Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Those cuss-ed Hogs




         In the tape recording I did with my grandfather back in 1965 we talked a little about hogs in the woods before and after World War I.  But it wasn’t anything like what we have going on today with the feral pigs increasing in number throughout the Ozarks.  They were called free ranging pigs back then and were semi tame.  I think though that they played a big part in the near extinction of whitetail deer and wild turkey in the Ozarks, that and the depressed times when everyone was so hungry they killed every thing they could come across.

         In nature, diversity doesn’t work any better than it does among people. It is often disastrous.  Feral hogs are good examples.  Those hogs destroy a lot of turkey nests but the presence of the hogs is also disastrous in many other ways. They don’t follow the rules which nature imposes on native creatures.  Everything else is limited by one of the rules… biotic potential or reproductive  potential.  Rabbits and field mice are good examples of great reproductive potential.  Each species can put forth hundreds of young in a spring and summer season, but they are kept under control by so much predation and disease.  That’s what biotic potential is… the inclination of a species to survive well, to have a longer life with less worry about disease and predation.  Deer are good examples of high biotic potential and low reproductive potential.  So are bear and coyotes… fewer young, but a greater ability to survive.

         Feral hogs are a disaster because they have a tremendous reproductive potential, sometimes three litters born from one old sow in a year, up to a dozen or more choates at a time, and yet they survive so well, a tremendous biotic potential few mammals have.

        They have good hearing, good eyesight, and a tremendous sense of smell.  And an old sow is aggressive... she has the meanness in her to protect her young.  With young pigs she will tackle a couple of good-sized hounds, and a man if she feels he is a threat.  I know.  An old wild sow chased my Labrador and I back to my boat once in the fall, years ago.  When they are angry, they have a habit of snapping and chomping their jaws and teeth, like an old sow black bear does when her cubs are threatened.

         One of the stories my grandfather told was of the time in 1908 or 1909 when he was only 14 or 15 years old and had a great coonhound given to him at a younger age.  The dog and he spent a lot of nights hunting raccoons to eat and for the sale of the hides.  A landowner named Fen Marlowe killed his dog by giving him poisoned meat while he was out scattering it for coyotes.  Marlowe made the mistake of telling someone, and laughing about it, and the word got back to my grandfather, who owned one of those Stevens ‘Marksman’ .22 caliber rifles often ordered through the mail for about 2 dollars.  He learned what Marlowe’s ear-mark was for his free ranging hogs.  In that time, area settlers had their adult hogs marked in various ways with notches cut into the ears.  Grandpa told me that Marlowe was better off than most of the Big Piney farmers, and owned a lot of hogs with a very distinguishing ear- mark.  In the fall they would all get together and round up the free ranging hogs using hog-dogs, and mark the ears of young choates and kill the bigger marked hogs for butchering.  Those hams were smoked and cured and lasted families all winter.  But Marlowe had none that fall to butcher.  Grandpa had killed more than a dozen of them in the summer to revenge the death of his dog.  I remember him saying, as he sat in his hand-made rocking chair and ran his fingers through his thick white hair, “I lost my best dog ever through Fen Marlowe’s danged cuss-edness… but he paid a price.  He lost all his hogs because of my danged cuss-edness!”

         Sometime this year I am going to produce a CD with an hour or so of his stories for those who might want to hear them.  But I will have some more to say about the problem of feral hogs, which are more and more a plague upon the Ozarks, in next weeks column and an answer to reducing that plague if you have them on your land or land you hunt.

To speak to me, call my office at 417 777 5227 or email lightninridge47@gmail.com.  The post office address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  To read past columns you may have missed, see my website, larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com

Monday, July 9, 2018

Promises Made



         When any state conservation agency anywhere starts setting up regulations that can’t be enforced and make no sense whatsoever, they begin to lose credibility with country people.  The rule the Missouri Department wants everyone to follow now is the elimination of feeders and mineral blocks, thinking they are doing something to keep the dreaded deer disease from spreading.  I cannot for the life of me figure out how they think they are going to make that work.  In the winter I will ignore that, as thousands of other landowners will, but if it actually made sense and would indeed change anything, I would be the first to advocate it.

         My Panther Creek Youth Retreat, with a total acreage which can be used numbering about 90 acres, has a number of natural salt licks and I have put in several small food plots, not so much for deer but for quail, rabbits, turkey and doves.  In the teeth of winter, I feed them all and will continue to do so. 

         I know that 90 acres very well and there isn’t anything close to an overpopulation of deer.  Still, the conservation department people tell everyone that deer in that county are heavily overpopulated.  I don’t have any neighbors that feel that way, but every suburban deer hunter from Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield will believe them.  And that is why the MDC gets away with so much corruption and mis-management, millions of people who know nothing about the outdoors believe anything that department tells them. And much of it comes from people who have no idea what they are talking about.  For example, a media specialist on television announcing that the spring turkey hatch was up one percent.  If that figure doesn’t bring a laugh or two, you are one of those millions.

         At the beginning of the year a young man called me who works for the MDC and asked me to kill a couple of deer off that land I own in St Clair County, though all the legal seasons were long past.  I could bait them, spotlight them… whatever.   I asked him why!

         He said they wanted to reduce overpopulation in that area, (which does not exist), and they also wanted to test more deer for CWD.  I started asking him questions.  First, he didn’t hunt deer, secondly he grew up in a St. Louis suburb and knew nothing about how you go about determining how many deer might exist in a 90 acre tract.  His biology degree came from a small college in Kansas City and his office was in Kansas City.  When I began to tell him about things you could look for to tell you how many deer you might have on a given farm or even a public area; which he was amazed to hear it.  He didn’t get out of the office much and was just doing what his superiors told him to do.
 
         One evening just before dark, I sat on my back porch at one of the cabins and watched a nice buck come to a feeder beside a natural mineral lick, and I looked at him through a camera lens. He was a beautiful creature, and he is still there. I was not about to cooperate with something so silly. 

         Not all that far away two agents went into a hunter’s home without a search warrant, pretending to be there on a friendly visit.  They then wrote him a citation and confiscated several deer mounts because they claimed the five acres he thought he owned was a fraction of an acre less… only 4.8 acres.  Since then, a number of people have come forward to tell me similar stories, and in the fall issue of my outdoor magazine I will print their stories, giving the MDC the opportunity to answer them.  They won’t.  I have given that opportunity to them before and they refuse.

         One story I will print concerns a conservation agent holding his pistol on a woman and nine year old girl, who was crying hysterically, to keep them from joining the husband as they investigated him.  You need to read that, and all the other stories about what is happening to innocent people who have something the agents wish to confiscate.


         My meeting with the director of the MDC, Mrs. Sara Pauley, in mid-April was a complete waste of my time.  It covered about three hours and everything Mrs. Pauley agreed to went out the window shortly afterward.  Since then I have heard nothing from her, and she may have gotten in trouble just for meeting with me. But as she sat there talking with me, I suddenly realized that most of what I was talking about went right over her head.  SHE HADN’T HEARD ABOUT ANY OF IT.  I don’t think she knew about the millions of dollars and free labor given to Bass Pro Shops, nor was she aware of the fact that a number of judges and lawyers were having their property taxes paid by the MDC.  She certainly had never heard about the quarter million dollar gift Judge Kelso had been given, to the agent who had the shed full of confiscated antlers he calls his ‘retirement fund’. 

         If Mrs. Pauley knew that the MDC had lost a million dollar lawsuit because several agents had broke into a home and barn without a search warrant, she didn’t act like it. She didn’t fully comprehend what was happening to thousands of acres of public land her agency ‘manages’ where wildlife habitat is being destroyed to make more acreage for tenant farmers, and contract logging is stripping the timber on dozens of areas we all own on a regular, rushed process to bring in large amounts of money which they waste. 

          I asked her to meet with only three innocent people who have been targeted by agents, and she agreed.  I was to bring them to her office.  She broke that agreement, as I was soon notified by the MDC lawyer that any such meeting would have to go through her.  Her name is Jennifer Frazier, and her job is to cover the MDC’s… uh…little mistakes!   What a joke that was.  

         At any rate, the three conservation project proposals I sent to Mrs. Pauley as to her request, have been ignored. They are solid proposals, easy to accomplish. On the other hand two biologists called to say that they wanted to show me what they experimenting with on some land near Truman Lake, because I had agreed to do a story about something positive the MDC is doing for wildlife.  I promised I would print a story on such a project when I talked with Mrs. Pauley.  And I will… I keep my word!  Mrs. Pauley ought to go by that old Ozark practice of doing what she says she will do.

         I figure she has some bosses who nixed all that.   I don’t know, and neither do you, who is actually pulling the strings at the MDC. But they are powerful because they completely control the news media in this state.  And this column cannot be printed in most newspapers! Only a few are left who will allow readers to see this.

         Keep up with what is going on in the outdoors by reading the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor magazine I publish, or seeing my website, larrydablemontoutdoors.  You may email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613. To talk with me in person, call my office phone… 417-777-5227.
        

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Memories of Crooked Creek



Norten and I guiding Hee-Haw's Grandpa Jones (left) and his friend in 1975

         On my way to speak to a group in Mt. Home a few nights ago, I crossed Crooked Creek near Yellville.  For some reason it cause my heart to ache a little for another time.  I lived in north Arkansas for about 25 years, and Crooked Creek was a special place, the little river where I spent hours and hours, the best smallmouth stream I have ever cast a lure into.

         I first floated it in 1970-I think, or maybe it was ’71.  My dad came down from my hometown of Houston, Missouri and brought one of his wooden johnboats. We put in where the highway crosses the creek east of Yellville.  It was in April and the water was higher than normal and not at all clear—a green, wild little river that was full of brown bass, and shoals that required a floater to be efficient and careful.

          I had just taken the job of outdoor editor for the Arkansas Democrat newspaper in Little Rock, and eventually I would float all the streams of north and west Arkansas. Crooked Creek wasn’t all that scenic.  The bluffs weren’t high and the Missouri Big Piney I had grown up on put it to shame in beauty and volume of water.  But it didn’t compare to Crooked Creek when it came to catchable, hard fighting smallmouth.  And when it was bank full it was something of a rodeo ride because of the gradient, oramount of fall on the shoals.

          I looked through old black and white photos the other day showing my dad and I and other friends from those days, and that has a lot to do with the longing for those earlier times.  As I wrote about it, and the populations of north Arkansas grew in Harrison and Mt. Home, the fishing began to fade.  The gravel companies helped to fill many of the deep holes, and habitat for the big bass began to disappear.   A railroad runs alongside much of Crooked Creek, and I think it was in the 1980’s that a derailment emptied a chemical into the river and killed thousands of fish.

         I have learned not to go home again.  The upper Big Piney I knew is a wisp of what it was, and Crooked Creek, still a good stream to fish, doesn’t have the deep holes and 4 to 5 pound smallmouth I saw and caught in the seventies.

        My Uncle Norten floated it in the 1950’s, usually guiding other fishermen. In his book, “Ridge-Runner” he talks about an old man he grew to love, who considered Norten to be his personal fishing guide.  If you haven’t read his book, you need to get it.  The old fisherman he spent so many years guiding had never caught a bon-fide 5-pound smallmouth.  On his last fishing trip he caught one late in the day, and died shortly afterward.

         Uncle Norten and I guided fishermen together on most all of those Arkansas streams, the Kings, War Eagle, Illinois and Buffalo, to name a few.  They were all exceptional streams back then in the seventies and eighties, but when it came to big smallmouth, none equaled Crooked Creek.  I think I caught several 5-pound bass from the stream, but who knows?  I never kept any and never weighed any.  But I’ll bet, over the years and a hundred fishing trips, I caught a hundred bass twenty inches or longer, and 3 that were more than 22 inches.

         One old photo I found from 1975, I think, was of Norten and me and country music legend Grandpa Jones.  That day is a story in itself, as quite often Grandpa Jones sang as he fished and big tears rolled down his face.  He was having a hard time getting over the death of his old-time fishing buddy from the Hee-Haw television show, known as ‘String-Bean, who, along with his wife, had been murdered at their home outside Nashville.

         I hesitate to float the streams from the day when we used those wooden johnboats and the very first Grumman square-sterned canoes we obtained in the late seventies. After Don Tyson and his chicken-gut plants ruined the Kings and War Eagle and after the water levels began to drop on most all of them, it has been a hard thing to go back and be depressed by what they have become.

        But I have an old friend from Harrison who fished the Creek with me often, and I intend to make perhaps one last trip down Crooked Creek with him, stop on a gravel bar and talk about the good ol’ days.  And maybe we won’t catch as many big smallmouth as we did back then, but I will bet a dollar I land just one that is 3 pounds or better!  Just one will be enough.


        You can read a bunch of great old time fishing stories in Uncle Norten’s book.  Of the ten I have published, his outsells them all.  Much of it is about his time at Bastogne, as a 101st Airborne Paratrooper who was a war hero, in my book. 

         In 2001 as I recall, he was given a commendation by Major General David Petraeus, who invited us to Ft. Campbell Kentucky just before he and his troops went to Iraq.  Petraeus also put Uncle Norten’s photo on what they call the Wall of Fame for the 101st Airborne’s World War Two 327th division, actually nearly wiped out at Bastogne Belgium.
Significant…?  There are only 26 paratroopers on that wall.  Norten was the 26th one.

         But the book covers nearly 70 years of guiding float-fishermen in the Ozarks, and the great stories that go with that. It is filled with laughter!  He started when he was 11 years old on the Big Piney and made his last trip on the Niangua River when he was 88.  He was in great health at that age and could have had more years on the river but for a state agency known as Social Services, who helped his wife and his own brother put him away and claim his bank account.

         But that is another story too, to be told in another book sometime perhaps. If you want to read a book you can’t put down, call me and I will tell you how to obtain a copy of ‘Ridge-Runner’, 324 pages recording an unbelievable life … another time in History. I still have several that are numbered and signed by my Uncle, before he died in 2013. That phone number is 417-777-5227.  My email is lightninridge47@gmail.com… mailing address Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

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