Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A 1961 Float Trip




       What were you doing the first weekend of October, 60 years ago? I remember that weekend well.  I was only a few days away from turning 13, and I had purchased a guide’s license at the courthouse for a dollar. But with Dad’s old wooden johnboat and grandpa’s hand-made sassafras paddle, I could take folks on a fishing trip down the Big Piney River and haul in 50 cents an hour. 


       Most of the time I could make more than that hunting golf balls at the golf course, off in the weeds or the timber, where the folks who weren’t real good at golfing often lost them. I could sell the good ones for a quarter apiece to Shorty Evans, who was rich, and most any day I could find 4 or 5 an hour. 


       But I always chose the river when I could and I built up a pretty good clientele of city fishermen, because my Uncle Norten, guiding on Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes, advertised for me.  But on the first weekend of October sixty years ago I took a local fellow by the name of Joe Richardson and his wife Kate,sd on a float trip down the Big Piney River. Joe was a fine person and he became a life-long friend and supporter when I grew up and became an outdoor writer! I took him and Mrs. Richardson on many float trips in the future, from which came other good stories.


       In a long deep shoal with big rocks and gently flowing water known as the Ink Stand, Kate caught the biggest smallmouth I have ever seen taken from an Ozark stream.  I believe that it was close to six-pounds.


       Like a good guide, I pulled the johnboat to the bank, and got out in waist-deep water and grabbed it when it tired a little. You should have seen the Piney back then. Today it flows about 60 percent of the water it carried then, and so many holes, including the Ink Stand, have filled in with sand and gravel. 


       Mrs Richardson gave me the lure she used that day, a Heddon River Runt, black with white rib-stripes.  On Saturday morning, October 2, I am going to place that lure and a photo of Mrs. Richardson and I (taken in 1961), in my Big Piney River ‘mini-museum’. We have set that up in the Houston Chamber of Commerce building along Highway 63 at the northeast corner of town.


        I have one of the old wooden johnboats my grandfather fashioned there on display, and the very first aluminum river-boat built in the Midwest, (serial number 0001).  It was made for the old Missouri Conservation Commission in 1952 by a man named Appleby, who founded the Lowe Boat Company at Lebanon, Mo. I can tell you quite a story about that boat!


      Inside we have an 8-foot display case with items used by old-time rivermen on the Piney a century and more ago and a few rare objects found along the Piney that bluff-dwellers used thousands of years ago. One of those is an ivory pendant, the only ivory artifact ever found in the Midwest.


       I will be there on Saturday morning by eleven a.m. and then go over to the Emmett Kelly Park at noon and bring the two boats with me.  The park is only a few hundred yards to the south, where, from noon to about 3 or 4 p.m. my old friend Wesley Lindaman and I will fry fish, complete with cole slaw and baked beans and a birthday cake. It is all in an open-air pavilion, where it is safer for those who are worried about Covid.


       BUT—I need to know who is coming, or I won’t know how much fish to bring. It will be fresh, Wesley and I are going to catch all the fish a few days before.  So please phone my office and tell me if you are coming, how many and when.  Or email me.  I need your name, where you are from and a phone number, in case inclement weather causes us to call it off. The phone number is 417-777-5227 and the email address is


       That is the day Houstonians are celebrating homecoming, and there is a lot going on, but anyone is welcome to our fish fry, no matter where you are from and there is no charge.  It is sort of a birthday party, and Wesley and I will fry fish for you when you get there. If you have never seen my magazines, I will have free copies for you to take home with you.  Hope to see lots of folks who read this column

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Need Money, Don’t Cut That Walnut Tree, Sell the Walnuts!


    I always figure the yellow leaves on the walnut trees tell me a lot about the upcoming fall.  This year that yellowing foliage on the walnuts here on Lightnin’ Ridge is really late.  Could be that is because we had so much rain in the middle of summer, but it has been very dry here since late August.  But usually the later the yellowing of walnut leaves point to a late fall and a mild winter.  I’ll bet we have a good colorful fall and it will come at the very last of October.  I think a mild winter is coming too.  And that will mean the mallards will come thru a little later.  Seems like there is always a problem with a mild winter.  But most folks would sacrifice early duck migrations for a mild winter.  But mild winters make for some good fishing up to the coming of spring.

     Speaking of walnut trees, big walnuts are being cut at an alarming pace now, because of their increasing value.  Likewise there is an increasing value in the walnuts, purchase in October by the Hammons Walnut Company headquartered in Stockton, Missouri.  I thought last years price of 15 dollars per hulled hundred pounds was really good. But I have been told that this year, starting October 1, walnut prices will be 20 dollars per hundred pounds after hulling subject to change later in the month.  Buying stations are set up all over the Ozarks. If you want to know the nearest one to you, call Hammons at 417 276  5181. I  think that here on my ridgetop, I could accumulate about a thousand pounds by October 1.  That would buy me a lot of duck hunting shells.  But I have a walnut thief living up on the corner of my property that can pick up a hundred pounds while I am still working on my  first fifty. She is half owner of Lightnin’ Ridge-- my daughter Christy!

     I know that when I wrote about how I am getting 10 free deer hunting permits from the Missouri Department of Conservation, plus 75 dollars processing money from them for each one, lots of  readers thought I was joking.  But you can find out if you are eligible by calling Alicia Burke, phone 573 522 0141.  You have to have at least 5 acres and I believe you need to apply before mid October. You can give some of the ten permits to friends or family members, and yes, you can charge them for hunting on YOUR LAND!  But you cannot sell the permits that are given to you free.

     I saw a television broadcast out of Springfield Mo where they were talking about foxes become numerous in their city.  They showed what was a red fox  that you might not have recognized as such. That fox hada horrible case of mange, and a “MDC media specialist” saying that the foxes would have to be ‘tested for mange”.  Country people would laugh at that.  That is like saying that a mallard would have to be tested to see if he was a duck.  That fox was so darn mangy he was living in misery, and he should have been destroyed.  Mange is easily spread to dogs and other mammals, and if officials in that city do not begin to eliminate those foxes, they will make veterinarians wealthy, just by treating pets that get it.  And though it isn’t common, humans can get mange too.  It is spread by mites.  Domestic animals can be treated and cured, but wild animals cannot, unless trapped and  treated that way.  If he is never treated, that wild fox, which has to live with microscopic mites burrowing into his skin, is doomed to awful misery before he dies.  If you see any animal with mange, have mercy on it and kill it.  Otherwise it’s misery will spread to other creatures.

     You might already know this, but in late September if you want to catch bass, you cannot use anything better than topwater lures, especially at dusk and dawn.  As water cools there are lots of ways to catch bass, but I wouldn’t know about that because I just can’t stop using topwater lures or buzz baits.  This week I will fish several different rivers that way, and you’ll be reading about those successes if I have one.  And I will tell you about catching perhaps the biggest smallmouth I ever hooked.  If it wasn’t the biggest ever, he was, as Dizzy Dean once said, “Amonst ‘em”.

     Let me remind you folks that if you want a copy of our Fall outdoor magazine or the Fall issue of our Ozark magazine then you should call my secretary, Ms. Wiggins, to get on the subscription list.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email  Visit my website sometime,

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Duck With Baby Blue Wings




         Sometime in mid September Midwest states have a special two week teal season. Blue-winged teal are unusual ducks.  They come early; sometimes arriving in the Ozarks during the last week or so in August, and they continue to pass through well into September.  Truthfully, they are fairly easy to hunt because they decoy well to only a handful of decoys, and they are not nearly as wary as mallards.  On occasion, a small group of teal will sweep across the decoys and flare from a volley of shots, circle wide and come back for another pass.  I have stood against a tree stump on a mud flat and had them light only a matter of a few feet from me. 


     They aren't wary, but they make up for their lack of wariness with some speed.  Ornithologists say they don't fly much faster than other ducks, but I'd bet my chest waders they do. Lead one like you'd lead a mallard and you'll not even dust his tail-feathers.  A flock of teal is like a squadron of feathered jetfighters, there and gone almost before you can say 'here they come'.              

       Hunting them can amount to a lot of work, and they are tough to hit, but teal season is the forerunner to the duck season, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.... unless the fishing is really, really sensational in mid September!!  But then, you can do a little of both.  As I said last week, I think wood ducks should also be a part of this special season, and it ought to be set back a week or so perhaps.  Wood ducks aren’t much of a part of the waterfowl harvest in Missouri and Arkansas now.  Fifty years ago they stayed in the Ozarks until the first week or two of November.  Not now! They usually leave by the end of October or even a little earlier.  But in the special teal season, so many are killed by accident and left that could be taken home and eaten.  Waterfowlers today aren’t real good at duck identification and if only two wood ducks were allowed in the special teal season it would have absolutely no impact on their numbers.  It likely won’t happen.  Too many of the decision makers spend too much time in an office and too little time in the marshes and rivers.  Would you believe when I made my first duck hunts with my dad, it was illegal to shoot a wood duck.  Now they are reasonably healthy populations.  Hunting pressure on wood ducks is about 20 percent of the hunting pressure on mallards.  Teal also, are not heavily harvested, and are plentiful.  Both species are very very good to eat.  Just as good as a mallard.  And teal are twice as hard to hit.


         I wrote, a couple of weeks back, about receiving a letter from the Missouri Department of Conservation offering me ten free deer permits in order to check them for CWD.  Some readers thought I was joking about that. So I put the letter and forms on my website, so anyone can see them.  I have no idea how many hunters were offered this, but they will pay anyone who is part of this 75 dollars for each deer killed to pay for processing.  You can apply for those ten free permits if you own five acres or more in a zone where chronic wasting disease has been found.  I can’t tell you where those zones are but if you call Alicia Burke, wildlife specialist at 573 522 0141 or apply online at…….you can find out if you qualify!


         And I jokingly wrote that I was thinking about offering a couple or three of my free permits to some hunters for 20 dollars apiece.  I wouldn’t do that of course, but for those who own large acreages, it would not be illegal to do that.  There are no laws prohibiting a landowner from doing that.  I put that article on facebook and received a warning that I  was “encouraging criminal behavior”!  That is not criminal behavior; it is something no MDC laws prohibit.  You can rent a tree stand on your land for whatever someone will pay.  Facebook owes me an apology for suggesting I was encouraging criminal behavior.  I am sure I will hear from them soon. 


         By the way if you would like to try your hand at writing, send your stories to me before Sept 20 and we might use it in our fall magazine.  All articles must be typed. You can see my outdoor magazine, and my Ozark magazine and all my books on the computer at  Contact me by writing to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or emailing

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

CWD Management Permits


Changes Needed



Nesting dove in Mid August


       In early September, hundreds and hundreds of young doves in nests will die because of the September 1 opening of the dove season.  I know that the majority of dove hunters don’t know that, and few of today’s young bird biologists know that. 

       Forty years ago, lots of doves were migrating down through the Midwest the first week of September.  Far fewer are today.  That is because in forty years, things change in nature. That change is tremendous.  I know, I have seen it. I started observing it all 60 years ago. Right now, nothing that migrates does it like they did forty or fifty years back.              Migrations of wild ducks and geese are far different than they were when I was a kid.  I am not telling you any of this from what I read, but from what I have seen and experienced during those 60 years of being outside more than I was inside.

     Here on Lightnin’ Ridge, there is still a dove nest or two I know about, and likely some I don’t know about.  When the “guns of way before autumn” begin banging away, many like those fledglings will die in the nest.

       It is too hot in early September for me to even begin to want to hunt.  It has been that way for 10 or fifteen years.  I won’t take my Labrador out ever again in the heat encountered in early September, and if you do, you don’t care much about your dog.  Retrievers love to retrieve ducks and pheasants, but not doves.  Dove feathers ruin a young dog… he hates them in his mouth and throat.  And between daylight and 10 a.m. on September the first, he needs about a gallon of water if the temperature soars into the 80’s.  It almost always does now, and often, way past 80.

       Professional people planning game season openings and harvests need to know things change as the years go on and climate does not remain the same, for whatever reason.  The dove season should open 17 to 20 days later than it does now.  At that time, migrating doves will triple the number migrating through in the first week of the month.  I won’t hunt doves until October, and then, mostly over water holes and small harvested grain fields.  And in places where there might be two-dozen hunters this week on opening day, there will be none in October.

       I know, there is tradition involved, but you can have the same father-son tradition beginning two or three weeks later than in the past.  It is time for some game biologists who have not been around long to talk with some who have been around awhile, and look at what is happening.  You shouldn’t hunt birds that still have young in the nest on opening day.   

     And believe me, few young biologists trained by books in the classroom know that there is a tremendous difference in numbers of migrating doves that came through 40 years ago and today.

       There is also a tremendous difference in wild duck migration all across various species.  I know from what I have seen over the last 60 years.  I will write more about mallards changing so much in another column.  But biologists HAVE figured that out and altered seasons and limits to fit those changing habits.

       Right now wood ducks and blue-winged teal are both early migrators.  A two week season for teal usually opening in mid-September worked great decades ago when it all began, but right now teal are migrating a little later than they once did, and wood ducks are migrating earlier.          

    Common sense tells you that lots of wood ducks are killed during that teal special season and left in the marsh.  Why not run the teal season the last week of September and the first week of October, and let wood ducks be included in the bag limit.  So many of today’s waterfowlers cannot tell the difference in the two species flying by at 30 yards in broad daylight, let alone at dawn and dusk. Why allow so many accidentally killed wood ducks to be left in the marshes for the eagles.

       This needs to be done now… but it won’t be.   Today’s experts on migration, doves and waterfowl, need to find some of yesterday’s experts.  If you learn what you know from one chapter of a book, you need to learn from two chapters out in the fields, woods and marshes.  Times have changed, weather has changed, seasons have change, and wild creatures have changed.  We need to change the way we look at hunting seasons for migrating birds.  I’ll continue this in a later column about mallards and geese. 


       Some people have laughed at what I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, concerning the Department of Conservation giving me and a certain group of landowners 10 free deer permits and offering hundreds of dollars to have them all processed, over the next few months through most of the winter.  It was a column written in all seriousness.  I have put the letter and forms sent to me by that agency, on my BlogSpot for all to see.  And for those in certain regions of the state, the same privilege can be gained with a phone call.  

       I have placed those letters also in my fall magazine, and an article telling about why they are doing that.

       And NO, I did not register my land with the MDC.  And I will not.  That website where you can see those letters on a computer screen is

       If you want to see that fall magazine, email me at or call my office, 417 777 5227 

Acorns, Yellow Leaves, and Free Deer


       I don’t think I ever witnessed what the squirrels are doing here on Lightnin’ Ridge this summer.  They are chewing up the white oak acorns in my back yard, and it started the first week of August. 

       Of course they always go to gnawing up hickories in August, but not acorns.  Never saw that here before.  Squirrels are thick as I have ever seen them right now, both colors. 

     I ate a ton of them as a kid. You have to boil the older ones, then bake them with dumplings or fry them.  But you want to know how to eat squirrels in this modern day and time?  Clean them, cut them up and marinade them in some good marinade in the ‘frigerator for a day or so and then cook them over hickory chips and charcoal on a grill. My old friend Rich Abdoler taught me that, but I surely would have come up with it on my own if he hadn’t beat me to it. 

        You know what the first indicator of fall is?  Look up into the walnut tree branches and watch for a few yellow leaves.  They will begin to drift down in a week or so just before a cool rain.  When they do, you know that the ducks are starting their staging flights over the Canadian prairie country.  I always start cutting firewood when the first yellow leaf falls off the walnut branches.  Either then or when it snows a couple of months later! 

        I am heading to Canada this week to fish and help my old friend, bush pilot and guide Tinker Helseth, and try to forget the rest of the world that we all hear too much about any more  I am sure that if I come back I will have a story or two for this column. Tinker wrote a great book about his life as a Canadian outfitter, which  we published for him.  You can get a copy by calling my office.



       Oh yes, I about forgot to tell you…I am going to get to kill ten deer this fall on my place without buying one deer tag! I will even get paid to have them processed! The Missouri Department of Conservation sent me a letter this past week telling me they want me to do that.  So if you are a landowner who is not among the list of us lucky hunters you need to contact that department and ask why you haven’t been included.  All you have to have is five acres now, in an area where chronic wasting has been documented. That is the gist of the letter.        

     Then you can contact friends who want to hunt and you can go out and kill ten deer on your five or ten or twenty acre tract.  And you can get a 75-dollar check from the MDC to pay for the processing of your deer.  The letter doesn’t make it clear whether that is just a one-time payment or whether or not you get that for each deer you kill.  If it is for each deer, and you do kill ten that means they will send you 750 dollars.  Some of the local meat processors have a very profitable year ahead if that is the case.

       I will try to find out how many hunters in Missouri got this letter turning them into government hunters like me, and also what areas you have to live in to apply for your ten free permits.  The letters and applications I received will be printed in my fall Outdoor Journal magazine in their entirety, so that anyone who doesn’t believe me can read them there.  Please do not tell anyone about this, but if I were a no-account scoundrel, I would run an ad in the local newspaper advertising two free deer permits to five different hunters and a special deer stand for them to hunt out of.  All those free deer plus the free deer processing, for only 20 dollars!!  The MDC is going to provide me with those ten permits and I can say what hunters can use them. It is confusing but I’ll ask if that would be legal.  If it were I would volunteer to bring hot coffee to each stand twice a day.  I am not going to do that because I am only a small-scale scoundrel and that kind of thing is beyond me. I don’t want ALL my deer killed. But maybe if I had 200 acres….?   After all novice hunters lease acreages to hunt all the time.  And twenty dollars is reasonable for a tree stand and coffee.        

    Next week I will tell you if you can apply for such a good thing, by finding out where the areas are you have to own land in.  And I will see how many of us government hunters there were who didn’t have to apply, but are qualified through these letters we lucky ones received. Apparently there are thousands of landowners who are eligible for those free tags and ten deer limits.


    In more than 250 speaking engagements over the last 20 years I have never had anything happen to me like what happened in Mt. Grove, Mo. last week at their bicentennial event on their square. At the time it made me madder than a hornet, but it was a little bit humorous now that look about it.  What a mess it turned out to be. You can read the whole story on my blogspot,  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or email me at



Monday, August 23, 2021

Tinker's Place



         About 20 years ago I flew out to a little lake in northwest Ontario with Canadian guide and bush pilot, Tinker Helseth. It was a place where Tinker’s father, Forrest Helseth, who had also been a Canadian guide and outfitter, had an old trapper’s cabin. Tinker was fixing it up to use as a fisherman’s cabin for Americans who wanted to fish a wilderness lake far from civilization. About mid afternoon I decided to take a boat and go out to catch some walleye for supper. Tinker told me where they could be caught, jigging a small lure up and down over a certain hole out a ways from a big rock not far from the cabin.  “But,” he added, “you won’t catch a one until 5:00, so come get me at 4:30.”

I kind of laughed at that, but I fished the spot for more than an hour and didn’t even get a bite. Tinker came out and joined me but we caught nothing!  Then at exactly 5:00, and I mean EXACTLY 5:00, we both had walleye on. For the next hour we caught them one after another, nothing larger than 18 inches and few smaller than 15 inches. I had to know how he knew what was going to happen. I remember him telling me… “When you have done this as long as I have, you can’t help but learn a few things.”  About a month ago the book about his life story was finished. The name of the book is “Tinker’s Canada.”  I published it for him and you can get copies from us at our office, but you can get an autographed, inscribed copy directly from Tinker by going fishing with him. It is easier to fish with Tinker in Canada than you think. Right now his lodge and cabins are pretty much below capacity because of the covid problem. This is one of the few times I remember in the past 30 years that I have known him, that he isn’t all booked up.

         To come to his lodge in Nestor Falls, Ontario you will need a passport. You can get one at your courthouse but if you decide you want to come, you will need to do so quickly, it takes a little time. Besides a passport, you will need proof of vaccination and a covid test just before you come which shows that you do not have it.

         Through the magic of computers, which I want no more to do with than I have to, I am sending this column from Tinker’s Place on Lake of the Woods. Yesterday evening I caught several small walleye and a sauger, then finally hooked a 17-inch walleye that will be good eating for supper. I intend to go out tonight in the last hour or so before dark and fish topwater lures for smallmouth bass.

I will be here at Tinker’s Place in Nestor Falls again in late September and early October, so you may be able to fish a day or so with me here on Lake of the Woods. Contact me if you are interested. However, with Tinker or one of his sons’-in-law you’ll have a lot more fun and catch more fish. The last half of September and the first half of October are the best times of the year to fish… with gorgeous color and passing migratory birds.

         For more information about fishing with Tinker, you can reach his wife Sharon or his daughter Kari by calling 807-484-2664.  Their website is


I will be back home in time to attend the Homestead Expo Friday and Satuday at Marshfield Mo.  The event really interests me because it involves experts in the field demonstrating ways to live a country life like our ancestors did.  Over two days there will be about three dozen demonstrations… on hog butchering, poultry raising, bee-keeping, lumber milling, making maple syrup, black smithing, soap making and dozens of other old time ways of living practiced here in the Ozarks more than 100 years ago.  Tickets are 15 dollars for one day and 25 dollars for two days, children not charged.  There will be about 40 vendor tables and no music involved.  I will be speaking at 10;30 a,m on Saturday about the Ozark culture of 100 to 150 years ago, trapping, fishing, and hunting amongst the first people to settle the Ozarks!  It will be held each of the two days at the fairgrounds in Marshfield Mo.  If you will come by and visit me at my table, I will give you free copies of my two summer magazines, and have signed books books  for sale at 1/3 off.  There are now 11 total.  Hope to see you there.  For more information look on your computer  Homestead Expo at Marshfield, Mo.  I urge you to see that page..


To contact me call my office at 417 777 5227 or email me at  I should be home  from Canada by the time you read this.