Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Magnificent Place…Unusual Sights

 

 


 

         You see some strange things in nature when you spend as much time outdoors as I do.  I live in the woods far from people, and I always have…always will.  And I travel all over the Ozarks visiting wild places, seeing things that amaze me.  On the first day of January I saw something that really surprised me.  It was a flock of ten or fifteen white pelicans on Truman Lake, which lies just along the edge of the northern Ozarks of Missouri.  

         Do you realize how odd that is?  Pelicans migrate from northern waters well up into Canada each fall. They are usually down around the Louisiana coast by now, and not migrating back north until April.  Why would they be in the Ozarks now?  The only reason I can think of is the abundance of food.   On Truman Lake, gizzard shad are dying off by the thousands, as they do each winter.  If the water doesn’t freeze, I suppose Pelicans can stand the cold, to slurp up hordes of dying shad.  Pelicans are at the peak of their numbers now, overpopulated to my way of thinking.  But never ever have I seen a pelican in the Ozarks in January.  

         That isn’t the only unusual occurrence this January.  All over the Ozarks there are flocks of shoveler ducks, also commonly known as spoonbills.  I killed one a day or so ago while duck hunting.  I’ve never even seen a flock of shovelers in January that I recall.  They migrate early, just a little behind blue-winged teal in the fall.  Then they are one of the early migrators in the spring too.  You will see them in bright plumage, coming through the Ozarks earlier than any other duck beside the blue-wings.  And then, they are a beautiful bird, but not so much now.  They, along with the goldeneyes are perhaps the poorest eating of any of the puddle ducks, and not very large, just a step or two larger than the teals and buffleheads. Last year about this time I saw the only flock of ruddy ducks I have ever seen while duck hunting.

         I am seeing the natural world completely out of alignment over the last few years, and I wonder what it means.  Now I am seeing the black vultures moving into the northern Ozarks as well, and I don’t like it.  They are scavengers, but also killers.  They will search for and kill newborn calves, and other offspring of farm animals.  Native turkey buzzards won’t do that.  I would kill every black vulture I could if I was a rancher or farmer.  Conservation departments everywhere should encourage that, but instead these non-native birds are protected, expanding and coming north, I believe partly because of the thousands of dead chickens and turkeys that huge poultry farms discard.

         I spend hours along the watershed of this giant northern Ozark reservoir, Truman Lake, because of almost 120 thousand acres of land around it set aside and protected from developers.  There is one particular area that is as close to a natural Ozark wilderness as I have ever seen, with gigantic trees of dozens of hardwood species larger than any individuals of many species I have ever seen.  It is a phenomenal place.  It is full of Ozark wildlife too, eagles nest there, as do most birds, and migrating waterfowl of all species pass through.

         From February through April, I take up to a dozen people at a time to that area via a large pontoon boat and guide them into that forest to see and enjoy what is really rare woodland.  That goes back to my days as Chief Naturalist for the Arkansas Park System and a stint as a naturalist for the National Park Service on the Buffalo National River, and then the years I worked as a naturalist for the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, exploring and reporting on rivers and woodlands in the  Ozark and Ouachita mountains.  On these trips into natural areas on Truman, we return to have a big fish fry on the lakeshore, and do not return to civilization until the sun sets.  You can join me if you want on one of those trips, which will continue until the morels are gone in April. I take any group of 8 to 15 people. 

         The timber is so large and diverse that it will be destroyed someday.  The Missouri Department of Conservation is a partner in managing much of the 120 thousand acres with the Corps of Engineers, and they make part of their millions by contracting loggers to take the big trees from such areas. They have been doing much of that on the upper end of the big lake for years. But for awhile that forest is there to enjoy, and I spend countless hours there this time of year with my camera.  It is a magnificent natural area, something representative of the Ozarks long, long ago.  I wish such areas could be saved from the loggers, but of course they cannot. A nation with exploding populations never has enough lumber. I just thank God every time I go there that I get to see such places, while 99 percent of Americans spends such days in crowded suburbs, office cubicles and traffic jams.  I know they are the normal ones in society.  I’m the oddball.  But I like being one!

        

         We are looking for good stories for our Outdoor Magazine and for our Ozark Magazine as well…  also a good artist or two and good photos for either magazine. You can see my books and magazines just by putting my name on a computer search site.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com. 


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Fishing in the Winter

 

            I would really like to take a trip to Canada this time of year, to the Lake of the Woods region, and fish with some friends who catch walleye and pike and crappie through the ice.  If you have never caught fish through the ice it may not sound too appealing to you, but it is really fun.  Some of the best times I have had in January were sitting on the ice of Iowa farm ponds with my cousins, catching blue-gill and crappie on little tiny meal worms, with a rope around my waist and the other end tied to a tree on the bank. They thought that was hilarious, but you can never be too cautious! Eventually I got use to sitting out there on the ice, hovering over a little eight-inch hole with my cousins, yanking out crappie with a rod about three feet long.

 

         I am going fishing in January and February though, as soon as the duck season and quail season end.  The best of the brown trout fishing on the White River takes place between now and March.  You catch them on the six- inch suspending rogues, and someone usually gets a 15- to 20- pound brown during that time of year.   Lots of five- to ten-pound browns are caught.  My biggest is eight pounds but I've hooked and landed a number of four- to six-pound browns.

 

         All through January down on Norfork lake, the anglers who brave the cold and go after them catch stripers, whites and hybrids, in the mouths of the big tributaries where they school in deep water following the hordes of threadfin shad.  With all the shad they have in that lake, I don't know why a striper would be attracted to a big shiner minnow, but they are.  About ten years ago I was fishing for them in Norfork on a very cold day and we caught a  half dozen nice ones in only a few hours at mid-day.  They were over 50 feet of water, about 40 feet deep, but usually in January you will find them at about 40 feet over 60 to 80 feet of water.  You about have to have a good depth finder to fish for them. 

 

         A friend I was fishing with knows where the stripers are most of the winter, so I just go with him.  He ties on a circle hook, size two-ought, with about a half-ounce of weight 15 or 20 inches above the hook, hooks a shiner through the lips and counts out forty feet of line. Then he blows up a little biodegradable water balloon they sell at toy departments for kids until it is a little smaller than a tennis ball, and he ties that stem of the balloon around a 15-inch loop in the line.  When the fish hits, it just pulls that line right through the knot of the balloon, and the fight is on.  The balloon is not at all a strike indicator, it just floats off.  It is merely a device to allow you to play out your line so that you can be fishing forty feet deep, but a good distance from your boat.  In mid-winter, with the clear water, stripers might be spooked a little if they are directly beneath the boat.

 

         In late February or early March, at the beginning of the full moon, with warming night time temperatures, the night fishing for stripers and walleye on Norfork lake will get good.  The stripers hit that same suspending rogue that we use for brown trout on the White River.  I hope to hit it at the right time this year, when the nights are not too cold, and you can hear the geese passing over in the moonlight.  What a thrill it is when a big striper nails that rogue.  You never say, "I think I had a strike!!!"  You have no doubt what has happened.

 

         Of course over the years, some of the best bass fishing I have had takes place on large tributaries to Ozark lakes in late February and early March.  A few days of warm weather can trigger that, and when a fisherman finds them, he can follow them for a couple of weeks before they disperse.  I know I won't get to do all of the fishing I want to do, but the anticipation and planning is worth a great deal.  It makes it easier to get through to April.

 

Email me at Lightninridge47@gmail.com, or write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.  You might like to see my website, if you like to read… www.larrydablemont.com

        

 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Travesty on Truman!

 

 Part One:


         I set forth on Truman Lake to find and collect some ducks and geese.  It was 28 degrees and I was bundled up like an Eskimo, on account of, wide open, my War Eagle boat, powered by a jet motor, runs about 35 mph and I had 4 miles to go to get to where the ducks and geese were.  Do you know what the wind chill is when you are going 20 or 25 mph in 25 degrees?  I think it is 40 below!!!!  

 

         I doubt I slept long.  When I woke up I was irritable, having seen for the first time ever, my beautiful War Eagle boat sitting about 25 feet from the lakeshore.  Nothing was hurt though.  That strong metal hull can handle a rock substrate of a short distance and my motor is a jet motor, which has no prop and doesn’t extend down below the hull much.           When I am recovered enough to think I remember that I have a cell phone in my camera bag.  It isn’t a smart-phone, it is just a phone to call on, or get calls on.  I am smart enough to have obtained it for 26 dollars.  It doesn’t work on a lakeshore, but I am sure if I climb to the top of this huge island I am stranded on, it will.  

 

         I have beached my boat, even though it really isn’t a beach.  If it had been a bluff of some kind I would have made the headlines in some of the newspapers I write for… something like “Dablemont has kilt his last duck”.  My first real smart decision is to lay down in the bottom of the boat and drift off to sleep, which is what you should do when confronted with the Ocular Migraine malady which I have survived hundreds of times since I was 13 years old.

 

         I write on occasion about a malady they refer to as ‘Ocular Migraine’.  I am going to explain what it is in another article a few days away. I have it. You are warned that one is coming on when you begin to see a zig-zag line in your vision with colored lights around it.  In a matter of minutes, you can’t see…. Other things come with it, as I will explain in that article to come.  I was about a half mile from the boat ramp, planed out, going along with enthusiasm I only have when I am off by myself about to catch something or shoot something, in anticipation of having something to eat for supper besides hot dogs and beans. So all of a sudden I see that zig-zag line and I figure that in an hour it will go away, as it usually does.  So as I am becoming a little befuddled, as I often do when I get entrenched in one of those, but I know I need to get back to where I was when I parked my pickup.  I make a hard turn and head back, but as my vision becomes a bright white and pink blur, I turn a bit too much, and planning to turn one way, I turn another.  At 30 mph I leave the water to go shooting up a rocky incline of about 15 or 20 degrees, knowing immediately that I need to turn off the key on account of the crunching and grating means that what is under my boat ain’t in water.  It is on rocks, from the size of an  irregular-shaped softball to the size of an irregular-shaped marble. 

 

         It did.  My family, knowing me as they do, has put an easy-to-find button on the phone which dials the highway patrol when you punch it.   Looking down on the lake and my boat sitting up on the bank like a fish out of water, I sit down on a rock with my phone battery at about 15 percent, and I get a lady at the highway patrol, and I am in no mood for jokes.  But I swear, she asked me, after I tell her my emergency information, what brand of boat I have!  Today I am thinking I got to find out how to get ahold of her to apologize for my answer.  It was something like this… “Lady, I have a 2000-pound boat sitting on a rock pile 20 or more feet from the water, which anyone who ever was on a lake is gonna say, “hey, there is a boat way up on the bank way across the lake and no matter what kind it is it should be in the water instead of up there on that bank,” and lady it is late in the day and twenty damned-eight degrees and getting colder and I am suffering from a malady related to bad genetics or a severe blow on the head in my childhood and you want to know what kind of boat it is???  

 

         Then I hung up on her!  In a minute or so, addled though I was, I figured out that I shouldn’t have done that!   Back on the phone, I told her I wasn’t thinking clearly and if I was to walk back down to get particular info, like brand, horsepower or serial number, I would have to walk back up to that high point and by that time my phone or me one, would likely be dead.  To make a long story short (as I so seldom do,) as I was preparing to spend the night on that island by arranging a little cubby hole shelter beside a rock outcropping with enough firewood to make one of those college bonfires. I heard my phone buzz and I climbed back up to that high point where I had a message saying… “This is Trooper Miller and I am getting in a boat at Long Shoal marina, heading your way.”

 

         Few men my age can celebrate like I did then, dancing around a hillside of rocks and driftwood, yelling at the top of my voice, thanking God for his benevolence even though He had let me get in such a fix in the first place.  And then it hit me…  my boat, even with a full tank of gas, which it almost never has, could not get to northernmost Long Shoal Marina from the spot on the south arm of the lake where I was, in less than 2 hours.  It might be dark before he got there. I got to build a fire so he can find me! 

 

         So here is what I am going to do.  Tomorrow, I am going to tell you the rest of the story right here.  It is filled with excitement, intrigue and an unbelievable twist of fate that few men of my age with a weak heart could have survived.  But I don’t have a weak heart.  Weak faith maybe, but a good solid heart and enough brains to figure out how to have all kinds of survival gear in my boat except matches.!!!!

 

Part Two:

 

    So there I was, 30 feet up on the bank of a big island on Truman Lake.  For the first time ever, my boat was up there with me!  It was a good distance from the water and much too heavy to move.  But there is good news… Trooper Jeremy Miller had called and left a message on my pocket phone that he was leaving the Long Shoal Marina in his boat to help me.  The bad news is, I know where that Marina is!  It is a long, long way off, at least a two hour ride in my own 30-mph boat and in two hours it will be dark.  How will he find me?  You will remember from part one of this exciting story that I have no matches.  In my emergency bag though, I have a cigarette lighter.  However, in my addled state caused by the malady I have described, I have no idea where my emergency bag is because I have it tucked away in a boat compartment.

 

      I am not bothered by that.  Anyone can cut the top off a few shotgun shells, dump a good pile of gunpowder under some small twigs and leaves and fire an empty shell into it and poof… fire.  I could also disconnect the gas line at the motor and empty an ounce or so of gas into the cup from my thermos, dump it on the twigs and leaves and use a spark from the trolling motor battery and poof, a similar fire. I am a whiz at cold-weather tactics when stranded on an island. In my lifetime I have been in worse fixes in the outdoors quite often in other states and Canadian provinces.  So as I am working to make a fire my rescuer can see, I hear the distant drone of a motor.

 

      Around a far-away point I see Trooper Miller in a boat that is beyond description. It is at least 25 feet long with a cabin on it, two huge motors side by side on the back, computers and antennaes and enough technology on it to justify the speed of about 200 miles per hour I estimate he was traveling! It looked to have the power to pull a loaded logging truck out of a swamp.  The rest is anti-climatic.  He gives me a rope to attach to the bow of my boat, and I tell him I think it might break.  He says he don’t have ropes that break!  In reverse, mind you, he just pulls my boat off the bank and into the water like a beaver pulling a cornstalk into the creek.  I have had my problems with water patrolmen in the past, but none were like Trooper Miller.  I apologized for keeping him from doing more important things, and he told me he had nothing more important to do in his job than helping people.  He didn’t say it by I’ll bet he would have liked to added “even someone dumb enough to do what you did”.  I hope I see him someday when I am less vulnerable to such thinking.  I really liked him and suggested that maybe the two of us could hunt turkeys around the lake next spring by fixing up cots in that cabin, and a couple of cook stoves!  He said the boat was on loan to the Highway Patrol from the Coast Guard.  I wish they would loan me one like it but I would probably get it dry-docked somewhere by accident.

 

         Anyway in less than 30 minutes after I got that message I was out there on the lake motoring around looking for ducks again.  My War-Eagle boat didn’t have a dent in it, and my 20-year-old jet motor was running like it was new.  If I had been in a fiberglass boat with a regular hang-low prop motor I would have likely had to do all my fishing next year from the bank. But something good comes from most all of my goof-ups and this gives me the opportunity in a future article to talk about that malady I have, so that perhaps others who have it can benefit from the info. In the meantime you can read more about it by going on that goggle thing and looking up ‘ocular migrains’.  In this case it has nothing to do with headaches.  And if you ever want to go for a winter boat ride, I seldom have anyone to go with me.

 

Beagles and Cottontails


 

 

 

      For most of two hours, the little beagle had struck trail after trail, and hotly pursued a half dozen cottontails in circles that wound around broam-sedge, cedar thickets and patches of briar and sumac.  I had missed one and bagged one. My partner had two. 

 

      As the latest cottontail led the baying little beagle on a wide swing, we both looked for a strategic spot to wait for the rabbit's return. 

 

I found a brushpile with a log in the top of it and carefully situated myself there. I faced west and the little beagle pushed the cottontail toward me from the north.  I figured I was about to bag cottontail number two. But the rabbit veered away and I caught a glimpse of him coming down a trail to the east of my brushpile, about to pass behind me.

 

   There was no way to turn, I could do little more than swing my 20-gauge with my right arm, lead him a little and squeeze off an awkward one-hand shot.  To my surprise, the cottontail tumbled, intercepted by a wide pattern at 25 yards.  There wasn't much recoil but I nearly lost my balance.  My friend, who was watching, was laughing at my gyrations atop the brushpile, but he couldn't believe it when I retrieved the cottontail.

 

    We went on to bag several rabbits in three or four hours of hunting.  But the best part was listening to the beagle, almost constantly trailing a rabbit. It is a beautiful sound, if you are a hunter.  I can’t tell you why that is, but if you go out there and listen to a chase, you’ll see what I mean.  And the more beagles involved, the more fascinating it is to hear the sound. 

 

    There are rabbits to be found almost everywhere in the Midwest.  But good beagles are not easy to find and if you have a good one you are indeed a lucky man.

 

    It seems almost certain that when God was creating the animals of the earth, he made beagles right after he made cottontails.   Without the cottontail, what would a beagle have to live for?

 

    Actually beagles have been developed in the last few hundred years.  The ancestors of the modern beagle were brought to America between 1860 and 1870 but they were larger dogs, probably used more to trail deer than rabbits. In fact, even today there are two sizes of beagles recognized, the 13-inch-at-the- shoulder dog, and the 15-inch dog. Taller beagles are still used in much of the south and southeast to trail deer. The shorter ones are popular in the Midwest where running deer with dogs is illegal but chasing rabbits is not.

 

    The shorter and slower the beagle, the better the results as a rabbit hound. The reason for that is ... a cottontail prefers not to leave his home area and he runs in a circle when pursued. Eventually, he'll come back around to the thicket or briar patch where he was originally scented and put to flight.  If he is hotly pursued, he runs harder and the circle is much larger and wider.  If he feels pushed, in danger of being caught, he'll look for hollow logs or holes in the ground. 

 

    Trailed slowly and methodically, the rabbit will hop along at a medium gait, and travel a much smaller circle. The advantages of hunting with a good beagle are obvious;  you'll see more rabbits and you'll have a second chance at many, because the beagle continues the chase and the cottontail will meander and circle again over a new trail which will likely bring him near the waiting hunter again.

 

     If you hunt rabbits without a beagle, you will jump some ahead of you and never see them, simply because they hear you coming. With snow on the ground you can track cottontails but even then you'll see far fewer than you'll find with a beagle.  The little hound can track them with or without snow.  Hunters who jump-shoot cottontails get hasty, close shots at rapidly fleeing rabbits and the back legs too often catch too much shot, ruining the hindquarters as far as table value. Rabbits taken by waiting hunters as they are trailed by beagles can be head-shot and some hunters take them with a .22 rifle when they hunt with dogs.

 

    But if you ask any beagle enthusiast, he'll tell you that finding more rabbits and getting better shots is not the main reason he hunts with a beagle.  It’s the music of the chase, and until you've heard a brace of beagles baying on the trail of cottontail, you haven't really heard music. It is a song of elation... of pure, free excitement, from a little hound that never stops to think that he is engaged in a chase of futility. He'll never catch a cottontail. 

 

      Visit my website to see my books and magazines. It is www.larrydablemont.com.  You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO. 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com   And if I am in my office you can phone me at 417-777-5227.

 

 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Devil’s Own Bird, AND Gift books on quail, ducks, and the Roubidoux River for the Outdoorsman

 

 


 

       I was driving through Bennett Springs state trout park last week, to the west of Lebanon Missouri, and there they were, the devils own bird, seven or eight black vultures, right out in front of the main office.  This is the farthest north I have seen them in the Ozarks, but they have become a living plague in much of north Arkansas.  The authorities there at the park should kill every one of them as soon as possible, but it is illegal to do so. 

        A town in Pennsylvania is dealing with that too.   Black vultures have no good side.  They tear off roofing, sit on vehicles in Arkansas Ozark lake parking lots clawing and pecking away, doing thousands of dollars worth of damages.  Docks on several resorts along the White River have huge numbers of them painting the structures they choose to roost on, damaging everything they can in a variety of ways.  Many of the folks on Ozark lakes are ignoring the law and killing all of them they can, but some are going to the Game and Fish Department, getting what they call “depredation permits” in order to kill them off.  Anywhere they are found, they are a problem, and people who deal with them hate them.  But it is against the federal law to kill them because they migrate.  You can shoot crows, or pigeons, but worthless, damaging birds like the black vulture, or cormorants are protected by the feds, and there are large fines for killing either, despite the fact that both are way over-populated.

        Most large migrating birds are at the peak of their populations, including snow geese, Canada geese, turkey vultures, pelicans, great blue herons and even eagles.   Bald eagles, which I saw only one specimen in my teen-age years on the Ozark river where I grew up, did not nest in the Ozarks.  Right now within 25 miles of my house there are 11 bald eagle nests which are being used in the spring.  Bald eagles are feared by cattlemen and sheep but much less of a threat to calves and lambs than a large group of black vultures.  While a turkey vulture does not kill what it eats, black vultures sometimes do.  And you won’t hear that from anyone else but me, but it is true.  Most federal biologists don’t know that, and most ranchers do not know it either, but they are soon to learn.  The bald eagle is as much of a carrion eater than the black vulture is.  Eagles go after fish and migratory waterfowl, but black vultures do not.  In much of the Ozarks, few people know much about them, but in time, you will!  They are staying year round in the areas where chicken raisers dump thousands of dead chickens each year. They were once only a bird found in Central America and southern Mexico, but now a threat in the southern U.S. in a variety of ways. They are intruders on the same scale as armadillos and black vultures in the Ozarks should be killed, each and every one.

        I feel the same way about cormorants, and will say more about them in a future column.  You cannot find one good thing to say about them.  I’ll also write more about the hordes of damaging snow geese that come through western fringes of our area later in the winter, when I go out into Kansas to hunt them where there are no limits.  It is likely that there are 25 times, maybe 50 times, more snow geese today than there were a hundred years ago.  I wish it were that way with mallards, pintails and other ducks.  Canvasbacks and redheads which once came through the Midwest in late winter are almost never seen now.  But pick a large bird that is not good to eat, and there are record numbers of all them.  What a strange thing the evolution of nature has come to be with man’s interference as it is!

 

    If you live near Mt. Home come by and visit with me on Saturday, December 19 in Flippin, Arkansas where I will be signing my books (there are 10 total) and giving away Christmas issues of two different magazines.   I have two magazines, sold on newsstands for six dollars each, (one an Outdoor magazine and the other an Ozark magazine) to give away to anyone who comes by.  I will be at the grand opening of a business called Mountaineer Gear and Outfitters on Highway 62 East from 11;00 to 4:00. 


    I know of several outdoor books which would make really good Christmas gifts.  One is a book entitled “Gentleman Bob”, written by a retired Arkansas biologist Mike Widner. It is all about quail and quail hunting past and present by a man who spends more time in the field than most quail hunters ever will. There are three books by writer Dan Slais, one entitled the “Roaring Roubidoux” and the other about Onandaga Cave on the Meramec River.  The one though, that hunters will like best is “Twenty-First Century Duck Hunting.”  Slais and Widner are good writers who know what they are talking about. 

 

 

 

Mike's book is $12 postage paid. If requested, he will autograph and inscribe it. You can send a check to: Mike Widner, 278 Mill Pond Rd., Conway, AR  72034.  Or you can call him at 501-336-0102 home; 501-472-8473 cell

To send an email: mrgobblers@att.net.

 

   

         The Wonderment of 21st Century Duck Hunting: 156 pages of comparing techniques of native American duck hunters to the new technologies in duck hunting today. Stories by 11 authors. $15

         The Roaring Roubidoux:  229 pages on the story of an Ozark Creek in Texas and Pulaski Counties of Missouri. History, stories, and maps of its waterways. Some color pics, by Dan Slais  $15

         He is sending these books for the listed retail price and will be sent postage free. You can contact him at: 573-619-2733, dnbslais@outlook.com, or send checks/money to Dan Slais, 23646 Red Hawk Drive Lebanon, MO. 65536 


 

 

 

 

        

             ALSO:

 

 

 

       

 

 

 My website, where you can view my books and back issues of our magazines, IS:  www.larrydablemont.com  OR  you can contact me at lightninridge47@gmail.com, write to me at P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613 OR call my office, 417-777-5227 to pay with credit/debit card


 

   


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A Visit To North Arkansas

       A couple of years ago Bull Shoals was at the highest lake level ever seen. As a result they released water in record amounts into the White River below the dam. That summer I fished with a friend and river-guide Jerry McCoy in the first mile of the White, the section that is a ‘catch and release’ area.

 

       You are required to turn back any trout in that ‘trophy trout area’ and you have to use barbless single hooks only. In that area you can however keep any fish that is not a trout, and that spring, Jerry McCoy would get up close to the dam and catch walleye and crappie with the trout.

 

       Until then, I had never caught anything out of the White River except trout.  But since, I have wondered if perhaps those walleye might indeed be able to spawn in the river, and if the crappie couldn’t find sloughs and tributaries like the Buffalo and Crooked Creek, where they could spawn too. Of course, the water coming from the very bottom of Bull Shoals is too cold for any fish to spawn in but trout.  Rainbows never have any spawn that is meaningful, but the brown trout do spawn successfully, something that surprised fisheries biologists from years back.

 

       Brown trout grow to huge sizes in the White because no one keeps them, and there are some that are from 30 to 40 pounds in those miles and miles of the cold river between the dam and Mt View, Arkansas and even farther downstream.  The brown trout spawn in mid-winter over the next 2 to 3 months until sometime in February.

 


      
I will write more about fishing for them in February, which is the month I visit the White River the most. Since I am not much on fishing in crowds, and no hunting seasons are going on, February is when I like to fish the White. The rainbows you catch there are stocked fish that seldom exceed fourteen inches in length.  BUT-- with light gear, if you think a 12- or 14-inch rainbow isn’t fun to catch, you need to get a light-weight spinning-reel and an ultralite rod and go try it.

 

       In all my years of fishing on the White, I have not been well received as an outdoor writer by any of the resorts there but Gaston’s. And I love the place! Looking through thousands of newspaper columns I have written in the past fifty years, I came across one I wrote I wrote about fishing with one of Jim Gaston’s guides, decades back, there at Jim’s invitation. That was 40-some years ago, when I was writing weekly columns for the Arkansas Democrat and later the Arkansas Gazette.

 

       During that time, I was the chief naturalist for the Arkansas State Park System. I only stayed in that position for a few years, but while I was there, Jim Gaston became a commissioner for the Parks Department. I was a young kid basically, when I met him, an ardent believer in preservation, not at all convinced that the historic White River should have ever been dammed. 

 

       Even though he owned one of the largest developments on the river, Jim thought a lot as I did, and he loved the Ozarks. When I began publishing my outdoor magazine 18 years ago, Jim Gaston was one of my biggest supporters, advertising with me when others along the White looked at it as a venture bound to fail. But I know that we added other Ozark advertisers just because of Jim’s confidence in the magazine, and his reputation across the Midwest.

 

      Jim was an Ozarkian, and fascinated with photography of the region, its people, scenery and wildlife. For years he allowed me to use his photos free of charge in my magazine. Jim passed away a few years ago, and it was a great loss to the Ozarks and all of us who admired him so. His resort is still a thing of wonder as it is guided forward now by his grandson, Clint.

 


      If you catch some trout on the White you can take them to the restaurant there looking out across the river and they will cook them for you. Pan–seared rainbow trout in that restaurant rivals any fish you have ever tasted. But that restaurant is a fascinating place because it is also a museum of the Ozarks from another time, filled with antique fishing paraphernalia, antique tools, bicycles, guns, photos and much more. Any one who finds themselves in the Bull Shoals-White River area needs to see that museum. You can’t look at everything there on the first trip, but while you are there take a seat at a dining table, looking out across the water, and have some pan-seared trout.

 

       I will be there sometime in early February staying at the resort and fishing for whatever I can catch, and when I do, I will write a column about it and tell you all the details. I may not catch one of those monster browns, but I’ll get a couple of good ones, fishing a suspending rogue as guide Frank Saksa taught me to do years ago. I always do.

 

       Please visit my website, www.larrydablemont.com and my BlogSpot… larrydablemontoutdoors, to see other articles and recent photos.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Really Unusual Find

 

Not many people can say they have seen a shrew




         I don’t have much trouble social distancing. I live on a high ridge miles from any towns.  This ridge is completely timbered, with a nice pond I built to water wild creatures that live here, and there are a lot of them. My pond is full of fish, all native species, with bullfrogs as well.

 

         The trees on my ridge are huge; oaks, walnuts, hickories, sassafras and many other species.  There are dogwoods and redbuds, persimmons and black cherry, and edible mushrooms and wildflowers in the proper seasons. The trees are huge, making me think this ridge where I live has never been logged.  Not only are old stumps missing but there are hundreds of oaks and walnuts and hickories that are 150 years old.  Several big white oaks are certainly much older than 200 years.

 

         I could tell you about the dozens of species of unusual birds that pass through according to the season but I found something not long ago that is even more rare still, not suppose to be in the Ozarks anywhere.  But there it was, underneath a plywood board next to one of my duck decoy sheds… a gray shrew.  There is no doubt in my mind that is what it is, though some might argue about it until they see the photos.  It is not suppose to be in Missouri, Arkansas or Kansas.  Some have been found in Oklahoma.  You can see photos of this unusual critter on at larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com. That site is maintained so that I can post photos I take regularly in the outdoors.  It also carries my weekly outdoor columns, a week or so later than newspapers use them.  I do that because several dozen newspapers in three states print this column and some readers look for it and can’t find it on occasion.  Sometimes my column is too critical of something and newspapers are afraid to use it, but usually it is because a paper has space problems and can’t get it in.  But you can always find it with my photographs on that BlogSpot if you can operate a computer.  The photos this week are

something.  There is a photo of a tiny deer track about an inch-and-a-half long that I took the last week of November.  It is so small it has to be a spotted fawn born in the last month or so, which survived the deer season, because the doe tracks were with it.  That is tremendously unusual, but it happens.  About two years back I saw a fawn born the last day of February.

 

         But let me get back to that gray shrew.  When you realize that about any shrew will die if it doesn’t get food every 4 to 6 hours, and that they do not hibernate, how can they possibly live through the winter when they don’t have reptiles and the small hibernating mammals? Shrews like to spend the winters under old sheds and barns, and old buildings where non-hibernating small creatures are found. There are mice and voles that do not hibernate. That gray shrew, only about 3 inches long, and others of the shrew family, is ferocious, and capable of killing mice, and small birds. They will also kill and eat other shrews. 

 

         Well, there will be biologists who say that it is impossible to find a gray shrew in the Ozarks region, but I have the photograph.  I think it is a significant find, but I don’t know who to contact with the photo.  Take a look at it and see what you think.

 

         Next week I will write about seeing black vultures farther north than I have ever seen them, and you won’t believe where they were.  Those birds are a problem and in north Arkansas they are hated.  More about that next week.

 

 

         I have a bunch of my Christmas magazines I am giving away, both the Outdoor Journal magazine and the Ozark Journal magazine.  If you would like to receive them just send me the stamps to mail them to you.  One magazine can be mailed for 5 stamps, both of them for 8.  Both of my magazines sold for 6 bucks on newsstands.  Just mail the postage to Lightnin Ridge Publishing, Box 22, Bolivar, MO. 65613.  You can email me now at lightninridge47@gmail.com   For the past month that email hasn’t worked but it does now, for a little while at least.  Or you can call my office at 417 777 5227. I am there when I am not hunting.  I don’t go to town except to buy shotgun shells or donuts!