Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Disease You Need to Learn About

These are elk along the buffalo river in Arkansas.  Tested animals from this herd have been found to have chronic wasting disease.

         The public is being misled about chronic wasting disease in deer.  If you eat deer meat, you need to know that several Missourians HAVE BEEN diagnosed with the disease, known as Jakob-Kruetzfeldt disease.  It is a horrible disease for humans to deal with and you can learn all about it on the internet.  It has been a disease dealt with in England for more than 30 years because of “Mad Cow” disease-- another name for it.  In the U.S. it exists in deer and elk and goats and is known as “Mad Deer” disease.

         In the fall issue of my magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Journal, on the newsstands in about a week, there is a letter from a Texas doctor you should read, concerning this horrible disease. I am not suggesting that you buy the magazine.  You can just find it and read the doctor’s letter on page 64 without buying it.  It won’t take long.

This is that sick buck found last fall in Polk County.  Stumbling
and staggering, he went down and then couldn't stand.
    Hunters in Missouri have been grossly misinformed about this disease, spreading to new counties each year.  It is likely that it exists to some degree in the Ozarks right now, and there is no holding it back. In the Ozarks of north Arkansas it has been found in whitetail deer and elk in large numbers.  I believe a Polk county landowner found a deer on his place with chronic wasting disease.He made several calls to the MDC asking them to come and check the sick deer, but no one would come.

         I think that state agency is looking at this disease too much in the economic line.  They really stress what it will do to the state’s economy to lose deer hunters.  They say less about what it will cost them in deer tag sales.  What they need to talk about, and do not, is what the disease can do to those of us who eat deer meat.

         My daughter, a doctor for more than fifteen years now, has not been willing to say much to me about it when I question her, because there is so much not yet known.  She did tell me that she saw a case of it in a patient at Columbia Missouri when she was finishing her doctorate at the University of Missouri.  A disease created by something known as a ‘prion’, Jakob-Kruetzfeldt destroys the brain, and it is complicated to diagnose.  The bodies of those known to have died from it are not taken to a coroner, but immediately cremated, as apparently instructed by the Center of Disease Control.

This is one of the deer pens operated by Amish
people in Randolph County.  Does are crowded
into a small area, to be bred by trophy bucks in
hopes of creating superior fawns to grow big antlers,
 sold and shot.  This Amish farmer told me he had
just bought a doe in Ohio for 26 thousand dollars.
There is no doubt it could have been stopped in our state fifteen years ago, if the raising of penned deer had been outlawed. That is what Colorado did when they first learned of the disease… they shut down all operations buying and raising elk and deer to be used as hunted trophies. And to my knowledge,
no wild elk or deer tested for ‘mad deer’ disease to date have 
tested positive in that state.

         Why didn’t Missouri do that?  The answer is money!!!  It was becoming a big business.  North Missouri deer pen operators were spending thousands and thousands on deer purchase in Ohio and Michigan, brought into our state without testing. And some of those Amish deer pen operations were making tremendous profits they had never seen in farming or ranching, tens of thousands of dollars off the sale of just one buck. The disease then started to occur in wild deer around those north Missouri operations.

         I am going to continue to eat deer meat only when it is a deer I have killed.  The prions that cause the disease are supposedly not found in blood, but in spinal fluid, and in the brain. If you do not cut the spine or brain in anyway, it may be that you could eat an infected deer and not contract the disease. But who knows for sure?  No one!  The doctor who wrote the article on page 64 of my magazine says that people have been known to get Jakob-Kruetzfeldt disease from eating meat.  Perhaps that was because the meat was tainted by spinal fluid.

         As for me, I will heart-shoot any deer I hunt and remove the meat from the bone without ever cutting a bone.  I worry about the bone marrow as well as the spinal fluid.  If you are a deer hunter, I would suggest you do the same.  I process all my deer meat, and have never taken it to a processor.  There is a worry that meat processors might accidentally get your meat mixed up with someone else’s.  There is no problem if you are very familiar with your meat processor and confident that won’t happen.

         That ridiculous “seven-point-or-better” regulation the Missouri Department of Conservation installed in two-thirds of the state was never biologically sound, never achievable for the majority of deer hunters not using binoculars from a stationary stand.  It was done to bring in more money from out of state hunters who were looking for trophies, and would pay large sums to buy a non-resident tag.  A few conservation agents said they never had enforced it and never would.

         Now that regulation has been ditched in nineteen counties where it is feared the disease exists.  It needs to be repealed everywhere, but the common sense in doing it escapes the decision makers who still think that a fork-horn will always become an 8 or 10 point trophy in just a year or so.  It doesn’t work that way, and never has.  Antlers don’t always progress to trophy size by letting them grow.  Many factors can make a spindly six-point rack remain that way throughout the buck’s life.

         My decision on whether to take a deer on my place will be whether or not he appears healthy and whether or not I can make steaks, stew meat, hamburger and jerky from the meat.  I have enough big sets of antlers laying around for the squirrels to chew on, I don’t need any more.  Any hunter who is out there trying to bag a trophy set of antlers again and again, needs to examine what makes him think that way.

         Human greed created Jakob-Kruetzveldt disease. They created it in England by feeding meat by-products to cattle, a creature God created to eat grass and grain… not meat. Too often, the greedy don’t go along so well with God’s ideas. Their idea was to put more weight on the cow, by making it a meat eater.  The added weight would mean more beef and more money.  Instead, it meant a horrible disease for the cattle, and a horrible death for humans who were infected by eating the beef.  In England there were many, many deaths in humans.

         In the deer and elk pens, similar meat and bone by-products were mixed into the deer feed to try to make bigger antlers and more money from them.  Good idea wasn’t it?  No one knows where it is going to end, or how bad it might get.  When the MDC people talk about controlling chronic wasting disease or keeping it limited, they are doing a disservice to those who believe them. It is not just limited to that 19 county area now, and in the Ozarks, it will move north from Arkansas soon if it isn’t already here.

         Notice that our state conservation department never mentions the disease spreading to humans, but it needs to be talked about, because several known cases have occurred in Missouri.  Talking to their relatives, I learned that in at least three of those deaths, venison was a big part of the diet.  I’ll hunt deer this fall once again, and hope I feel comfortable eating venison for a few years to come.  But I am sure that in time, deer hunting will just be too much of an uncertainty for many.

Friday, September 16, 2016


            While I was trying to compile the ten issues of a magazine we called The Journal of the Ozarks over a couple of years, I had contact with different types of contributors.  Some of them were hilarious.  There was one lady whom I had went to college with that considered herself a great writer and tried to help with one of my magazines for awhile. I had to brag on her a lot, but she was awful.  I didn’t tell her, but she quit, and really lambasted me and the way we were doing things.
            I decided a long time ago I would never discourage anyone, but always offer optimistic evaluations to everyone who asks me, if I can.  But what the heck do I know.  It is the absolute truth that I don’t know any of the technology of writing.  I don’t know the difference between a predicate and a participle.  That is the truth!  But then, what difference does it make.  
            In all my life I never wrote a thing I didn’t sell somewhere, eventually.  It just takes some resubmissions.  Once years ago, Sports Afield magazine asked me to send a story with photos about Midwest quail hunting.   When he received it, the editor really ripped it apart and said, “after reading this I can’t help but wonder if you ever really go quail hunting!” 
            At the time, Sports Afield paid around 1200 dollars for a feature article with good color photos.  I never touched the manuscript, just sent it to Outdoor Life.  The editor bought it and thanked me for sending it.  Outdoor Life paid 1500 for that article and used several of the photos I sent.  Good advice for anyone who wants to sell their writing… take some good photos to go with everything you write, if possible.  Photos often sell marginal articles.
            Speaking on occasion to a writing group or some high school kids, I tell them that anyone can be a writer.  All it takes is a pen and a tablet and a tree to lean against somewhere.  But truthfully if you are going to call yourself a writer, you have to make a living at it. Otherwise, writing is a hobby.
            One lady called me to say she could do some great work for my magazine and I asked her if she had been published.  She answered smugly that she had been published since she was six-years old.  She sent me a couple of manuscripts flawlessly put together that put me to sleep.  Boring as a soap opera.  But then, someone who loves those soap operas might have loved her work.  And that is a good point.  Just because I don’t like it, or can’t use that doesn’t mean a thing.  Someone else might… just resend it.
            I tell the story often about getting into one journalism class at the University of Missouri’s prestigious Journalism School. At the time I was majoring in wildlife management and the instructor didn’t like the idea of me being in his class.  At the time I was writing a weekly outdoor column for the Missouri Tribune or the Columbia Missourian, I can’t remember which.  One of my assignments received a D, and it was one I had just sold to a Texas Magazine called “All Outdoors” for a whopping sum of 35 dollars.  I dropped the course and kept writing.  I just wasn’t journalism material.

            In past years I was an editor for several magazines, Fins and Feathers, Gun Dog, Wildfowl and Game and Fish Publications.  What a joke that was!  I never knew a thing about editing!  I also never knew a thing about writing, but I have made a decent living as a free-lance outdoor writer for 50 years.  But you won’t make a living as a writer joining writers groups. 
            Those groups are a good thing if you enjoy the social part of getting together with folks who like to write.  It is the kind of setting where folks read something they have written and all the members sit around critiquing it. But should you be in such a group, be smart enough to brag on everything anyone writes.  That way when it is your turn, everyone will brag on what you have penned.
            I once spoke to a large group of outdoor writers known as the Southeastern Outoor Press Association.  One of the members of that group is Jim Spencer, whom I think is the very best outdoor writer in the U.S. today.  Some of  those hundreds of members make good money as writers and others in the group are would-be’ers and hobbyists. 
            I was really amused to find out about their writers awards program.  Each writer sends in his best articles for several divisions, and he pays 25 dollars to do so. You will never catch me paying for an award!  I don’t have money to throw away.  Brother, could a someone make a fortune here in the Ozarks by contacting all the writers groups and charging them to apply for various writing awards!
            If you are a writer, forget the awards and spend your time selling articles. You can sell one to my magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal if you have a good story.  I am now concentrating on finding articles for February, March, April and May.  The best stories I have ever received are written by folks who never wrote before, and just had one story of an experience in the outdoors.
            I do not care to mess with some cover sheet telling me what and where you have been published, or what your writing background is.  It is just not important.  If you want to sell me an article, send me something I can’t put down when I start reading it.  All I need with it is name address and phone number.  Whatever your writing group tells you isn’t of any value with me.  What I am looking for is hunting and fishing STORIES.
            It is funny to me that all the outdoor magazines I have written for in years past say that they aren’t interested in “me and joe” stories.  But I have sold them a hundred just such stories.  What they mean is, don’t send something boring! I couldn’t care less about a duck story telling me what chokes are best and what size shot to use.  It is stuff that  average writers have written for decades. Paint me a picture of a duck hunt with your words and I will buy it in a minute.  Convince me you have been there and done that.
            Here’s parting advice for someone who wants to write.  Go find some experienced older person who has a million stories from the good ol’ days and write about them and what they have done and who they are.  If you can’t sell a story on that kind of person, try painting scenery, or something of that sort.  The very best of magazine articles are interviews with colorful, unforgettable people.  Often they are also good book material.
            Some more advice, don’t be so determined to have a book published that you pay through the nose to do it.   Publishing companies lie at times.  They will often publish awful books if you have some money to give them.  I helped an old man get a book of poetry published once that was absolutely awful… as bad as you can imagine.  We saved him a ton of money by steering him to a printer, but he has no chance of breaking even on that awful book. 
            I tried to tell him that, but I take pride in knowing I kept him from spending about twice what he had to spend with one of those shyster publishing companies.  I am proud to say that Lightnin’ Ridge publishing company has published eight of my own books and dozens of others for really, really good writers and mediocre writers as well.  But I try to be honest and encouraging as I can be.  If you feel that a writer will never sell enough to pay publishing costs, you should tell them, and I do.  But it is a waste of time, always.
            Only a very few books in this day and time actually make money for the writer.  They ALL make money for the publisher.  Remember those two sentences.  And remember too that the term ‘writer’ is really overused, sort of like the word ‘professional’.  Try this experiment… write four good articles and start sending them to “paying” magazines. DO NOT SEND MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS!  If any or all send them back, send them out again and again and in time you should sell them all.
            No one can really teach you to be a writer, you have something in you that makes you want to write and write and write,   That’s All you need.  Write like you talk, and write from the heart.  Even if you aren’t a good writer, you might do good at it if you know more about the subject than most anyone else.
             If you do good at it, then you can call yourself a writer, but really, I would just as soon be known as a top notch boat paddler or a great duck hunter, or a great Labrador breeder.  I have made a fair living writing stuff for more than fifty years, magazine articles, weekly newspaper columns and books.  I’ve done good at it.  But to tell the truth, I ain’t never considered myself a writer neither!  But who would know?

PS.  You can join our Lightnin’ Ridge Writers Group, forming soon with no membership charges.  In fact you can make a little money at it, because we will meet at my place one night a week and shoot pool and snooker and bet a dime on each game.  We will also drink coffee and eat donuts and throw darts and play shuffleboards.  Might get a t.v. put in for those who want to watch football.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Dove Fields Versus Squirrel Woods

--> too cute to shoot?  no…  good meat to eat! 

                                  waiting for a dove or two
            It is a nice time to hunt squirrels because there are lots and lots of them, mornings are cooler, and the understory vegetation is thinning a great deal.  There are still plenty of ticks of course, and this time of year there is one thing a woodland wanderer has to deal with that drives me crazy… spider webs. Down in Arkansas there are those doggone timber rattlers. 

            In the big trees behind my porch up here on Lightnin’ Ridge, there are fox squirrels and grey squirrels alike, and they give away their presence by dropping pieces of hickory nuts and acorns from the boughs above in the mornings as I sit out there and drink coffee and watch birds.  

            For every fox squirrel, there are about 5 or 6 grey squirrels.  The woodland habitat of the two is comparable, but different.  Gray squirrels do not like to leave the confines of what we look at as brushy woodlands, lots of vines and small trees mixed among the bigger ones.  Fox squirrels prefer a more open woodland.  But then, if you ever hunted squirrels, you know that.

            This week, a great deal of attention will be given to dove hunting.  Comparing dove hunting and squirrel hunting isn’t often done, but I like the shade of the woods much better than the open sunlight of a sunflower patch where it gets hot in a hurry.  Early dove hunting always finds me itching and sweating because dove hunters usually are hiding in the weeds.  

            But if you have done much hunting, you know that in the cool of the evening as the sun sets, you can hunt water holes with barren banks where doves will come to water before going to roost. Doves like to alight several feet from the water’s edge and walk to get a drink. And they do not like to roost in trees filled with foliage if they can find the barren branches of a big dead tree close to the fields where they feed or small ponds where they water.

            Once years ago I was fishing Bull Shoals lake when I noticed that doves liked to come to a shallow point with bare or short grass ground behind it late in the evening, because some trees which had been killed by high water years before, stood just up the bank aways and were perfect roosts.  On opening day, about dusk, without another dove hunter within twenty miles, I killed a limit, and my Labrador got some great experience retrieving them, some from the water beside that point.  I didn’t go back there for two weeks, and then some new doves had moved down and I got a limit again.

            I have often written about hunting doves at a little pond north of Columbia Missouri when I was a student at M.U.  I took a rod and reel with my shotgun and caught several catfish while waiting for birds to come in, and finally just figured out I couldn’t do both at once.  A catfish seemed to always bite as I reached for the shotgun and doves wheeled over the pond when I was trying to land a fish.
            I have written about embarrassing times too, like the morning when I took Ol’ Rip, a black Labrador that a north Arkansas hunter had given me when I lived there.  She bolted at each shot, so I tied her leash around my boot.  Boy was that a mistake.  Imagine firing one shot and then being jerked into a milo field by one foot, trying to aim at another dove.  I never did get Rip to stay when she saw a bird, so she didn’t go hunting much, but she started me in a lifetime of raising hunting Labradors with a beautiful litter of puppies.

            Maybe the most embarrassing thing I remember is the very first dove hunt I was ever on.  Of course we never hunted doves on the Big Piney.  September was teal time, and smallmouth time and trotlining time and squirrel hunting time.  My dad thought dove hunters were right up there with fly fishermen and skeet shooters!

            So my first job was in Little Rock, Arkansas as the very first outdoor editor for the Arkansas Democrat newspaper.  I was only 21 at the time and when dove season opened, six months after I got there, a fellow who worked in the printing shop asked if I wanted to go dove hunting with him some evening after work.  I bought a box of dove loads and grabbed my old Model 12 Winchester, and off we went.  

            He took me to his favorite spot, a shallow little waterhole next to a junkyard and as I recall we hid behind a rusty old piece of farm equipment.  The doves were thick that evening and I was proud that I wasn’t missing many when I caught sight of a bird flying around behind me to my left.  I knew when I pulled that trigger that I had goofed up.  The bird I dropped behind me was a robin!

            The guy told me later he was a little surprised that I had done that, considering that I was an outdoorsman who had been published in Outdoor Life magazine.  But he said he was impressed by the fact that I cleaned the robin and counted it as one of my limit.  Truthfully, I didn’t much like the habitat we hunted that evening, but the company was good and Gloria and I made a good meal of the doves. When you are just starting out, any free meal is worth something. 

            I told her the robin was just a smaller dove!  She said it had a different flavor than the others.   Even today, I do not like those cut grainfields in early September, nearly as much as I like walking a wooded creek bottom with a .22 rifle watching for chewed up hickory hulls and falling acorn bits. You cannot beat a small-bore rifle when it comes to hunting squirrels.  

The light rifle is more of a challenge than hunting with a shotgun, as I always did as a boy, but I definitely cleaned more squirrels when I took my little 16 gauge Iver-Johnson. A squirrel, cut up and marinated and grilled over mesquite charcoal, is better eating than a dove. You can pressure cook the older ones for awhile to make the meat tender, but this time of year most of the squirrels are younger, probably 6 or 7 young to 1 old one.   

            It is best not to kill older females because they will produce lots of young squirrels.  Here are some tips to help you identify older female squirrels… 1. They are a lot fatter.  2. They really do a lot of barking and chattering.  3.  They watch TV all afternoon!   ---Just joking about that, a little humor there!
            Well, when these city folks go home after Labor Day, I think I will go fishing.  When it gets a little chilly later on, I may take ol’ Bolt and waste some shells on doves. Then I think I’ll go out and bag a squirrel or two amongst the yellowing leaves announcing the coming of the greatest of all months… October.  But shucks, I love the woods in September…except for those danged spider webs.