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!





Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dear Larry… “Where Are Some Mushrooms?”





           I get lots and lots of letters from readers. I just can’t answer them all.  I try to answer as many I can, but this recent one gives an idea of how extreme some can be… it is from a reader in another state who wants to come to the Ozarks and try to find some fishing which I wrote about months ago…

            He writes,”Which river were you fishing? Which river is better fishing? Where did you launch your boat? What is the water like, shallow, rocky, etc? What kind of boat do you need to fish it? Exactly what part of the river were you fishing, mile marker, up or down from boat ramp? Is September the best time to fish there? Are there any guides for that trip?

            Another reader this month wanted to know if I could send him a map of a small lake in Canada I wrote about. He wants me to mark my favorite spots! And then a young man wrote to me about a class assignment in which he wanted to know what inspires me to write.  I’d like to give him some great answer, but have no idea what to tell him that he or I would understand.

            Another lady sent a couple of articles she wrote wanting me to analyze her work. I get lots of that, and it makes me feel bad that I can’t help.  Actually, if anyone knew how little I know about writing they wouldn’t want my opinions.  In college writing classes, I seldom made average grades.  I had one journalism course at Missouri University and got kicked out of it before it was half over because I couldn’t write good enough!!  I wonder what that professor would think if he knew someone wanted me to analyze their writing?  Brother, would he get a laugh out of that.

            As for hunting and fishing, I learned what I know about it by spending all the time I can out somewhere exploring or fishing, and anyone can do that if it is more important to you than anything else… if you love it that much. I grew up with that and I know nothing about anything else.

            Now that mushroom season is upon us, I recall those letters asking me how to learn to find them. That’s a simple thing to help with…   I tell everyone, “Look at pictures of mushrooms and then go out and spend hours walking through the woods until you see some just like them.  The more you find, the better you’ll get at it.”

            There will be lots of mushrooms to be found in the Ozarks over the next two weeks.  This past weekend, there were several growing in the lawn up here on Lightnin’ Ridge. There just isn’t much to it.  You just go out where there is some and get a bagful. You know what you need to enjoy mushroom hunting or turkey hunting or crappie fishing??   Freedom, and carefree hours to spend!

            If you have the freedom to forget what bills are due and what you have in your bank account and the only thing to worry about is what is over the next ridge or up the next creek, then you will make a good mushroom hunter.  Just don’t look at the ground around your feet.  Look out at the woods ahead of you.  Mushrooms never sprout up beneath you, they are found in the places you have never walked before, just ahead.

            There are beautiful wildflowers growing amongst them, and treasures to come across.  Last weekend on our day-long trip to Truman Lake, one of the hikers, Bob Brown of Joplin, found a set of shed antlers within a few feet of each other, ten points, beautifully symmetrical.

            Occasionally this time of the year I find arrowheads while hunting mushrooms and turkeys. Happening across an old home place a few years back I found a 1922 license plate and an old blue-green Lydia Pinkham cork-top medicine bottle dated 1918.

            Such carefree days will end soon with the coming of ticks and copperheads, and 95-degree temperatures.  But freedom never ends if you have found it, and it never comes to many no matter how hard they search for it. Freedom is something like mushrooms.




            Back in February, when we were in Wyoming, we had to get a hunting license, so we found a Wal-Mart store in Riverton located in the Wind River Basin about the middle of the state.  It was a big new store with a great looking sporting goods section and we had to search for someone to come back there who could help us. When we found someone, he told us that the store just couldn’t find enough employees.  He said the starting wage there was ten bucks an hour and they needed a hundred workers!

            I don’t need much in my pursuit of the outdoor life I live.  But Wal-Mart stores always have what I occasionally need.  Common working people in the Ozarks are lucky to have those stores close.  I hunted quail one day in north Arkansas with Sam Walton, invited on the hunt by one of his friends.  I only lived a few miles from his mountaintop home at the time.  He seemed to be a plain ordinary guy who was really fond of his birddogs.

            When I go into WalMart stores today I think Sam Walton would be proud of the ordinary day-to-day workers who patrol the aisles and man the counters.  I just can’t say enough about how friendly they are, and how they go out of their way to help anyone who needs it.  I can’t say the same for upper management people.  Most of them could learn a thing or two from those lower-level workers.  It has been my experience that if you have a problem of any kind in WalMart, you are wasting your time to ask for a manager… go find a regular employee to help.

            If you are a person who spends a great deal of time outdoors, far from people, you should have a little pocket phone with you, just in case you come across an emergency.  I don’t know a thing about texting or tweeting or any of that nonsense, I just keep a phone to use to talk on. You can send me a text message if you like but you’ll need to find me and show me how to make it work!!  I have noticed that in remote areas, the phone sometimes doesn’t work so well, but you can walk to high points and get through that way, and that simple little phone can be valuable in such a manner.

            I dealt with two phone companies, Sprint and Verizon, and it didn’t take long for me to realize those companies weren’t for what I wanted, changing the rules and the charges as they wished. I found no honesty in either company. So I went into WalMart and found a simple little phone, and each month I go in and pay them 25 dollars to activate it, and finally the problem seems to be solved.  If you are someone who just wants a phone you can make a call on, and receive calls without all the other nonsense of modern technology, you might do the same thing I do.

            It is a shame that modern day technology excludes the old-time simplicity and honesty we Ozarkians once treasured.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mr. Magoo’s Gobbler April 4, 2016





   Since Larry was sick and was not been able to send out his regular weekly column, I took it upon myself to find an excerpt from his book, DOGS, DUCKS, AND HATRACK BUCKS and send it to all his newspapers.

Mrs. Wiggins


  
                          
       At the first hint of dawn, I headed down the long Ozark mountain ridge.  It was little more than a trail, made perhaps a century or more ago by mountain families who traveled by horse and wagon to and from log cabins which they had built in remote creek bottoms.  Off the point of the long ridge, about a mile from our camp, there were wild gobblers roosting. 

       It is the wildest of the Ozark National Forestland in north Arkansas’ Big Piney watershed, and getting into it is not the problem.  Getting out is a problem. 
     
       In the darkness, the walk was a long one. I relaxed in the first gray light of dawn along the old rock wall at the brink of the ridge. The wilderness valley below me, where the creek flowed, was shrouded in mist, with green budding treetops sticking up out of the concealing fog. Down there below, one gobbler sent forth his salute to the upcoming new day, and another answered nearby. 

       A turkey hunter can’t ask for much more than I had that morning. Within 40 minutes of the time the gobbler left the roost, he came over the edge of the bench 60 or 70 yards away.  He eased forward, shook himself and began to peck around in the small growth of May apples springing up in the woodland floor. His head was like a red and white flag. When I called ever so lightly, he raised it high, then bobbed it low, sending forth a lusty gobble which echoed off the rising hillside beside me. And then he strutted for a minute or two, broke out of it and gobbled again. He came toward me at a steady walk, head high and bright, bobbing through the oaks and hickories and beeches…now 50 yards, now 40,now 30. The gobbler below gobbled again and my shotgun blast echoed across the valley before my tom could stop to answer.

       An hour later I rested on the rock wall, trying to catch my breath. It had been a perfect day, and nothing could have spoiled it, not even the old Jeep sitting in the trail when I reached it.

       I had walked most of a mile from our camp and he had to have driven past it right down the narrow, rugged old trail into the best of the woods, probably because he was some pot-bellied greenhorn who was too lazy to walk.

       An old man stood there beside it, something of a comical figure in his oversized camouflaged jacket, a short brimmed camp-hat which was also too large, sitting right down on top of his thick glasses. He clutched an old shotgun, and stood there, beside the vehicle, looking sort of lost and bewildered.

       I figure he was eighty years old, maybe, and he was lonely. He nearly talked my leg off, admiring my gobbler and going on about how he use to kill ‘em like that over in Oklahoma, and so on and so forth. He said he had ridden up there that morning with his son-in-law from Dardanelle, who had went on down the road and just left him there ‘cause he was too old to keep up.

       He was proud of his shotgun, told me it was an old Browning, probably worth a fortune. It was just a beat up old pump Remington, with the words stamped into the barrel “made on Browning patent”. I bragged on it like I wished I owned one like it.

       The old timer had a couple of half-squashed bacon and egg sandwiches his daughter had made for him, and offered me one. While we were standing there by the old Jeep, I’ll be doggone if I didn’t hear a gobbler well up the valley from where I had been hunting, back toward camp. The old man said he heard it too, but I don’t think he had. Anyway, the tom kept gobbling and I thought what the heck, the old timer might get up close enough to have a little excitement with that gobbler.

       So we walked up the road aways, and I put him down off behind a small pond overlooking the first bench above the valley. Then I got behind him and began to call. That old tom began to move slowly up that hillside and in about 30 or 40 minutes he had finally gained a bench below us where I could see him, gobbling and strutting, lagging along behind three jakes. 

       Finally, the jakes headed up toward us, and got out of view in the underbrush along that mountainside, and the old gobbler followed them. Before long, I saw them come over the edge of the bench, and those three jakes were leading the way  with the big tom behind.

       The old man didn’t see the big gobbler. But he came awake when he heard that gobble only 50 or 60 yards below him. He wasn’t exactly stealthy at getting that gun barrel around where it needed to be, and had a bad case of buck fever. If the old tom had been close, he would have spooked. But jakes just aren’t as wary. The lead jake looked as big as a bear when it got 40 yards away and I’ll be darned if he didn’t blast it.

       Excited?!! You never seen nothing like it. I helped him get back up on that old logging road with his jake and he went on like it was the high point in his life. I kinda believe it may have been. He was still shaking 30 minutes later, and I dug my camera out and took a picture. Then it came to me that if I traded him my 20-pound ground-raker for that 16- or 17-pound jake, he could really do some big-time bragging back home. And so I did it, although to this day I can’t believe I actually traded a mature gobbler for a jake. 

       Then I set the camera up on a stump with the timer on and we got a picture of me and him together with that big tom. I got laughed at a little back in camp, but I was never prouder of what I had done in the turkey woods.

       A week later I sent him several pictures, and never heard another thing about it until about November of that year. I got a letter than from his daughter, with some of the ink blurred with teardrops. She said the old turkey hunter had died in his sleep back in late September, and it had took her awhile to write.

       His daughter said he had never killed a turkey before, and wrote that he had never stopped talking about it all summer. She thanked me, and said that he had told her he wanted to give me his old Browning shotgun, if I could ever get down that way. Later in the winter, when I was nearby hunting ducks, I went by and picked it up and met the family.

       The old gun sat in my closet for two years until one fall I met a young boy hunting squirrels on a neighbor’s place where I was hunting doves. He was about13 years old, and he showed me his old single-shot shotgun with the stock broke, and wired back together. He reminded me a lot of me at that age, except he was quieter and didn’t brag as much about his squirrels as I would have. 

       After thinking about it for a week, I drove over to his place with that old Remington pump gun. I asked his mom if I could give it to him, and she agreed.

              Before I left, the boy told me that he figured the old shotgun was really valuable, because it said “Browning” on the barrel. I told him it sure enough was, that I had never seen it fired that there wasn’t a dead turkey resulting from it.

       I don’t figure the old man would mind that I didn’t keep it. It is more satisfying to give than to receive. If I didn’t know it that day years ago when I called up a jake for that old timer, I know it now.

     

Wild Babies and Windy Days - 3/28/16





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            I saw a mother fox and her mate this week in the woods.  What a great time… wildlife babies everywhere and more to come.
 
            Spring has its rough edges though.  There’s not much we Ozarkians hate worse this time of year than high winds, but if you realize the benefit of that wind, it is really remarkable how some greater power seems to be behind it.  The sap will automatically rise in trees in the spring, but slowly.  Wind causes them to bend back and forth, and swaying limbs seem to rapidly pump the sap up the tree. It is a system that is an important part of spring, and it works.

            It is a problem for a strutting gobbler. His display of fanned tail feathers and puffed up chest is a real turn on for the hens. He thrusts his wings down to drag on the ground so much he actually wears off the tips of his wing feathers.  Lots of birds do the same thing, male ruffed grouse, and prairie chickens did it first and the wild gobblers learned it from them. 

            Men have learned from that display too.  Trying to impress a girl often requires throwing the chest forward and firming up the arm muscles, and I knew some guys whose knuckles darn near dragged the ground.  A deep voice, similar to the booming sound made by male game birds, is also of value.

            But getting back to the turkey, if the wind is blowing hard and he fans out his tail he can really look ridiculous trying to keep his balance.  This year with the early warm weather and a calming of the wind, mating of wild turkeys will make spring hunting a little better. It is simple really… the hens who want to nest and lay eggs, (and that is usually less than half of them) may be setting on eggs earlier than in recent years.  That leaves a higher percentage of romantic gobblers by themselves while hunters roam the woods.  A gobbler with a bunch of hens is hard to move, no matter how seductive a call might be.  By comparison, you can imagine if you were having dinner with Goldie Hawn and Sondra Bullock how hard it would be for Ruth Buzzi to lure you over to her table no matter how seductive her voice is.

            It is amazing how many turkey-hunting experts and professionals there are today. But anyone who takes the route of calling himself a pro is a little bit comical.  Nothing is easier to hunt than a wild gobbler when you have the numbers of them we have today.  I myself prefer to refer to me as a ‘professional boat paddler”.  That takes a great deal more ability than calling in a wild gobbler.
 
            The reason it is such a challenge and so much fun is; you never know what is going to happen while you are drinking a cup of coffee before dawn, waiting for the sun to come up and the gobblers to start off gobbling from the roost.  I wrote a book about just that kind of thing better than fifteen years ago.  It occurs to me I need to add about fifteen chapters to that book with things I have seen and experienced since.  I will be doing lots of fishing during the turkey season, and I won’t be getting up before dawn too often.  That’s because today I don’t have to dedicate the time to calling a gobbler and putting two or three in the freezer.  Sometimes I fish and hunt turkeys at the same time and it is just as easy to bag a big old ground-raker at noon as it is to Twenty years ago I was intent on hunting turkeys in three or four states, but now a half dozen gobblers roost about a hundred yards from my cabin.  Nothing takes less effort or involves less of an investment and equipment than a wild gobbler and you can take that to the bank. 
 
            Now it wasn’t always that way… but it is now.  When you hear someone talking about a professional turkey hunter or an expert caller, have a good laugh.  Tell them you know a professional boat paddler that can call up barred owls and pileated woodpeckers!!  But I don’t want to act as if turkey hunting isn’t one of the greatest pastimes you can engage in each spring.  There is nothing comparable.  It is a great challenge because no matter how long you have hunted them, there are those gobblers you just cannot seem to fool.  And you always know that when you are in the woods, hunting gobblers, you are going to see and experience something entirely new, something you’ve never seen before, even if you have done it for fifty years. 

            It is turkey hunting that allows me to see new woods, explore places I have never been, and come across mushrooms thicker than tadpoles in a new pond.  It is turkey gobblers that make me tie my boat to a sycamore root, right in the middle of a white bass run, or a half hour after I have landed a hefty walleye, and dash off into the bottomland timber with my shotgun.  There is only one thing about it that I don’t like, and that is the realization that sometime in May, I will have one less turkey season to enjoy.


            As I did last year I want to warn turkey hunters about buying Federal ‘turkey thug’ shells.  I have found many boxes of them leaking shot due to improper crimping.  I also should point out that copperheads might be out a little earlier this spring if we have some 80-degree days.  I think mushrooms will be out earlier too.  I think we will perhaps find a few this coming Saturday, April 2, on our outdoor excursion and fish fry on Truman Lake.  Still have room for you if you want to join us; just call me.

            The swap meet last Saturday was a great day to meet and talk with readers of this column and a big success.  I thank those vendors who came and the folks at the Brighton Assembly of God Church who make it all possible.  In a couple of weeks we will have our Pomme de Terre River float, trash cleanup and gravel bar fish fry.  I hope to do that on April 9 if the conditions are right.

            I got off by myself on Easter Sunday, and thought about what an awful death Jesus went through, and the miracle of his resurrection and what it for all of us.  Probably you don’t expect some grizzled old outdoorsman like me to talk about Jesus.  But the fact that he lives today makes my life worth living and it can make yours worth living too.  It is surprising to me that if you consider what Easter Sunday means to so many millions, there is such a hesitancy to mention His name during the week, in the workplace and where numbers of people gather.  Where his name should be mentioned more often is in Police stations, lawyers offices and courtrooms!  It does little good to have an Easter Sunday if you forget what that day amounts to in June, July or August.

            You would think I am crazy if you see how many times I sit down in the woods, or pause along some river shoal and just say “Thank you God, for such a life as I have been given.”  I find it easy to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus and what he taught, when I am alone in those places.  It is harder around masses of people in this new world situation where all my flaws really show up.  What all of us need to do I guess is to get out of bed each day pretending it is Easter Sunday.

           

Monday, March 21, 2016

SPRING OUTDOORSMAN'S SWAP MEET AND DUCK SHOOT



This Saturday, the 26th.   Hope you all can come!!

                                                                           

                                                                         


A Duck-Shooting Event


            I was at an outdoor event held in a big convention center in Mt. Home, Arkansas when I came across a place back in a corner where ducks were flying around in a circle and kids were shooting at them with a little gun that fired nerf- balls.  I couldn’t believe how good those kids were. I had this overwhelming urge to stand in line and take my turn, but there were some things I had to think about.  For one thing, what if I couldn’t hit any? There were adults standing around watching the kids shoot!  What if some of them recognized me… a guy who wrote a book about duck hunting standing there with a bunch of kids trying to figure out how to lead a mallard flying in a circle? I chickened out!

      But I will have my chance this weekend when the same rig will be back in the corner at our grizzled old outdoorsman’s swap meet. Some of you wing- shooters ought to come out and join me. 
 
      That may be one of the most exciting thing we have ever had happen at our swap meet, except for the time my executive secretary, Ms Wiggins, tried to cook pancakes and we had that little fire in the back of her old Datsun pick-up.

      If you have a little money in your pocket you will likely go home broke because you will never find better buys on old sporting arms, fishing gear, whatever.  I can’t really give a list of all the things you will find there because it would run right off the end of this page.       
      We’ve held this event for six or seven years at the Brighton Assembly of God gymnasium and the youth of the church fix biscuits and gravy and coffee and donuts for breakfast, then hamburgers and pork sandwiches and pie and cake and drinks for lunch. 

      So folks can spend hours there, sitting around our big round tables up front, drinking coffee and visiting or milling around looking at 40 tables worth of stuff, some antique stuff, and some new stuff.

      This year Jerry McCoy, who owns a nice outdoor antique store down at Bull Shoals, will bring about 500 lures, all new and in boxes, which he will sell for three dollars apiece.  That’s less than half of what the same lure would often sell for at Wal-Mart’s sporting goods counter.

      I am going to offer my books for ten dollars, a forty percent discount, and inscribe and sign them, which adds a nickel to their resale value. There are eight of them now, with the new one published last summer.  I also intend to give away a bunch of my Lightnin’ Ridge outdoor magazines, probably four or five of the recent issues. 

      I expect to see all sorts of things there, outdoor art, and taxidermy, furs and game calls, bows and hand-made wooden gifts. One of the most popular tables is the one where Dale Olsen sells beautiful wooden cutting boards and there’s another where Vernon Myers sells his hand-made knives and another where Billy Green sells hand- made turkey calls.

      As of yet we do not have a table where ladies sell canned goods and baked goods but I am working on that. And my old college roommate, radio personality Woody P. Snow, will be there selling his books and artwork.  People who have listened to him for years get a kick out of meeting him. 

      I would love to talk with you, so come by and see me if you can. Most of the calls I will get this week will be from folks wanting directions, so I am posting a map for you to see. 
 
      The church is at the little community of Brighton, which is about 16 miles north of Springfield on Highway 13.  You turn there at Highway 215 going east and follow the signs.  It is easy to find. Just listen for quacking and the sound of those nerf-ball guns shooting at ducks!
     
      The following Saturday, April 2, we will take a day-long trip over to Truman Lake to hike through a wilderness area and have a noon-time fish fry and look at eagles and migrating waterfowl on a short pontoon boat excursion.  We do that each spring and fall but here’s what’s new about that. 
      You can come up and stay at my Panther Creek lodge on Friday night, get up and have breakfast with me on Saturday morning and then follow me over to the lake, only thirty minutes away.  That sure beats leaving your home in the early morning hours to try to get there on time. 
      Some folks come from Arkansas and Kansas to take this trip with us and have to drive ‘a fer piece’. Now we have a place to get a good nights rest and breakfast. Let me know soon if you want to go along because our pontoon boat will only accommodate about 15 hikers.  My lodge is big enough for everyone who wants to go.
      The lodging and breakfast is free, the cost of the trip is 40 dollars per person, and that money goes into our fund for the Panther Creek underprivileged kids summer camps.
      This is a good place perhaps to thank an awful lot of generous people who have contributed to our Panther Creek Project. It’s a big tract of land along a little creek that I am trying to make into a place where churches can bring trouble youngsters, especially boys without fathers, free of charge. 
      There is the cost of annual electricity, insurance and taxes, and we do not solicit any help with that.  If God wants something to work, and a man does his part, He helps you find ways to come up with the needed funds.  I figure on holding some special wild game dinners there to raise money to pay the bills.
      I am so sick of seeing these people on television with their phony schemes where the money they beg for goes into administration, conventions, or somebody’s pocket.  Sometime in May or June we are going to have a day at the Panther Creek project with a big dinner just for those people who have wanted to help by donating money. 
      Two of those people there will be Robert and Larry Sitton, brothers from Lamar Missouri who heard me advertise on a Stockton radio station that we wanted to buy affordable bunk beds for boys to sleep on. 
      I still can’t believe what those two did.  They went out and started finding bunk beds, which they fixed up and painted, delivered to us and assembled them.  Seven sets of bunk beds and two single beds, enough to fill our lodge and cabins for visiting kids. 
      Those brothers don’t look like angels, but they must be. Folks in the area heard about what they were doing and they started giving them new pillows and sheets and blankets and towels. As much as I hope to meet all who have helped in so many ways, there is one elderly lady I just have to go see.  She made several quilts and gave them to us.  Do you know what hand-made quilts are worth?  Can you visualize the hours she put into those precious gifts?
      I look at the world through the eyes of our lop-sided liberal news media and television and often get the idea that evil people have taken over our country.  Then I meet people like the Sitton brothers and a hundred others who send ten dollars and tell me to apply it to the electric bill or a hundred dollars sent to help pay the insurance bill and I realize that there is another side of the coin.
      This Panther Creek Project has showed me how wonderful common country people can be.
Someday I hope this changes a lot of little boy’s lives.  It has already changed mine.














Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Matter of Genetics 3-13-16





Light tackle fishing is more fun perhaps, until the fish you catch is too big for the tackle.


















   













    If you are a beginning fisherman, there are these things you need to always be aware of. You need to know how to adjust the drag on your reel to line size.  You want small line, four pound test most likely, to fish for crappie, because with heavier line, a small jig won’t fall as fast, and won’t look as enticing to a fish because heavier line reduces it’s movement and rate of fall. 
 
       And there are few crappie that are apt to break that line.  But if you should hook a nice bass or walleye while fishing that light line, you do not have to risk having the line broken if your drag is properly set.

       Usually, I use four-pound line for white bass too, but over the years I have hooked quite a few three-and-a-half to four-pound white bass in a river current that can break that line if the drag isn’t properly set.  If you aren’t knowledgeable in setting the drag properly, then find an experienced angler who can teach you.

       My Uncle Norten, who caught so many big bass over his life as a guide on Ozarks lakes, never set the drag on his Ambassadeur reels, which he swore by.  He just used fourteen-pound line!  He did in fact catch several bass between ten and twelve pounds and some of them were in brush piles that he literally horsed them out of.  But big bass in murky water aren’t bothered by heavy line.

       If you decided you were going to use one of his outfits to fish for trout in the White River you would find trout very skeptical of line that looks like a well rope in that clear water.  I found that to be the case up in those Wind River tributaries below the mountains of Wyoming a couple of weeks back.  I had four-pound line and trout wouldn’t hit my lures in that crystal clear water.  Two-pound line might have made a difference there.

       If you are going to be a successful fisherman you have to learn a lot about line size and equipment.  There are lots of lines and lots of reels, made for ultra-lite fishing to light, medium, heavy and ultra-heavy.  Success depends a great deal in what you are using and how you use the drag on your reel.
 
       I read this recently… shouldn’t come as much of a shock.  “A new study on steelhead trout in Oregon offers genetic evidence that wild and hatchery fish are different at the DNA level, and that they can become different with surprising speed. The research found that after one generation of hatchery culture, the offspring of wild fish and first-generation hatchery fish differed in the activity of more than 700 genes.”

       Anyone who knows anything about the trout park fish here in the Ozarks is aware they are not the same fish as trout multiplying naturally in a mountain stream.  You don’t need the research.  But DNA is being used today to learn a lot about everything.  For instance, a wild human raised in the deep woods and along the rivers of the Ozarks as I was has far different DNA and is much different than a city-raised domesticated humans found in the same region.  I won’t go into that in detail, just use your imagination!

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Any time you see a wild gobbler in the Ozarks with a white-
tipped tail you know that somewhere in his ancestry there's
a domestic gene.
       You can see the result of domestic genes introduced into wild turkeys when you see white or gray turkeys in the wild.  But who cares… a wild turkey gobbler is a wary game bird even if his great grandpa was a barnyard gobbler.  
        Some one asked me the other day if this much-earlier-than-ordinary spring and the warm weather would hurt turkey hunting.  Gobblers and hens that have already been mating, and the early nesting that results, won’t hurt turkey hunting when the season opens.  

       It should make gobblers more responsive because they find fewer romantic hens.  Those hens start sitting on nests early, a hunter comes along with an enticing call and the gobblers get even more willing to go looking.

       It is that way with humans too.  When I went off to college, it was obvious that when spring came, us wilder human boys were much more responsive to the alluring glances and sweet talk of college girls.  Some of the city raised college men were a little smarter and more selective, slower to run across campus as the result of one phone call. You can say they had had more experience at a younger age, but I say it’s just a matter of DNA.  These wild human genetics of mine have been a problem for me all my life.  I just can’t sit still long enough to be a good turkey hunter or deer hunter, and I would swim across any creek just to catch a three-pound smallmouth!  All because of wild DNA...

       If you have never hunted wild turkeys before the season opens, you have missed something.  It is a lot easier with a camera, than with a shotgun.  Some think that calling gobblers before the season opens makes them even more wary and hesitant, but that’s the way us grizzled old veteran hunters like it. 

       A difficult gobbler is more of a challenge for us experts and professionals.  You never want it to be easy.  One year I called an old gobbler in at a dead run so anxious to get there he ran through a brush fire and singed his beard down to only an inch or so in length!

       Let me remind all of you who have forgotten, that our Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet is about upon us.  We still have a couple of free tables available for anyone who has something outdoorsy to sell.  The great majority of our vendors are of wild human genetics!  Plan to be there if you want to see what has been acclaimed by officials and authorities everywhere as the greatest free outdoorsman’s swap meet ever set up in the Midwest.

        I will list the things we know will be sold, and a map of how to get there on this blog, as soon as I get it worked up.
              I think mushrooms may be earlier this year, so we will take some of our daylong trips in April to teach people how to find them.  And we are definitely going to have a Pomme de Terre river cleanup and fish fry in April, a little later than we hoped to do it.  Low water in March delayed that.  You can get on either of those lists by mailing your name and phone number to me at lightninridge47@gmail.com  or writing to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613. You can even call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, whose DNA has never been looked into, at 417 777 5227.