Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reporting From Here in the Woods



-->      It is Thursday morning and I am sitting in one of my old deer-stands high above the ground on a beautiful fall day, writing this column in a little tablet.  I don’t do much writing from the woods any more but I use to do it a lot, in the time before computers. Back then I would hand-write something and take it home and let Gloria Jean type it for me.  I sold lots and lots of magazine articles that way.  Gloria Jean is by far the best wife I have ever had for that reason alone; disregarding the fact she isn’t much of a cook.
         I have never bragged on her cooking unless she was right there and I had to do it.  There are times a husband has to lie, you understand.  But I am not lying when I say that when she was 18 she was absolutely gorgeous… and very shy.  How many times, when you were young, did you meet a beautiful girl who was quiet and shy?  But in addition to that, she could type more than 100 words a minute and not hardly ever make a mistake!  About three months after I met her I asked her to type a very important manuscript for me that I had written out in the woods the previous turkey season.

         Some college girls had offered to type that manuscript for 4 or 5 cents a word and Gloria did it for nothing.  While most guys back then jumped into marriage without giving it a thought, I considered all the pluses and minuses to it.  Here I have met this beautiful and quiet girl who thinks I am the greatest thing since the electric typewriter and she will type my stuff free.  I got to thinking that in my writing career I might write a million words and she might save me whatever a million nickels are worth.  On the minus side, there was the cooking difficulty, but back then you could get Colonel Sanders chicken dinners for a buck seventy-five.
 It was a good move on my part.  Gloria Jean can type better than ever and she is still fairly good looking considering all these years of typing and organizing and trying to help me keep track of my socks. That first manuscript she typed went to Outdoor Life magazine and it brought me fifteen hundred dollars.  It was chosen by a big New York publishing company as the best outdoor article of 1973 and published as the only outdoor article in a book of award winning sports stories.  The book publisher sent me another fifteen hundred dollars and from that point Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines bought everything I sent them, typed and looking extra professional all because of Gloria Jean's typing ability   

      Can you imagine what it was like to some Ozark country boy whose biggest payday was on a hay-crew, to see three thousand dollars for something he had written in an hour or so leaning up against a tree waiting to hear a turkey gobble. That story was entitled, “Old Paint, the Story of a Wooden Johnboat.  You can read it a book of short stories I published 15 years ago entitled, “Ain’t No Such Animal”.  If you write ‘enquiring’ about ‘acquiring’ it, you may get information about all nine of my books in a neatly typed letter from Gloria Jean!  The only trouble is, she sells all my books way too cheap and with my autograph no less.  She says that after all these years, she ought to know more than anyone else what my stuff is worth!


Doggone it, I was so intent on writing that I let a deer slip past me.  Still, it has been a good day.  A bluejay lit only feet from me on a hickory branch.  Thankfully he didn’t give that dreaded alarm call bluejays are famous for.  He put forth a musical double note something like ‘O-link’, and then flew away.  When you see one that close it is amazing how magnificent they are in color and size.  I also see a group of wild turkeys off in the trees a hundred yards or so away.  There are 6 or 7 big ones, so I think all of them are gobblers.  It is easy to track their movement, since one is snow white.  I would like to see him closer to see if he is a true albino, but I doubt it.
         The white ones, the gray ones, are no more than the result of tame turkeys crossing with wild ones.  If you hear someone say they are a result of wild genetics, they are full of baloney.  If you go into the deep mountains of Arkansas where the genetics are purer than any I’ve ever seen, you will never see a gray or white turkey unless it is indeed a true albino. You also won’t see any 24 pounders!

         As I watch that white turkey gleaming through the trees, it makes me realize that he likely is going to have a hard time surviving with that bright white color.  Too easy to be seen by bobcats, owls, etc. Of course he should do well when it snows!  But somewhere in his ancestry, some wild, ne’er do well wild gobbler convinced a gullible tame white turkey hen that life was better in the woods, scrounging for acorns.  I understand that… it is sort of what I did with Gloria Jean.
         Someone asked why, since I am so critical of ‘trophy hunters’ that I would shoot bucks in preference to does.  Usually I take one of each during the season.   But on my place in St. Clair county, I don’t shoot does at all because the deer numbers there are not strong.  That’s a result of the old man who owned it before me shooting everything that he saw, well more than his limit.  He traded those extra deer to some local Amish people for work, or furniture.  He shot many of them out of his window, and they were all does or young of the year.
         The deer population there need to build back a little. One or two bucks are capable of siring fawns with a number of does, so if you kill a buck, you do not harm the potential to increase deer numbers. But where I hunt in another county I see a thriving deer herd where it doesn’t hurt a thing to shoot a doe for the venison.  When you start talking about ‘managing’ a state deer herd, the whole idea is a little bit ridiculous. A landowner knows what deer numbers he has and two tracts of land several counties apart are entirely different.  Deer numbers go up and down, and the late summer blue-tongue disease can really affect that in some regions, as it did a few years back.
         Our Department of Conservation had that big doe kill-off about 10 or 12 years ago because insurance companies were so upset about car collisions with deer.  They all insisted that it was due to an over-population of deer.  No one even talked about a 30 percent rapid increase in auto traffic.  That attitude back then really hit some deer populations hard, as a lot of hunters killed 8 or10 does per season.  But deer numbers bounce back in time if a landowner wants them to.  On my place, there will be more deer next year and the next because I know how to make it happen.  You do not ‘manage’ a statewide deer herd; you manage smaller pockets of deer on defined tracts or farms.  If you are an on-the-land manager, it is easy to do.

         Well I think I am going to climb down and go home, deerless BUT...NOT DEARLESS!  

The Days of Weeds and Rises

Freckles hunting pheasant & quail with me in the '70s

         I drove into southern Iowa a day or so ago and a flood of memories came as I passed exits to Mt. Ayr and Creston.  Those are some of the places near where I have hunted quail and pheasant many years ago. I thought of the time when my cousin John McNew and I stopped and asked permission to hunt a tract of land, and the farmer advised us that there had been quite a few pheasants around an old hog lot which hadn’t been in use for years.

         John had a Brittany Spaniel that was surely the best bird dog I ever hunted over.  Her name was Troubles.  Just out of the kennel, Troubles ran up and down the muddy lane and then turned into the ditch by a small broken-down fence.  She instantly froze on point, her nose nearly into the hog wire.  I crossed the fence beside her, ready to shoot with my new used shotgun, a lightweight Model 12 Winchester I had bought from John’s brother the day before.  It is a rarely seen Model 12 which has two barrels and a slightly different mechanism at the end of the magazine tube that allow a quick change from one to the other.  I had removed the tighter-choked barrel and chose to hunt with the open-choke.

         Usually I wouldn’t have done that because often, pheasants flush wild and are long shots of 35 or 40 yards.  But that day the wind was blowing hard out of the north and something told me they might just hold tight. I knew Troubles would not bump any birds, getting too close.  She was that good.  I had seen her point birds holding tight forty yards away.

         Somehow, my cousin got hung up in the fence and he laid his shotgun on the ground.  From the weeds beside the little broken down hog-shelter before me, a big beautiful rooster pheasant came up cackling, as he rose straight into the air.  I snapped the little Model 12 featherweight to my shoulder and dropped him with one shot at a distance of about 20 yards.  As he dropped, a pair of roosters and a several hens came up ten or fifteen yards farther away in a commotion of fuss and feathers.  I pumped the shotgun and busted one rooster as he rose, then ejected that shell to push my last shell into the chamber.  The third rooster had leveled out, but he turned slightly as headed into that strong wind and I lead him just a little.  As I fired he plunged into neck-high weeds in a small creek bottom beyond the hog pen, and Troubles went in after him.  John was still trying to get across the fence!

         What a memory… something a pheasant hunter seldom experiences with those unpredictable big oriental birds that Iowa was known for back then.  We took photos and gave Troubles lots of attention.  Thinking back, I don’t ever remember killing my limit of pheasants with three shots, as I did that day.  Two years ago, Johnny died of throat cancer at the age of 59.  A year or so before, his brother Lonnie, a dedicated outdoorsman and Marine, veteran of the Viet NamWar, had died at the age of 59 from a lung disease.  The two of them lived to hunt and fish together and they had done so since boyhood.  Unfortunately they had also smoked cigarettes since boyhood.  I sincerely believe if they had not, they would be alive today and we would still be hunting pheasants and ducks together in Iowa.

Freckles on point at sunset
         I also remember a day with a brand new shotgun in southern Iowa, hunting with the publisher of Gun Dog magazine, Dave Meisner, one of the finest men I ever knew.  He brought his young wire-haired pointer, Max, and I had my little English setter, Freckles, both exceptional dogs.  The new shotgun was an expensive over-and-under which a gun company had given me for a time, wanting me to write good things about it, hoping to see a photo or two of the shotgun in some of my upland bird hunting or waterfowl articles in Gun Dog.  It had some gold engraving and was so pretty I was worried sick I might put a scratch in it.  I had never even fired it and if you have done much shooting you know that over-and-under doubles have a different drop in the stock than a pump gun has.

         We had been in the field twenty minutes when Max came down on point on a grassy slope above a wooded draw.  Dave waved me up behind her and watched as a big, long-tailed rooster came cackling into a clear blue sky.  My shotgun roared as the pheasant reached a distance of thirty yards and then just kept going much to my surprise. I had just flat missed it. No problem… at thirty-five yards that second barrel would solve the problem.  I squeezed the trigger, the blast echoed from the south Iowa hills and the pheasant just sailed away, all feathers untouched and intact.

Freckles hunting with Dave 
         Can you imagine the embarrassment?  Here I was, a writer who helped filled the pages of his magazine with stories written by a supposedly experienced hunter and gun dog man, and I had missed two of the easiest shots you have ever seen.  It was the gun, and I used that as an excuse as Meisner nodded, trying to hide a grin. His dog Max sat there and looked at me as if he had never seen a rooster fly away before.  I hot-footed it back to the pick up, placed that beautiful shotgun in its elaborate case and pulled the old pump gun out of its ragged cover.  It took me awhile to find Meisner and Max, whom I believe were trying to hide from me.  But I could hear Dave shooting and when I found them, they had a pair of nice rooster pheasants.  Freckles was with them and she looked at me as if to say, “Let me hunt with these guys for awhile.”

         Dave became perhaps the only close friend I ever made in this outdoor writing business.  Despite his business success, which was enormous, he was a down-to-earth plain old country boy like me and he knew the outdoors, as most people in this field today do not.  We hunted and fished together for two more years and laughed a time or two at memories of that embarrassing day… and the thousand-dollar shotgun in the hands of a two-dollar pheasant hunter like me.  I got a call one fall morning that Dave had been found dead from a massive stroke in a local workout gym at Adel Iowa, where he lived.  He was only 53 years old.

        Pheasant hunting in southern Iowa is only a shell of what it was then.  You can thank the new modern farming methods for much of that.  I looked at huge harvested, barren cornfields as I drove on toward Des Moines and remembered those times of dogs, and pheasants and men I will never forget.  Those days, those memories, are worth everything to me.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Similarities of Goats and Bucks

  I am curious as to how those doe-scent manufacturers collect that much urine to fill the millions of bottles. Is it really necessary?  This doe, only a few feet beneath my stand didn't seem to notice my scent on the path I had taken only 20 minutes before.

         I am growing  a little tired of deer hunting!  It amounts to sitting in a tree stand wasting hours waiting for a few minutes of excitement.  Unless of course you see things you have never seen, like the time I saw that battle between the bobcat and the crows.  So what I do is, I take a pen and notebook and catch up on some things I want to write.  On occasion, I am so engrossed in what I am writing that I am surprised by what is happening in the woods below.  But while in a deer stand, I reflect on important things.  Like politics, religion and deer scents.

         Do you reckon there are enough doe deer in captivity to provide enough urine for those millions of bottles of ‘doe-in-estrus’ attractants which so many hunters buy because they don’t have the slightest idea what might work and what don’t?  I wonder, while I am setting there watching a male gray squirrel chase a female gray squirrel all through the branches of a big hickory tree, if there are people who make a good living running around in a pen full of tame deer with a bucket, collecting doe pee. 
         Frankly, I think that there may be some unscrupulous people selling goat urine as deer urine.  That makes me think, setting in that tree, about wild goats in the Ozarks.  Once, we had quite a few along the bluffs of the lower Big Piney River in the Mark Twain National Forest.  In November and December Dad and I would float that stretch of river a lot, hunting ducks in our wooden johnboat.  The goats were wild as anything, shaggy and white.  

         One of the times I remember the best was the cold, clear day when we floated through a shoal and heard what we thought was the sound of a rifle ahead, high on a wooded, rock-strewn hillside below a high bluff.  We drifted downstream, and there on the steep incline where a man could scarcely stand up, was a pair of big rams, backing off a few feet and then launching themselves at each other, bashing horns with a force that you would kill them both.  Several ewes and young goats were standing around watching.  The battle just went on as we passed, and we could hear that crack of horns coming together as we moved downstream behind our floating blind.  We saw them often for a few years in the sixties.

         But in twenty years, there were no goats to be seen along the Piney’s high bluffs.  Dad said he figured those blankety-blank hunters from the city had killed them all.  My dad did not like deer hunting and he had little use for those red-clad hunters from the city who descended on Texas County from the city.   That stemmed from a time when we were floating the river and bullets whined over our boat, the result of three half-drunk deer hunters shooting at whiskey bottles in the river downstream from us.

         Dad was really mad and he told those three they were nothing less than gold-plated idiots for shooting high powered rifles at the surface of the river.  It seemed as he was awfully brave or awfully dumb, giving heck to three guys standing on the bank with rifles in their hands. 

         We didn’t hunt deer when I was smaller because Dad didn’t like venison at all.  We ate everything else you can imagine, especially wild ducks.  When I was in college, when Dad and I floated the river and hunted ducks, he agreed to let me take a 30-30 along and shoot any buck we might sneak up on. 

         When I was really young, legal deer season, bucks only, was a fairly new thing and deer weren’t very plentiful. In our pool where I worked as a boy… there were a few avid deer hunters. The most successful was Ol’ Bill Stalder, Grandpa Dablemont’s friend and trapping partner who often brought in his buck in the back of his old red International Harvester pick-up, to show everyone in the pool hall.  I was so fascinated, I always read deer hunting stories in Outdoor Life and Field and Stream, and here in our pool hall we had one of the best.

         Bill knew more about deer than anyone in Texas County, and he educated me well.  Once he brought in an old military rifle that he hunted with and let me look at it.  He called it a ‘guvamint 45-70’.  Hunting with that rifle was similar to hunting with a shotgun slug.  Bill said that some of the modern rifle bullets were so fast they would deflect upon hitting a bush or twig.  He said his old rifle would just shoot through a sapling and kill a deer on the other side.  The bullets were big, heavy and slow.  But Bill hunted in brush country because he said that was the kind of country bucks liked.  He said that a deer hunter had to use the wind properly, and it was the wind that determined how and where he hunted.  I think he and the old boys who sat on the front bench and looked forward to deer season would have really hooted and hawed about a bottle of deer urine that cost ten dollars!

         In November, Bill said he would stuff his overalls with apples, and eat them while he was in the woods.  He would use a bucket of rotten apples or ripe persimmons to eliminate his own scent.  He would put the apples, nearly rotten, in a bucket and when he left his pick-up he would step in the bucket of soft apples with his boots until the apples were just mushy and his boots saturated with the pulp and juice.  I guess it worked.  I think he may have washed his long-handled underwear before a hunt, but I don’t know that.  He told me that the tobacco he chewed was a natural attractant to deer, but I couldn’t ever chew the stuff without getting sick.  And if you are in the woods, heaving away from your deer stand, you diminish your chances.  And good grief, the darned tobacco is nearly as expensive as a bottle of deer scent!

         The one thing I have in common with Ol’ Bill is the fact that you won’t see me spending ten dollars on a bottle of deer scent, whether it is from a doe or not. I will confess that many years ago a scent manufacturer came up with the idea of blowing doe-urine scented bubbles while sitting on a tree stand.  He gave me a bottle of it and I did indeed sit up there in my stand blowing bubbles on several occasions.  It was kind of fun, but I don’t know that it attracted any deer.  I know that if Ol’ Bill would have rolled on the leaf-strewn forest floor in laughter if he had seen me doing that.

         I also know this… if you can come up with goat urine a month before deer season, you can create a great buck-scrape beneath an overhanging oak branch by pouring it in the right spot, because bucks do not know the difference.  I don’t know that today’s deer hunters can tell the difference either especially those who have spent most of their lives in the big city, and come to the woods only during the deer season. And that is why, if you own some goats and have some little plastic bottles and don’t mind chasing your female goats around with a bucket, you might be able to make some good money this time of year.

         Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge@windstream.net.  Please see my website, larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com if you are a computer person.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Corn Coons and Critters Caught on Camera

                  This week I will get all my deer feeders emptied.  They have served their purpose.  Putting out corn for deer goes hand in hand with the craze in game cameras, the automatic cameras you strap to a tree which photograph any thing that moves in front of it.

They fascinate me because they show you how many raccoons we have nowadays and on rare occasions show a roaming mountain lion or black bear. But mostly they show roaming gangs of masked bandits… corn stealers!

         When I was a boy, raccoons weren’t very plentiful.  Trapping and coon hunting was responsible for that but only because the pelts were worth good money back when money wasn’t so easy to come by.  Today, there isn’t much interest in coon pelts, fewer trappers than there has ever been, and coonhounds hard to find.  And those who think the raccoon is better off than ever because he is no longer subject to a trap or the sound of baying hounds across the hills on a chilly Ozark night… well those folks know little about distemper, and how it affects these little masked rascals who are so typical of timbered country where small streams meander.  Too many ‘coons brings on disease, distemper foremost amongst them.  Lots of raccoons are killed on the highway, but many more die of distemper and it takes a couple of days for them to die.



       I suspect that corn eaten by raccoons from my feeders will outweigh what deer and turkey put away in the fall.  But I tolerate it because there on my camera is an occasional buck deer with nice antlers, and a couple with antlers not so impressive.  If the biologists and rule makers just followed those cameras, and could see how often a small antlered deer stays a small-antlered deer, I think they might understand what foolishness their four-point regulation is for the northern two thirds of the state.   I think it is perhaps a short-lived regulation, as it doesn’t seem to promise the great increase in non-resident deer tag revenue they
once hoped for.  If you want to hunt places where the four-point rule isn’t in effect, just go hunt those six counties where they have found ‘mad deer’ disease right in the middle of north Missouri’s trophy country.

         In those counties they have eliminated that ‘trophy hunter’s rule”!  In a few years they will have to add many more counties as proof of the spread of the disease is gained.  In most Ozark counties, there is no such four-point rule, you can shoot any buck.  For hunters as old school as I am, trophies aren’t really a part of deer hunting.  The only buck I have ever hung on my wall is one with an average rack with one antler so mal-formed and crooked it fascinates me. I have antlers in the shed much bigger.  In fact, I see a couple of deer on my tree-hanging camera with bigger set of antlers.   

         One of the fattest and sleekest bucks has an eight-inch spike on one side and a forked antler on the other.  I think he is what I am after because he looks so healthy.  

             Here’s a photo of a nine pointer that was absolutely covered with ticks.

      With those game cameras, the trophy hunters have a big advantage now.   They can determine what an area’s bucks look like, and the times they pass through.  That’s not always regular, but often it is.  One of those bucks on my camera eats corn in the middle of the night and again at midday.  He will travel that same route; following does and tending his scrapes, for some time after the corn is gone.

         The idea of baiting should be legalized because it is done so often and today’s enforcement people only find it if someone tells them where to go.  And what the heck, it allows the taking of deer, of which they say we have too many, and the selling of more deer tags, of which they say they don’t have enough.  Most people who bait though, are hunting on landowner tags which don’t produce money for them.  I hunt legally, always, and so I won’t hunt over bait.  But it was there for quite awhile and the game camera tells me my stand is in a good place.  If I were indeed a trophy hunter and an illegal hunter, I could kill several bucks each fall and winter.  Problem is, I would rather hunt game birds and waterfowl, and fish during that deer-hunting period.  It just kills me when I am setting in a deer stand and a big flock of mallards come winging over at tree-top level heading for the creek, or when I hear wild geese high in the clouds.  Sometime the fall color reminds me of the days we spent in the sand hills of South Dakota hunting grouse and ducks.

         Truthfully, those pictures on the game camera are interesting enough for me, even if I wasn’t going to hunt.  I will hunt and kill two deer this year, for one reason… the venison it puts in the freezer!  There is nothing about a set of antlers that equals the rewards of a hundred pounds of venison in the freezer.  But if you are someone who would like to make some money, don’t hunt in Missouri.  Go hunt deer in Iowa or southern Canada where average-sized deer antlers make most of our ‘trophies’ look small.  Bring the antlers back, have a taxidermist who has a good cape in the freezer mount a head for you with those big, big antlers, and then tell everyone you killed the buck just south of Mt. Grove or west of Marshfield, or north of Eminence and some idiot will pay you enough money for it that you can finance another trip north next year.

         If you have never seen the bucks from the farm country of Manitoba, you need to take your game camera up there and get some photos.  If you are unscrupulous, you can show those photos around and tell them it from your Ozark farm and sell deer leases to those Kansas City and St.Louis hunters who will never know the difference.  But the easiest money is probably found in growing deer in a pen.  Little fawns born last spring, hand fed and raised half tame, can be sold in three years for tens of thousands to those folks who want a deer head over the fire place they killed in your back yard.  They will claim it was the result of a two-week trek into the wilderness.  Those kinds of people are the reasons I love hunting grouse and ducks.  The men who hunt them are a different breed of cat, and couldn’t care less about trophies.  On my wall there are pictures of great bird dogs I owned, on a point or Labradors retrieving a duck.  Now those photos are real trophies!


Tuesday, October 27, 2015


My weekly column and photos are below, but first I want to urge everyone to come to our get together on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 5, November 8th.  (See the end of my column below.)  I said I would list some of the things we would be selling to finance our Fatherless Boys Retreat.  We will have a Farmall Cub tractor made in 1948 that is in excellent condition, and a couple of big chest freezers, a large display cabinet, (glass and walnut), several pieces of furniture including an Ethan Allen china cabinet, boxes of canning jars, boxes of dishes—all kinds and colors, an old cabinet television that works great, lots of tools, camping gear and a big lot of fishing lures and lots of art, some wildlife paintings signed and numbered, old books and lots of other stuff too numerous to mention. All proceeds will be used to pay the insurance and electricity for the first year of this endeavor.  I hope you can make it, and if any of you would like to help on our work day of Nov. 6, Friday, we would love to have you.  Ladies who want to help can bring a cake, cookies or a pie.  You may call me at 417-894-5622.  Remember, this will be a wonderful place for lots of underprivileged children, and we hope to change lives there.   THE ADDRESS IS:  7140 SE 1200 RD, COLLINS, MO     Below is a simple map.

Justice For a Grasshopper Murderer

             The fall turkey season has come and gone.  Every year I think it becomes less of a thing to Ozark hunters, maybe because the fishing is so good in October maybe because of beggar lice and stick-tites and a growing laziness in the populations of our tweeting and twittering young folks.
            I hunted a little this fall, but not much.  Late one evening a week or so ago, while most of the turkeys seemed to be across the creek, one old gobbler made the mistake of running across a scraggly food plot I had planted in the bottoms at my place on Brush Creek.  I saw him and he saw me.  He was easily 150 yards away and all he had to do was just run off into the timber and fly across the creek to the other side.  It was amazing how he was there one minute and gone the next.  He just disappeared at the edge of the open food plot.

            Being a grizzled old veteran outdoorsman, I have seen that trick before.  I owned pointing dogs for years and I remember dozens of times seeing my English Setters come down on solid point in high grass, only to be surprised with the flush of several wild turkeys around me.  They hide darn well.  And the fact that he did that very thing does not speak well of that old gobbler’s smartness.

            With my shotgun at the ready I walked to the spot where he disappeared, expecting him to flush in a great flopping of wings.  But again, he wasn’t a real smart gobbler and he decided to come up running.  He did good for about 40 yards but with me being one heck of a shotgunner, and due to a well spread pattern of number-six shot, he didn’t make it.

            If that causes a tinge of sadness on your part, you should realize that it is likely that this past summer alone he was likely responsible for the loss of hundreds of young grasshoppers.  It is a sad fact that several grasshopper families were decimated by the loss of family members who just never came back after an afternoon of innocent foraging, and their relatives mourned their passing, knowing their loved ones were stuffed in that old gobblers craw.  (The correct word is ‘crop’ but the pronunciation is ‘craw’).

            I felt bad for awhile myself, watching him flop around like a chicken with no head, something that use to happen often on my Grandpa McNew’s farm when Sunday dinner loomed.  What you like to do is kill a young Jake in the fall and leave the old gobblers to make the hills echo in the spring.  You know, as you stand over an old tom in October that there is one less gobbler to strut and blow amongst the emerging blossoms of spring, to come all huffed up and gobbling to your call.

            But the encouraging thing is, in mid October, one evening before a storm, there were gobblers gobbling on the roost in the evening and the next morning, like they thought it was April.  There seemed to be a lot of them.  So the old timer with long spurs and a twelve-inch beard may not be missed so much.

Mike with 400 lb male black bear he killed with a bow
            Speaking of wild turkeys, my old hunting partner Mike Dodson, from Harrison, Arkansas, was quite a turkey hunter.  He and I once guided novice turkey hunters each spring in those forested mountains for many years together when I lived in north Arkansas.  He is one of those men that loves the outdoors and tackles everything with enthusiasm and gusto.  We hunted and fished for everything and often lamented the fact that there just wasn’t enough days in the year to get all the hunting and fishing done we wanted to do.
            Now Mike has given up everything for his devotion to bear hunting.  He killed another black bear with his bow, in early October.  It was in a wild and wooly section of the Arkansas Ozarks on private land that borders the National forestland where so many bears now thrive.

            On a game camera which Mike sets up early in September, he has gained photos of 15 or 16 different bears, which are drawn to the area by hundreds and hundreds of pounds of old bread and popcorn.  “There’s nothing they like better than the popcorn,” he says, “and you might think a big old bear would just gulp it down but they don’t.  They just take small bites and eat slowly.  But they put away a lot of it over the month.  I have popped so much popcorn and hauled out so many pounds of old bread you wouldn’t believe how much that bunch of bears eat.”

            Mike and his hunting partner have rigged up a zip-line from the canyon rim down into the bottoms and send down the bait in barrels.  He says that going down into the area is a chore, as the bluff is steep and rocky.  The bear season opens in early October and Mike says you don’t have long to hunt.  “When the acorns start to drop in the fall, they disperse and eat acorns and ignore the bait,” he says.

            Mike isn’t just a trophy hunter looking for another bear skin rug.  He and his partner dress out their bears and eat the meat over the winter.  He says that no matter what anyone says, bear meat is good to eat if properly cleaned and prepared.  But bear hunting is work, according to his description of descending and ascending that steep terrain three or four times a week for a whole month, filling up a bait barrel.  I asked him if he ever used day-old donuts but I remember too well the old days when the two of us would have eaten all the day-old donuts we could collect.

            “We have tried a lot of bait,” Mike told me, “but believe me, a bear would rather eat popcorn than anything else he could get… at least until he can gorge himself on acorns.”

            Please join us to dedicate the boys ranch for underprivileged boys near Collins Mo on Sunday afternoon, November 8th.  You can see a map, and read all about it on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.  We will show everyone the whole set up and the cabins, spring and old 1890’s bridge across the creek.  This setting is the most perfect situation you could ask for, where counselors and churches can come with groups of children for several days at no charge.  We’ll have trails, a trout pond and a sports field.

            We want to concentrate especially on city boys without fathers who need to learn about the outdoors, and about character and solid values from good men.   I have a flyer about this also which I can mail you, which explains the afternoon of November 8th, with a map of how to get there. In order to help raise money to pay insurance and electricity for the place, we will be selling hundreds of items on that day, an old antique tractor, many other antiques, and furniture, appliances, etc.  See a list of those things we will be selling on that website.

            We’ll have plenty of cake and coffee, and I would love to show you personally what we are trying to do.  Churches in the Ozarks should send representatives to find out how they can use this fifty-acre tract and the cabins for their youth, free of charge.  For more information, call me at 417-777-5227. To make this work, I need lots of help. We will have a workday to get ready for it all on Friday, November 6 if you would like to join us that day to help.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Know Deer Laws.. and Your Rights

         My weekly newspaper column goes to about 35 newspapers.  Most of them use it as I write it, but a few editors who are great admirers of the Missouri Department of Conservation (and receive direct benefits from them at no charge) will not. Not many, but a few.  The larger the newspaper, the ones owned by big companies far from the reader, the worse it gets.

         One editor even told me that his readers are sick of hearing my occasional criticism of the MDC.  In his town, there are more than 40 residents who have formed a group trying to do something about the corruption of that agency.  My advice to him is to use nothing but material sent by the MDC, as the Gannett newspaper in Springfield does.

         When my column is omitted or heavily edited, you may read it in its entirety here, and it will be the truth.  There is much about this one the MDC doesn’t want you to know, and there are a few editors who have forgotten what journalism is about… the attempt to give a side that is hidden from the people. 

         Read this column, which tells you how to avoid being an innocent victim of an increasingly corrupt state conservation department, and ask yourself why any newspaper would refuse to print this. Why would any paper want their readers to be in the dark about this? 

Larry Dablemont 


Does this deer have the seven points to make him legal in two-thirds of Missouri.  Photo taken at 60 yards and who can tell how many points he has?

Looks like a six pointer but the left antler actually has four points.


This is an eight point buck, therefore legal in all Missouri counties but his antlers are not close to trophy size.  He is also very sick, about to die, from who knows what disease. The MDC was called to examine him but no one came.  


          The lady seemed amused by it all.  “He came to my door several days after I killed a deer with a bow. I called it in the way I am suppose to,” she told me.  “He said he wanted me to show him my bow, and prove I could really shoot it.  Can you imagine that, at the beginning of the deer season and all he’s got to do is come and see if I can shoot my bow?”

         She took her bow and drilled the target behind her home.  She said he walked away disappointed, while not uttering a single word! No one has to show an agent where they hunt or if they can shoot, no one is required by law to go out after they report a legal kill and show an agent where they killed and cleaned their deer, no one is required to open a freezer for an agent or show him antlers unless he has a search warrant.

         As a deer hunter in the upcoming season, you need to know EXACTLY what the law requires you to do, and if a conservation agent comes to your door asking you to leave your home to help him drum up some kind of evidence against you, you can close the door and refuse to leave your home.  I am quick to point out that there are plenty of agents who do their job right and do not abuse their power.  But there are also those agents who violate the constitutional rights of those who hunt and fish, and they are accustomed to getting away with it.  I have talked with older agents who say it is a result of an entirely different way of training than they saw in an earlier day.  Whatever the cause, innocent people are often targeted, mostly because they don’t know their rights or the game and fish laws.

         If any agent threatens to arrest you if you do not consent to letting him search your property or enter your home, he is violating your constitutional rights.  They have done so in many instances and they get away with such a tactic. The two who came into a ladies home a couple of years ago, took her pet raccoon out and killed it, gained entry to her home by threatening to take her to jail if she refused them entry. If it happens to you, close and lock your door and call the highway patrol or the sheriff’s office and tell them what is happening.

         Last year I had two sets of conservation agents come to my place and spend about 3 hours each time, trying to figure out how to arrest me for things I had written.
         I had written about shooting a buck in their “four point” region, where a buck must have four points of one inch or longer in order to be legal.  I truthfully said that when I shot him, I had no idea how many points he had and I didn’t care. I have no interest in “trophies”.  One antler was very deformed and the other had a broken tine, which would have been three or four inches long. 
         You couldn’t possibly see and measure that tine at the 90 or 100 yards distance at which I shot him.  I wrote as much.  That broken tine measured about 15-16ths of an inch measured one way, 17/16ths of an inch measured another way. The two MDC agents called me out on my porch and demanded that I show them the antlers of that deer I had killed ten days before. 
         At that point I could have told them that I had discarded the antlers or I could have told them they were in the shed and they could see them with a search warrant. That would have been the end of it.

         But I told them the truth.  The antlers, an odd set because of the deformed side, had been given to a taxidermist friend in Joplin Missouri.  So at their insistence, two of the agents from the Joplin area went to the taxidermist to photograph the antlers, and spent a couple of more wasted hours. Those agents told the supervisor that the whole thing was a waste of time.

         Know your rights… know the laws.  And don’t knuckle under to a conservation agent that is trying to bully you.  No agent can enter your home, car or outbuildings without a search warrant unless there is knowledge of impending danger to someone inside.

         That comes from Chief of Enforcement for the Missouri Department of Conservation, Larry Yamnitz, who probably has never disciplined or fired an agent for anything.  Three agents in Northwest Missouri illegally searched a barn and home of someone who was not at home at the time, without a search warrant. They were reported and the incident cost the MDC one million dollars in a lawsuit.  NONE OF THE THREE WAS FIRED… ONE WAS PROMOTED!!!

         The upcoming deer season is complicated by one set of rules for one county and a different set for another.  You have to know what all the laws are, so study them.  I have determined that the MDC cannot fine you for calling in the wrong number of points on a set of deer antlers, unless they can see them.

         If you call in a seven-point set of antlers that is actually nine-points or eight, you technically have violated no laws.  Anyone can say they have simply made a mistake. So I have urged the creation of a “seven point club” where all hunters no matter where they live, call in and check all bucks as seven points.  If you do so on a deer which there is any question about, simply get rid of the antlers. I have never intentionally violated any law, especially game laws, but this is akin to some ancestors of ours throwing tea in the Boston Harbor a long time ago.

         Agents very seldom get out in the woods now, especially during deer season.  Two years ago, a young man had to use his kids Christmas money to pay a 200 dollar fine because a pair of agents came to his house at 8 p.m. and demanded he show them where he killed a doe he had legally called in on a landowners permit TWO WEEKS BEFORE.  He complied and was cited for killing the deer within the property of a neighbor, though he vehemently protested he had not.  He was railroaded because he only owned five acres, and didn’t have the money to pay a lawyer.  He broke no laws whatsoever, he simply was targeted.

         He should never have cooperated with those agents because they were violating his constitutional rights, simply drumming up charges they could not prove, without any evidence whatsoever.  Know your rights!!   Know when to say ‘no thank you’ and close your door. 
         And by all means, study the deer hunting rules, as diverse and complicated as they have become.  It is likely they will change often now, as it has recently, due to the progress of the chronic wasting disease.  That awful disease could have been prevented by the Missouri Department of Conservation, whose lax treatment of those trying to make a fortune from penned deer, accounted for the introduction of sick deer, and the spread to wild deer in those areas.  There is no way to know exactly where it exists because all regions of the Ozarks have those shameless “trophy buck growers”, and in many counties, no wild deer have been tested.

         Learn about that disease.  It is known as “mad deer disease” but it is Jacob Cruetzfeldt disease when it spreads to humans.  Deer hunters anywhere from North Missouri to North Arkansas need to know the truth about it, because you have the potential to kill and eat a diseased deer if you are not knowledgeable about those “prions” which cause it and where they are found in the body of a deer. 

         There’s not enough space here to say all I would like to say about this subject.