Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Dennis Whiteside and his river bank buck, which is an old deer with small antlers.

       We were only an hour or two down the river when my hunting partner spotted a buck along the timbered bank.  We eased forward and the buck turned just a little to perhaps climb up out of the river bottom.   Dennis Whiteside lifted his rifle and took the shot, at about 80 yards.  Minutes later we were cleaning the deer on an adjacent gravel bar.  He was anything in the world but the young buck we would like to have had.  The deer had a grey and grizzled face, and later from examining his teeth I learned he was at least four years old.  And yet he had only small fork-horned antlers.  Another example of the fallacy of the four-point rule!  He was no trophy.

       We switched places and headed on down the river, and that afternoon we saw several more deer.  I got a shot at one doe, and missed her.  Later, a real “trophy” came along. I spotted two does about to cross a shoal and I was watching them through the rifle scope.  Both would have made great venison. 

       I was about to take a shot when I could hear Dennis whispering something, but the roar of the shoal below us made it impossible to take the shot.  The does became uncomfortable with the movement in the river before them and they turned to retreat up the timbered hillside.  I didn’t shoot because I couldn’t tell what my paddler was saying.  As it turned out, my attention to the does through that scope kept me from seeing a buck up the hill, following them.  At 80 yards distant through the brush and trees he wouldn’t have given me a good shot.  Dennis said he was a dandy; eight points, maybe ten, maybe more, who could say.  At times like that I would like to have the MDC commissioners who passed that four point rule sitting beside me so they could see how impossible it is to count antler points on a moving buck 60 or 70 yards away when you only have a few seconds for the right shot.

       It was 49 years ago this month that Dennis Whiteside and I first floated the river, hunting ducks with my dad, sitting side by side on the front seat in our wooden johnboat behind a blind while dad paddled up on flocks of wood ducks and mallards.  Somewhere I have some old photos of the two of us back then and if I can find them I will put them on this blogspot.  

River hunting is a great way to hunt, but in the dead of winter, it isn't for novices.
Floating a river is a great way to hunt deer, and ducks and turkeys and squirrels.  Not many do it because there are few people today who can quietly maneuver a boat down the river behind a blind using a paddle from one side, never taking the paddle blade from the water.

       And I will caution most people not to try it in a seventeen-foot double-end canoe.  It is much too dangerous on a swollen winter river if you aren’t really experienced.  I would as soon try to hunt from an air mattress as one of those capsize and chaos specials!  In the summer, they just get you wet.  On a cold winter day, they can get you dead from hypothermia or drowning.

       Today’s paddlers switch sides constantly to maneuver the river in a splashing zig-zag course, and that won’t get you close to anything, no matter how good your blind is.  But there once were Ozarkians who could slip down the river so quietly that they could sneak up on anything.  They are rare today. 

       Fortunately for me, my old friend Dennis Whiteside is as good with a paddle as you can get.  When the muzzle-loader deer season is here, we likely will hunt on the river again with me up front with my smoke-belcher.  For both of us, there isn’t much of anything we would choose over floating a river in December, because it is one of the greatest ways to find peace and solitude. 

       Duck season is upon us, and I think because of the water conditions, better than we have had in years, and a plentiful number of ducks hatched up north last summer, we will have a very good year for those of us who like to see flocks of ducks on cupped wings, dropping into decoys from grey skies promising snow.

       Maybe it is a good time to mention that things are going well with our plans to create the outdoor education facility on Brush Creek near Collins.  You can see photos of our 50-acre tract in the winter issue of my magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, with a more extensive description of what we want to do there for underprivileged children, boys without fathers, etc. 

       I need to get the word out to churches around the Ozarks that we have this for them, completely free, for one day or several days, with a half dozen of the best Christian counselors you can find.  One underlying theme we have is making sure that every kid who comes is made aware of the awesomeness of God’s creation, and convinced that he or she is someone special, with a talent and gift that is unique and valuable to them as they grow to adulthood.

       We have raised about 800 dollars so far, to pay for our greatest annual expenses: insurance and electricity.  Early this spring we will have a big fish fry at the creek bottom kids ranch to raise money.  Read all about our fund-raising efforts in that magazine article.
I have made a promise that 100 percent of the funds we raised will be used to make this work for underprivileged children. No one will make a cent from this project, no administration costs, no money being hidden.  We’ll set up a special bank account that anyone can see, and send a receipt to all donors who request one.  We’ll also let people know where their money has been spent.  All the counselors I have lined up are top-flight outdoors people who will draw no pay.  I will include photos and biographies of them in that winter magazine article.

       We’ll also raise some money at our big Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet, to be held again next spring at the Brighton Assembly of God Church gymnasium, THE LAST SATURDAY OF MARCH.  As we have done for years, we will charge nothing for vendor tables, and no entry charge.  If you have outdoor-oriented stuff to sell, you need to reserve your free space early.
       I get questions about my books and magazines available as Christmas gifts. You can get a one year subscription to the Journal of the Ozarks, or the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal for anyone, and we will send a Christmas card and a magazine about a week before Christmas.  Same thing for my inscribed and autographed books.  I have 9 of them, and YOU CAN FIND A DESCRIPTION OF EACH BOOK IF YOU WILL TYPE: LIGHTNIN' RIDGE PUBLICATIONS ON FACEBOOK. You can also get the details for having one or more sent out for a personalized Christmas gift by contacting me at 417-777-5227 or email me at

No comments: