have met some good turkey hunters in my time, hundreds of them.  But none of them were lazy!  And the ones who were really good at it were patient.  That patience thing is my problem.  I like to walk, and explore, and find mushrooms and take pictures and then hear some gobbler late in the morning that is a long way from a farm pasture… back in the woods and lonely.  And what I always hope is… that he isn’t any more patient than I am!!!

            It is okay to fish half the night for crappie or walleye and sleep late in the morning during the turkey season.  Turkey hunting at mid-day can be great.  One of the things that makes me all bleary-eyed and haggard this time of year is the fact that fishing for crappie and walleye under the lights at night is often at it’s very best during turkey season.  Besides exercise, us grizzled old veteran outdoorsmen need a little sleep. 

            We have received lots of orders for my new book, and the spring issue of our outdoor magazine will be printed in only a few days.  If you want to find out more about either, you can call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins and have her put you in touch with me. Ms. Wiggins has been a little sick this week from eating too many of those big red beefsteak mushrooms.   The phone number is 417 777 5227.  Email address..   and mail address is Box 22, Bolivar, MO. 65613

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Book Available Now....The Prince of Point Lookout

My new book, which can be ordered directly by mail for $12.95 postpaid from 
Lightnin' Ridge, 
Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613

A Grand Surprise

Bass with sores...

A crooked fish....
Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Fishing for smallmouth bass in a favorite spot on the river, I caught a little smallmouth with big sores on its body. Any broken spot in the scales on a fish can be a spot targeted by a fungus, and it usually will kill the fish in time. The sores I saw might have been the result of a gig back in the winter, or perhaps of a larger predator like an otter.

Sometimes a great blue heron will stab at a fish and leave such wounds. Whatever does it, I always catch several in the spring with those open sores, and every smallmouth I see any more is filled with a parasite, a small worm known as a yellow grub. They do not affect humans of course, but those grubs are a good reason to return the smallmouth bass you catch to the stream.

This smallmouth bass species is hard pressed, and bigger ones, the fish above 17 or 18 inches in length, become fewer each year. I caught a real oddball fish that day, a 10 or 12-inch brownie with an S-curve in its lower body. Who knows what caused it? At any rate, he swam away just fine, but he sure did look strange.

Walking through the woods a few days ago, doing some deep thinking, I was surprised to see a beautiful butterfly flutter along beside me and then drop down into the brown leaves before me, situated there as if to boost my spirits and add beauty and color to the brown landscape of late winter. I don’t know if I ever saw one before. One of its common names is the Grand Surprise butterfly, and for me it certainly was a surprise.

You don’t expect to see a brightly colored butterfly in mid-March. It is more commonly known as Mourning Cloak, and it is about 3 inches across, with velvety purple or burgundy wings, with yellow borders and blue spots just inside the border. I am trying to get a photo of one on my blogspot, so you can perhaps see it there, along with the two fish I was talking about. That is

Probably this is a good place to point out that we are trying to create a new website, where you can go to order my new book or any one of my books or the Journal of the Ozarks magazine we publish. I shouldn’t say ‘we’ as I have nothing to do with it. I know nothing about computers, and what I know is all I want to know. But it is wonderful that there is so much information about nature and wild creatures so readily available.

I see nothing wrong with knowing all you can know from books, but I firmly believe you do not become an authority in the outdoors without being out there to see the things books cannot tell you. The idea of people calling themselves ‘master naturalists’ from a week of classes and reading books or referring to Internet material is pure silliness.

If you want to be a naturalist, live with nature, go out and spend years in the woods and on the waters and watch and listen and learn. You will be surprised how many times the books are giving you information which do not precisely go along with what you learn through your own experiences.

It is a problem I see with outdoor writers today. Too many live in suburbs and try to write about a world that they only occasionally visit. It is easy to write about the outdoors from what you have read in books, but if you can’t walk the walk and live the life, what you write gets stale, and just repeats the same thing others have written.

That is so evident when you see the turkey hunting experts in the pages of outdoor magazines, and read much of the pure baloney they write about turkey hunting. Few of them are out in the woods in February and March chasing wild turkeys. But now is one of the best times to take a camera and a turkey call and get some great photos. In doing so, you see and learn about everything living there awaiting spring. There are birds being hatched, baby animals being born, already.

And you may be walking along and happen across a Mourning Cloak butterfly, which isn’t even suppose to be here, according to those who write about them. They are supposed to be common in Europe, Canada and in the U.S. north of Iowa, but not in the Ozarks.

If you want to learn while in the woods, don’t forget we are taking another trip via pontoon boat to a very isolated and natural area on Truman Lake on April 4 and again a week or so later, where we will take a good long hike before dinner and after, and maybe we will see something you and I have never seen before. If you want to join us, just call my office for details. My executive secretary, MS. Wiggins, will help you if you call 417 777 5227

I hope to see many of you readers at our swap meet this coming Saturday. We still have 45 tables filled now, and I am really looking forward to it. Out here all alone on Lightnin’ Ridge, I don’t get to talk to anyone but my Labrador very often. I could talk to Ms. Wiggins on occasion if I didn’t try to avoid her while she does her nails. And all she wants to talk about is her Mexican boyfriend and how close he came to getting caught lately!

I will sell the very first copies of my new book that morning at the swap meet, just off the press, and inscribe them for you. But I think people are going to be amazed to see several hundred old 1930 and 1940 Life magazines there, selling for about half what you can find them on the internet for. They are amazing looks at history.

If you have an old gun or an item or two you want to sell, we will place it for you and maybe you can sell it. But remember that if you think you have antiques lures or fishing gear, we will have an extremely knowledgeable person available at his own table to tell you what it is and what it is worth.

I was watching the news the other evening when a young lady reported that someone had caught a 140-pound paddlefish, said to be the biggest fish ever caught in Missouri. Then she said that she was surprised to hear it had been caught on a hook with no bait whatsoever. And she wasn’t even blonde!!!  All over the Ozarks that night there were fishermen laughing as heartily as I was.

I am sure those T.V. people would think I am the dumbest person in the world when it comes to their computers, technology and life in the city. At such things, I’ll bet that young lady and her associates are marvelous, but they know nothing of the outdoors, and it so often shows when they try to report on conservation and the natural world. 

Why would you reckon a paddlefish that large might be caught on a hook with no bait? If you know, then you have a familiarity with the outdoors they need at that station.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at Miss Wiggins can email you the details of our swap meet and a map on how to get there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Excellent Job

Someone sent me editorials from both of the two largest Ozark newspapers castigating legislators who are trying to pass legislation restricting the heretofore unstoppable spending by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Both editorials say the department is “doing an excellent job”.

Keep in mind that such editorials are written by people who sit in offices and never venture into the outdoors, never see a wildlife conservation area the MDC manages.

So I just want to invite them, any or all of them, to go with me to take a look at the real “excellent job” that is being done.  Put some boots on fellows, and take a little trip with me and let me show you where there use to be coveys of quail and rabbits which now are gone because of the MDC’s excellent job.  If you are a reader who wants to learn, you can come too.

Come and go with me and let me show you where the forests that belong to all of us have been stripped of trees by private logging companies contracting with the MDC.  

Let me show you what a den tree is, let me show you what pileated woodpeckers are, what flying squirrels are, what a screech owl looks like.  I will assure you, those editors praising the MDC’s excellent job have never seen any of those creatures.  They have never seen one of those public areas.

The editors who boast of the MDC’s excellent work, how many of them actually came from Missouri?  I am betting none of them grew up outside some major city suburb in another state.  A few years ago when I was simply trying to get a letter published in the Springfield News Leader about the MDC concerning an attempt by that agency to take land from three landowners in Wright County, I was refused by an editor who said he came from a city in the Pennsylvania. They would not use the letter.  And this column cannot be published in any form in the larger newspapers of this state.  It is taboo to criticize the great MDC.

Now I do not mind them becoming a spokesman for the Conservation Department, but I only ask that they do what newspapers were once known for…show two sides of the story.

I wrote for many years as an outdoor columnist for the Springfield News Leader when it was a local newspaper. In 1999 it was purchased by the very liberal Gannett company from back east, and shortly afterward I received from the new editor who told me her name was Kate Marymount. 

She told me that the newspaper and the Missouri Department of Conservation had met that week in the News-Leader offices and made a deal in which the MDC would supply material consisting of photos, columns and features completely free.  She said five words I will never forget… ‘We have made a deal’. 

It was followed by the statement that the newspaper would publish no criticism of the MDC from that point on, unless it was Okayed by the ‘editorial board’.  That policy continues.  Think of one thing you may have seen in that newspaper since that time which spoke of something the MDC might not have approved of.  It became clear that dissenting views could not even be placed in the ‘letters’ section.

So I ask one simple thing.  You editors who think you must publish praise of the MDC, come go with me and look at what they have done, what they are doing.  Let see if there is a big pay raise the director has given himself, and what the salaries are for those who sit in Jefferson City.  Lets look at the commissioners, what they do for a living, and how they got appointed.

Let’s look at some of those million acres the MDC manages for all of us who own those acres and are suppose to be able to use them to enjoy.  Lets take a look at the quarter million dollars the MDC gave to a judge for his personal use.  Take a look at the tax payments they make annually and ‘in perpetuity’ for a few of their friends.  Maybe they will agree to pay your property taxes too.

Lets go look at the Bass Pro Shop land which is privately owned by one of the countries richest billionaires and ask the MDC why they would do days of work on those lands completely free of charge, work that all of us citizens paid for.

Lets go out and talk to people who have been victims of conservation agents who trampled on their constitutional rights.  Lets go talk to the ex-agents who have much to say about what they saw.  Let’s find out why one agent sued the MDC for a million dollars and won, just because he was fired for reporting illegal activities by other agents, one of whom is today an MDC supervisor.  Why did a story like that never make one single newspaper?

Let's just go do what newspapers are supposed to do… show another side.  Lets talk to some of those legislators, and hear what they have to say. 

Recently I got a call from a lady who works for the MDC and she was so frustrated because in March, her department goes out and buys equipment like four-wheelers which are not needed or used, just to use up the budget money.  “If we do not use all of our budget,” she said, “then we may not get all the money we ask for next year.  So we waste it, we just give it away.”

The only way the Missouri Department of Conservation can fool, and keep the support of, millions of Missourians who live inside major cities is through the complicity of major newspapers like the Gannett-owned News-Leader in Springfield which help them suppress the truth.  While I am volunteering my time to take their editors or reporters out to really see and report on another side, I know good and well they will not do it.

I want you to reread this column.   What have I said here that you might find unfair or untrue? I grew up in the Ozarks, and have written outdoor columns for fifty years. I have published hundreds of articles about conservation and the outdoors in national outdoor magazines and dozens of major newspapers, with a degree in wildlife management from he University of Missouri.  I have been awarded ‘conservation communicator’ awards in two states.  I am a conservationist, the same kind of ranting raving lunatic that John Muir and Aldo Leopold were.

All I want is to see the truth known.  I want to see all conservation departments stand for wise use… for preservation, for the management of our areas for all creatures besides just the deer and turkey which in this day and time require no management at all.  Non-game mammals and birds, many of which are in decline because of the destruction of their habitat, are worth something too.
I want the rampant corruption I have seen in the Conservation Department controlled and corrected, because no matter who you are, where you live in this state, even if you do not partake of any outdoor activity, you pay the Missouri Department of Conservation one-eighth of a cent in tax on your ordinary daily purchases.  It is our money and it shouldn’t be wasted.  Our conservation department receives somewhere around 175 million dollars a year.  Why shouldn’t our legislators try to stop the waste and the wild spending going on there? Why shouldn’t questions be asked?   Why shouldn’t the other side of the story be given a space in our newspapers?

Maybe you editors and reporters think there is no ‘other side’.  If so, come go with me and lets take a look, far from your carpeted plush offices that you never leave.  Come with me to interview the director… come talk to the chief of the enforcement division with me, and just listen.

Put on the boots and lets go outdoors to see just what they are doing.  If you won’t do that, just put a sentence inside the next editorial that reads… “There may be another side to this MDC story but we refuse to print it.   Years ago  ‘we made a deal’.”

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Cardinal in the Snow

Photos by Lightnin' Ridge Editor Sondra Gray
It snowed eight inches up here on Lightnin’ Ridge last weekend. This is supposedly the highest point in the county, and it seems like we always get an inch or two more here on this timbered ridge than the weather people predict.
It was only about 20 degrees that morning after the snow ended, so I put on some boots and my duck-huntin’ coat and went out to survey the beauty of it. But I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of a lift to hear cardinals singing their song of ‘good cheer’ just like it was April.
They should sing, because on my back porch I have bird feeders I keep full. Yesterday there were seven or eight species out there making the most of it, one of them a Carolina wren.
The corn feeder down behind my office, above the pond, is a great attraction for doves and squirrels and deer and turkey, but I was amused yesterday to see a cottontail rabbit sitting there. Many people do not realize that a winter blast coming in February or March is much, much worse than the same situation in December.
That’s because wild creatures go into the winter fattening up in preparation for it. In the early half of winter, there is far more food than there is in late winter. Right now is the real bottleneck, the most difficult time to survive for wild creatures. Food is at its lowest level, and wild birds and mammals at their weakest, with less ability to resist cold ice or deep snow. So it is indeed the time you want to feed birds and keep corn feeders full.
It might be that the month of February just past, is the only month of February I can remember in which I didn’t catch a single fish. Because of that, I figure there will be more fish out there in rivers and lakes in March than ever before, so I intend to take advantage of it. While the late snow wreaks havoc on water temperatures, I think it makes it more likely that we will have a bumper crop of mushrooms in late April.
I don’t know why, but it seems that snow puts more nitrogen in the soil, and I think that must be the thing that mushroom seeds need the most. When I hear those cardinals singing like they have been, it really makes me think of mushrooms and poke greens and freshly fried fish. Don’t anyone write me this year trying to buy mushroom seeds! I sold all of them last year and had all kinds of problems with folks who couldn’t get them to grow wanting their money back. What happens so often is that mushroom seeds, which are so tiny you can’t see them with the naked eye, are often spilled before the buyers get them to the woods where they want them to grow. And when you spill a pack of mushroom seeds, you don’t have a chance in the world of finding them and picking them up!
When you see wild turkey in late February and early March, they are usually in huge flocks, because in numbers there seems to be a greater ability to survive. But the largest flock of turkeys I have ever seen in the Ozarks numbered about 75 or 80 one winter in a field along the river above Truman Lake.
I never thought there would ever be any flock like that one. But Gloria Jean, who does that facebook thing, called me in to look at a film on the computer showing what I believe was a wild turkey flock numbering 200 to 250 birds. They were an ever-moving mass of turkeys, going across a Nebraska field, coming out of a tree line like a stream flowing from a spring.
I can’t tell you how to find that, but if you are a computer person you know how. Those Nebraska turkeys are not the eastern gobblers we hunt here in the Ozarks. Most of them are Merriams gobblers, and perhaps they are crossed in some parts of that state with Rio Grande gobblers which are prevalent to the south in Kansas, but they are a different bird up there, not nearly as wild, and much much easier to call in. They have white or beige tail bands usually. I have called them up in the fall of the year, gobbling and strutting just like it is spring.
Several times in Kansas I called up eight or ten Rio Grande gobblers in the spring. And when they come to a call, they don’t fiddle around much. That’s why I have so long joked about those turkey hunters who boast of ‘Grand Slams’ in hunting wild gobblers. All anyone needs to get their ‘Grand Slam’, which includes the four best-known species of wild turkeys, is to have the time and the money to travel to where they are. If you can’t call in and kill a Rio Grande or Merriams gobbler in the spring, you aren’t where one can hear you.
I never thought I would see the day though, when there would be greater flocks of turkeys in a state like Nebraska or Kansas than flocks of pheasants or coveys of quail. Truthfully, I would much rather see the numbers of quail like they once were.
A word of caution to those turkey hunters about to buy shotgun shells for spring hunting… I got a hold of some bad shells last fall made by Federal Ammunition, with the ‘turkey thug’ logo on the box. They weren’t properly sealed and were leaking shot out into the box. I looked at about 20 boxes on the shelves of a local sporting goods store and found four or five with defective shells inside.
The store manager said they could not take back any returned ammo, but she let me have a new box of shells. From this point, after seeing what I have seen, I will buy Remington or Winchester ammunition, and I recommend you do the same thing. How are you going to be a good turkey thug with shells that have leaked their lead shot into your pocket?
Well we are less than a month away from our outdoorsman’s swap meet. You can still get a free table on that last Saturday of March if you want to contact us. You just need to be selling outdoor gear or related stuff that outdoorsmen would use, whether new, used or antique. We anticipate having some good buys on boats and motors and canoes and that kind of thing, so bring them if you have them for sale. We have a place set up in the parking lot for those to be displayed. If you can put up a few flyers in your area letting people know about this completely free event, I will send you some.
I have also had a great deal of interest in the daylong wilderness trip and fish fry in March, and even more interest in the mushroom hunting trip in April. If you want to find out the cost and details and get your name on our list to call, write or call us at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or call 417 777 5227 where my executive secretary Ms. Wiggins will be glad to help you.
My website is and the email address is

Monday, February 23, 2015

Guiding Again


You know what I love about this snow and cold?
Not a doggone thing! But remember this, every cold night that passes makes us one day closer to spring peepers and redbuds.

Folks in the cities have really suffered with the weather problems over the past few years, but ‘they ain’t seen nothin’ yet’. If people could see into the future there would be a panic in places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and New Orleans, and big traffic jams as folks tried to get away. But no one can see what’s coming, and I can’t either.

While those people who talk about global warming may not have the slightest idea what they are talking about, the earth is like a lifeboat. It will only hold so much. Anyone who doesn’t think mankind is altering the conditions of our climate and the earth itself has their head in the sand. 

I think it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that our country in 100 years will have no clean waters and maybe a loss of hundreds of species of birds, fish and mammals, and the only forests and wild places will be found in crowded parks and preserves. Big trees won’t exist anywhere else. But I also think that in 100 years, folks won’t care at all about what is lost. 

There will be enough entertainment in the world that no one will miss what so many of us today cannot live without. I see it today in my own grandkids. They live their life with little boxes in their hands, pushing buttons, and the outdoors has little attraction. Still, they are very happy. I live in one world and they live in another. Well, actually, today almost everyone lives in a different world than I do. I was born much later than I should have been.

But I do love meeting good people, and because of that, a friend and I have decided to do some guiding again this year for beginning turkey hunters. I figure I have killed enough gobblers in my life and would like to enjoy again seeing a beginner learn how to do it, to help them get a turkey and learn about the outdoors, in a day or so of hunting. 

I guided turkey hunters in the seventies and eighties because I needed the money. Living in Arkansas I was a free-lance writer at the time, raising a family. Guiding float fishermen with my uncle, and turkey hunters in the National Forestland in Arkansas gave me a chance to flee the typewriter and spend more time outdoors. There weren’t nearly as many turkey gobblers then as there are in Missouri today. Bagging a gobbler now is fairly easy if you have any idea of what you are doing.

I had nothing in common with the men I guided. They were rich and money meant little. I took Neurosurgeons and Ophthalmic Surgeons, Lawyers… those kinds of people. In the early eighties, I took one of them from Oklahoma on a hunt and called up a gobbler that he killed about two hours after we left camp. It was his first one and he was elated. 

When he got back he packed up his stuff and headed home, handing me 500 dollars and telling me it was the greatest morning he ever had. I told him he didn’t owe me that much, we had only camped one night and hunted two hours. He laughed and told me he made more than that in one hour.

I intend to start guiding again because today I don’t need so much money and I like to teach ordinary people about the outdoors. When I was young, I worked with people for many years in the state parks of Arkansas and on the Buffalo National River as an interpretive naturalist, and I loved it, maybe more than the park visitors who came from all points of the country. It was something I felt I was born to do.

My Uncle Norten was the best guide I have ever seen on the rivers, much because he loved those streams so much, and liked people. He once told me, when we were guiding four fishermen on the Kings River on a three day trip, “You know, I am having more fun with these fellows than they are,” he said, “But if you were to know them in the city, where they live and work, we likely wouldn’t get along at all!”

Uncle Norten, who guided fishermen all over the Ozarks, took his first float trip in 1933 and his last one in 2010. The only two years he didn’t guide fishermen was the two years he spent fighting in World War II with the 101st Airborne in Europe. I got a kick out of him when we guided fishermen together in 2008 and I took care of all the charges. He couldn’t believe that he was going to get 200 dollars for taking two men on a daylong fishing trip on the Niangua.  

He told me that was just too much. “Just get me 75 dollars in the future,” he said, “I feel like I am cheatin’ folks if I get this kind of money.”

Our guided hike coming up in March, in a semi-wilderness area, is something my uncle used to join us with. I can still hear him and see him, telling folks about the woods and the creatures in it, telling jokes and entertaining everyone, then frying the fish at noon. He was one of the best naturalists I ever knew and he didn’t know it. 

This coming trip we will take this year will be a memorial to him. It will be some Saturday in March when we know we have a good day to go. The mushroom hunting trip in April will be something we have never done before, but it should be lots of fun. We are going to split up all the mushrooms we find. If you want to be on the list to go on either trip, let us know soon. We can’t take a lot of people, and we need to figure out how many fish to catch for the fish fry at midday.

As much as I like writing about the outdoors, I spend a lot of time by myself, and I really enjoy taking good people out into the woods for a day, or speaking to groups about the outdoors at churches or wild game dinners or schools, etc.

I found a really amusing description of me on something called Wikipedia on the Internet not long ago. I couldn’t help but laugh. It read…
      Larry Dablemont (born Larry Fitzgerald Dablemont September 22, 1961 in Bolivar, Missouri, U.S.) is a famous author, journalist, cobbler, Civil War reenactor, referee, fisherman, and hunter, He is married to Tonya Harding. Among his many claims to fame as a journalist, Dablemont interviewed OJ Simpson and has bragged in several columns about beating Ted Nugent in a footrace during a hunting expedition in Jackson Hole, WY. Dablemont was the last referee to ever throw Bobby Knight out of a basketball game, leading Knight to throw a chair. Later Knight commented, "Dabs is one tough ****, but God if I don’t respect him." Dablemont is a notoriously peculiar figure who, among other eccentricities is known to wear an unnecessary eye patch, rarely wears socks, and claims to have wore the same pair of jeans for 19 months consecutively.

The writer claims to be University of Arkansas professor William Thomas, and though he meant it to be some kind of insult, you can’t help but laugh at it. There isn’t any truth in it, but I may have worn the same pair of jeans for 19 months when I was eight or nine years old. I only had one pair! My middle name is Arthur and I will bet a dollar I can outrun Ted Nugent, whoever he is.

Email me at, or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. My website is