Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Gathering

In the back reaches of giant Lake of the Woods, you can find some true wilderness, and peace and solitude like nothing you have ever found.

On little remote wilderness lakes, small fly-in cabins give you a chance to live far from the crowd, alone and at peace. 

A good Labrador and an open-choke shotgun is an absolute necessity when hunting ruffed grouse, and a good hunting companion who will carry the birds. You can walk for miles in places where bear, moose and wolves are occasionally seen.

            November the 8th…write that date down somewhere so you'll hopefully remember.  That Sunday afternoon we will have a get-together at the place I hope to make into a retreat for under-privileged kids, especially boys without fathers.  From 1 to 5 that afternoon I will be there to show folks around and let them know what we intend to do.  There is a large house where we will have cake and coffee for visitors, and the two cabins on the creek that we will use as week-end or week-long housing for up to ten or twelve boys, or girls, if they’d like to come.
            I will use the creek and the land to teach lessons from nature, to allow kids to see and experience the outdoors, but I can’t do it alone, and I am asking churches and civic groups to come and see how they can help.  If you can come, bring your water bottles.  You can fill them from an artesian well that gushes up with water we have had tested, shown to be pure enough to sell.  You can take all you want home with you, free, and it is the best tasting water you will ever drink.  We hope that in time we can create a big pool filled with trout for kids to catch, constantly fed by this spring water.

            Then there is the old bridge to see.  It was apparently made from iron in the late 1800’s for horse and buggy traffic, and it is indeed an historic site. But for the kids, a network of trails through the woods will be a nature classroom, where we can teach real, common sense conservation and they can view all types of wildlife, and we can talk to them about character, old-fashioned values, and the wisdom found in the Bible.

            I hope many of you see fit to join us.  There is lots of work to be done this winter, and I can’t do much alone.  But this place won’t be used to make money for someone.  Each year we will need only enough to pay electricity and insurance, and I can’t help but believe that if God provided us this land and these cabins through the sincere efforts of a man who loved it dearly, he will provide the rest of our needs there. If you have questions about that day, you can call me for more details at our Lightnin’ Ridge office, 417 777 5227.  It will be all afternoon on Sunday November 8.  If we have bad weather we will reschedule it for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

            I have been asked often about our two magazines; so let me take a small space here to talk about what they are.  We produce one magazine called The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal which is all about the outdoors, including, but not limited to, hunting and fishing.  The other magazine is about the culture and history of the Ozarks, entitled The Journal of the Ozarks.  Our greatest cost with both is the printing and the postage, and the most important aspect of making them successful is subscribers.  You can subscribe to either for the next three issues, for $15.00, or both together for $25.00 and that includes the fall issues, just printed.  They will be mailed to you.  Our subscription address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  My office isn’t in Bolivar, it is way out in the woods, miles away.  Amazingly, this ridge top is one of the highest points in this county, and the twenty acres it sits on, with giant trees from 200 to 300 years old, has never been part of a larger tract, nor has it been divided, since the administration of Ulysses S. Grant made land grants available.  Because of the significance of this forest and the trails we have made through it, and the outdoor museum I have made of this office, I would always welcome visitors with advance notice.

            Sitting on this screened porch looking out through a woodland that just keeps growing, I see some rewarding sights.  This morning I watched a pair of young fox squirrels in a wild chase through white oak branches.  One lost it’s footing about 35 feet above the ground and came crashing through the limbs, tearing loose a tuft of leaves as it fell.  It hit with such a thud you would think it would hurt itself badly, and yet it jumped to its feet and ran back up into the tree as if nothing had happened.  In my life in the outdoors, I have seen squirrels fall dozens of times, but I never have seen any with apparent injuries.

            This fall, here on Lightnin’ Ridge, I observed a big crop of mushrooms, and plenty of acorns, a real bumper crop.  And at night I hear more screech owls, horned owls and barred owls than ever.  And while this is really hard to believe, the moon came up the other night bigger and brighter than ever, and then for about two hours the lights went out!!  Thankfully, it came back strong and as far as I can tell it’s the same old moon it was.  I think about the Indians from centuries ago, without the television to tell them what was going on, watching an eclipse like that.  What do you reckon they thought about that!

            Fall turkey hunting is a little more difficult than usual, because, from my observations, the hatch this past spring was hurt by the heavy rains.  There are young turkeys, but not as many as you expect most years.  You can’t get a true picture of what we have until about mid winter, when you see the flocks group together and they are easily seen because they move into open places where winter has knocked down the vegetation.  I see a good number of older gobblers with long beards, so this springs poor hatch won’t show up for awhile in the numbers of mature toms taken in future springs.
If the hatch in the spring of 2016 is good, then one year of poor production won’t affect spring hunting much at all.

            I am heading for Northwest Ontario where the fall color will be spectacular right now, and the crappie, bass and walleye will all be found in deep water, feeding ravenously.  But the giant muskie can still be found in the shallows, back where aquatic vegetation and lily pads are thick, and you can catch a giant on a big topwater lure if you are patient enough to do a lot of casting.  You know what fish you can find up in very shallow water with them… lake trout.  They are spawning, and it is illegal to keep them now.  Still, if you find them, in certain waters, they fight hard.

            For many years, I hunted grouse and ducks up on that giant lake they call Lake of the Woods.  But it is a real hassle by the Canadian Government, now, to bring a shotgun and a Labrador retriever into Canada.  I may spend some time hunting anyway…  with my camera.  But if there is ever a time to catch a ten pound walleye or a five pound smallmouth it is now.  Trouble is, those fronts that come through, with strong winds and rain, may make fishing miserable for a day.  If you wait awhile though, they pass and the next day will be sunny and calm. I am taking along coats and clothing I won’t normally wear here in the Ozarks until December.   To see some fall photos from past trips, take a look at my website, by typing in larrydablemontoutdoors.

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