Monday, October 27, 2014

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart!

Two weeks ago I had a birthday and someone who came by to eat some of my birthday cake reminded me how old I was. My gosh, I can’t hardly believe it. I was only complaining about turning 40 just awhile back, it seems. I started writing about being a grizzled old veteran outdoorsman back then just for a lark, and now I really am one!

Early in the day, when I am paddling my boat down the river or trying to call in a turkey or stalking squirrels, I feel like I am 30. As the sun sets, I feel like I am 90. I know now why my grandpa went to bed at 9:00 o’clock. There are times when I am sound asleep in my easy chair at 8:00.

Senior citizenship has caught up with me, but I will live as I always have, thankful for the day I have and the blessings of wild things and wild places where man has not intruded. I will make plans for tomorrow only, not for days ahead. God has blessed me, I still have a full head of hair and it is still the same color it was when I was 40.

I don’t have to comb it anymore. Older people can look scroungy and no one cares. I can still run pretty darn fast for a short distance on a gentle downhill slope if I absolutely have to, say if an old wild sow hog chases me away from her piglets. That happened not long ago. And I can easily walk five miles over and through these wooded hills with my shotgun on my shoulder. Most importantly I can put two people in my johnboat and paddle it all day long without missing a stroke, and load it in my pickup when I get there.

The best thing about growing old is the experience you have gained. I know how to do so many things so much better than when I was young. And now, I don’t care if I kill my limit of ducks or catch a limit of crappie. Anything you get is aplenty, as long as you can be outdoors and find a place to be alone and pretend it is 1965 again, or even 1975. I never enjoyed life more than I do now.

Since I am getting old, I have decided to retire just a little bit. The two magazines I publish, the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal and the Journal of the Ozarks, will be continued one more year, through December of 2015. But if you are someone who has subscribed to issues much beyond that, don’t worry, I will return any subscription money to you that you have coming, a promise I made when we started them.

Amazingly, I never intended to publish a magazine, but I got the idea fourteen years ago to try to put forth a few issues of an old-fashioned outdoor magazine just like they were when I was a youngster. Now our winter issue, coming out in mid-November, will be the fiftieth one we have published. I hope that after next year someone will come along to take over and keep it going, but truthfully, the days of outdoor magazines like I remember them is over.
Today’s outdoor magazines are so product and technology oriented. Young outdoorsmen live for tournaments and trophies.  It is like today’s outdoor publications are being produced for a different type of human. And truthfully, they are. Who cares about real conservation, preserving the quality of our dwindling woods and waters?

The outdoors I have known is going away quickly, and in another 50 years the age all of us old-timers recall so fondly will be a forgotten time, and the woods and waters we knew will be gone forever. A different kind of society, a different set of values is ahead of us, and it might be merciful that you and I don’t have to see it. Our treasures were not colored gold or silver.

In a hundred years our descendants will not know that you could once drink from pure Ozark springs and rivers, they won’t know how big the trees once were, and they will have little notice of species of birds and fish and mammals that are gone or diminished. The truth then will be what the news media allows them to know, and what they are told by the television and the computer.

I have finished seven books on the outdoors, and in this semi-retirement I will try to do a dozen or so more. I will also continue to write this weekly outdoor column until all the newspapers are owned by those big conglomerates like Gannett, who won’t tolerate views and ideas they don’t agree with. Right now this column goes to about 30 newspapers in three states.

The readership may continue to grow as I have time to talk with more newspapers. But truthfully, the readership of a grizzled old veteran outdoor writer has, to a great extent, died off, with my dad and uncles and grandfathers. All things, in time, shall pass, just as the Bible says.

Over the years my friends and I have noted the hornets nests along the river. Speculation has been that you could sell the big ones for 25 dollars or so, but the woodpeckers destroy them in the fall, so you risk getting stung if you try to get one before it gets ragged.

I was amused to see a little hornet’s nest about the size of a baseball under my screened in porch, the smallest one I have ever seen, obviously started and never finished. Then my daughter found the biggest hornet's nest I have ever seen in the woods only about 30 yards behind my office here on Lightnin’ Ridge.

The mile long trail my family has built here on Lightnin’ Ridge is absolutely beautiful now, and if you don’t have a really good woodland trail to walk, you are welcome to see and enjoy ours. The trees are big, the spring is cold, and you might see anything from a buck to a bobcat to a bobwhite. Just promise you won’t hire a lawyer if you trip over a rock and skin your elbow. I only have a couple of hundred dollars buried in a coffee can in the back yard and I don’t want to lose it.

Two game wardens came to my place this week to tell me what a bad thing I had done when I printed that column about the wild turkey I killed on my place. They want me to print another column confessing to doing such a despicable and illegal thing, and I promised I would. Look for that next week. We spent three hours out by my dog kennel disagreeing about many things. I know a great deal about both of them and what they have done on the job as conservation agents and so I brought those things up and we argued about that.

In three hours we didn’t agree on a darn thing. They are more concerned about what is legal than what is right. I guess they have to be that way. But I maintain that if the Conservation Department eliminated about half of their penny-ante, silly laws and regulations, then they might be able to concentrate on real violators instead of trying to stick innocent people with petty violations. Their half of the story comes next week.

In the winter issue of my magazine you can read the stories about three Missouri citizens who died recently from Cruetzfeldt-Jakobs disease, the technical name for mad-cow or mad-deer disease (chronic wasting). Nowhere else will those deaths, and the stories of their surviving relatives, be told….. because if people stop buying deer tags, the economics of deer hunting will be harshly affected.

My website, Address: Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or email…

Monday, October 20, 2014

Get Aholt of a Good Camera


I got aholt of a cheap little camera when I was in college at School of the Ozarks, and took photos of our hunting and fishing exploits with it. ‘Aholt of’, is a term the old timers in the pool hall used to describe coming across something valuable or useful, strictly by luck.
The other day I got aholt of one of those old photos I hadn’t seen in years and it was like finding treasure. Every now and then that happens, and it brings back great memories. The reason I don’t know where all of them are is simple… there are thousands of outdoor photos in my office, and I don’t have the time to go through them and organize them!
I love taking photos, and sometimes I forget the rod or gun when I am fishing or hunting and just use the camera. That goes back to the time I graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in wildlife management, and went to work the following week as the outdoor editor of the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock, the largest newspaper in Arkansas.
They gave me one of those big, box cameras that took black and white photos, and I brought film back to their processing department on a regular basis. I hadn’t been there more than a month or so when I went out to do a story about Arkansas Power and Light Company planting food plots for wildlife under power lines. Maybe it was because I was new, but they made a big deal about the photo I took of seed heads waving underneath a big iron electrical structure, and I won an award for the best photo of the month.
I think Gloria Jean bought me a nice 35 mm camera that year for a birthday present, and I began to take color slides with it. Today I have oodles of those color slides, and due to my organizational skills I can’t find anything I want to find without a considerable amount of time spent going through dozens and dozens of sleeves of slides in a huge photo-holding cabinet. I find slides in there I don’t even remember taking!
As a free-lance writer back in the seventies and eighties trying to support a family, those photos played a huge part in my success. Writing articles for Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Sports Afield and many other outdoor magazines, I was paid extra when they used my photographs. In time, I began to sell photos for magazine covers, and the pay was good.
But I didn’t just take those pictures for the money it made me; I just got hooked on it. I never did learn anything about what I was doing, I just took lots and lots of photos, and because the camera did everything automatically, like adjusting for light conditions, etc., I got some great photos by accident. You just look through the hole in the back of the camera until you think you see a good picture, and then push the button.
It must have been about 12 or 15 years ago that I stopped taking those color slides and went to color prints, since they could be scanned and sent via computer. That changed things, because by sending out 20 or 30 color slides via mail to a dozen or so different magazines I worked with, a good number of them were lost.
I think it was only about six or seven years ago that Sondra Gray, who is the editor here at The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, took me to Sam’s, where she had a membership, and helped me select a really good digital camera that has a little card in it.
Now I can take photos all day, and come back to my office at night and slip that card in a little slot in this computer and put them all in a file in this gosh-awful machine that I hate so much, but am forced to use.
Looking back, it is just unbelievable what has happened, going from that big old box camera at the Arkansas Democrat in 1971, to the way things are today. It makes me feel a little like my grandfather must have felt when he watched a jet take off, and remembered how he once drove a horse-drawn wagon to town. I still don’t know a thing about photography, but I have sold hundreds and hundreds of photos, and if I can do it, anyone can. Just get a good camera and learn the fundamentals of using it, and take it with you everywhere you go. You don’t have to take classes, I never did. But I’ll bet if you do you’ll be glad you did. No telling how many more great photos I would have today if I had learned something about what I was doing.
I have noticed that if you forget the camera, that is the day that you will catch the biggest fish, or some giant buck or wild gobbler will walk up and look at you and say, “Where’s your camera.” I got a dandy photo the other day just by accident, of a deer running across a field with heavy dew and the sun behind her. If you want to see it, just go to my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors. and you’ll see it there.
And someone reminded me that I told everyone in a past column I would put a photo of a deadfall trigger my uncle Norten made years ago, on that website. I forgot… but I will do it this week, so you can see what a deadfall to kill skunks and armadillos looks like. But I repeat, it is illegal to use one, and no one should use one where there are cats or small dogs that mean a lot to a neighbor.
Our outdoor magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, and our Ozark magazine, The Journal of the Ozarks, always needs artwork, good photos and feature articles. If you think you have a good story for us, send it, but have it typed first. Or you can email it to us at lightninridge@ My mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. In a week or so I will tell you what about some of the stories coming out in our winter magazines, and how you can get a gift subscription for someone who likes to read. But if you have any questions about either, you can always call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, here at our executive offices, located way out in the woods only 50 miles northeast of Springfield and about 500 miles southwest of Chicago. Ms. Wiggins has been to Chicago and Springfield too! I figure that anyone who has been to both places has the ability to answer any questions anyone might have. Ladies who have any questions about keeping their fingernails fixed up should ask Ms. Wiggins. She does more of that than anything else when she is here!
Huntin’ and fishin’ questions ought to be directed to me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Sick Deer-- Harbinger of Things to Come?

A neighbor a few miles away had a sick buck deer, acting tame, come up to his place covered with ticks and too weak to go much farther. He photographed it, and you can see photos of the deer on my website, given at the end of this column.

He called the Missouri Department of Conservation and was told to kill the deer and they would come and get it and try to find out what is wrong with it. I have seen that same situation at least three times in the wild… all three times the deer was a doe in the early fall so covered with ticks you couldn’t believe it unless you saw it. Once, the deer was very weak and sick, but the other two times they appeared normal and strong.

I always theorized that the deer had some sort of tick fever. It was not the blue tongue (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) you see in August and September of very dry hot summers. People who know about the mad-deer disease which is spreading in north central Missouri are going to be wondering if any diseased deer they see have that… chronic wasting disease as it is being called.

I think it is a few years away in the Ozarks, but it is coming. Trouble is, no one knows for sure how long it will take to spread throughout the state. When it does, hunters like me will likely quit hunting deer. The Missouri Department of Conservation fears that because it will cost them a lot of money.

They were geared up to start selling non-resident tags for hundreds of dollars to the wealthier out-of-state hunters looking for trophies. That ‘seven-point or greater’ rule put into affect in two thirds of Missouri only a few years ago was to serve that purpose… create more “trophies”. Biologically and enforcement wise it is a ridiculous concept. Some of the older agents told me that confidentially they wouldn’t even attempt to enforce it because of the silliness of it.

But hunters looking for trophies do not worry about chronic wasting disease, they don’t intend to eat the deer, they want a cape and a set of antlers, and that is it. From that concept the Conservation Commission did well in setting up a ‘share the harvest’ program which turned over venison the trophy hunters didn’t want to poor families who could use the meat.

With mad-deer disease spreading, that program should someday be stopped. No one should take a chance on eating the meat of a sick deer harvested perhaps in some other part of the state just for its antlers.

My oldest daughter is a doctor and I question her about the chronic wasting disease and have a hard time getting her to give me hard medical answers. She says it a disease spread by organisms called prions, and there isn’t anything she can say that the medical profession is absolutely sure of. To a doctor, mad-deer disease or mad-cow disease is known as ‘Creutzfeldt-Jakob’ disease, and it is an absolute fact that humans can get it if they eat meat from an animal with the disease, whether it is a cow or a deer, or an elk.

My daughter tells me that in her early years as a doctor, she saw a case of it at the University of Missouri hospital in Columbia. That was about 12 years ago.

Bill Zippro, a resident of Joplin, Mo insists that his brother died a young man of that disease because he killed and ate a huge buck which was acting very strange, and didn’t make any attempt to escape. He said his brother was shown to have the prions in his system, and the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia verified it. When he died, his family was refused a normal funeral, because his body had to be cremated quickly.

Some news agency somewhere should talk to Zippro and investigate this, but they won’t. The only thing you will ever see on this subject will have to be through the Conservation Department. Ozark news medias will not oppose them. Zippro thinks the huge deer his brother killed had been kept in captivity. He says that a similar death of a deer hunter occurred across the line in Kansas about the same time.

The Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was created by feeding meat and bone meal to cattle in England in order to make them heavier and worth more money. The same thing created it in deer and elk in the United States, feeding a commercial food with meat and bone meal to herbivores in order to create bigger antlers.

You will never, ever hear the news media or the Conservation Department mention that when they discuss chronic wasting disease. In dozens of meetings on deer management held around the state in recent months, that meat and bone meal diet wasn’t even talked about. Hundreds of deer farms are enabled to continue because of the huge amounts they make on individual deer.

The mad-deer disease in north-central Missouri spread into the wild because deer in several of those penned-deer operations developed the disease and a few were turned into the wild to get rid of them. Some of those operations paid thousands for brood stock brought in from other states, which apparently spread the disease.

My daughter will not say that anyone eating a diseased deer may get the disease, but she does admit it is very possible. Prions aren’t bacteria and they are not virus. There really isn’t a good definition of exactly what they are! The idea seems to be that the prions exist in the brain and spinal fluid and possibly bone marrow, but not blood.

The Conservation Departments depending on deer tags for millions of dollars do not want to lose that revenue. But in time, they will not be able to hide what they know, and what is the truth. Like I said, I love venison, but my days of hunting deer are limited and thousands of hunters who learn the truth about this disease will join me. But some hunters will never know, and those who hunt only for trophies won’t care.

The “share the harvest’ program has other flaws. A Mtn. Grove resident, Larry Baty, retired from a Texas County pen-raised deer facility and told me this story. He says he saw a big buck raised from a fawn and sold to a Texas hunter for 26 thousand dollars.

The hunter brought his young daughter up to kill the buck, which was about half tame, in order to have the head mounted. Baty said that he had to inject the buck with a chemical to calm it down in order to move it to the area where it was to be shot. Then the next day he had to inject it with another chemical to make it hyper and give the appearance of a wild deer.

He gave me the boxes the chemicals came in and both said… “Warning…Not to be used on food animals.” The Texan and his daughter didn’t want the meat, and the venison, like that of a dozen other deer similarly injected, was given to the MDC for distribution to poor families that fall through the ‘share your harvest’ program.

Whoever ate those deer never knew that they had a dangerous chemical in the meat. Now even more, it will be risky to eat deer meat you know nothing about. Don’t do it!!! Probably right now the risk isn’t very high, but it may increase as chronic wasting disease spreads.

My website is and the email address is My postal address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Wet, Illegal Gobbler

  I don’t want anyone to get to thinking I have any money, because that kind of thing gets you in trouble with the IRS, but last year I bought about 50 acres off in the middle of nowhere. It sits on a pretty little creek, with a great little cabin on it, just made for someone like me who likes to pretend he is living in some previous century with no one within 500 miles. Filled with big timber, decorated with the howling of coyotes and bellowing of bullfrogs at night and the gobbling of wild toms at dawn, it is a little paradise to me.

  This purchase was a result of one of the finest men I ever knew, Gloria Jean’s father, Frank Goedde. When he died he left enough money to buy it, and he wanted something done with that money to benefit his granddaughters and great-grandsons. So really, it is his place, and theirs, and I am enjoying it as well.

  A friend and I went there last weekend as the weather turned cold and it actually felt like hunting season again. And I went by Walmart sporting goods’ counter and picked up a roll of landowner hunting permits big enough to choke a buck deer. There must have been close to ten of them, and I was stupid enough just to sign everything, some saying “turkey” and some saying “deer” and some saying “firearm” and some saying “archery”. I commented to myself that if I killed everything allowed on those tags I’d have to pray for a cold winter, or by a new freezer. But I didn’t look as close as I should have.

  To make a long story short, as I seldom do, my father-in-law’s new place is full of turkeys. My friend and I got into them one afternoon, while he sat on a timbered hillside and I sat down along the creek. I probably ought to digress here to tell all you nature lovers that while I have seen black squirrels in several Midwest towns, I have never seen one in the wild until that evening. But there he was, a coal black gray squirrel. ‘Gray’ here refers to species, not color.

  A few times I have seen black fox squirrels in the wild, but never a gray, and he was absolutely spectacular. There were a few gray hairs sticking out the sides of his tail, but his white belly was black, and he looked like he might be something made for Halloween. With a can of black spray paint, you couldn’t have made him any blacker than he was.

  In time he got up in a great big oak and I lost track of him because of all those turkeys out in the opening before me. There were about a dozen or so of them - some young turkeys, a couple of old hens and three big ground-raker gobblers. Normally in the fall, it is the young of the year jakes I like to shoot, and leave the old toms for next spring.

  But across the little opening in the valley, sitting on the hillside, my hunting friend got antsy and decided to try to move down a little closer, just an hour before the sun set. There were too many turkey eyes watching for such a maneuver and they all spooked and clucked and flew toward the creek. One nice turkey came sailing past me, and if you think a turkey cannot fly very fast you should have been with me. That gobbler was matching the flight of any rooster pheasant or drake mallard that ever streaked by me, and I knew that I had to lead him well. I got out in front of him and squeezed off a shot and he fell dead in the creek.

  A wild gobbler is a beautiful bird when he isn’t wet. When he floats for a while in the creek while you try to figure out how to retrieve him, he just looks awful when you get him out. To get an idea, just take the next turkey you kill and throw him in the creek and see how awful it looks. Or take one of your chickens out and throw it in the pond. You don’t take any photos of yourself with a dead gobbler that fell in the creek.

  The levity of the situation went away quickly when I dug out my landowner tags and found that the only thing I had for a turkey was an archery tag. They had left off the wild turkey gun tags, for cryin’ out loud. I had to drive out a mile or so from the little cabin to find a place where a phone would work, and call Walmart, where I learned that it wasn’t their fault either, and if I would come in, they would give me the tags I was missing.

  It worried me, driving about 30 miles with an untagged turkey in my pickup, knowing how the conservation agents I criticize so much would like to discover me in such a vulnerable situation, so I covered up my gobbler good and hid him behind the seat of my pickup, and lit out for the Walmart store. At a truck stop a few miles away, where I had to buy gas, I met another hunter who had been hunting with his daughter that day and she had missed one. She had never killed a turkey, and he hadn’t either.

  I quickly came up with a plan that would allow me to go back to my cabin and eat some beanie weenies and potato chips and sit on the porch calling owls and telling hunting stories. I explained to her father what had happened and asked if she would tag the gobbler I had, call it in and make it legal and take it and give it a good home.

  So that’s the story. I don’t know if I did something wrong or not, but I have seen smiles on little kids faces that weren’t quite that big and happy as her daddy drove off with her turkey that had once been mine. There are plenty of turkeys left in my little wooded valley, and now I have some hunting tags. But I’ll tell you what I would rather have than another turkey to eat. I’d druther have a really good photo of that black squirrel.
  A reader asked me how to control skunks and armadillos around his place, knowing the difficulty created by shooting a skunk in the front lawn. The best way to do that is with deadfalls, which are illegal. They will kill a skunk quickly and they animal will not spray anything. They are illegal because they also kill cats and dogs belonging to neighbors.

If you live out in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors, you might use a deadfall, but don’t take the chance on killing a cat or dog that means the world to someone. My grandfather and his family used deadfalls to supplement his traplines, and each winter caught skunks, possums and a few coons and weasels that way. You can see one my Uncle Norten made years ago on my website. Without them you have two options for eliminating skunks or armadillos. You may trap them with a steel trap or conibear trap or sit out on your porch at night in the moonlight and shoot them, or get out at the first hint of light and look for them.
  We have a quantity of leftover summer magazines, which we would be pleased to give away. Anyone who sends me two dollars worth of stamps can get the summer issue of either the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal or the Journal of the Ozarks. Specify which one you want. Email me at or write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. The website is