Saturday, January 30, 2016


                There is nothing in the wild easier to get a photo of than an eagle

       If you are really an outdoorsman, late January, February and early March can be a great time of the year.  First of all, there’s no one out there. If you want to be alone and pretend it is the winter of 1840, you can find places that will convince you that there isn’t a soul in the world but you.

       This is the time when wildlife is the most active, because food is harder to find than it is any other time of the year and most species which do not hibernate must move more than they ever will during the fall and spring. That’s why you see nocturnal creatures out during daylight hours now, raccoons, coyotes, foxes and bobcats, even owls early and late.  And the lack of foliage means you can see and photograph much more than usual.

       If a wild creature has to keep its body temperature up, then it requires more food to do it in the cold. I intend to hunt deer and turkey and waterfowl all through the next couple of months… with my camera.  When you add a little snow to the landscape, photos can be a great way to bring home the game, in photos. 

       My freezer is full already so I don’t need more wild game to clean.  I will bring home pictures instead.  The ones I long for the most are pictures of wild ducks and geese over decoys.  Duck hunting is much easier when you don’t have to fiddle with a shotgun.  And ducks work better when all hunting has ceased.  A big flock of ducks over decoys with a beautiful background and the sun just right, is perhaps the most amazing photo an outdoorsman can get. With a camera, I can get the whole bunch.

Laughing tree
       I say this every year, but it is amusing to me how many city folks head for the same old foot-worn trails year after year for hiking.  If you want to see some of the Ozark Mountains that no one else sees, go hiking where no trails are made, in the national forestlands of Missouri and Arkansas.  The natural wonders you will find may be a little smaller than you’ll see where everyone else has been, but no less amazing.  

    Leave your vehicle where a secluded little creek intersects  county road, and look for falls and pools and caves...then climb to the ridges, cross the valleys where points lead gradually down to the creek again.  You can take similar hikes on Bull Shoals and Truman lakes where development is not great, and tracts of wild country remain. You will be seeing some huge timber, and in a time to come, loggers will get control of that wild country from our government and end the beauty and wildness of it.

            Then there are the rivers, abandoned by the chaos-and-capsize crowd that will be hollering and yelling and drinking along these streams in May and
June.  If you know how to paddle, you can arrange a little blind of natural foliage on the bow of whatever you have to float in, and drift slowly down the river, surprising everything.  Right now eagles are adding to their nests in anticipation of spring, and hooded mergansers seem to adorn every eddy.

       If you don’t call yourself a photographer, there never was a better time to become one.  Outdoor cameras with built-in telephoto lenses are plentiful, easy to operate and not expensive.  You don’t have to spend the money I once spent annually on film.

If you want to see some of this, I use a big pontoon boat to take folks to a wild place on Truman Lake this time of year where we have a fish fry and two three-hour hikes into an area which abounds with all sorts of wildlife and has some monstrous trees. 

We can only take twelve at a time and these day-long trips leave from Wheatland Mo.  One such trip usually takes place in March, and another when the mushrooms are out in April. If you want to go, you need to email me your name and phone number and get on the list as soon as possible.

       We will have another fish fry some Saturday after mid-May, at our Panther Creek Wilderness Area for underprivileged kids up near Collins Mo.  I am doing this as a way of showing this project to those folks who have helped us make it possible, with work or donations of any kind.  Anyone can come and join us, by letting us know you want to be there, but I need to know who wants to come so I know how many fish to catch!  It will be another opportunity perhaps for churches and organizations to see how they can use the place for underprivileged children they work with, absolutely free.

       And my gosh, I can’t believe this, but our big outdoorsman’s swap meet at the Assembly of God Gymnasium at Brighton Missouri is only two months away!  It is the last Saturday of March.  Anyone who wants a table to sell outdoor-oriented items needs to let me know soon. This must be the seventh or eighth year we have held it, and there will be more there to buy than ever before. 

       I intend to use that occasion to get rid of a lot of my wildlife art and to eliminate some of the valuable historic items in my museum which has caused members of my family to refer to me as a ‘hoarder’.  By golly when you have lived the life I have, lots of things you come across need to be hoarded! Anyways, a bunch of things I have treasured for so long will be in someone else’s museum this spring, including some hand-made sassafras paddles my grandfather made almost a hundred years ago and a couple that Uncle Norten made as well.

       As you might have guessed, that money we make on that day from such priceless treasures will go into the account of that children’s’ retreat I just mentioned in this column.  It takes lots of money to make that project work, and I would rather earn it than ask for gifts and donations. 

       Someone said there is a website called ‘gofundme’ on the computer that will help people raise money for good causes, but I’m not about to use it.  If God means for something to work, it works through hard work, not funds derived that often go into someone’s pocket rather than what it is supposed to go for. It is the way of the world now.  

       The ASPCA spends millions I suppose for ads showing poor little cats and dogs while they play “Silent Night” in the background and beg for your donations.  I don’t care to donate anything to such television ads, knowing that they spend so many hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and administration, and it is donated money that pays it.  

       In the lives of no one, are the years unnumbered.  The good you do in your life, which has nothing to do with what you put in the bank for yourself, is all you have to show for being here.
       If indeed a man will be judged for what he did on earth, that time isn’t far enough away for any of us.  I want to be sure that when God and I finally have that talk, money doesn’t enter the conversation!

       Emails work better than letters through the post office if you want to send me your opinions and ideas, or articles for our magazines.  In both magazines, we use letters from you readers quite often. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Of Gadwalls and Geese..The Wanderings of a King 1/18/2016

--> There are several subspecies of Canada geese. Giant Canada's are the most sought after.  
It has been said that some of them reach 15 pounds. Of all waterfowl, Canada geese are 
at the top of the list for good eating.

           There are lots of species of ducks.  When I was only 11 or 12 years old I knew all of them, because I had a little booklet that the Department of Interior had put out for duck hunters. Dad bought me my Missouri guides license that summer and my very first duck stamp.  I don’t know which one I was prouder of.  He watched while I signed the duck stamp, the way a grade-schooler would, with my tongue stuck out the corner of my mouth.  That signature had to be just right.
            Dad and Grandpa taught me well how to hunt ducks, and that little booklet, which I still have, taught me what they were.  Some of them I have never seen in fifty some years of duck hunting, like tree ducks and old squaws and scoters.  But in more than fifty duck stamps accumulated year after year there is a picture of all of them on a stamp somewhere from the past.  What a treasure those years of duck stamps are.
            Mostly we hunted ducks on the Big Piney River from a wooden johnboat hidden by a blind on the bow.  Of course when I went off to college I began hunting over decoys and that is something that gets in your blood.  When you use a duck call and decoys to bring big greenhead mallards into range on cupped wings, something happens you never forget, and just cannot live without. When fall leaves are gone and spitting snow drifts down, surely the falling temperatures will bring wild ducks to the Ozarks from the north country.  You watch that sight a few times and you get hooked.
            But of course there is another way to hunt ducks, and I feel ashamed to admit I do it on occasion. I do not know why, because it is just another way to put ducks in the freezer.  Ducks in the freezer is the end that justifies the means.  Jump shooting on small lakes and ponds is duck hunting too.
            A friend told me where some ducks were recently, and I knew that pond well. Lightnin’ Bolt, my chocolate Labrador was sound asleep in front of the fireplace when I pulled on a pair of hip boots and pulled my old shotgun off the rack.  The shotgun is old, a Smith and Wesson twelve-gauge the company gave me when I was only about 25.  They hoped I would write about the gun and what a great hunting gun it was for duck hunters. I was writing waterfowl articles for Outdoor Life and Gun Dog magazine back then and they got their wish.
            It was pictured in a photo beside a duck blind in the pages of Gun Dog, and it prompted a reader to be skeptical.  He said the gun was too good for a duck hunter to use, and he suspected the photo was set up.  It wasn’t.  That beautiful shotgun dropped many a mallard, plenty of pintails, tons of teal and a wagonful of wood ducks. But it looks pretty sorry now, scarred and scratched by a million days in the marsh and on the river, and those times, climbing up over pond-banks.
            They were there all right, a pond-full of gadwalls.  Some other time I will have to tell you all about ducks and how each species is different, and yet alike.  Gadwalls are much like mallards.  Fresh from the grill you can hardly tell the meat apart, but the gadwall is about 20 percent smaller.  The drakes are a beautiful duck even though there is less color. 
--> My grandfather a hundred years ago, in January of 1916, with ducks killed on a farm pond

            Grandpa Dablemont and his double barrel, and my dad with
his '97 Winchester pump, were two of the best wingshooters I ever saw, but I will guarantee you that either of them would have lined up a pair of those ducks on the water for their first shot. The reason for that was meat on the table. You hunted ducks, grandpa told me, so that you could eat ducks, and if you didn't make the most of your opportunity you might have to eat oatmeal for supper. 

            Since I hated oatmeal, I’ve shot my share of sitting ducks.  But not this day.  I am using this type of hunting to teach Bolt.  He’s not that old, and he is learning well, but he has a lot more to learn.  As I stand up and survey the pond, the flock of maybe twenty gadwalls comes straight up off the water.  I select a nice drake and fold him up over the water.  Behind him ten yards, another drake is in the shot pattern, and he drops too.  The flock turns into the wind, and I hurry my shot and miss.  Then I realize my mistake and I pick out a nice big drake and lead him just right.  He falls out into the weedy field.  Bolt is in seventh heaven.  He charges into the pond to retrieve the first drake, which is stone dead.  We circle the pond to find the second one and it takes awhile.  But my Labrador’s nose is really good, and he finds it.  Out into the field we go and I can’t find that last duck.  Bolt circles downwind and catches the scent.  You can see how excited he is to find that last duck, which is down in the weeds, dead.  He charges it; pounces on it like a fox on a mouse.
            The sun is now dropping low and I figure there has to be ducks on a bigger pond, a mile away, hidden in a wooded valley.  It’s a good walk and when we peer up over the steep bank my jaw drops.  Canada Geese, about thirty of them, are standing on the far end of the bank, and they have seen me.  It is hopeless.  They are easily 100 yards away.  I drop down behind the bank cussing our luck. 
            But our luck couldn’t have been better.  The geese began to honk as if something else spooked them and in a crescendo of honking there was a roar of wings across the pond.  I looked up to see them sweeping over me at perfect range. I picked out one and he came crashing down in a briar patch as my shot centered his neck and head. I swing to my right and with a second shot I lead a big Canada just not quite enough.  He is hit in the body and struggles to stay aflight.  My third shot is the right lead and he falls through the timber, dead.
            Bolt is in the briar patch trying his best to get that first goose out, and he can only drag it out by the neck, it is so heavy.  These are the giant Canada subspecies, one may be the biggest goose the old Smith and Wesson has ever brought down, weighing a few ounces over 13 pounds.  It was a great day, and my young retriever did great, just like his father and grandfathers I owned and hunted with years and years ago.  It is amazing how close you can get to a dog.  Through Bolt I relive memories of old Rambunctious, Brown-eyed Beau and Lad. 
            It was a job getting those two geese and three ducks back to my pick-up but worth the effort.  One of the geese will be smoked in a week or so with a wild turkey from last fall.  The other, with the ducks, was skinned, with the breasts cut crosswise into steaks.  Those steaks, wrapped in bacon and grilled on a spit with green peppers and onions and Cavender’s Arkansas seasoning, will make several dinners fit for a king.  As the sun dropped to the horizon that evening, I felt like one. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Lowdown on Trees 1-11-2016

Photo to be posted at a later date

     I bought a tree years ago, something called a Bradford pear tree!  The darn thing hasn’t produced a pear yet.  It does produce a pretty white blossom in the spring, outside my office window where it has grown from just a twig to a tree about fifteen feet tall and four or five inches diameter at the base.
     Most years it seems as if those white blossoms last just about long enough to know they were there… yesterday.  And gone tomorrow.  Here on Lightnin’ Ridge there are redbuds everywhere.  I’d like to have a few white blossoms in the mix because on this whole ridgetop there are only two wild dogwoods.  One of them is a giant, with two weeks of beautiful white blossoms.  Redbuds last as long or longer.
     Some young kid was here last week telling me that Bradford pear trees were an invasive species and it is not wise to buy and plant them, even though twenty years ago, many of us white-blossom lovers did.  He said birds spread the fruit, and from those trees others can emerge from underground runners and you can have a mess, because the second generation of trees can have, usually do have, THORNS!
     I have to take it seriously because this young guy by the name of Ryan Guthrie works at a giant nursery and tree farm in Rogersville, Missouri where he sells all kinds of trees.
     From Ryan, I bought only the second tree I ever bought, a great big beautiful sweet gum tree.  I lost a giant 200-year-old post-oak tree last year.  I miss it.  The hole which it left in the sky is just not tolerable on this ridge where I live and work.  There are so many species of trees up here that the trail which winds in a circle around these twenty acres passes about thirty different species, maybe more. 
     But there are no sweet gums, a tree that is so beautiful in fall color that I have missed it horribly since I left Arkansas twenty-five years ago.  Arkansas had a bunch of them!
     Ryan had a bunch of them too, at his tree farm, and he gave me a heck of a buy on one of the genetically altered trees which do not shed those awful seed balls everywhere.  A sweet gum tree without balls, twenty feet tall and a ten- or twelve-foot spread, four inches in diameter at the base, weighs about 2000 pounds and will have to be hauled from his place to mine on a trailer and planted in a fifty-inch wide hole thirty inches deep.  It needs to be done in February, so I have been digging that hole since Christmas.  I have it fifty inches across, that was easy.  But so far I have only got it about six inches deep.
     The recent freeze-up has slowed my progress.  What I need is Matt Dillon, one of my idols in boyhood from ‘Gunsmoke’.  Did you ever notice how many graves he dug in only minutes?  He always set out to bring the outlaws to court in Dodge City but brother did he ever bury a bunch of them.
     Any way, when it thaws out I will have the hole dug in time for my new sweet gum tree in February.
     Ryan guarantees that next fall, after all the beautiful leaves from other trees have fallen I will have leaves of orange, red, yellow and purple still on the branches of my sweet gum.  I am pretty excited about that.  It makes fall last longer.
     Ryan is awfully young to know more about any tree than I do.  We got to talking about buck deer damage to trees, and he says some that he sells have to be guarded with wire fences.  He has promised to sell me a big white pine tree, which will also be a first for Lightnin’ Ridge.  When any kind of pine or spruce with a ground-level trunk diameter under five or six inches is planted in white-tail country, it is in danger of being killed by some antler-raking buck between September and December.  If you see some country folks with a small pine tree five or six feet tall surrounded by a seven-foot fence, you now know why.
      I have an apple tree which deer favor in October, eating more of the apples than I do.  They rear up on hind legs and shake the limbs so that apples fall to the ground.  This always takes place at night or I would eat fried apples with venison steaks quite often in October.
     This might be a good time to mention that buck deer are said to rub their antlers against small saplings as a way to rub away the blood-engorged soft velvet that shrinks up and dries as the antlers harden.  That is true to a great extent, but bucks attack those places which we hunters recognize as ‘buck rubs’ as late as mid-December.  They do much of that antler rubbing in November when the rut is in full force and not one little piece of dried up velvet remains.  I have seen more buck rubs on my place that were made in November than all the ones made in September and October combined.  That’s because they use these small saplings as both imaginary adversaries and scent posts.  They rub scent from glands around the eyes where it can readily be recognized as one buck’s domain and avenue of travel.  I have seen bucks with glistening white, rock-hard antlers attack small saplings like they were mock fighting with another buck, then watch them rub their eyes against that same sapling or young cedar before they leave.  It is true that when you find small saplings an inch or two in diameter, those rubs have been created by smaller bucks as a rule.  And as a rule, when you see a buck-rub that has occurred on a four- to six-inch tree, it has been done by a deer with bigger and stronger antlers.
     Unlike most outdoor writers who learn too much from what they have read, I know this from what I have SEEN.  Cleaning velvet from antlers has nothing to do with the majority of rubs bucks make because most are done long after velvet is gone. 
     But there is no young tree a buck seeks out for those attacks that he favors more than a young pine or spruce.  I don’t know why, but I have a theory which may or may not hold water having to do with the sap.
     If you want a tree, now is the time to get and transplant one.  Ryan says he has about two hundred four-to five-inch-diameter trees up to twenty feet tall.  Most are red maple, river birch, and white pine.  He can’t let them grow much longer and still transplant them so he will sell them for the next month at half-price, which is 200 to 250 dollars.  Contact him at Willow Green Nursery at Rogersville, Missouri and you can really learn a lot about trees.  Ask him why Ozarkians shouldn’t transplant a tree from Texas.

     By the way, I am making a flier now with info about our Panther Creek Wilderness Adventure Area for underprivileged children and also a flier with a map for our big Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet in March.  If you want to reserve one of our free tables at the swap meet to sell outdoor gear and equipment of any sort you need to let me know soon. 
     If you want either of these fliers, write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Longer Lasting Year 1-5-2016

My greatest fear this time of the year is being found dead, stuck in the mud!!!  

New partners here at Lightnin' Ridge Publishing… Veronica Zucca, Rob Latufo and Sherry Leverich. 

         You know what I would like to see out of this new year? I would like to see it last longer.  February lasts long enough and so does August.  But April and May and October and November are way too quickly gone.  Every time I watch one of those wonderful months pass, I realize that as I age, I have a good chance of not seeing another of them come again.  At least there will be fewer of those wonderful months than I could once count on.

         There are some things I have a hard time keeping up with as I grow older.  It is not as easy as it use to be to clean a deer and skin it.  When I hunt ducks and I get out in the water and hit a spot where my chest waders sink down in the mud over my ankles, it is much harder to get out.  For the first time, I fear my obituary will say that I was found dead from hypothermia, stuck in the mud somewhere.  It is harder to sit for hours in a tree-stand, and when a turkey gobbler is off gobbling like a fool a hundred yards away and won't come closer… I have to fight the overwhelming urge to try to sneak up on him.  

         All this is the result of too darn many good years gone past, and I see no sign of anything slowing down but me. Twenty years ago I jokingly referred to myself as a ‘grizzled old veteran outdoorsman’.  Now I really am one!!  But I ain't as mad at ducks and pheasants anymore, nor deer.  Now I can go home at the end of the day without cussing when I don't get anything, simply because I saw a real pretty kingfisher light on my boat blind or a chirping osprey doing stunts in the air above me, or because I found an arrowhead.

         I can live with the fact that I sat in my boat last week watching green-wing teal whiz over my decoys at a hundred and forty-five miles an hour without really being that upset because I brought my shotgun without remembering the shells.  I never really watch ducks over decoys that well when I am shooting at them.

         I forgot to change the spark plugs on my boat motor, forgot to fix the trailer lights, forgot to pick up a bag of dog food for old Bolt, the world's third or fourth greatest Labrador.  I forgot my boots the other day, remembered them only after I was two miles into the woods and had to wade through a mud puddle in my camouflaged low-top ‘around-the-yard’ shoes.   I intend… this next year… to get myself back into the same kind of fish-catching, duck-shooting, dog-training, tree-stand sitting, boat-paddling expert I was back thirty years ago.  But I think I intended that very same thing last year about this time.  I can’t remember for sure.

         I would also like to do a better job of producing a top-notch pair of magazines, the Lightnin' Ridge Outdoor Journal and the Journal of the Ozarks which we put out for readers of this newspaper columns. But I need to step back and rethink how to do that.  For that reason, I am asking you readers to be patient as I skip winter issues and make new plans for 2016.  To do that, I have asked for help, and got it.  I have three new magazine partners who know what they are doing, Sherry Leverich, Veronica Zucca and Rob Latufo.  Thank Goodness.  

         These magazines started small but now they are growing out of my magazine-producing ability.  In fact as an outdoor writer I never really had any magazine-producing ability, I just was just flying by the seat of my pants. So here is what I am planning; all the material used in each magazine will be my decision; articles, art and photos will only be what I have selected. But my partners will take care of the rest, stuff called layout and design and a bunch of other stuff they know about and I do not.  I really like these people and respect their ability, so I think it is time to put out more publications per year rather than the four seasonal magazines I have been doing recently.

         Our last magazines were called Fall Editions, 2015. The next ones will be February-March, 2016 and then next April-May.  If we can pull this off there will be no more seasonal editions.  So if you are a subscriber to one or both, be patient.  I haven't quit, I am way too young to retire (and too financially inconvenienced because of all the ammo and fishing gear I have to buy).

         Besides that, I like doing these magazines, writing these newspaper columns, doing public speaking and trying to get some more books finished. It's just that I can't let all that get in the way of hunting and fishing and exploring and taking pictures and floating down the river.  If I do I won't have anything to write about.   Wait 'til you get a load of these magazines in 2016.  It seems like I wanted to say something else, but I can't remember what it was!!

         Oh now I remember!  Our big Grizzled Old Outdoorsman Swap Meet Event will once again be held at the gymnasium of the Brighton Missouri Assembly of God Church which is located five or six miles south of Bolivar and about 15 miles or so north of Springfield on Highway 13.  This year we will have the biggest event ever, with about fifty tables of outdoor stuff of all kinds.  As usual, it will be all day, the last Saturday of March, and I am going to put up much of my private art collection, probably 20 or more pieces of beautiful paintings which anyone would love to have in their den or living room. These are signed and numbered wildlife paintings by nationally known artists.

         I am going to do this to help finance the retreat we have made for underprivileged children near Collins, Mo, out in the middle of nowhere. To pay for everything, (electricity, insurance and taxes) we need to raise about 4000 dollars per year.  About a dozen readers have donated nearly 2,000 dollars already and we will have open books on whoever donates money and how it is spent.

         At the Swap Meet we will set up a room where items from the old home will be displayed and offered to visitors without any prices.  You can take whatever you want there for any donation you’d like to leave in a bucket.  Someone might find an antique dish worth a hundred dollars for only a quarter donated!  In my February-March issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal you can read all about that place and see photos of the first bunch of youngsters who came in December, fatherless boys from a Baptist Church in Springfield who spent a weekend there.

         I have finally settled on a name for this place where I hope we can actually change the lives of some kids without fathers, or underprivileged kids. Panther Creek and Brush Creek flow together there. I like the sound of ‘Panther’, better than ‘Brush’, so it will be called, “Panther Creek Wilderness Adventure Retreat.”  We will make a big sign to sit out in front, but I do not want to mention ‘fatherless’ or ‘underprivileged’ children, even though that is what the place is for.  When they get there, I want them to feel they are special.  I’ll say a great deal more about this place in the next issue of our magazine. I'll also tell you about the neighbor and his lawyer who are trying to put an end to this dream.  I hope you will find a copy and read it.  It will be sent to our subscribers, and should be on the newsstands, towards the end of January.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or email  

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Wind-Worn Hunter 12-28-15

Vision of myself when I am muzzle-loader hunting.

         Remember that day a couple weeks back, when the wind blew so hard that we got a new batch of flying squirrels from Oklahoma?  That day I went deer hunting with the old muzzle-loader. I put the boat in the river and floated down to a favorite crossing and by two o’clock I was sitting in some big timber behind a huge fallen log, dozing off, dreaming of shooting acorns off an oak tree with Daniel Boone.
         My muzzle-loader is the kind he used.  I have a couple of good friends who use those in-line modern ones and during the muzzle-loader season I hardly even speak to them.  Both these guys were in my wedding years ago and made no attempt to talk me out of it, so I have good reason not to get along with them.  But I forgave them that failure and have hunted and fished with both for many years.  But it is hard to forgive someone for using the muzzle-loader season to hunt with a modern weapon.

         Both these guys have scopes on their muzzle-loaders!!! Kent Caplinger, my old friend who grew up at West Plains, even uses a shooting stick!!! And now that the rules allow a hunter to hunt during the muzzle-loader season with a pistol, he packs around a forty-four pistol with a scope on it!  Caplinger thinks he will bag a nice buck with it some day.  When pigs fly… without the wind of course.

         This all upsets me so bad I don’t want to talk about it.  I just want to remember what a good afternoon I had sitting up against that giant log watching a very large red-bellied woodpecker try to find something to eat on the east side of a big tree. Every time he peeked around it the wind blew his topknot up so far he looked like a parrot.

         Then there were the turkeys.  There were 20 of them, all hens.  Did you ever hear of such a thing… two or three broods together maybe and every one a hen?  Three of them came up on the backside of the log.  I had my cap off, which I forgot was against the law, and the hens could only see that thick head of hair of mine over the top of the log.  Because of the cold, and the protection a heavy beard and hair gives me against the cold.  I haven’t had a haircut in three months, and the wind was blowing it around, making it appear to those turkeys that a miniature wildcat was sitting atop that log. Those three, likely wanting to roost in an nearby sycamore, did about 20 minutes worth of their almost panicky ‘put-put’ hand-wringing act while only ten feet from me, and then ambled off to join the others.

         For a while I watched a buck and two does feed in a little opening about 120 yards away. He was a dandy, but I have no idea how many points he had. I thought they might come my way, but as the sun set there was a commotion across the river.  Five deer jumped in to cross on a shoal just below my boat.  They came into that timbered flat above the river at a trot at about 60 yards away.  The first four were does, with a buck behind them. I had a doe-tag to fill so I picked out a nice sized deer with no antlers and aimed that long barrel at the one which looked like it would be the best eating deer. The valley roared as I pulled the trigger and the smoke from black powder hid everything before me.

         The wind howled and the woodpecker flew off with it to the east about 80-miles per hour and the turkeys panicked and scattered and that big buck ran past me headed back across the river.  The fifty-caliber slug did its job and the deer, shot through the heart, wound up being a button buck of about 150 pounds, one of the largest I have ever seen.  I had a heck of a time getting him in my boat and the wind blew my deer tag into the river and I haven’t seen it since.

         It was dark when I paddled back up the river, and the moon dodged behind clumps of clouds being swept along by the wind.  When I got that young buck into the pick-up I was so darned worn out that I could have sworn off deer hunting for good. It’s the wind that wears you out, my age had nothing to do with it! But I got to thinking on the way home I would come back the last three days of the season to that same peaceful spot in the big timber along the river and haul that buck off in my boat.

         As I write this, that little wooded bottom is flooded with several feet of water and probably that log has floated all the way to the Missouri river.  I hope the deer haven’t all drowned!        

         I talked last week with Missouri Department of Conservation Enforcement Chief Larry Yamnitz about a 23-year old lady who killed a buck with monstrous antlers, followed every step of the rules in calling in her deer. She made the mistake of putting a picture of it on face book with her boyfriend by her side.
         In only hours, a conservation agent somehow found out where the woman had taken the head to be mounted.  He went to the taxidermist and confiscated it, and then hours later called her and told her he was investigating the whole thing because he thought her boyfriend might have shot it.  Yamnitz agreed there is something fishy about it all, and said he would look into it and call me to give me what evidence there was against her.  He agreed that no agent should seize a deer head before even talking with the hunter.
         We also agreed that it is worth a lot of money because of the antler size but he assures me that if the antlers are illegal they will be cut up at an MDC facility.  Sure they will!  I ask him if I or any other journalist could witness that.  I got an emphatic “NO”!  And I told him what I suspect.  I suspect that when large and valuable antlers are confiscated that none are ever “destroyed”.
         I say this because of what taxidermists tell me about seeing seized deer heads winding up in the homes of agents.  I am aware that no one in any capacity will investigate this, but big sets of antlers are worth thousands of dollars. I think many are kept and sold by people within the MDC.  If any were ever destroyed, why would no one be allowed to witness that?  Is that a fair question?  For what reason would it be kept confined and secret?
         We will see if this lady, who has hunted with her .708 rifle for several years and killed other deer without being accused of letting her boyfriend kill it for her, ever gets this very valuable deer head back.  If Yamnitz ever does call me back, I will report on the situation in my next Lightnin’ Ridge magazine, because the larger newspapers I write for will not allow me to put criticism of the MDC in their pages.  I will tell readers in my magazine what some taxidermists have told me about the sale of confiscated antlers deemed to be worth 5 or 10 thousand dollars and sometimes more.  Pen-raised bucks with similar antlers often sell for 20 to 30 thousand and even more. This needs to be investigated, but it won’t be.  If you have seen similar confiscations of deer antlers, or if it has happened to you, please contact me.
         My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at