Monday, March 23, 2015

A Grand Surprise

Bass with sores...

A crooked fish....
Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Fishing for smallmouth bass in a favorite spot on the river, I caught a little smallmouth with big sores on its body. Any broken spot in the scales on a fish can be a spot targeted by a fungus, and it usually will kill the fish in time. The sores I saw might have been the result of a gig back in the winter, or perhaps of a larger predator like an otter.

Sometimes a great blue heron will stab at a fish and leave such wounds. Whatever does it, I always catch several in the spring with those open sores, and every smallmouth I see any more is filled with a parasite, a small worm known as a yellow grub. They do not affect humans of course, but those grubs are a good reason to return the smallmouth bass you catch to the stream.

This smallmouth bass species is hard pressed, and bigger ones, the fish above 17 or 18 inches in length, become fewer each year. I caught a real oddball fish that day, a 10 or 12-inch brownie with an S-curve in its lower body. Who knows what caused it? At any rate, he swam away just fine, but he sure did look strange.

Walking through the woods a few days ago, doing some deep thinking, I was surprised to see a beautiful butterfly flutter along beside me and then drop down into the brown leaves before me, situated there as if to boost my spirits and add beauty and color to the brown landscape of late winter. I don’t know if I ever saw one before. One of its common names is the Grand Surprise butterfly, and for me it certainly was a surprise.

You don’t expect to see a brightly colored butterfly in mid-March. It is more commonly known as Mourning Cloak, and it is about 3 inches across, with velvety purple or burgundy wings, with yellow borders and blue spots just inside the border. I am trying to get a photo of one on my blogspot, so you can perhaps see it there, along with the two fish I was talking about. That is

Probably this is a good place to point out that we are trying to create a new website, where you can go to order my new book or any one of my books or the Journal of the Ozarks magazine we publish. I shouldn’t say ‘we’ as I have nothing to do with it. I know nothing about computers, and what I know is all I want to know. But it is wonderful that there is so much information about nature and wild creatures so readily available.

I see nothing wrong with knowing all you can know from books, but I firmly believe you do not become an authority in the outdoors without being out there to see the things books cannot tell you. The idea of people calling themselves ‘master naturalists’ from a week of classes and reading books or referring to Internet material is pure silliness.

If you want to be a naturalist, live with nature, go out and spend years in the woods and on the waters and watch and listen and learn. You will be surprised how many times the books are giving you information which do not precisely go along with what you learn through your own experiences.

It is a problem I see with outdoor writers today. Too many live in suburbs and try to write about a world that they only occasionally visit. It is easy to write about the outdoors from what you have read in books, but if you can’t walk the walk and live the life, what you write gets stale, and just repeats the same thing others have written.

That is so evident when you see the turkey hunting experts in the pages of outdoor magazines, and read much of the pure baloney they write about turkey hunting. Few of them are out in the woods in February and March chasing wild turkeys. But now is one of the best times to take a camera and a turkey call and get some great photos. In doing so, you see and learn about everything living there awaiting spring. There are birds being hatched, baby animals being born, already.

And you may be walking along and happen across a Mourning Cloak butterfly, which isn’t even suppose to be here, according to those who write about them. They are supposed to be common in Europe, Canada and in the U.S. north of Iowa, but not in the Ozarks.

If you want to learn while in the woods, don’t forget we are taking another trip via pontoon boat to a very isolated and natural area on Truman Lake on April 4 and again a week or so later, where we will take a good long hike before dinner and after, and maybe we will see something you and I have never seen before. If you want to join us, just call my office for details. My executive secretary, MS. Wiggins, will help you if you call 417 777 5227

I hope to see many of you readers at our swap meet this coming Saturday. We still have 45 tables filled now, and I am really looking forward to it. Out here all alone on Lightnin’ Ridge, I don’t get to talk to anyone but my Labrador very often. I could talk to Ms. Wiggins on occasion if I didn’t try to avoid her while she does her nails. And all she wants to talk about is her Mexican boyfriend and how close he came to getting caught lately!

I will sell the very first copies of my new book that morning at the swap meet, just off the press, and inscribe them for you. But I think people are going to be amazed to see several hundred old 1930 and 1940 Life magazines there, selling for about half what you can find them on the internet for. They are amazing looks at history.

If you have an old gun or an item or two you want to sell, we will place it for you and maybe you can sell it. But remember that if you think you have antiques lures or fishing gear, we will have an extremely knowledgeable person available at his own table to tell you what it is and what it is worth.

I was watching the news the other evening when a young lady reported that someone had caught a 140-pound paddlefish, said to be the biggest fish ever caught in Missouri. Then she said that she was surprised to hear it had been caught on a hook with no bait whatsoever. And she wasn’t even blonde!!!  All over the Ozarks that night there were fishermen laughing as heartily as I was.

I am sure those T.V. people would think I am the dumbest person in the world when it comes to their computers, technology and life in the city. At such things, I’ll bet that young lady and her associates are marvelous, but they know nothing of the outdoors, and it so often shows when they try to report on conservation and the natural world. 

Why would you reckon a paddlefish that large might be caught on a hook with no bait? If you know, then you have a familiarity with the outdoors they need at that station.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at Miss Wiggins can email you the details of our swap meet and a map on how to get there.

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