Monday, March 21, 2016


This Saturday, the 26th.   Hope you all can come!!



A Duck-Shooting Event

            I was at an outdoor event held in a big convention center in Mt. Home, Arkansas when I came across a place back in a corner where ducks were flying around in a circle and kids were shooting at them with a little gun that fired nerf- balls.  I couldn’t believe how good those kids were. I had this overwhelming urge to stand in line and take my turn, but there were some things I had to think about.  For one thing, what if I couldn’t hit any? There were adults standing around watching the kids shoot!  What if some of them recognized me… a guy who wrote a book about duck hunting standing there with a bunch of kids trying to figure out how to lead a mallard flying in a circle? I chickened out!

      But I will have my chance this weekend when the same rig will be back in the corner at our grizzled old outdoorsman’s swap meet. Some of you wing- shooters ought to come out and join me. 
      That may be one of the most exciting thing we have ever had happen at our swap meet, except for the time my executive secretary, Ms Wiggins, tried to cook pancakes and we had that little fire in the back of her old Datsun pick-up.

      If you have a little money in your pocket you will likely go home broke because you will never find better buys on old sporting arms, fishing gear, whatever.  I can’t really give a list of all the things you will find there because it would run right off the end of this page.       
      We’ve held this event for six or seven years at the Brighton Assembly of God gymnasium and the youth of the church fix biscuits and gravy and coffee and donuts for breakfast, then hamburgers and pork sandwiches and pie and cake and drinks for lunch. 

      So folks can spend hours there, sitting around our big round tables up front, drinking coffee and visiting or milling around looking at 40 tables worth of stuff, some antique stuff, and some new stuff.

      This year Jerry McCoy, who owns a nice outdoor antique store down at Bull Shoals, will bring about 500 lures, all new and in boxes, which he will sell for three dollars apiece.  That’s less than half of what the same lure would often sell for at Wal-Mart’s sporting goods counter.

      I am going to offer my books for ten dollars, a forty percent discount, and inscribe and sign them, which adds a nickel to their resale value. There are eight of them now, with the new one published last summer.  I also intend to give away a bunch of my Lightnin’ Ridge outdoor magazines, probably four or five of the recent issues. 

      I expect to see all sorts of things there, outdoor art, and taxidermy, furs and game calls, bows and hand-made wooden gifts. One of the most popular tables is the one where Dale Olsen sells beautiful wooden cutting boards and there’s another where Vernon Myers sells his hand-made knives and another where Billy Green sells hand- made turkey calls.

      As of yet we do not have a table where ladies sell canned goods and baked goods but I am working on that. And my old college roommate, radio personality Woody P. Snow, will be there selling his books and artwork.  People who have listened to him for years get a kick out of meeting him. 

      I would love to talk with you, so come by and see me if you can. Most of the calls I will get this week will be from folks wanting directions, so I am posting a map for you to see. 
      The church is at the little community of Brighton, which is about 16 miles north of Springfield on Highway 13.  You turn there at Highway 215 going east and follow the signs.  It is easy to find. Just listen for quacking and the sound of those nerf-ball guns shooting at ducks!
      The following Saturday, April 2, we will take a day-long trip over to Truman Lake to hike through a wilderness area and have a noon-time fish fry and look at eagles and migrating waterfowl on a short pontoon boat excursion.  We do that each spring and fall but here’s what’s new about that. 
      You can come up and stay at my Panther Creek lodge on Friday night, get up and have breakfast with me on Saturday morning and then follow me over to the lake, only thirty minutes away.  That sure beats leaving your home in the early morning hours to try to get there on time. 
      Some folks come from Arkansas and Kansas to take this trip with us and have to drive ‘a fer piece’. Now we have a place to get a good nights rest and breakfast. Let me know soon if you want to go along because our pontoon boat will only accommodate about 15 hikers.  My lodge is big enough for everyone who wants to go.
      The lodging and breakfast is free, the cost of the trip is 40 dollars per person, and that money goes into our fund for the Panther Creek underprivileged kids summer camps.
      This is a good place perhaps to thank an awful lot of generous people who have contributed to our Panther Creek Project. It’s a big tract of land along a little creek that I am trying to make into a place where churches can bring trouble youngsters, especially boys without fathers, free of charge. 
      There is the cost of annual electricity, insurance and taxes, and we do not solicit any help with that.  If God wants something to work, and a man does his part, He helps you find ways to come up with the needed funds.  I figure on holding some special wild game dinners there to raise money to pay the bills.
      I am so sick of seeing these people on television with their phony schemes where the money they beg for goes into administration, conventions, or somebody’s pocket.  Sometime in May or June we are going to have a day at the Panther Creek project with a big dinner just for those people who have wanted to help by donating money. 
      Two of those people there will be Robert and Larry Sitton, brothers from Lamar Missouri who heard me advertise on a Stockton radio station that we wanted to buy affordable bunk beds for boys to sleep on. 
      I still can’t believe what those two did.  They went out and started finding bunk beds, which they fixed up and painted, delivered to us and assembled them.  Seven sets of bunk beds and two single beds, enough to fill our lodge and cabins for visiting kids. 
      Those brothers don’t look like angels, but they must be. Folks in the area heard about what they were doing and they started giving them new pillows and sheets and blankets and towels. As much as I hope to meet all who have helped in so many ways, there is one elderly lady I just have to go see.  She made several quilts and gave them to us.  Do you know what hand-made quilts are worth?  Can you visualize the hours she put into those precious gifts?
      I look at the world through the eyes of our lop-sided liberal news media and television and often get the idea that evil people have taken over our country.  Then I meet people like the Sitton brothers and a hundred others who send ten dollars and tell me to apply it to the electric bill or a hundred dollars sent to help pay the insurance bill and I realize that there is another side of the coin.
      This Panther Creek Project has showed me how wonderful common country people can be.
Someday I hope this changes a lot of little boy’s lives.  It has already changed mine.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Matter of Genetics 3-13-16

Light tackle fishing is more fun perhaps, until the fish you catch is too big for the tackle.


    If you are a beginning fisherman, there are these things you need to always be aware of. You need to know how to adjust the drag on your reel to line size.  You want small line, four pound test most likely, to fish for crappie, because with heavier line, a small jig won’t fall as fast, and won’t look as enticing to a fish because heavier line reduces it’s movement and rate of fall. 
       And there are few crappie that are apt to break that line.  But if you should hook a nice bass or walleye while fishing that light line, you do not have to risk having the line broken if your drag is properly set.

       Usually, I use four-pound line for white bass too, but over the years I have hooked quite a few three-and-a-half to four-pound white bass in a river current that can break that line if the drag isn’t properly set.  If you aren’t knowledgeable in setting the drag properly, then find an experienced angler who can teach you.

       My Uncle Norten, who caught so many big bass over his life as a guide on Ozarks lakes, never set the drag on his Ambassadeur reels, which he swore by.  He just used fourteen-pound line!  He did in fact catch several bass between ten and twelve pounds and some of them were in brush piles that he literally horsed them out of.  But big bass in murky water aren’t bothered by heavy line.

       If you decided you were going to use one of his outfits to fish for trout in the White River you would find trout very skeptical of line that looks like a well rope in that clear water.  I found that to be the case up in those Wind River tributaries below the mountains of Wyoming a couple of weeks back.  I had four-pound line and trout wouldn’t hit my lures in that crystal clear water.  Two-pound line might have made a difference there.

       If you are going to be a successful fisherman you have to learn a lot about line size and equipment.  There are lots of lines and lots of reels, made for ultra-lite fishing to light, medium, heavy and ultra-heavy.  Success depends a great deal in what you are using and how you use the drag on your reel.
       I read this recently… shouldn’t come as much of a shock.  “A new study on steelhead trout in Oregon offers genetic evidence that wild and hatchery fish are different at the DNA level, and that they can become different with surprising speed. The research found that after one generation of hatchery culture, the offspring of wild fish and first-generation hatchery fish differed in the activity of more than 700 genes.”

       Anyone who knows anything about the trout park fish here in the Ozarks is aware they are not the same fish as trout multiplying naturally in a mountain stream.  You don’t need the research.  But DNA is being used today to learn a lot about everything.  For instance, a wild human raised in the deep woods and along the rivers of the Ozarks as I was has far different DNA and is much different than a city-raised domesticated humans found in the same region.  I won’t go into that in detail, just use your imagination!

Any time you see a wild gobbler in the Ozarks with a white-
tipped tail you know that somewhere in his ancestry there's
a domestic gene.
       You can see the result of domestic genes introduced into wild turkeys when you see white or gray turkeys in the wild.  But who cares… a wild turkey gobbler is a wary game bird even if his great grandpa was a barnyard gobbler.  
        Some one asked me the other day if this much-earlier-than-ordinary spring and the warm weather would hurt turkey hunting.  Gobblers and hens that have already been mating, and the early nesting that results, won’t hurt turkey hunting when the season opens.  

       It should make gobblers more responsive because they find fewer romantic hens.  Those hens start sitting on nests early, a hunter comes along with an enticing call and the gobblers get even more willing to go looking.

       It is that way with humans too.  When I went off to college, it was obvious that when spring came, us wilder human boys were much more responsive to the alluring glances and sweet talk of college girls.  Some of the city raised college men were a little smarter and more selective, slower to run across campus as the result of one phone call. You can say they had had more experience at a younger age, but I say it’s just a matter of DNA.  These wild human genetics of mine have been a problem for me all my life.  I just can’t sit still long enough to be a good turkey hunter or deer hunter, and I would swim across any creek just to catch a three-pound smallmouth!  All because of wild DNA...

       If you have never hunted wild turkeys before the season opens, you have missed something.  It is a lot easier with a camera, than with a shotgun.  Some think that calling gobblers before the season opens makes them even more wary and hesitant, but that’s the way us grizzled old veteran hunters like it. 

       A difficult gobbler is more of a challenge for us experts and professionals.  You never want it to be easy.  One year I called an old gobbler in at a dead run so anxious to get there he ran through a brush fire and singed his beard down to only an inch or so in length!

       Let me remind all of you who have forgotten, that our Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet is about upon us.  We still have a couple of free tables available for anyone who has something outdoorsy to sell.  The great majority of our vendors are of wild human genetics!  Plan to be there if you want to see what has been acclaimed by officials and authorities everywhere as the greatest free outdoorsman’s swap meet ever set up in the Midwest.

        I will list the things we know will be sold, and a map of how to get there on this blog, as soon as I get it worked up.
              I think mushrooms may be earlier this year, so we will take some of our daylong trips in April to teach people how to find them.  And we are definitely going to have a Pomme de Terre river cleanup and fish fry in April, a little later than we hoped to do it.  Low water in March delayed that.  You can get on either of those lists by mailing your name and phone number to me at  or writing to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613. You can even call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, whose DNA has never been looked into, at 417 777 5227.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trail Builders 3/7/2016

When we built that trail at what is now Buffalo Point in the national river it was then a state park. Naturalists John Green and Randy Johnson wrote the material in this guide book, and one of our naturalists, Kent Bonar, did all the artwork. He was a great artist, only about19 years old at the time. Kent was very eccentric, and today in his mid sixties he lives alone in the national forests of Arkansas in old shacks and caves here and there like an old mountain man of the early 1800's. His knowledge of nature is remarkable, but he avoids people. What a talent he had!  The self-guiding trail book sold at our nature center for 25 cents and the state park system printed about 500 of them for a bout 15 cents each…wish you could see the whole book. Today it is areal collectors item.

         A visit to the Joplin Nature Center last week caused me to recall a part of my life from years back.  I was there speaking to a group of ladies who invited me for a luncheon and I went with a great deal of trepidation. Women can be dangerous! But we had a great time and I intend to take the whole bunch of them on our next trip to the wilderness area on Truman Lake, where we will have a fish fry and do some hiking.

         If you are a hiker, and have visited parks on the Buffalo River or in the Arkansas State Park System, you have likely taken a hike on a trail I planned and laid out, or added to.  It goes back to a time when I was in my early twenties.  Arkansas State Parks had hired a young man from Texas as the new director. His name was Buddy Surles, and I think he was only a few years older than me.  He was an amazing man whom I hold tremendous respect for.  I never saw him make decisions there that were for any reason other than the betterment of the state’s park-visitors. 

         Just out of college, I told him I wanted to work as a naturalist, and he actually knew what a naturalist was. Few people did back then.  It was January, and he told me if I could hang around for only a few months, he would make me the state’s first Chief Naturalist.  
         I got a job that month as Outdoor Editor for the Arkansas Democrat Newspaper and sure enough, Buddy called me in August to offer me that newly created job.  He told me I could keep writing my weekly outdoor column for the Democrat, and he’d give me an office in the basement of the capitol building where I could work to layout a new program, consisting of finding and hiring
summer naturalists for six state parks, planning nature centers, creating amphitheatres and building trails. I had to pinch myself.  I thought that at the age of 24 years old I had died and went to heaven.

         I didn’t spend much time in that office.  Buddy gave me a state vehicle, and told me to go out and see what I could do with those six parks, one of
-->which became known as Buffalo Point, now a part of the National Park System.  It was my favorite, since I had grown up on an Ozark river.  After a couple of weeks, he called me into his office and asked for my opinions.

        One of the things I told him about was an old road at Buffalo State Park going down to one of the most spectacular little creek valleys and a huge cave used centuries before by Ozark bluff-dwellers. Local people were ruining it by driving in, having beer parties and camping out, scattering litter, burning, chopping down trees, creating tire ruts and erosion.  Graffiti was everywhere. I told Buddy what I had seen there and I told him the road should be closed for good, and an expansive trail system should be built into the cave and valley west of the road, coming out to the east of it. To this day I still can’t believe what happened. 

         Buddy called the park superintendent and told him to barricade the road and make it impassable.  I laid out the trail the next month, and many folks from nearby Yellville were up in arms because of what I had done.  In the local newspaper, the owner of Baker Real Estate agency was quoted saying that folks might see the Buffalo River polluted with one state park naturalist.  The threats got bad! I carried a pistol for a while when I went there to work.

         I visited the site last year and the trail is there exactly as we built it, used by thousands of people now.  You cannot tell where that road was!  There is no litter or graffiti at the cave!  It looks today as it might have looked a thousand years ago.  That winter, with the help of other naturalists I had hired, we built other trails, one across the river from the park, still being used today. Park Service personnel today have no idea how those trails came about, or who planned and built the amphitheater today’s NPS rangers use for interpretive programs.
         Eventually I hired several more naturalists and they were some of the best I have ever known. We built trails in Arkansas State Parks for the next three years, and nature centers and amphitheatres.  At Devils Den Park, a tornado downed some big oaks and I told Buddy we could use them to make amphitheatre benches at perhaps three or four parks.  He got in contact with the superintendent there, had the oak logs split in half and cut in 40-inch sections, then had them delivered to the parks where our crew assembled them.   
        You have never seen so much done so economically! In time the benches were replaced, but the amphitheatres are still there and they are still being used today, even though Arkansas’ park naturalist program is a fraction of what it once was.  The name ‘naturalist’ has now been replaced by the term ‘interpreter’.

         At the Joplin Nature Center the Missouri Department of Conservation had a flier taped up on doors telling how the December floods had damaged the little nature trail there. They said that it would take fifty thousand dollars to fix it and the MDC’s operating budget is only in the neighborhood of 200 million a year.

         So I make this offer to them.  Give me ten thousand dollars and I will hire some of my old crew and we will rebuild your trail better than it ever has been before.  You cannot hire anyone who has built more miles of hiking trails.  I make this offer in all seriousness, and the MDC ought to take me up on it.  But they won’t.  

         Getting fifty thousand from today’s public is a great idea because, believe me, it isn’t going to take a fraction of that to make that trail much better than it was.  Some contractor will get the job without bids, and he’ll pocket a bundle. He might even be related to a commissioner, or a local politician, as so often happens.

         They ought to give me the job.  Heck, for fifty thousand I could build a trail from Jefferson City to Arkansas! For that money I’d even make them a couple of good wooden johnboats for hikers to use to cross the Gasconade!

         I hope you get to see some of those old trails still in use on the Buffalo River and at Petit Jean Park and Devils Den and many other Arkansas state parks. The names of the young men who worked so hard to make them last for more than forty years…  Dennis Whiteside, John Green, Randy Johnson, Mike Widner, Lonnie Smith, Ray Hedrick, Tommy Cheatham, Mike Cummings and Kent Bonar.   The Arkansas State Park system should name some of those trails after them, because they accomplished so much.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Way Off in Wyoming 2-29-2016

Wind River in Wyoming

       Sometimes people ask me if it is hard to write a column each week and I tell them I sometimes wish I could write three or four of them, because of the fascination of what I see in the outdoors almost every day. This is one of those times, because I just got back from a week in Wyoming and I could write a dozen columns about what I saw and experienced.

   We went rabbit hunting! Can you imagine why anyone would go to Wyoming to hunt rabbits? Well for one thing, they are, in so many ways, different creatures than those rabbit we have in the Ozarks. They are smaller, and they have a softer,
down-like fur, very much lighter in color. And the meat is nothing the same! Last night I grilled one,and it was delicious, white like moist chicken breast, while our rabbits are darker meat.

But mostly, the cottontail hunting was different because of habitat.  I don’t know if I have the ability to describe it accurately because it takes place along and below rocky hog-tops sticking up out of prairie. It is a different world than anything a rabbit hunter in the Ozarks has ever seen. 

       We took along Rich Abdoler’s little beagle, Rouser, not yet a year old but one of the best little rabbit hounds I ever hunted with… here in the Ozarks. The little dog was frustrated out in Wyoming’s foothills and plains because the rocks afford so many escape holes, and the dry sand doesn’t offer much of a scent trail. Can you imagine a little beagle inhaling that sand, encountering cactus, and trailing a rabbit that heads in a straight line for the rocks instead of circling again and again as they do here. Those rock outcroppings have more cottontails per acre than I have ever seen, and two kinds of jack-rabbits as well. 
       At times, the basin below them make you feel you are in the bottom of a canyon, and there is the constant smell of crushed sage as you walk, one of the most pleasant smells I have ever encountered while outdoors.  Since a description is impossible, you will see several of the hundreds of color photos I took following this column. I urge you to see them, as they will fascinate you too. If I hadn’t told you about it, you would look at those pictures and swear that no rabbits could live there.

      There are also more pictures, following this column, from a little fishing foray we took up into the mountains above the Wind River, in little nameless tributaries where beaver dams create pools. In those pools are beautiful trout, mostly browns, but some rainbows and brookies and cutthroats as well. 
       We spent the week with Rich’s nephews, two young men who had the good sense to leave jobs in Missouri and take their families to Wyoming.  Tom and Josh Shroyer are brothers, and Tom is the one most interested in the fishing. When he took us up into the mountains, he had a short 12-gauge magnum slug gun sticking out of his backpack and a 13 shot 45 pistol on his belt. He said that there was always a chance that a grizzly had come out of hibernation due to a week of 60-degree weather. Despite the awesome beauty and great fishing in those little streams only 15 or 20 feet wide, Tom won’t be going there in the summer because it is home to one of the heaviest concentration of grizzlies found in the Rockies. 
       There is also a good concentration of trout. I saw one brown that was at least 24 inches long, and never could get him to hit a small lure, even though I tried several. 

       I have often said I would be in Alberta or Saskatchewan if I were 30 years younger, but Wyoming and Montana and Idaho would be similar places to escape where our civilization’s rush to destruction maybe greatly slowed.

       The biggest strife there involves a large Indian reservation of Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone Indians that the U.S. government created. The two tribes have always been enemies and they have some trouble. Only our government would make such a goof up. 
       In the streams, there was no scum and slime like you find in our rivers.  Ours had to have looked like that once. And you can look across miles of mountains and see no haze or smog. At night, there are more stars than you have ever seen. There are mule deer and elk and bighorn sheep, moose and wild horses, mountain goats and pronghorn antelopes… and rabbits.
       I got off to myself in that country one afternoon, on the watershed to the Wind River within only a few miles of the sites where Indians and mountain men held an annual summer rendezvous. I could picture Jim Bridger and a string of pack horses, coming out of the Rockies just to the northwest. And I could see Indian villages throughout the cottonwood groves along the Wind River.

       That day, I found beautiful colored, polished rocks that enthrall me so much that my friends think I am crazy to give them so much attention.  I missed several good shots at rabbits because my eyes were fixed on rocks and rock formations.

       Believe it or not, I came across an old quarter while I was looking at rocks.  It caused me to wonder how much money I might have in my pocket. Right then, I didn’t know, didn’t care. It just wasn’t important. 
       I knew I had to take care of some little problems back home in the Ozark Hills, important things like where to stack the rest of the firewood I have on the back porch and fixing the gate on a dog kennel.
But at that time I couldn’t remember any of those pressing issues back home. I talked to God a little bit, off by myself… and for once I didn’t complain about a thing. I did something we all should do often. I took the time to thank Him and it took awhile, because the list of things I thanked Him for was long.

       Here’s a March schedule for those of you who want to join me outdoors. On Saturday March 12 we will have our Pomme de Terre River float, clean-up and gravel bar shore lunch. 
       On March 13 we will have a get-together at the Panther Creek Wilderness retreat for underprivileged children, showing it all off that afternoon, having cake and coffee for our visitors and some tables with tools and antiques and dishes for a type of lawn-sale to raise money for those kids.

       On Saturday March 19 and again on Tuesday March 22, we will take our pontoon boat trip to a wilderness area on Truman Lake where we will spend a day with a fish fry just after noon. We take fifteen people on each trip. 

       Then on March 26 we have our big outdoorsman’s swap meet at Brighton Mo and we still have some tables available at no charge for anyone who might want to bring something outdoor oriented to sell.
       If you want to talk to me about joining us on any of these days, just write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. You can email me at  Or you can call me or my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, at 417-777-5227. 

       Please scroll down to see the rest of the Wyoming pictures, so I won’t have wasted my time taking them. You might also want to join me on facebook...I have two fb under my name and one under Lightnin' Ridge. I’m not sure what it all amounts to, Mrs. Wiggins helps me with it, but I think it is a pretty elite thing that only important people can join.  However, we can pull some strings and since I'm there, we can get you on there too, even if we ain’t important!