Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I SAW SANTA!!!

This photo is from Dean Harper, whose letter is part of today's column…. it is a genuine albino buck… this is rare, as most albino deer seem to be females.
Wildlife needs a little help when winters are severe. Make a corn feeder like this one and get acquainted with all the wild creatures living around you.
In the winter I feed everything up here on this wooded ridgetop I call Lightnin’ Ridge. I feed squirrels and birds, deer and turkey, even a fox and bobcat and on occasion… and an eagle that comes up from the river.  Only a hundred yards from my office window, there is a little pond and a corn feeder.  In the winter, there must be a hundred doves that come to it, and down past the pond this year, the covey of quail that have numbered from 9 to 16 over the past ten years, is a whopping 25 or so this winter. 

It doesn’t take much to make me happy… that covey of quail just plumb tickles me to pieces.  The corn this year is under five dollars per fifty-pound bag, and that is another thing that makes me happy.  The last couple of years it has been about twice that.  So I have stocked several bags, and the feeder is full. 

I set up a game camera to show me what comes there when I am not watching, and what nighttime creatures I might see.  My Chocolate Labrador, Bolt, who is the third or fourth best Labrador in all the world, eats everything you can imagine. I have seen him eat tomatoes, pickles, candy, potato chips, you name it. 

On my game camera I learned he also eats a lot of corn! That rascal waits until I am not looking, and he makes a beeline for my feeder where he gulps down my corn. Here I have been buying bags of dog food that costs four times what a bag of corn costs, so I can’t get too disturbed about it, as long as he doesn’t chase away any turkeys.

Night-time game camera photos show that foxes love corn too, most everything does.  Bobcats come to a corn feeder on occasion for a different reason I suppose…  looking for prey that the corn might attract.  I would as soon the bluejays and squirrels didn’t eat so much corn, but what the heck, maybe it will keep them away from my birdfeeders.

This has nothing to do with the outdoors, but I have to write about what I saw at a book signing I attended in Osage Beach last Saturday.  In the back of the bookstore there was Santa Claus, posing for pictures with little boys and girls who were scared to death of him or fascinated with him, or anxious to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. 

I remembered the days when my little girls went to see Santa.  And I thought about how all of us who see this season as the birth of God’s son, and want to see that be the center of everything, too often get critical of the commercialization we see at Christmas.  My eyes were opened again, when I saw those parents and grandparents and little children talking to Santa.

Jesus would have been smiling too!  It is absolutely wonderful to see that innocence, and happiness and joy and peace.  There will be plenty of time for those little ones to learn about what Christmas means for all of us. 

My grandmother took me aside at Christmas time when I was about ten, and told me that people give gifts because it is a symbol of the gift that God gave us through the birth of Christ, a gift of hope, of peace and happiness.  A gift of a greater and better way of life, and a place called heaven for all of us who believe, whether we are ‘naughty or nice’.  It wasn’t anything complicated, just a simple explanation that Santa Claus wasn’t real, but the Jesus was, and even people as poor as we were, could attain a better life through Him. 

As I watched those little children, it occurred to me that even the grizzled old outdoorsmen grandpas there had smiles on their faces bigger than they might have when they caught a big fish or opened a Christmas package of a pair of socks or a pocket knife from a grandchild.  It was Jesus who taught us how to treat little children.  And His blessings are often overlooked, when they are simply given to us in the smiles and happiness of a little child. 

But then there was little Jimmy, who was not smiling…  he didn’t like Santa Claus at all, and he let the whole store know about it through his wailing.  I remember… I felt the same way when my grandma took me to see Santa that one time when I was only 13. Scared me half to death!

I get a lot of letters and emails from readers, and believe me, some are venomous. There are those who do not like what I write.  I thought I might print a few I received one day last week.  The first one was sent from a false email address somehow, and I took out the bad language and the last name tacked to it. Jeremy or whomever he was, says he has a degree, but his grammar and sentence structure doesn’t show it.  He writes worser than me!  Still, he has a right to his opinion too.   Here are the letters…and Merry Christmas to all of you… even Jeremy…

First letter, from Jeremy…

Please stop. I accidentally stumbled upon your literal horse ____ praying it was the lone result of a long, sleepless weekend fueled by Canadian Mist but I was wrong. Because to my surprise there was many, many more story's. I have hunted and fished for nearly two thirds of my life. All the while trying to show people that we can be educated, law abiding decent people. Yet with a few extremely slow pecks on the old "smart box," you stuff us all back into the backwoods, ______   _____  good ole days by which you obviously still live.
I _____ away too much time reading or better yet trying to decipher that crap so I felt obligated to show you what a degree can do.....Get your point across and make sense concurrently.   
In closing I ask again,  please stop. Do us all a favor and climb back into your mud hut have a nice bowl of road kill stew and disappear. Forever. 

Then this one from Robert Moore….

Every Sunday I read your column in the Harrisonville Democrat-Missourian.  My son always saves the Sunday paper and the local paper is always in there.  When I read your column there is always something that reminds me of the "good ole days"!  I'll be 89 years old in a few days, still in good health, and still love the outdoors.  I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your column and relive some of my past when I read about your adventures.  Thank you, Robert E. Moore

And this one from Jim and Marcia Morelan…

We look forward to your columns every week in the Steelville Star-Crawford Mirror. Most the time, we agree with you on the destruction of the old ways of doing things.  What are we going to do, if you retire? Thank you for all your years of enlightening us and painting pictures of so many intriguing wild places.   Thank you! Thank you! 

And this one from Dean Harper….

Love your articles in the Camdenton newspaper. I am sending pics of white buck seen at the Lake of the Ozarks. You sound like a guy I would like to hunt and fish with someday. I like the idea of walking thru the woods with someone with your knowledge that could show me a thing or two with little words spoken. 

Mr. Harper’s photo of the white buck, truly an albino, can be seen on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com  And you can email me at lightninridge@windstream.net, or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613
 

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Voice in the Deep Woods


 
This persistent cedar tree needs to be decorated for Christmas. It is growing from the fork of a big maple tree, its roots about four feet off the ground. I have never seen this happen before.
     I promise this will be the last column this year in which I mention deer hunting. I intend to go fishing soon and write about that. But before I go on to something else, I have to tell you about something that got me to thinking about the good old days and missing those times gosh-awful. I was hunting deer on my little place off in the middle of nowhere, and I came back to my cabin about dark. The fire had burned down in the stove, and it was a trifle warm, so I stepped out on the back porch, looking down on the creek. The moon was fairly high and bright and it was so still you could have heard a coon cough. Down the creek I could hear an old hound on the trail of something. Its deep baying was mournful, and beautiful in the still night. It made me wish I was sitting on a gravel bar somewhere, before a roaring fire, with a few of those old-time coon or fox hunters who would rather listen to the baying of distant hounds than listen to the music of the finest choirs or orchestras.
Oh I know that if you have never heard it, you can’t imagine it, or appreciate it, but baying hounds in the night are a kind of music you can become addicted to. I have never owned a coonhound or foxhound, but my dad and uncles had some and I cannot forget what a sound it is when they are trailing something through the hills of the Ozarks. Every man knows the sound of his own hound, no matter how large the pack.
Hearing that one made me feel something so nostalgic and fine that I didn’t want to leave. In time, he faded off into the darkness way off to the west, and I wished I could follow. Ozark houndsmen are the last of the breed of real outdoorsmen.
This week is the time many of us who hunt wait for, the season for muzzle-loader rifles and old timers who just get sick of the trophy hunters and the blaze orange crowd. I’ll be hunting with my muzzle-loader, not so much to bag a deer as to walk through the woods where there will be no one to interfere with my exploring. I don’t like the idea of being told to wear an orange vest and cap in my own woods. Daniel Boone didn’t! With muzzle-loader hunters, I doubt you need to worry about your own safety. The range of those black powder rifles is short and the men who use them are a different breed of woodsmen. And with only one sure shot, I won’t cock that hammer on my old Hawken rifle until I know I am about to have to use my skinning knife.
I am a little mad at myself because I already killed a buck with my rifle at the end of the regular gun season. But I can still kill a doe and I intend to pick a really good one to put venison steaks in the freezer. There won’t be any grinding it up for hamburger. Anything that won’t make steaks will be used for stew meat. The buck I killed will provide plenty of hamburger and jerky meat. I will take along something the old-timers didn’t mess with… my camera. I might find an arrowhead or two on woodland trails I walk, but I sure hope I don’t run into any Indians!!
I had to interrupt this column because two conservation agents just came to my door to see if the buck I killed and wrote about two weeks ago had points that were an inch long. This is getting ridiculous. One of those agents was the one who sat all day at a boat ramp the opening day of deer season several years ago in a pick-up with the motor running, and wanted to give my daughter a citation because she had left the boat having left the other half of her deer tag in her coat pocket back in the boat. He stood on my porch and called me a liar today. Then he said that if I couldn’t tell if a deer antler point was an inch long or not at one hundred yards I should pass up the shot. These people need to spend more time in the woods alone instead of running around in marked pickups in pairs. Ninety percent of the time, you can’t even see a one-inch tine on a deer. The problem is, some big wide antlers are only six pointers and some little spindly antlers are 8 pointers. It is the dumbest law the MDC ever passed, and they do not like it when I say so.
The other agent who visited my porch was once out in the woods with me and couldn’t walk fast enough to keep up because of an old basketball knee injury suffered in high school. Again, with their pickup twenty yards away there were two of them trying to cite me for breaking their ridiculous four-point law. That is the way of things today. If they can find a way to charge me with something, they will do it, because of the articles I have written critical of them. There are four smaller points on the nine-point buck I killed, and at least two are an inch long by the way I measured them. The question is, will they measure them the same way. I gave the antlers to a taxidermist in Joplin, and instead of being out trying to find real violators, they are on their way to Joplin.
The Missouri Department of Conservation feels that if they can show me to be a violator of some sort, they can cause newspapers in the Ozarks to stop using my column, and therefore, stop the things I write about them. In years I have never written a word I cannot back up, not a word that wasn’t the absolute truth. What I have gone through over the years because of their attempts to discredit me boggles the mind. I intend to someday write a book documenting what I have learned about this powerful agency, that thirty or forty years ago was something to be proud of.
A few years ago conservation agents illegally searched a home, barn and freezer of people they wanted to arrest, and an agent who was with them that day reported the incident and was fired. He proved the whole series of violations in court and won a million dollar lawsuit against the MDC. The victims of that search were gone that day and never knew of it, and still today do not know what the agents did in violating the law and their constitutional rights.
Something needs to be done in our legislature about the direction of this agency! What is happening is wrong, and there seems to be no check on them whatsoever. Truthfully, I have always known they will someday succeed in discrediting me in some manner with something I have overlooked. They are too powerful for someone like me to mess with, and most of the larger news media are either intimidated by them, or have made agreements with them to not criticize them in order to get free material from them. I am tired of going through what I have gone through over the years just because I write what they do not want known.
We need good articles for our Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Magazine and the Journal of the Ozarks magazine. If you want to try your hand at writing a hunting and fishing story or a story on the Ozarks, send it to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or emailing it to lightninridge@windstream.net. You may get a sample copy of each magazine just by sending two dollars worth of postage stamps for the mailing. My website is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com

Monday, December 1, 2014

An Odd Duck, and a Weird Deer


If you count points realistically in this set of antlers on my deer, there are nine clear points. But because one antler is deformed, and one brow tine is broken, four of those points are a fraction of an inch too short to meet the letter of the law.

Most of you who read this column on a regular basis know I don’t fiddle around much on a computer. If God only gives us a certain amount of hours on this earth, and we can still hunt and fish and cut firewood and fix a garden and raise a few chickens, isn’t it a real waste of those precious hours to be sitting in front of one of these little boxes that all of us know is evil and deranged and ruins lives? It is akin to sitting in traffic each day wasting that hour or two when we could be doing something productive with our already too short lives.

Gloria Jean says when I get to talking that way she thinks she ought to ask my daughter, the doctor, to have me medicated. Gloria Jean, of course has nothing better to do with her time because she never cuts any firewood or hunts anything other than my other sock. You know how most women do not really do a lot of the physical work that needs to be done, leaving it to the men in their lives.

So Gloria Jean does that ‘Facebook’ thing. The other evening I heard her laughing hysterically about something and I went into the office to see what that was all about.

There it was, for all to see, some lady throwing a house shoe around the lawn, and a big old tame mallard duck chasing it and retrieving it over and over, as fast as he could run! That is something akin to teaching a goat to mow the lawn! I have never seen anything like it. She said it was on something called ‘Your Tube’, or something of that sort.

I went and got old Lightnin’ Ridge Bolt, my Labrador, and brought him in there and had him watch it. It embarrassed him a little, I think, seeing a duck retrieve with much more enthusiasm than he does. Bolt’s job of course is to retrieve the ducks I shoot, and he looked at me as if to point out that the duck would likely not retrieve another duck from ice-cold water.

I suppose that is true, but you never know. I think the whole thing might make Bolt do a better job of retrieving when we are out hunting ducks. Still, it fortifies what I have been saying about computers. They accent what isn’t normal, and that duck, racing around the lawn after that old shoe, certainly looks evil to me. I didn’t laugh, because I see it as a warning of things to come!

So on the last afternoon of the regular deer season, I went out to my little cabin on the creek and walked up over the hill into the woods and climbed up into my tree stand. It is the same one where I had missed a buck at a distance of about 30 yards last week, on account of, I was using my daughter’s rifle, which I wasn’t use to and the sights were likely messed up.

Last week, in a half hour or so, a nice deer walked past me and I put my scope of my other rifle on him, and almost shot an illegal deer. I thought he was a doe, but he had two little 3- or 4-inch spikes sticking up, hidden by his ears. Many hunters, lacking my sharp eyes, would have never seen them.

I sat there for three hours, enjoying myself and watching woodland life take place around me until about a quarter past four at which time a healthy-looking buck walked through the woods before me, representing a good 75-pounds of venison for the freezer.

Across the county line three miles to the south of my cabin you can shoot a buck no matter how many points he has in his antlers. But where I was, that ridiculous four-point law is in effect. The buck I was looking at had lots of points, but I couldn’t count them in that wooded landscape, with lots of small trees and brush between us. It looked like he was either a six-pointer or a twelve-pointer!

In a case like that, using a 3-power scope, it is impossible to accurately assess the number of points on a walking deer. I can’t and you can’t, and neither could the idiots who came up with that law, hoping it would make the MDC more money in time with no other reasoning behind it.

When the buck reached the opening where I knew I could make the shot I needed to make, I only had a couple of seconds to judge his antler size. He was about 110 yards away. This time I did good. I hit him in the heart and he went only a few yards before falling stone dead.

And then came the sad part. He would have easily been a “four-points on one side” that silly regulation requires but his brow tine was broken. The brow tine has to be at least an inch long, and the one on my deer was maybe three-quarters of an inch long if you stretched it. The other antler was all deformed, nothing like I have ever seen. It actually had five or six points but two of the three were skinny and pointy, and also not quite an inch long. Problem was, I had no tape measure!

That demonstrates the absurdity of that regulation! You gotta’ carry a ruler in your pocket! There isn’t a hunter in the state who can tell you if a brow tine is an inch long or not at 110 yards with a three-power scope when you have about two seconds to make a decision and take the shot you have to take. It will eventually be rescinded, when it is realized that it is biologically unsound and does little except to make violators out of people who do not want to break the law.

Of course, in this day and time, you can check a fork-horn buck by phone and claim he has is a ten-pointer if you want. Some just dress out and butcher their deer in the woods and bring home the quartered body, leaving the head in the woods. Our conservation agents do not go out in the woods like the old ones did, they drive to your home in pairs and try to get you to admit your deer had a shorter brow tine than they allow.

I don’t know what they will do with me now, I just hope I don’t get thrown in jail. I could have reported him killed here on Lightnin’ Ridge, where the law allows your deer to have a little tiny set of antlers.

But I did it the way I am suppose to, and as far as I am concerned my buck had nine or ten points. Some just weren’t long enough, because the stupid deer broke a couple off. If he ain’t legal, it is his fault, not mine! I see the day coming when all bucks will be breaking their antlers off just to be illegal!

If you want to see the antlers from my deer, one of the oddest I have ever seen, go to my website to look at the photos. It is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com

Venison is really good meat, and in next week’s column I will tell you how I work up deer meat here on Lightnin’ Ridge, to make it taste as good as beef or pork, and to waste very little of it. If you intend to kill a deer, then spend the time to utilize the meat, all of it. It might get you away from that evil computer.

Our winter magazines are out. If you would like to know how to get one, call my secretary, Ms. Wiggins at 417-777-5227. You might even catch me here if I am not out cutting up firewood or cutting up deer. My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. Or you can email me at lightninridge@windstream.net

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thank You God…. For everything but persimmons…

 
The Ozarks seems to have a good crop of persimmons this year, which are fairly good to eat if you are absolutely starved or if you have the culinary taste of a wild possum.
Hunting deer this week, I came across a persimmon tree loaded with persimmons. I ate several and left the rest for deer and raccoons and possums. Every time I eat a persimmon I get the feeling that God made them for wild creatures and meant for man to leave them alone. The seeds are large, and too many. The skin makes your mouth feel like you ought to drink a quart or so of water. You can eat them, and you can even eat white oak acorns.

You have to boil white oak acorns in clean water ‘til the water turns brown, then pour it off and boil them again and again until the water is clear after you boil them, and then you can bake them for ten minutes and roll them in cinnamon and sugar and eat them like little tiny donut holes.

But the Creator made pecans and walnuts and apples and blackberries and mushrooms and poke greens and plenty of other things for us to eat and I am not sure he didn’t mean for men to not be eating persimmons and acorns.

There are really good recipes for persimmon jelly and persimmon pie, but I’m darned if I wouldn’t rather have a good pecan pie or blackberry cobbler than a persimmon pie, and if I am going to put jelly on my toast I want strawberry jelly, not persimmon. However if you insist on eating persimmons, try this… remove the skin and seeds from about forty persimmons, so you end up with about a cup of the orange inside pulp with no seeds or skin. Put that in a bowl and sprinkle about a half a teaspoon of cinnamon on it, and then add a tablespoon of cream or whole milk. Then add one whole graham cracker, all crushed up.

Stir it all up and eat it and let me know what you think. I hope it don’t make you sick! I have never tried it myself, but it seems like it ought to be good. Every now and then, as an outdoor writer, I get carried away with the power to talk people into doing things like frying a coot or baking a chicken hawk, or trying to make something out of persimmons. I don’t know why I do that, but I reckon everyone needs to feel powerful on occasion.

Thanksgiving originally was a time for early Americans to give thanks for what they had grown and harvested, for what they had in a cellar or barn or smokehouse. Cellars and smokehouses are nearly non-existent now, and there are remnants of old barns sitting back in the weeds, falling apart, that tell us what country living was all about.

Only a small percentage of Americans still can give thanks for the harvest. Not many of us have chickens, grow a garden, or raise a hog or a calf to butcher in the fall. Not many give thanks for the catfish of the past summer, the meals of wild rabbit, wild duck and crappie. But I do.

I even thank God for giving us a good season for tomatoes and green beans and cucumbers. It was a great year for gardens. Maybe the acorns and walnuts weren’t quite as good, but there was a plentiful crop of mushrooms, apples, blackberries and persimmons.

For all that, I am thankful. And I thank God this week for good health for myself and family, for happiness, for the technology which stems from the knowledge He gives man and the good things it does for us. I hope you give thanks for the same things, blessed as greatly as I feel I have been.

But I thank Him often, all year long, when I am in the woods or on the river in the winter, when I am all by myself. Sometimes I am thanking Him for nothing in particular, but just for letting me be far away from people and the problems men create, where I do not need any change in my pocket, nor bills in my wallet. More and more there is that urge to just never go into a town anywhere but to try my best to get as far into the woods as I can get as often as possible.

I don’t know what I would give thanks for as I gather my family together on Thanksgiving Day, if I lived in St. Louis or Springfield or Detroit or Los Angeles. If I were confined to a life in Chicago or New York, how could I thank God for putting me there? I guess if I were there, and I asked, He would tell me he didn’t put me there, nor did he put anyone else there… he didn’t create us as puppets, he gave us the power to choose to make the earth what we want it to be rather than what He wants it to be.

Those who live in cities and suburbs often seemed trapped, but I guess they are happier there as long as the electric lines and the petroleum they have to have to live are uninterrupted. Without them, they aren’t going to be very happy. There are only a few of us who do not need electric lines or petroleum to have a great life, and I am thankful I am one of those few.

I can live just fine as my grandparents did, without any money. Think of how many people could actually live this coming year without making one single dollar. Think of how few people in our nation today would actually give thanks to God if that happened to them.

One of the things I thank God for at Thanksgiving is that those of us who find such tremendous satisfaction in seeing places which the hand of man has not altered are a small group. If the great masses who walk the worn trails on rare escapes from the city are happy with that, it spares the places where men like me go where there are no eroded footpaths, or vehicle ruts.

We need places too far and too hard to reach to become those calendar and postcard pictures, often visited, often photographed. One naturalist writer once said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”  I might add, “In wildness is the continuation of life, mankind included.”

I keep giving thanks, all year long, when I find a new waterfall or a new cave, when I come across the track of a wild cat or a bear or a buck rub on a 6-inch cedar tree. It may not seem like much to give thanks for, but when I walk where there are no trails made by man, when I find some treasure far away from eroded footpaths, I know God is there, and he knows about me. I give thanks during all seasons, more than I ever did. And at Thanksgiving too, more than I ever did.

I also know that such days are limited for me. I am growing older as each season passes, and the coming and passing of that time of falling leaves and falling snow-flakes means I have less time to find places I have never seen. But advancing age may be a blessing for someone who cannot live without such far, wild places. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a time will come when there are no such places left and I don’t think people like me should be here when that happens.

I am thinking Heaven must be a big, big place, with room for saints and streets of gold and mansions on one side, and a vast beautiful wilderness on another side for those of us who didn’t wind up being good saint material and couldn’t care less about gold, or mansions.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email lightninridge@windstream.net  My website, where you can leave comments, if you don’t mind giving your name, is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Buck that Ran Away


My daughter Christy, with her buck and the Winchester rifle she uses that doesn't shoot straight.
I missed the son-of-a-buck… I can’t figure out how but it wasn’t my fault. It was dark because of the snow clouds, and he was behind me and he was walking in some brush and I wasn’t at all accustomed to the rifle I was using. So he’s out there somewhere and I have to keep on hunting all this week. Well something good comes from every bad situation, if you look for it, but really I think I’d druther be hunting ducks this week.

I missed him, and I guess confession is good for the soul, because too many of my readers think I never miss what I shoot at, and that all my fish are lunkers. Those of us who write about the outdoors, too often skip over the times we goof up and fall out of the boat or have a big fish break the line… or miss an easy shot.

Deer season began cold and cloudy and my daughter didn’t get up in time to be in her deer-stand by first light. I went with her about an hour after dawn, helping her get all her pack of snacks and thermos and safety harness and ammo and rifle back to the stand, which sets 15 feet above the ground. It is one heck of a place to hunt deer.

She has been in that tree stand every opening morning for the past ten years and every year she has killed a buck there before noon. None of them have been monsters, one eight-pointer, a couple of sixes, and at least three or four fork-horns. For about five consecutive years she killed a deer with one broken antler, the darndest thing I ever saw.

But neither of us are after antlers, I have so many antlers I can’t find all of them. Some of them have been gnawed severely by squirrels and mice. I like killing a year-and-a- half or two-and-a half-year-old buck because if you take care of the meat right, they are pretty good eating, with good-sized loin steaks and ham steaks.

Using a mixture of 40 percent pork and 60 percent venison in a meat grinder, you can make the best hamburger for spaghetti and chili and stuffed peppers. Really, the meat of a year and a half old doe is the best venison you can put in a freezer, but a young buck isn’t bad at all as long as his neck isn’t all swollen and he’s in the rut. Younger bucks usually aren’t early in the deer season.

­Christy had never killed a two hundred pound buck. But Saturday morning an older buck, I estimate about four or five years old, came past her looking for acorns or does, maybe both. She passed up the shot and he ambled away behind her. An hour or so later he came back and she called me on her cell phone telling me she would need some help hauling him to the pickup. He had three points on one side and four on the other.

With her little 30-30 Winchester carbine, she had made a good shot and I estimate the weight of that deer would have been about 220 pounds. We always hang our deer from the same spot, and most of the bucks hang with their feet twenty inches off the ground. This one was so big his back hooves touched the ground. He may be one of those deer destined for jerky, summer sausage, hamburger and steaks that have to be run through a tenderizer.

About noon, I headed for my little cabin on the creek, about 25 miles to the north. It was beautiful and peaceful, without a blaze orange jacket in any direction, on any horizon. Not a sound except the crackling of the fire in the fireplace. The creek was closed over in one spot by ice, open in other places. Where there had been two-dozen wood ducks or so for a week, there was white ice, colored by the spitting snow that went on much of the day.

By two o’clock it was 30 degrees or so. I relaxed awhile, opened a can of beef stew and made some coffee. It was too early for me to go climb up in my tree stand. I am by nature very impatient and I can only sit anywhere about three hours before I get the urge to walk and take pictures. I had forgotten the .300 Savage carbine I usually hunt with. But I didn’t worry about that. I had Christy’s little 30-30 in the truck and I would use it. “When you can shoot like I can, what difference does it make what you hunt with?” I thought.

A little after three, I walked slowly through the woods to a beautiful spot and climbed up in my treestand. The place I have selected for it is a spot made for an outdoor calendar, but my stand is new and I have never hunted there before. About an hour before dark I watched a couple of does angle out into a small clearing about 100 yards away. One walked off into the woods going the wrong way, but the other one, just perfect for the kind of venison I like to put in the freezer, came slowly my way, and passed to the right of my stand only about ten yards away.

I thought about it. If I take this doe, I said to myself, I probably won’t have a chance to hunt deer during the muzzle-loader season. So I just watched her walk away, down behind my treestand. About twenty minutes before dark, I could hear her in the leaves coming back around on my other side and I glanced back at her. I don’t think it was the same doe. About fifteen yards behind her was a buck with just medium sized antlers, probably about 180 pounds.

I watched him, and I just couldn’t tell if he was legal. My cabin sits just across the line where you can only kill a deer with four points, due to the most ridiculous law the Conservation Department has ever levered on hunters. Most hunters pay little attention to it if they want to shoot a buck on their own land; they just call in their kill as an eight-pointer or more even if they have shot a fork horn.

If you don’t transport a deer out on the highway where agents are found, you have nothing to worry about and everyone knows it. Since they passed that stupid regulation, hoping it would attract out-of-state trophy hunters and allow them to sell a ton of high priced non-resident tags, I’ll bet there have been thousands of 4-and 6-point bucks called in as 10-pointers.

But I don’t intentionally break any laws, so I watched that buck, straining to try to count antler points. It was impossible, as he walked through the brush in the dim light. When I finally was about 60 percent sure he was a small-antlered eight pointer, I aimed at his heart and pulled the trigger. He left, actually passing the doe in his haste to escape.

I have determined the sights on Christy’s little Winchester are all messed up. I actually cut a tuft of white hair off his chest. Six inches higher and he’d be hanging down by my little creek-side cabin right now. So I will hunt deer again this week, and enjoy staying off in the wilderness, at peace with the world, watching the fireplace a little when it gets too cold to sit in my stand, where cell phones won’t work, and computers are taboo.

Or maybe I will hunt ducks. Who wants to work at a time like this?

Write to me with your own opinion of the MDC’s four-point rule covering the northern one third of our state. I will use some of your letters, for or against it, in this column. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge@windstream.net. The website, where I put my new photos each week, is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Brown Trout and Bad Leaves


Advances in raising nursery trout mean that today's stocked fish are a little larger when released, and they can grow faster and more can be raised.
In the winter, before and after the spawn, big brown trout are more aggressive, but anglers should keep rainbows to eat, and turn the brown trout back.
If you catch trout, try my way of cleaning and cooking them… heads off, rib bones gone.
If you like to catch trout, the White River below Bull Shoals Dam is a great place to fish in November because as it gets cold, the fishermen are far fewer. The winter spawning season is drawing near and both rainbow and brown trout are hungrier because of it. And there’s an abundance of rooms available if you want to fish several days.  

If you want information about trout fishing, call Gaston’s Resort, which is only a mile or so below the dam, or call the White Hole Resort, which is perhaps five miles below the dam. Either of those old-time trout fishing resorts can tell you everything you need to know and they are knowledgeable folks who don’t mind telling you all about it, even if you don’t come to their resorts.

After the spawn, in late January and February, the weather keeps down the fishing pressure and that’s when the big brown trout are caught. My biggest ever was 8 pounds but you wouldn’t believe how many brown trout are caught each winter between 10 and 15 pounds.

Fishermen don’t often keep a brown trout; the big fish are released to grow larger. Rainbows seldom exceed a couple of pounds, and they do not spawn successfully in the white as the Brown trout do. A 13- or 14-inch rainbow may not excite some people but if you use a fly rod or ultra-light spinning tackle, you aren’t going to get bored fighting a rainbow trout.

And while I have heard lots of folks say they didn’t like trout, I think they need to learn how to clean and cook them properly. Guides on the White teach people to quickly remove the entrails and leave the heads on when they freeze the fish. I do that too, but when I thaw them out I take a filet knife and before they completely thaw, I filet each side off the backbone and cut out the rib bones. If the skin is a problem for you, just filet it off. Then grill or fry the trout filets and see if you don’t decide they are excellent eating.

Well, deer season is upon us. The orange clad carnival is about to begin, a time when a man’s hunting and outdoor prowess is determined by the size of the antlers he brings home. For the first time ever, I won’t buy a deer tag… I will just hunt on my own place with those free landowner permits, and most likely I will wait until muzzle-loader season when I can hunt deer the way I like to.

I’ll help my daughter get a deer on opening day and take care of the meat properly. But I continue to stress this, because of the mad-deer disease which we now have in our wild deer in Missouri…do not shoot any deer in the spine or head, and in butchering it, don’t cut the spinal column or cut into bone marrow. The prions which make this a horrible disease which men can indeed get from eating a sick deer, don’t seem to exist in the meat, but in the brain, and spinal column and possibly in bone marrow.

I got three letters last week from readers who have lost loved ones to that disease found in deer, elk and cattle. I’ll let you read a couple….

……“My dad, Russell Tibbs, was the best man, best person, I ever knew. He was always there for everyone. He passed away last Thursday from Cruetzfeld-Jacobs disease. He no longer has to suffer. Dad was an avid hunter who hunted in several states and has eaten meat that others have given him, but he has never hunted on any type of deer farm or near one that I know of. My dad’s doctor warned me ahead of time that no one would want to embalm his body. He was right; everyone is terrified of this disease. My dad was sent to Illinois to be embalmed then his actual funeral was two weeks ago. I hope something will help in shedding some light on this horrifying disease and some day families won't have to go through this Hell he endured.” Farrah

And this one….“My mom died from Creutzfeldt-Jacobs disease. It was a confirmed case with an autopsy preformed; she too was treated horribly by the funeral home. She was raised on deer meat. I personally think the Center for Disease Control knows more than they are telling the general public. The doctors that treated my mother (they are the leading doctors in the nation) said they know it is killing more people and it is just often confirmed, but thought to be something else. Mom too was mis-diagnosed at first. It is a horrible disease and is in SW Missouri where she was born and raised and where she died. If anyone saw what my wife and I saw taking care of her in the end as this disease ravished her brain, they would indeed think twice about harvesting and eating their next deer! There is no cure or even treatment for this disease; we haven’t eaten deer since nor will we ever again.” Tony Grachelle

I talked on the phone with the son of John Zippro, the Joplin resident who killed a very large strange-acting buck and then died of the disease. I intend to do a more extensive story for our outdoor magazine, with Missourians who have seen relatives die from the disease commonly referred to as “mad-deer disease”.

Our conservation department fears that an unreasonable panic will cost them millions in the sale of deer permits. And one has to know the chances of killing an infected deer in the Ozarks and contracting the disease from a deer is very, very slim. But that doesn’t do the few who have died from it much good, and there is no telling how many have died from mishandling a deer with the disease and no one knew what they had contracted.

We have a long way to go in figuring out how those prions can be spread. But the disease will become more prominent because of about 100 deer-raising operations in Missouri which will never ever stop feeding their tame deer the food with meat and bone by-products which they believe creates bigger antlers, and a Conservation Department which never could adequately oversee those operations, or prevent them from buying diseased brood stock from other states.

Recently I saw a television newscast out of Springfield in which a young lady was repeating what she had been told…. That everyone should dispose of their fallen leaves as best as possible because if they washed into the local rivers they would pollute the rivers by allowing greater algae growth.

I had to shake my head in amazement. There are absolutely tons and tons of sewage solids dumped on our Ozark watershed, sometimes within a few hundred yards of our streams, and the majority of it comes from Springfield. We soak our gardens and lawns and pastures with every kind of chemical and fertilizer you can think of, which runs off into our streams and we set up feeder pens for great herds of cattle only yards away from creeks and rivers. We have thousands of cattle standing in our rivers year round filling eddies with manure.

All this is something they won’t talk about on television, but now finally the T.V. crews have found a pollution they want to talk about…. LEAVES! For centuries, the cleanest, prettiest rivers in the Ozarks were filled each fall with those terribly destructive leaves! They pollute nothing!

I love floating the rivers in the fall, hunting ducks and squirrels from my boat. This time of year, the rivers look less polluted, even if they aren’t, and except for a fur-trapper here and there, I am alone. When it’s about 30 degrees or so, you won’t see the chaos-and-capsize canoe crowd. But the sights on a winter river are magnificent---wondrous….spectacular. If only the doggone leaves weren’t so bad!

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo.65613 or email me at lightninridge@windstream. net. See some great outdoor photos on my website www.larrydablemontoutdoors. blogspot.com.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Corn and Cameras



 I am feeding corn to wildlife on my place, and have one of those trail-cam things tied to a tree trying to get photos of what comes there. So far it has been only small deer and big fat raccoons. I have put up a sign there that reads… “This corn has been put here for squirrels and birds and other small creatures that have a hard time in the winter. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT to be eaten by deer. Any deer caught eating this corn WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT.” That should clear me in the eyes of any passing game wardens, who I am sure will understand better what I am trying to do.
 
As deer season approaches, there are corn feeders all over the Ozarks with game cameras attached to nearby trees or stakes. It is the way of things today. Trophy hunters, ever enamored with a big set of antlers, can set up the feed and cameras and tell just where to hunt to get a shot at the biggest buck. If you don’t get any photos of people or game wardens in your camera, you don’t even have to worry about taking down your feeder. Just do this, illegally of course, way off in a wilderness setting where conservation agents can’t get close to with their vehicles and there is little chance you will get caught.

The trophy hunters are doing this now on public land like Truman Lake, bringing the feeders and cameras in on posted private land that adjoins a remote part of the Truman Lake watershed where agents don’t go and can’t get to without having to really work hard. A few years ago, an agent sat in his running pickup all day, with the MDC insignia on the side, staying warm while within a few miles there were three such baiting operations. I got my photo taken at each one whilst out exploring and roaming those thousands of acres along the lake in October.

It is what deer hunting has become. There are few serious trophy hunters in the country now that don’t feed deer and photograph them with those game-trail cameras. And the real savvy deer hunters no longer talk about their deer as 8-pointers or 10-pointers or whatever… they refer to them in antler inches and scoring points. With the coming of the awful disease we call ‘chronic wasting’ they are the real winners, because you will have an excuse for leaving the deer carcass in the woods and taking only the antlers. You can say your buck looked sick, and in time, a large number of them will be. There may someday be as high a percentage of deer with that mad-deer disease in the wild as there will be in the deer farm herds.

This is a good place to print my confession as required by the two conservation agents who visited me last week. As I wrote in a newspaper column, I killed a turkey on my own place and found that in the string of nine different landowner tags I had received at Walmart, there were no firearms turkey tags. So while I was twenty-five miles from the Walmart store, I headed there to get the right tags late in the evening, knowing that if I got caught with that untagged turkey it would be the happiest day of some conservation agent’s life. I stopped to get some gas and found a man and his daughter at a truck stop that had been hunting with no success. The little girl was downhearted because she had missed a turkey, and I told her if she would tag it and call it in I would give her mine. That’s what I did, and let me say here publicly that I would do the exact same thing all over again if the same situation occurred again, because it seemed the right thing to do, rather than leave that turkey where it fell and forget it.

After the column came out, the two agents came to my home and we argued a lot of things for three hours without any ground given on either side. But here is what the agents want me to tell you, just to give their side of the story. First of all, it wasn’t anyone’s fault the machine gave me the wrong tags, but it was indeed my fault for not looking at them much more carefully to determine there was an error. 

  Secondly, upon finding that an error had been made I should have called a conservation agent to come and decide what to do. If he had decided to let me just drive back to Walmart, get the correct tag and put it on my turkey, everything would have been fine. If he had decided the whole thing was a technicality he could write a citation over, I could have given him my confiscated turkey and possibly my confiscated shotgun and went to court to try to present my side of the story. I could have even had a 50-50 chance in court if I would hire a lawyer for four or five hundred dollars, which is what judges prefer if they have to waste time on violators like me.

But mostly, the agents wanted me to tell all of you readers that you cannot give away a turkey or deer that you have killed unless you get their permission. If you have a problem, just call them. If you can’t get them, keep calling every hour until you do. Remember that commercial they had on all the radio stations a few years back… “If we don’t say you can… you can’t.” When confronted with any situation outdoors regarding the wildlife of the Missouri Department of Conservation, be sure they say you can. They did not say I could give away a turkey I killed and you can’t either. Remember that. I am so sorry for what I did. I feel so worthless! I should stop worrying about what I see as the RIGHT thing to do, and worry about what is the LEGAL thing to do in their eyes.

Now that I have presented their side of it, I might say that in my opinion… and this is only my opinion… they need to stop straining at gnats and swallowing camels. About half of the rules and regulations they want us to adhere to is strictly petty nonsense which they should repeal. They need to get out and try to catch real violators and poachers, and stop nailing innocent people on meaningless technicalities. 

The agents who came to confront me use technicalities in the law to oppress people who have no desire to break any laws, and what they do makes little difference in protecting our wildlife and restoring our woods and our waters. It will continue to be so, because they hold so much power they can actually break the law and get away with it, and they can ignore your constitutional rights and never be held accountable. 

I am a conservationist and will always be. I am glad to stick with the rules and go by the limits. I always have. But it is my belief that men in such powerful positions should stop trying to exploit innocent people with petty technicalities. They target the least of people, common citizens who can’t find defense in local courts because they do not have the money. 

I was told that I need to remember that if I have a problem of any kind, I should call them and let them decide what is right. Last week I hit a young deer with my pickup and killed it about seven p.m.. It could have been cleaned and eaten. So I called both of those agents and let the phones ring about ten or twelve times. I got neither of them.

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