Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Big Birds



       I am amazed at the great increase in the number of ‘large-species’ birds.  Back in the fall there were thousands of huge white pelicans in the Ozarks.  Most likely there are ten times as many pelicans today as there were a hundred years ago.  I could write a whole column about pelicans, a fascinating bird I have observed in both northwest Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Ozarks.

       One evening I was duck hunting with old friend Rich Abdoler on a western tributary of Truman Lake, picking up decoys as the sun dipped below the horizon, and we watched a long string of low flying pelicans fly from the southern sky northward, several thousand of them, passing over within shotgun range for fifteen minutes.  It was about that time we begin seeing great numbers of cormorants on Truman, and today they are everywhere on that lake, thousands of them, feasting on shad, as overpopulated as anything in the Midwest.They are ugly and dirty and worthless, and neophyte hunters often think they are geese.  But if you shoot one it is a federal offense with a big fine.  What are the fish and wildlife people thinking?  There should be a bounty on them, but even that won’t reduce their numbers.

       Beginning nature photographers will get photos of one bird above all others, and that is the great blue heron.  They have likely quadrupled their numbers in the past 20 years, as nests along waterways are abundant, sometimes a dozen or more nests in one large sycamore tree, and fledgling birds making the darndest racket you can imagine.  As if game fish in our rivers don’t have enough problems.   In the pool hall back home ol’ Bill said he shot every great blue heron that he found within range of whatever gun he was carrying at the time.  Doc Dykes asked him why.  Bill said they were terrible bass killers… said he saw one once that had a flopping 2-pound bass held down in shallow water with one foot and the tail of a bigger one “hangin’ out of his jaws”!

       Eagles, which were so rarely seen along the Piney when I was a boy, need no protection today.  There are nine different eagle nests along the rivers and lakes that I know of within 10 miles or so of my ridge top as the crow flies. Quite often I will see six or eight eagles together eating the remains of a dead deer along some river after deer season.  If you have a camera and get tired of photographing herons, then you can find a bunch of eagles that aren’t all that wild.

       Last week in a big harvested cornfield there was a flock of Canada geese and near them, six big trumpeter swans. The swans aren’t over populated but the geese are, likely at a high number that hasn’t been seen for decades.  In the day of my boyhood, there was never an Ozark farm pond with nesting Canada geese. If we had seen wild geese in any appreciable numbers during the depression days folks in our region would have eaten better.
 
       Likely the most overpopulated big birds now are snow geese, so great in number that biologists fear they are doing irreparable damage to their breeding grounds in the arctic region of Canada.  When they start to appear by the thousands in March, on northern migrations through parts of western Missouri and eastern Kansas, hunters have, for many years, killed them by the hundreds. It doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in their numbers.

       There are problems on the horizon for Missouri, with a big worthless and destructive bird known as the black vulture.  I have seen what a problem they have become in north Arkansas.  Along the White River some boat docks have obtained permission to kill all of them, but to do it legally you have to pay 100 for a depredation permit. These birds, like so many which are now overpopulated, are protected by federal migratory bird laws.
 
       Here is some of what has been printed about them in north Arkansas  “Black vultures sometimes peck and damage rubber seals and windshield wipers on parked vehicles, canvas awnings and seating on boats, and rubber or vinyl materials on rooftops. Black vultures leave characteristic evidence of their depredation. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports black vultures can inflict gruesome damage to livestock. They pluck eyes and eat tongues of newborns, down, or sick livestock; disembowel young livestock; kill and feed on domestic fowl; and leave scars on those animals which survive.”

       I’ve seen them coming into Missouri more and more over the last five years as poultry farms provide thousands of dead chickens and turkeys in southern counties for them to feed on.  There is no telling how far into the state they will move.  In the east they have moved as far north as New England.

       Black vultures are a little smaller than what we know as ‘turkey buzzards’ in the Ozarks, and they have no color on their heads.  They have completely black skin.  To see a picture of one which I photographed on the White River, and other photos, go to my blogspot…larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.
 
       Amongst hawks and owls, populations are above the healthy level; most being just as high in numbers as I ever remember seeing them. But there is one large bird in the Ozarks which is not overpopulated… the wild turkey.  I have seen alarming declines in wild turkeys over the past eight to ten years and they have reached low numbers I have not seen in at least 40 years.  More about that in a column to come, and I will tell you what should be done, but won’t be done, by our conservation departments to help stop the declining populations of wild gobblers that is now about one-third of what it was 20 years ago.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email lightninridge47@gmail.com

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Better Than Filay-Miggnon



       I don’t know how many times I have sat down in these woods on my neighbor’s farm. Most of those times I have been here hunting deer or wild turkey. A time or two I have carried only my camera. 
        
       But it is a good place to be, leaning up against a big oak, relaxing in a place of calm and quiet and peace, far away from the daily chaos of offices and traffic and too many people.

       I have my squirrel gun across my lap, a Savage over and under, .22 rifle on top, the bottom barrel a 20-gauge. On one side of it there is an engraving of a fox, and a flying turkey on the other. I remember my dad using it back in the 1960’s to hunt squirrels and rabbits. I am about to use it to get a pair of squirrels for supper. I am plumb tired of eating lobster and shrimp and that filay-miggnon us outdoor writers are use to! I intend to fry myself a squirrel or two. But first I have to get one. And I didn’t bring any shotgun shells, so I will have to get one with the .22 rifle barrel, like squirrel hunters ought to. I didn’t do much of that as a boy. I had an old single-shot 16 gauge Iver Johnson shotgun and if the squirrel didn’t run, I didn’t miss. But with a .22 rifle, I seldom got one.

       What wonderful times those were, riding my bicycle down to the Tweed bottoms along the river, with that shotgun tied across the handlebars and five or six shells in my pocket.  I could buy a few shells at a time at Mr. Duff’s Western Auto Store for 8 cents apiece. Jess Wolf, one of the pool hall’s front bench regulars would give me 25 cents for gray squirrels, 35 cents for fox squirrels, and he’d often buy two, leaving me 2 or 3 for supper. Mom knew how to make them with a pressure cooker and dumplings. And I had to leave the heads on when I cleaned them, cause dad and grandpa liked to crack the skull open to eat the brains. Yuck! I never did that… and grandpa would shake his head and say he didn’t know what was happening to this younger generation!

It seems silly to be hunting squirrels two miles from my home up on lightnin’ ridge when there are about 20 grays and a half-dozen fox squirrels within a few feet of my back porch. But I am not hungry enough to eat anything that feeds at my corn feeder, including the deer or turkey.
 
The deer still come to my back yard, and ten years ago there were seven gobblers that would come there to fatten up for spring gobbling. Today there are none. And in these sprawling hundreds of acres of timber on my neighbor’s lands, there are darn few now, where once there were so many. If the MDC biologists know what is happening to our wild turkeys, they do not act like it. City-born biologists spend too much time in their offices analyzing studies and not near enough time in the woods. Right now we need some drastic changes in seasons and limits on wild turkeys. In most areas of the Ozarks they are really, really declining.

As I walked in to that little valley where my resting place is, I shot at 3 gray squirrels and missed each, difficult targets on the move through branches and vines. Age has weakened my shooting ability. Why, twenty years ago I could flush grasshoppers and pick them off before they could land!!

Now leaning up against my tree looking down into a small draw where red oak acorns are still fairly plentiful, I can see one nice fox squirrel rummaging around, as another, up in the high branches of a shagbark hickory, is squawking a warning that every outdoorsman has heard a thousand times, meaning he has seen me, or perhaps a hawk.

For some reason the one on the ground pays little attention to him, hearing problems perhaps. Must be an old squirrel. Moving up the slope, sitting on the side of a big oak, the fox squirrel presents a fairly easy target at 30 yards. I only missed him twice. But not a third time!

It is a good idea when hunting squirrels to have a good sharp knife and plastic bag, and to clean a squirrel immediately after killing it. I had neither, so carrying him by the back legs, I headed for home. I felt a little bit bad about killing the squirrel, but I have good use for it. When I was a kid I never felt that kind of regret about baggin’ a squirrel or rabbit. Squirrels don’t live very long anyway and none die easy. A .22 bullet is as merciful as any demise they might face. What I like to do is marinate a squirrel in something, then cook it on a grill. But frying it and eating it with white gravy isn’t too bad when you are tired of steak and lobster… like us outdoor writers get at times. Or did I already mention that?
 
We live pretty high on the hog up here in the woods on my ridge top. Might have a wild mallard or two soon, or a rabbit maybe, with canned poke-salet greens with sassafras tea. Doesn’t just thinking about a meal like that make you hungry?

       I know that many of you have read some of my books.  There is a new one out now, entitled, “Recollections of an Old-Fashioned Angler.” If you can’t find one, just call our office and we will tell you how to get an autographed copy.  The number is 417-777-5227. You can email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. 


Friday, January 3, 2020

A Winter Walk—

EAGLE WORKING ON EXPANDING A NEST... "THIS OUGHTA BE A GOOD LIMB FOR IT!"


There is a remote little gravel bar along the river where I love to camp, quite a walk from the road. I wanted to see it in the dead of winter.

I saw a very clear bobcat track in soft sandy soil. On such ground it is easy for anyone to tell a cat track. Those bottoms below rocky bluffs and crags have a great population of bobcats. There’s no shortage of them in the remote areas of the Ozarks. There are more of them now than I ever remember. It may be that they have a lot to do with the alarming decrease in wild turkey over the past few years.  Rising numbers of great horned owls are also part of that problem.

There will be young great horned owls hatched and bobcats born very soon, long before the fawns are born. In the Ozarks, there are squirrels being born in late February and bobcats begin having young in February as well. But Ozark bobcats may bear young any time from December on. But most are born in February and early March. Think of that… we are already nearing the time of reproduction. In the White River in Arkansas, brown trout are beginning to spawn.

I happened across a terrapin shell, this one very old because only the white undershell was there. Terrapins have an outer and under shell, and Ozark boys in my grandpa’s generation often carved their initials and dates in the outer shell. When I was just a boy, I found terrapins with initials and dates, and it caused me to realize how long they lived.  I suspect a terrapin might live forty or fifty years if he is lucky enough to stay upright. 
 
They are unusual in that they are capable of living a long time and yet producing a lot of young. Most all wild things are good at one or the other… not both. A species has high ‘biotic potential’, the ability to survive well and live long, or high ‘reproductive potential’, the ability to produce high number of offspring during a season. The predators have few babies in one year, and live long and survive well.  A rabbit or a woodrat has a short life span because of predation and a weakness to disease and parasites. But all small ground mammals are like rabbits; they raise lots of young to ensure survival of their species, and to feed the predators. 
 
       The bobcat and fox has a lot to do with the survival of terrapins, not because they eat them, but because young foxes and young bobcats just can’t pass up a terrapin without chewing on it, slapping at it, and curiously examining it. Young raccoons, so adept with their “hands” do the same thing. In doing so, they sometimes leave the terrapin on its back, which is often a death sentence for it.

       It isn’t pleasant to think about, the time it might take a terrapin to die in such a situation.  It has caused me to wonder if the Great Creator didn’t make a mistake or two, giving us snakes and subjecting the terrapin to such a rough end at times.  He pretty much insured the terrapin would never be an easy meal, but if it was me, maybe I’d rather outrun a young bobcat that spend several days trying to regain my feet after becoming his plaything.

There is another flaw in the design of the terrapin. Very often, in mating, a male terrapin becomes unbalanced and ends up on his back.  The cottontail has no option for the terrapin’s long life, but by golly, during the mating season, worn out as he may become, he never winds up on his back.  If you have never seen mating rabbits cavorting in the moonlight, you have missed something.

       At this point, it makes me wonder what I was thinking when I started this column… Oh yeah, now I remember. I was down along the river admiring the ice sculpture on the bluff across the river, when two ospreys came upstream and saw me. Immediately they began to perform acrobatics above me, a sight to behold and impossible to describe. It was as if they wanted to put on a show for me. All the while they were chirping at me in a trilling voice typical of those ‘fish-hawks’ during the mating season. And yes, their mating season is at hand.

I have written before of all the eagle nests I know of in the Ozarks, but I really can’t pinpoint the osprey nest. Their nest is usually along a rock ledge, and not easy to see. They have feet adapted to clinging to small fish, and in diving after fish; they can penetrate the water easier and deeper than an eagle can. 
 
       The old eagle I saw working on her nest last week on another river is not a fish eater at all right now, because they aren’t available where she is. Eagles on the larger lakes in the northern Ozarks are feeding a little better because of the winter shad die-offs. Eagles are also pretty good at finding crippled ducks and coots, and other things to eat when fish aren’t easy to get. I saw two eagles in the fall sharing a dead deer with some buzzards. Eagles are big time carrion eaters.  I’ve never seen an osprey eating carrion.

       I wish I could answer all the letters and e-mails I get from you folks out there who read this column each week, but I just can’t. But I read them all. To contact me write to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613. I do not live there, but that is where I pick up my mail. Or you can email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

NEW INFO ON MY BOOK, "THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MDC"


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The response I had to the first news about my upcoming book, “The Truth about the Missouri Department of Conservation”  was overwhelming.  So here is what I need for everyone to know…. Yes, your experiences with this corrupt bunch, with agents who break the law and violate your rights, is solicited.  It is best if you can write those things down and either email or mail them to me!  Here is the way to do it.  The mail…  larry dablemont Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email--- lightninridge47@gmailcom.  DO NOT WORRY AT THIS POINT ABOUT SENDING MONEY!!!  I will let everyone know at the appropriate time next summer about donating to pay the printer.  The book itself will be free, and people all over Missouri will know when it is ready and how to help.

Since I do not want anyone to think I am profiting in anyway for this project, checks will need to be made out to Corning Printing Company, not me!  But that will come later.
Just yesterday I talked in person to a man who had an amazing story about a game warden who took his deer rifle out of his pick-up with witnesses watching, wrote him a 300 dollar ticket and made an attempt to keep the rifle.  This man went to a judge named John Beeler and had the case thrown out and the agent was ordered to give the rifle back, because he had broken the law by taking it with no search warrant. He opened the pickup and essentially committed a theft of property.  The hunter did not have to pay the fine, but it took him much of a year to get the rifle.  He finally got it back by going to the sheriffs department.

There are so many stories like this I can substantiate, that book may take 400 pages.  I want your experiences with this bunch, and I will guarantee you the book is going to make some big changes.  I will need your help getting a copy to all legislators next year.                                                     
BE PATIENT, WE WILL GET IT DONE, AND ALL WHO HAVE BEEN VICTIMIZED CAN HAVE A WAY TO HAVE THEIR EXPERIENCES KNOWN.

Larry dablemont


THE CEDAR CHRISTMAS TREE


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   Larry Dablemont....Outdoor column.... 12-16-19


          I was probably only six or seven years old when I went on my first hunting trip. Dad and I were hunting a Christmas tree. I carried the axe.  A Christmas tree at our home was always a cedar tree, and not just any cedar tree. It had to be just the right height, the right girth and the right color. Dad always took his shotgun and while we hunted the perfect Christmas tree we also hunted for rabbits and squirrels and quail and ducks, none of which had to be perfect, just within range.

       There is nothing more typical of the Ozarks where I grew up than the old fields of broam sedge, blackberry brambles and sumac thickets, dotted with cedars, most of them too large or too small for Christmas trees.  Here on Lightnin’ Ridge I have a thicket of cedars below my pond and they grow so closely none are shaped like a Christmas tree.  They will stay there because they are a thick windbreak and hiding place for all kinds of birds, and quail and rabbits… valuable protection from predators and winter blasts.

       Actually the tree we call a red cedar, is not a cedar at all, it is a juniper. It can grow 50 feet tall and two and a half feet in diameter when the soil is good, or it can sprout from the thinnest soil in a limestone glade and survive forever with the flimsiest foothold.

       One old-timer in Arkansas told me of an era before the great depression when the Buffalo and White rivers were filled with floating cedar logs, miles of them, on their way to become pencils and cedar chests.

       The oil in the cedar is a natural insect repellent of course, the fragrance of it driving away moths and other insects, therefore, explaining the popularity of
cedar chests. 
          
         The cedar is tough and it is hardy and it had survived despite all the efforts to eradicate it completely.  It has its drawbacks, being the alternate host to a blight that affects apple trees.  If you have an apple orchard, the last thing you want nearby is a cedar thicket. Wild birds ensure its survival by eating the berries and passing the seeds.

       Remaining on the tree through the winter, those berries are emergency food for quail, turkey, doves, grey squirrels, and rabbits when deep snow or ice makes other food unavailable. Deer browse on the scale-like leaves, and early nesting doves nest inside protective evergreen branches from March thru September. The red cedar offers protection and security for small creatures; like that manger in Bethlehem did, more than 2,000 years ago.  And that makes the cedar even more appropriate as the true Christmas tree.

       It is said that Indians dried and ground cedar berries, then used them to make a cake-like food.  They also roasted and ground them to produce a hot, coffee-like drink. An old camper's recipe I found in an outdoor magazine from 1915 gave this recipe for juniper tea... "A dozen young berryless sprigs to be added to a quart of cold water; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes, remove from fire and cool for 10 minutes, then strain and drink...  High in vitamin C, juniper tea produces a pleasant tasting hot drink."  I'm not recommending juniper tea, since I've never tried it, and may never. But if you do try it, let me know how it tastes.

      It is hard for me to accept that a whole generation of folks now go onto city lots and buy Christmas trees, a large number of them spruce or pine from other states. And they pay for them! They will spend enough on some trucked-in, bound-up tree to buy two or three boxes of shotgun shells, and then throw the thing away in less than a month.  What the heck has this world come to?!!

        With a local cedar tree, our whole house smells like Christmas.  That’s because cedar trees smell like Christmas more than anything else, and if it isn’t that way at your place, you are not keeping up with tradition.  Cedar trees, baked cookies and a good dog… those are the smells of an Ozark country Christmas.

         And the most beautifully shaped Christmas trees in the whole world are found along our highways, millions of cedars from 4 feet to 20 feet tall, so perfectly shaped that it looks like they were grown just for that purpose. They are full and green and teardrop shaped, the best you can find for a Christmas tree because of the environment they grow in with full light with no competition from nearby trees. If the highway department, always wanting more money, could harvest these perfectly-shaped cedar Christmas trees and set up a way for private sales on a percentage basis, they could make millions and therefore fill in all the chuck-holes and solve the states financial deficits at the same time.

       But it might be too difficult for a state agency to figure out how to make that work.  I could do it for them if they would ask. If my dad and I could have found cedars like that when I was a boy, we wouldn't have had to hunt all afternoon. And our home never had a cedar tree as perfect as those.
 
    You might send this article to the highway department headquarters and ask them why they can spend thousands cleaning the right-of-way on miles and miles of highways, a practice with no value to the public in any way, while a million perfect Christmas trees are there for the taking and selling.  Why can one be done and the other cannot.
      

      





MISSOURI DEER HARVEST DOWN


Larry Dablemont outdoor column… 12-9-19

Missouri Deer Harvest Down


       The deer kill during the November gun season in Missouri was about 179 thousand, compared to 201 thousand in 2018.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has made some mistakes in the past few years that they will regret, and one of them involves changing the landowners permit situation. I believe it is showing up now like they didn’t realize it would.

       Until now you could hunt deer on a free landowners permit if you owned 5-acres or more.  They got to thinking they needed more money so this year that was changed to twenty acres or more. If you own under twenty acres you now have to buy a permit to kill a deer on your own land.

       They almost goofed up big time by discussing requiring landowners to own 21 or more acres, thinking it would really bring in more revenue. Do you realize how many 20-acre tracts there are in Missouri?  What an outcry that would have brought forth.  So they wisely shelved that idea.
 
       They are figuring on changing that every year or two until they soon get it to 40 acres, and then eventually the 80 acres which they wanted to do about ten years ago.  At the time, that proposal brought so much resistance they had to abandon it, but they can gradually get back to it by just going up 10 acres at a time.
 
       I am not just guessing about this, I have received that information from within the MDC as much as two years ago.  His first assertions about the 21 acres was right.  Those people who own 40 or 60 or 80 acres are not poor country folks as a rule.  They have enough money to not worry about the cost of a deer tag.  Those who own 10 or 12 acres may not cotton to being told they can’t hunt deer on their land without paying for it.

       I suspect they realize that this year a good number of hunters with less than 20 acres just hunted without permits and kept their deer kills a secret.  One 15-acre landowner confided in me that he just killed two deer and hung them in his locked-up barn until he processed them and put them in his freezer.
 
       Inside any building, an agent is kept out by the requirement that they have a search warrant to enter, and they cannot get one to just randomly search a barn or home.  That landowner said… “I didn’t even feel uncomfortable doing it, because we know from that letter you made available last year that all deer season arrests and confiscations result from finding hunters who called in their deer on that telecheck thing.  Don’t call in, and they won’t even suspicion you.”

       Well, that is exactly what has happened, and who knows the extent of that rebellion of small landowners.  That, plus the loss of hunters like me who are beginning to worry about CWD and what is not said about it, is going to cause the MDC to lose some revenue, and they fear nothing like they fear that.  In this column soon, I will tell you about an interview with a  Texas biologist who has studied the disease for 8 years.  I think it will surprise many.
 
       One of the things that puzzles me is, how is it that more than 100 deer in the North-Arkansas four-county area bordering Missouri were found last year to have CWD and not one deer in the same area of south Missouri was found with the disease?  That is strange to me.  Either Arkansas biologists are making a big mistake, or Missouri isn’t reporting what has been found.

       We are told that all over the state of Missouri there has been only about 75 CWD diseased deer found over several years.  But in the north half of Arkansas  in 2018 alone, 680 deer and elk were found to have had the disease.  Something is wrong here.

       When I talk with hunters about CWD, almost no one knows anything about it.  Most believe hunters cannot get it from deer and that is not true.  I want people to know the truth, and that has made me very unpopular with the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Many newspapers cannot print this column.

Because of their power in controlling what I can publish, I cannot tell you anything about my upcoming book about the MDC, but I need public input from outdoor people to finish it.  Please see that book and learn more about this on my blogspot, which you can see on the computer at larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.  You will be able to get a free copy of that book which results from research I have done over the past 20 years.


       I see the most unbelievable things out in the woods or on the water. Two days ago I was going up a small river and right in the middle of a deep eddy off a steep hillside was a terrapin, floating around hoping for a wind to blow him to shore. He was an old one, with a carapace (shell) seven inches long and a deep crack in one side. They can live to be almost 50 years old and you can get a general idea of age by counting growth rings inside a section of the shell.

       He had been in that water a long time, apparently falling down off the steep rocky hillside and unable to climb back up over the ledge. His skin was clean and pink as a baby’s bottom, softened up by the water. He was very well colored too. I think he was resigned to his fate, but I put him in my johnboat and took him to a place where the warm sunshine would hit him and off he went... without so much as a thank you, most likely trying to find a lady terrapin to hibernate with!
That water was 40 degrees and I’ll bet he had been in it a day or more. They really are buoyant and they can swim a little but not too fast! In all my life in the outdoors, I have never seen one drowned. A turtle's biggest enemies are Firestone, Michelin, and Bridgestone and little kids with a box.

To get in touch with me about my books or magazines, just call me at 417-777-5227 or email lightninridge47@gmail.com or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo, 65613.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Books Larry has written




We have had several enquiries about Larry's books that are available for sale. The photos show the books he has written. If you purchase one book it is $15 which includes postage. If you would like to purchase more than one, the price is $10 each plus postage according to how many you purchase. You can call our office to order at 417-777-5227. If we are not available to answer the phone, please leave a name and callback number.