Monday, December 8, 2014

A Voice in the Deep Woods


     I promise this will be the last column this year in which I mention deer hunting. I intend to go fishing soon and write about that. But before I go on to something else, I have to tell you about something that got me to thinking about the good old days and missing those times gosh-awful. I was hunting deer on my little place off in the middle of nowhere, and I came back to my cabin about dark. The fire had burned down in the stove, and it was a trifle warm, so I stepped out on the back porch, looking down on the creek. The moon was fairly high and bright and it was so still you could have heard a coon cough. Down the creek I could hear an old hound on the trail of something. Its deep baying was mournful, and beautiful in the still night. It made me wish I was sitting on a gravel bar somewhere, before a roaring fire, with a few of those old-time coon or fox hunters who would rather listen to the baying of distant hounds than listen to the music of the finest choirs or orchestras.
Oh I know that if you have never heard it, you can’t imagine it, or appreciate it, but baying hounds in the night are a kind of music you can become addicted to. I have never owned a coonhound or foxhound, but my dad and uncles had some and I cannot forget what a sound it is when they are trailing something through the hills of the Ozarks. Every man knows the sound of his own hound, no matter how large the pack.
Hearing that one made me feel something so nostalgic and fine that I didn’t want to leave. In time, he faded off into the darkness way off to the west, and I wished I could follow. Ozark houndsmen are the last of the breed of real outdoorsmen.
This week is the time many of us who hunt wait for, the season for muzzle-loader rifles and old timers who just get sick of the trophy hunters and the blaze orange crowd. I’ll be hunting with my muzzle-loader, not so much to bag a deer as to walk through the woods where there will be no one to interfere with my exploring. I don’t like the idea of being told to wear an orange vest and cap in my own woods. Daniel Boone didn’t! With muzzle-loader hunters, I doubt you need to worry about your own safety. The range of those black powder rifles is short and the men who use them are a different breed of woodsmen. And with only one sure shot, I won’t cock that hammer on my old Hawken rifle until I know I am about to have to use my skinning knife.
I am a little mad at myself because I already killed a buck with my rifle at the end of the regular gun season. But I can still kill a doe and I intend to pick a really good one to put venison steaks in the freezer. There won’t be any grinding it up for hamburger. Anything that won’t make steaks will be used for stew meat. The buck I killed will provide plenty of hamburger and jerky meat. I will take along something the old-timers didn’t mess with… my camera. I might find an arrowhead or two on woodland trails I walk, but I sure hope I don’t run into any Indians!!
I had to interrupt this column because two conservation agents just came to my door to see if the buck I killed and wrote about two weeks ago had points that were an inch long. This is getting ridiculous. One of those agents was the one who sat all day at a boat ramp the opening day of deer season several years ago in a pick-up with the motor running, and wanted to give my daughter a citation because she had left the boat having left the other half of her deer tag in her coat pocket back in the boat. He stood on my porch and called me a liar today. Then he said that if I couldn’t tell if a deer antler point was an inch long or not at one hundred yards I should pass up the shot. These people need to spend more time in the woods alone instead of running around in marked pickups in pairs. Ninety percent of the time, you can’t even see a one-inch tine on a deer. The problem is, some big wide antlers are only six pointers and some little spindly antlers are 8 pointers. It is the dumbest law the MDC ever passed, and they do not like it when I say so.
The other agent who visited my porch was once out in the woods with me and couldn’t walk fast enough to keep up because of an old basketball knee injury suffered in high school. Again, with their pickup twenty yards away there were two of them trying to cite me for breaking their ridiculous four-point law. That is the way of things today. If they can find a way to charge me with something, they will do it, because of the articles I have written critical of them. There are four smaller points on the nine-point buck I killed, and at least two are an inch long by the way I measured them. The question is, will they measure them the same way. I gave the antlers to a taxidermist in Joplin, and instead of being out trying to find real violators, they are on their way to Joplin.
The Missouri Department of Conservation feels that if they can show me to be a violator of some sort, they can cause newspapers in the Ozarks to stop using my column, and therefore, stop the things I write about them. In years I have never written a word I cannot back up, not a word that wasn’t the absolute truth. What I have gone through over the years because of their attempts to discredit me boggles the mind. I intend to someday write a book documenting what I have learned about this powerful agency, that thirty or forty years ago was something to be proud of.
A few years ago conservation agents illegally searched a home, barn and freezer of people they wanted to arrest, and an agent who was with them that day reported the incident and was fired. He proved the whole series of violations in court and won a million dollar lawsuit against the MDC. The victims of that search were gone that day and never knew of it, and still today do not know what the agents did in violating the law and their constitutional rights.
Something needs to be done in our legislature about the direction of this agency! What is happening is wrong, and there seems to be no check on them whatsoever. Truthfully, I have always known they will someday succeed in discrediting me in some manner with something I have overlooked. They are too powerful for someone like me to mess with, and most of the larger news media are either intimidated by them, or have made agreements with them to not criticize them in order to get free material from them. I am tired of going through what I have gone through over the years just because I write what they do not want known.
We need good articles for our Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Magazine and the Journal of the Ozarks magazine. If you want to try your hand at writing a hunting and fishing story or a story on the Ozarks, send it to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or emailing it to You may get a sample copy of each magazine just by sending two dollars worth of postage stamps for the mailing. My website is

1 comment:

henriettac said...

"...they will someday succeed in discrediting me in some manner with something I have overlooked." Larry, you have a million people who will bail you out and bury those who discredit you.