Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Passing of an Old Year…

I wrote this as a newspaper column about ten years ago, and several readers commented that they liked it then.  So I will send it out again in hopes that new readers like it as well, with the knowledge that old readers like me don’t remember it…

There won't be any New Year’s Eve party here on Lightnin' Ridge. Things will be about like they are almost every night. I will be asleep well before midnight About then a pair of raccoons will be ambling along the small creek that leads down to the river, looking for food that is becoming harder to find because the crawdads are in deep water and the frogs are buried in the mud, just as it has been for hundreds and hundreds of years.

    A great horned owl will leave his perch at the edge of the meadow and sweep down upon an unsuspecting deer mouse without a sound other than the rustling in the grass when he pins it against the cold earth with sharp talons. A great horned owl’s wings make no noise, just as it has been for who knows how long. Unfortunately for the mouse, he won’t live to see the new year, but he doesn’t even know that there is one coming. He didn’t see the coming of the last one. He has lived only 10 months, and that’s a long time for a mouse. The field where he has lived is a home for dozens of field mice, voles, cotton rats, and shrews; nearly a dozen species of small ground mammals, some of which spend the entire winter beneath ground in hibernation. Fortunately for the owl, and other predators, there are some species of small mammals that do not hibernate, but remain active throughout the winter or at least much of it.

       Inside the big oak where the owl sat, a pair of fox squirrels sleep in a small, protected cavity. They will miss the dawning of a new day and a new year if the temperature is well below freezing for a good while. They won’t hibernate throughout the winter, but in periods of extended extreme cold, they will sleep for days, in a semi-hibernation much like the raccoon, the skunk and the opossum.

There are some big sycamores along the bluff over the creek, and several wild gobblers spend the eve of the coming year asleep on their branches, their forms plainly visible in the moonlight. Three are big old toms, but there are five jakes which have never experienced a new year’s eve before. They sleep through it, with tightened tendons in their legs securing their toes to the limbs of the sycamore like the grasp of a vice. Their ancestors weathered the passing of hundreds of mid winter nights in much the same way. Change is not clamored for amongst wild creatures. It is a resistance to change that ensures survival of the species. It is sameness that gives security in wild places.

     In a cedar thicket, buried in the grasses, a covey of bobwhites form a ring, ten of them in all. There were nearly twice as many in October. The new year brings little for them to celebrate. With their bodies huddled together, warmth is passed to the weaker members of the covey by the stronger and they preserve heat as feathers fluff and insulate. When there are too few and the temperature plunges, there is less chance of survival. As a new year begins, smaller groups find birds of another covey and join them, in greater numbers finding greater strength to resist the cold. 
    Huddled beneath the cedar, they are unaware of the grey fox, which passes by as the new year approaches. His is an eternal quest for food, and if he only knew they were there, what a New Year’s Eve party he would have. But like the owl, he will settle for a few small ground mammals on this final night of an old year.

    A half dozen mallards spring to flight as a bobcat streaks across the river gravel bar where they rest, upstream from the mouth of the creek. He leaps high to grasp a slower member of the flock with his forepaws and pulls her down, taking that weaker, slower individual for a new year’s feast. The hen mallard is a substantial meal for the bobcat. The rest of the flock circles in the moonlight and will settle into another hole of water upstream. 
    The last protests of the quacking hen breaks the stillness, but other sounds of nature at midnight are subtle. A buck snorts from a cedar thicket above the creek. A dying rabbit shrieks from the field across the river, as a mink ferrets him from a brush pile. Smaller than the rabbit, the mink can go anywhere, and he wraps his body around the cottontail’s neck and hangs on, his teeth buried in the soft fur as the life and death struggle which marks the beginning of a new year is just as it has always been.

     Here where the creek joins the river, where the woodland breaks into meadow, where thickets of briar and cedar stand as they have since men first came to change and scar and destroy the land....life goes on. There is no celebration. It is only the passing of another night, the coming of another day.

    And I know that for some it is necessary on this night to group together and make much of the ticking of a clock, where alcohol flows and the noise grows to a blaring crescendo.   But I’ll walk that quiet wooded ridge above the creek in the first hour of darkness, and treasure the silence, listening for little more than the distant yodel of a coyote. I’ll survey the river bottoms in the moonlight and be thankful for the stability of unchanging nature when man lets it be...wild creatures living as they always have, evidence of God’s unchanging laws which even man will eventually answer to.

    There is perfection here...thank God we haven’t ruined it all. We will in time, I suppose. These mushrooming numbers of human beings will destroy it all eventually. But maybe not this year… On this little Ozark ridge-top, there is life continuing as it always has. There’s nothing special here at midnight, no observance of anything different or new. And I will not celebrate the coming of a new year while I linger there. I will mourn the passing of the old one. I draw nearer each eve of a new year, to the year which will be my last. 
It has been a year to give thanks for. None of us are guaranteed there will be another one. This quiet wooded ridge overlooking the moonlit river, is a good place to ask the Creator to allow us all to enjoy one more year, to ask that the coming year be a good one as well.... a year wherein wild things and wild places continue to exist. 

I could wish you a happy new year but wishing it for you will not make it happen. We should pray for each other’s good health, and work together to make the coming year a good year for the neighbors, friends and family that we know and love. 
In living our lives with others in mind, we create happiness for ourselves. If you have seen many years pass, you have learned that. If you are young and have it to learn, may this be the year it comes to you. And may you end this new year when it becomes an old passing year, with more peace and more wisdom than you began it with. Those are the things which no man can ever have too much of, and few men ever attain.

Thursday, December 21, 2017



                       Grandpa McNew and me in the Houston, MO pool hall I grew up in.

          Life was great when Christmas came, back in Houston Missouri when I was a boy, in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  That was when I first heard those old Christmas carols they still play today, like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Silver Bells’  and ‘Winter Wonderland’. 
         I got a new bicycle for Christmas in 1960.  I think Dad traded a shotgun for it. You could tie a shotgun or fishing rod across the handle bars and head for the Big Piney River, only a mile or so away, for whatever season presented itself. A basket on the back helped me get a stringer of fish or a couple of fox squirrels home.  And when I went to work at the pool hall that Dad and Grandpa McNew and I owned on Main Street I had a bicycle to get there on.

         It was at that pool hall that Christmas-time was most enjoyable, because everyone got a little happier, a little nicer to each other than they were when it got up around 96 degrees in July.  Most of the old men gave me some kind of small present at Christmas.  Several of them got together that year and bought me a subscription to Outdoor Life, AND Field and Stream magazines.  

         I would buy one or the other every month from Herron’s Drug Store, but they cost 35 cents each and I could only afford one a month. That’s because once a week I also blew 35 cents on a piece of pecan pie from the West Side CafĂ© across the street from the pool hall.  I would just ask Ol’ Jim and Ol’ Bill and Ol’ Jess to watch the place for just a minute or answer the phone if it rang.  Everybody knew if it was Les Cantrell’s wife calling they had to tell her he wasn’t there!  

         Then I would wear the money-bag over there and get me a piece of pie on a paper plate to go, and eat it in the pool hall.  The waiter there was Patricia, so I would just say, Patricia, a piece of paper-plated pecan pie for a pool player please!  Not really,-- just thought I would throw in a little humor there!  Anyhow, one Christmas one of the Front Bench Regulars wives made me a whole pecan pie for my very own.  Trouble with that kind of Christmas gift is it just don’t last very long.  I hid it in the back of the soda pop cooler chest and ate it in a hurry, worried that someone else might want a sample.

         I remember that Preacher Lampkin gave me a little worn Bible once, and I think it was Bill Hoyt,-- no I think it might have been Norman Salyer now that I think about, who gave me a used pocket knife with the blade sharpened so many times it was darn near gone.  Bill Hoyt gave me that little book on how to cheat at poker and not get caught.  It was pretty well worn too.

         Jess Wolf was a big old teddy-bear of a man who must have been nearly 80 years old. I thought the world of him. He would sit on the front bench and watch a snooker game going on and just drift off to sleep.  When he did I would gently take his cap off his head and hide it somewhere… behind the cigarette machine or in the big mouth of a sea-bass hanging on the wall above the coat rack.

         Jess would act awfully grumpy when he woke up and tried to find it, but I don’t think he was ever all that mad.  One Christmas he wrapped up one of his old caps with a faded card that said, “Merry Christmas”.  Beneath the greeting he had written in pencil… “now yu can hide yer own dam cap an leeve mine alone.”.

         I wrote one of my columns years ago about my old friend Saldy Reardon and how he gave me a two-dollar bill one Christmas Eve for a gift.  It is a sad story, but the ending is good, because that Christ-child born in the manger allowed Ol’ Saldy to escape his demons.

         At Christmas time, I helped Dad give away cigars and chewing tobacco and socks and brown cloth gloves to all the Front Bench Regulars.  Was that ever a happy time for me!  The celebration of Christmas just isn’t like it was when I was a kid.  I think maybe I have heard those Christmas songs too many years now.  And they just don’t sing those old hymns today in modern churches like they did in the little country church my Mom and Dad made me go to.  I don’t think that after hearing Grandpa MeNew singing ‘It Came upon a Midnight Clear’ and ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’, that I’ll ever cotton to modern church music where you just sing one line over and over. 

         Today more and more folks are working to eliminate the name of Christmas, substituting “Holiday” and trying to steer new generations away from the belief that it was God’s son born so long ago in Bethlehem. Why can’t we have manger scenes in front of the courthouse now… Is the birth of Jesus less important today? Anyone who thinks so isn’t seeing the world I am looking at.

         There was one night, one Christmas Eve of importance in my young life, that the old men filed out of the pool hall, and I was just left waiting for Dad to come and close up, that me and Preacher Lampkin had a serious talk.  You’ll remember that he was the old fellow who told me the reason you said ‘amen’ after a prayer was to let God know you were done. I asked him that night if he thought Jesus would come back to earth any time soon.

         “I figger he will, maybe in yore lifetime,” he said.  “I’d like to think he might walk in here and we’d all know him and give him a big hug.  I’d hope he might play a game of pool or go fishin’ a time er two with some of us before he took all of us back to heaven.”

         “When God sends Jesus back,” he went on, “It ort to be the happiest time ever.  But if it goes like I reckon it might, I’m afeared this old world won’t know him a’tall.”
          I think about that as I see this country decide that what Jesus told us was wrong is now right, and what he showed us was right is now looked upon as wrong.  Those old men I idolized were wise, not intelligent, and wisdom carried the day when I was a boy.  Not now.  Evil has become an avalanche and sound reason has been buried beneath it.

          On Christmas night, as I slip into the night far from the town’s lights, and look at the stars and listen to the owl and the coyote in the unchanging natural world that God created, I just say a simple prayer that big-time preachers and ‘religious’ folks might think sounds a little goofy.  At times like that I wonder if someday soon we will have hustled and bustled and commercialized our way toward the last Christmas.  Maybe it will be awhile longer if enough of us remember the first one.

          I have written a lot of books but the one I get the most requests for is the book about my boyhood with those old-timers in the pool hall.   It is entitled… “The Front Bench Regulars”.  That book or others I have written might make a good Christmas gift.  All money received in December for the sale of books goes to funding the Panther Creek Youth Retreat in 2018, paying for taxes, electricity and insurance.  To order a book as a gift or for yourself, just call our office…. 417-777-5227.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Secret Winter Fishing

  Trees along Hwy 160 add to the beauty of the Ozark drive


 MODOT is removing Junipers and small trees well above the ditches all along the highway 

  This is what it looks like after the cutting!


        I know something about winter fishing that needs to be kept a secret, so please keep this close to your vest.  I met this fellow by the name of Don Lewallen, who has owned a nice little resort on Norfork Lake for several years.  Don and his wife lived most of their life in Joplin, but they are sure tickled they are now living down on Norfork.  The Three Oaks boat dock sits so far down a steep bluff below the resort that guests go down and up on an electric tram, which hauls them and their gear to that dock. That dock is unusual in that it sits over about 50 or 60 feet of water off that steep incline.  If you want, you can rent a boat or dock your own boat there and then head off out into the lake to find some good fishing.

         But the secret is… the best fishing you can find is right beneath that dock…at night, all night long.  I know all about night-fishing beneath submerged lights. I have done that on Missouri and Arkansas lakes for more than 35 years, in the spring and early summer.  It is a great way to catch all kinds of fish... crappie, walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, white bass, stripers and big bluegills. 

         In Bull Shoals and Norfork, there are millions of threadfin shad, perhaps the favorite food fish for all of those species. And so you would figure that in the spring and early summer Lewallen would have a good number of fishermen come down and catch fish from his dock.  It is constantly lit up by bright dock lights, and when visitors are there Don puts the submerged lights in as well. His bait nets hang down below them, and the threadfin swarm around and get hung up in them so that bait is easy to obtain… and nothing beats those little three-inch shad. So heck yow, you can catch some dandies there this coming spring.  Everyone knows that.

         But the secret we have to guard, and please don’t tell the Lewallen’s I spilled the beans on this… results from a conversation I had with Don last summer when he and I sat there on his dock for three hours one night and never had a bite one night after he caught a dozen or so. “I reckon I should have been here a few weeks ago,” I said.  “I guess April and May are the prime times?”

         Lewallen was quiet for a moment and then he replied… “Actually, if you want to see some real fishing, you need to come in the winter, from around mid-December to early March.”   Upon my questioning he told me that during those times, especially in the dark of the moon, he catches giant crappie and walleye and even some big stripers, right there in the depths below his dock.

         What I figured at the time was that he was just joshing me.  But it didn’t take long to see that he was serious.  So we got to talking about the why-for of such a thing. Neither of us could come up with a logical explanation.  But he swears it is the truth.  If you can sit there until the wee hours of the night and stand the cold, you are liable to catch who-knows-what and big ones at that.  If you don’t believe this article, call Don Lewallen at the Three Oaks Resort near Gamaliel, Arkansas and ask him.  His phone number is 870-467-5283.  Maybe you can go down there on one of those winter nights when I’m there and fish with me.  But again, keep this under your hat.  We don’t want a bunch of folks down there catching fish that don’t deserve that kind of luck.

                           *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

         I know that most state agencies anywhere in the country aren’t steered by a whole lot of common sense, but the Missouri Department of Transportation wastes enough money that it is no wonder they are always insisting on more taxes.  How many thousands would they save if they paid attention to just sprucing up the highway medians and limited the outside mowing and tree-hacking to half what they do now?  We have all seen it, you know what I am talking about.

         Along highway 160 from Poplar Bluff to Springfield, you will notice they have cut almost every little shrub, cedar and pine up the sides of the steep cuts as if they pose a real problem.  You will also see the many places where steep inclines beside the highway barren of vegetation are bright orange with eroded, washed clay which every heavy rain takes a few more inches of, carrying that sediment down into the little creeks which eventually carry it into rivers like the Current and Jacks Fork.  The highway department could work at covering those eroded banks with some kind of vegetation, and surely make tourists think that highway was a little more beautiful.

         The little pines which sprout up in that poor soil on those highway inclines above the ditches pose no problem to anyone at all. If given a chance to grow, they would stop the erosion and add green to the highways instead of the color of eroding clay.  I guess MODOT must figure they need to keep laborers busy, and that’s why they hack away at them.  Having a thicket of cedar, pine and sumac along our highways just might save a life or two if they are situated on ground sloping down into gullies, where they can stop a car hurtling toward the rocky ground below, or provide a windbreak for blowing snow. But things won’t change.  Where they can get to them, they will hack away all bushes and high grass and cedars and everything else.  And when they do that you will be able to plainly see the litter and trash that decorate those ditches.  MODOT can’t afford to come back and clean it all up, they have to move on to more roadside to hack up.  Next time you see them doing that, count the number of mowers and big trucks involved in such a meaningless operation.

         Speaking of cedar trees, in next week’s column I am going to tell you how you and MODOT could make tens of thousands of dollars.  Well they aren’t really cedars, they are junipers.  But you will enjoy learning some things about those trees you may not know. 

         If you want to find out more about giving one or two of my outdoor books, any of nine I have written, or a subscription to my outdoor magazine to a friend or relative as a Christmas gift, just call me at 417-777-5227 and I will have Ms Wiggins, my executive secretary, explain how you can do that easily with your debit or credit card.  You can email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Where Big Cats Have No Mates

A photo an Ozark reader sent me from his trail camera.

         A few months ago, a mountain lion was killed on a Missouri highway, one of several killed in the state in the past few years.  Shortly afterward a media specialist for the state conservation department said that those cougars were very shy and of no real threat to people, perhaps because there are so few of them.  

         He has no idea how many people have been killed by mountain lions in the west.  I don’t know if there has ever been an attack in Missouri or Arkansas, but just a couple of years ago an elderly man in the Ozarks died from something which attacked him and mauled him pretty bad. He never could tell anyone what it was and they never knew exactly what had attacked him.  They have speculated that it was dogs.

         I can’t give you an exact number of mountain lion attacks in the west resulting in deaths over the past century but in the past few years, but it has been reported that four women killed by lions in Colorado and California were out walking in remote mountain areas while during active menstrual periods. 

         Active outdoor and country-women need to have an awareness of that. It may be unpleasant to talk about, but it is necessary to relate that theory to young women who hike and camp in the national forests or national parks of the Midwest at least. 

         About twenty years ago I was writing a weekly outdoor column for the Springfield News Leader newspaper.  One week I wrote a column about seeing cougars in the Ozarks of Missouri and North Arkansas, and about running a trap-line with my grandfather when we tracked a big cat in the snow on the Big Piney at the edge of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.  We found where one had crept out onto a high rock outcropping and jumped down onto the back of a deer below.
         There was some hair and blood on the trail but the deer had escaped.  The cougar had chased it in long bounds for only 40 or 50 yards, and then began to walk before he crossed the river.  I was about 13 and it was extremely exciting to see those tracks, likely made less than a full day before. My grandfather showed me how the claws showed plainly as the cat pounced and chased the deer, but as he slowed to a walk, the claws were retracted and the typical cat-track showed no claw marks, as canine tracks do.

         At that time the Conservation Department had determined, in their infinite wisdom, that there were no mountain lions in the state whatsoever and that was the final word in the matter.  They saw my article on where and when I had seen the big cats in the past twenty years as an attempt to erode their authority.  So one of their media specialists, a fellow by name of Jim Lowe, wrote a letter to the newspaper making fun of me as one of those story tellers who couldn’t be believed, stating that our state had no mountain lions.
It was a fairly insulting letter and the newspaper, newly purchased by the Gannet Company and re-staffed by eastern liberals, ate it up.  Not long afterward a Texas county deer hunter found a freshly killed doe draped across his board tree-stand, and it was obviously killed and partly eaten by a cougar. 

         Within a few weeks another mountain lion killed was confirmed and some DNA testing showed that there were mountain lions in Missouri after all.  Son of a gun… the Missouri Department of Conservation officially changed their policy, which meant they would stop laughing at folks who called telling them they had seen one.

         The media specialist who had tried to discredit me did not see fit to apologize, and the newspaper wouldn’t let me write an “I told you so” column.  Today the state’s experts insist that any mountain lions we might see are rare males which may travel in great forays and that they are absolutely sure there are no breeding big cats in the state. DNA testing, they said, proved that a cougar killed on the highway was from western Nebraska. They also say that mountain lion kittens are not being produced in the Ozarks, because females do not live here with those wandering males, and you have their expert opinion to back that up. 

Mt lion tracks from Fairfield boat ramp on Truman lake
         I think that indeed a few cougar breedings have occurred in the Arkansas mountains and in the large remote areas of Ozark forests in southern Missouri.  I know there are mountain lions in that vast undeveloped 112-thousand acre tract of Corps land around Truman Lake. About two years ago at the Fairfield boat-launching area and parking lot, someone had been dumping the carcasses of catfish for several months, and a cougar had found it to be a great place to find easy food.  I photographed a distinct clear track in deep mud, and the steps between the tracks were about two feet apart.  I am sending the photo to all newspapers that use this column.

         I can’t tell you how many mountain lions are in Missouri, nor can I say if all of them are males and none are females.  If you know anything about nature, does that make sense to you?  

         Some of my readers have been upset about letters to newspapers by the “Executive” director of the state’s Conservation Federation who is really upset about what I have written about their ‘share your harvest’ program. I feel it puts the meat of chronic wasting diseased deer in the hands of poor people.
         I have written a great deal about what I have learned about the disease, and it is my opinion, after talking to doctors and folks who feel they lost loved ones, that this ‘prion-spread’ disease called by many names, has killed quite a number of people.
         In a future column I will relate to you information I received directly from doctors.  But in the meantime, I will not get too upset about what that ‘executive’ has to say and neither should anyone else.  It should be that way… two sides to an issue, with readers learning from each and comparing what is said. 
         That Conservation Federation ‘executive’ doesn’t like me much. He wants to be an outdoor writer and do what I have done since before he was born.  He would love to have grown up in the woods and on the river as I did, and have my educational background in wildlife management. And he would love to be successful enough as a writer to write for those 50 newspapers that use my column, and publish a successful outdoor magazine and write ten books on the outdoors as I have.  I hope he achieves success and actually does make a difference in what we refer to in this day and time as ‘conservation’, the wise use of our natural resources.

         But what he doesn’t know about me is that the Conservation Federation’s director from long ago offered me a job with their organization and I turned it down.  In years after that, I won two awards from that Conservation group as “Conservation Communicator of the Year”.  Kind of funny isn’t it.  Today’s “executive director” casts aspersions against what I write, and that writing won awards from his organization!

  To inquire about my magazine or books, call 417-777-5227.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo.  65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com

Friday, December 1, 2017

“Ye Shall Know the Truth”… Eventually!

Where CWD originated in northern Missouri... in deer pens where does were purchased from various states

         Many of the newspapers that use my column receive and use letters from the Missouri Department of Conservation concerning what I write. That is good, we should hear both sides. But before you read this column, you should know that many newspapers, the big ones in large cities, would never print this column, even as a letter to the editor. Recently many newspapers printed a letter from someone calling himself the ‘executive’ director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, defending their ‘Share Your Harvest’ program which distributes deer meat to the poor.

         Such venison comes, as a rule, from those trophy hunters who just want to shoot a buck with a nice set of antlers and not have to mess with the meat.  While I do not approve of such ‘hunting’, I have always been supportive of that program, providing venison to those who need it. That is UNTIL the Chronic Wasting Disease came along.  Let me tell you for the last time why I think it should come to a screeching halt. Then you can decide if you wish to eat donated deer meat. There IS another side to hear.

         Recently at the Wal-Mart sporting goods counter, a lady selling deer tags was telling folks that the MDC has determined that Chronic Wasting Disease will not affect humans. That is pure nonsense! The MDC has propagated that kind of thinking not by lying about it so much as just neglecting to tell the whole truth.  Almost no one knows much about the deer disease… even doctors. It is caused by rogue proteins known as ‘prions’ which is also the exact thing that causes a disease in humans known as Jakob-Kruetzfeldt.  In England when that disease began to show up in cattle, hundreds and perhaps thousands died from it. They got it from eating that diseased beef and getting those prions inside their body.

          A good number of deer hunters in Missouri have also died from prions in their system, and it has been hidden. Those prions attack and destroy the brain.  Death can take several weeks or months, but believe me, no media, nor the MDC has ever talked with relatives of those who died from the disease. I have!!  My daughter, who is a doctor, told me she saw a man who died from Jakob-Kruetzfeld disease in medical school in Columbia, Missouri.
         Those who are sure their loved ones died from eating prion-affected venison deserve to be heard and in my next issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor magazine I will see to it many of them tell their story. One lady telling me that her husband died from the disease attracted immediate attention from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. They had his body escorted from a St. Louis hospital by the highway patrol to the crematory because they feared someone might handle it if the ambulance was involved in an accident. The body of anyone known to have died from the ingestion of prions is not sent to a funeral home, but cremated as soon as possible.

         Folks like the ‘executive’ director of the Conservation Federation will tell you that since this awful disease in humans can be derived by eating elk, beef, goat or sheep, no one can be sure that the disease which has killed many humans in Missouri, was caused by eating deer meat. And so they allow untested venison handed over to various meat processors to be given to the poor, with no warning whatsoever. What if the deer was shot in the brain, the spleen, the spinal column, the bladder?  What if a processing company grinds up meat for hamburger, including the lymph nodes, which are never removed? Does that puzzle you?  Read this paragraph sent out this year by the Center For Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia on November 3, 2017…

“Hunters should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or test positive for CWD. They should wear gloves when field-dressing carcasses, bone-out the meat from the animal, and minimize handling of brain and spinal cord tissues. As a precaution, hunters should avoid eating deer and elk tissues known to harbor the CWD agent (e.g., brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes) from areas where CWD has been identified.”

        The MDC and the Conservation Federation will not tell you this, and the deer meat they send you from various meat processors as part of the ‘share your harvest’ program has NOT BEEN TESTED!

          I don’t want to tell readers what to do. You come up with your own conclusions.  The chances may be that 100,000 people could eat that venison and no more than one or two or three will ingest those horrible prions. The risk may be more minimal than the chance of being struck by lightning.  But no one knows. I just want to see everyone know that the risk is there, and it is important to know why the Conservation Federation and the MDC want to keep hunters uninformed.  Both could lose millions of dollars if there were huge numbers of deer tags sold. Trophy hunters from out of state pay a tremendous amount to shoot a deer in Missouri with big antlers, and turn the meat over to be eaten by the poor.  But is there anyone in the state so poor they ought to be handed a risk they have no knowledge of whatsoever?

         And for that, the powers that be who decide that untested, possibly diseased deer should be given away, enable trophy hunters to be legal, as ‘wanton waste’ of wildlife is a criminal offense. Anyone receiving donated venison should also know that in deer pen operations where domestically raised buck deer are killed by trophy hunters, the deer is injected a day before he is killed with chemicals which have warnings on the box that the chemical should not be given to animals which are to be eaten. That meat is indeed given away, because of that ‘share your harvest’ program. Maybe the warning on the box of that chemical is just so much baloney. But the people of the state who receive it, need to know what they are eating.

         So now you have information that you will not hear anywhere else… the news media? Not on your life. Remember that I wrote for the Springfield News Leader when the MDC ‘made a deal’ with the company to provide free information in return for not using any of my columns that criticized them, or any other news about them in the paper that they did not approve of. Have you ever seen any effort by the news media, including T.V. stations in your area, that criticized the MDC or the Conservation Federation in any way?

         Everything you have read here is the truth, and I will go anywhere, anytime to discuss this. I have challenged the MDC to bring their whole staff to some auditorium or large meeting hall to debate this. I will come alone but for the relatives of those who died from the disease. Many of them have something to say that should be heard.

                  Next column, I have a good mountain lion story for you, and information about a call I received from the State Auditor’s office. 
My new email address is lightninridge47@gmail.com.  You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  You may call my office and talk with me at

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Last Buck


      On the opening day of deer season, a buck deer chased a doe out into an opening in front of my deer stand.  His antlers were unimpressive; at 100 yards no one can tell how many points are on a moving animal.  The doe was obviously aggravated with him. Reminded me of me when I was 14 years old, trying to get Sharon Bennett to notice me.

      I was about to make life better for that doe, as the buck appeared to be fat and healthy enough to provide steaks, hamburger and stew meat for months.  I leveled the rifle, waited until he slowed down and pulled the trigger. Nothing!  I pulled harder.  Still nothing.

      Well, to make a sad story brief, I found out that the action on the rifle had not closed properly and for all I know that mediocre buck is still trying to get some doe to stop long enough to develop a romance.  It was frustrating, but I corrected the problem and asked the Great Creator if he was enjoying watching me goof up so much.  Surely God laughs at me, if he is watching.  It must amuse Him when my boat floats out in the middle of the stream while I am stranded on the bank, or when I shoot at a drake mallard over my head and a branch comes crashing down at my feet and the duck flies on. He has surely smiled when my bird dog comes down on staunch point and my heartbeat soars in anticipation of a rooster pheasant and it turns out to be a groundhog which smells just like a bird.

       I have accepted that.  As long as I know God is out there with me, I don’t mind providing a little entertainment. In overseeing this country we live in, there isn’t much to make God smile today!  But as I thought about that, another doe stepped out into that opening, crossing the little road, which goes up into big timber.  Was that the same doe?  I prepared to whack that buck behind her if he showed up again.  And as I figured, there was a buck behind her, but this one wasn’t like Larry the teenager all
starry eyed with a pretty classmate...

This buck was the Sean Connery of the woods… the Tom Selleck of deerdom.  His antlers were wide and thick and heavy, and he was big, built like John Wayne.  And the doe wasn’t running, she was happy about being there.  She walked down toward my stand and he followed.  Then he stopped and angled off to the woods like Sam Elliott would have done, suspicious of Indians.  Through a tree-top or two, he was a good hundred and twenty yards away and I put my sights on his heart and pulled the trigger at what was my very last chance to make a clean shot. But it wouldn’t work, I knew.  I am not so good with a rifle I don’t miss, and this was a better chance to miss than I have had in awhile.  The rifle roared, the doe ran up under me and stopped and her leading man dropped in his tracks and did not move.  He didn’t even kick.  I had done better than I expected.  The bullet went only a foot or so from where I aimed, and the way I figure it, it must have ricocheted off a small branch and hit him right in front of his eye an inch or so.  But I never saw a deer drop that dead in my life. He never twitched.

       The whole story reminds me of the time many years ago when I shot and killed a fat little fork-horned buck at a distance of 40 yards and before I could climb down from my stand a huge old gray buck with antlers likely supporting 10 or 12 points from heavy high beams stepped out of the cedars and stood there for a good minute, trying to figure out what had happened.  Other hunters told me they would have shot that big buck, but I really had no interest in big antlers. Still don’t. I have plenty, scattered in sheds and around the basement.  Never could justify spending five hundred dollars for taxidermy work when Gloria Jean wanted a dishwasher.

      You can see the pictures of my big buck on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors, and when you do, you should know that he is the last one to fall to my rifle, muzzle-loader or crossbow.  He is the last buck I will ever kill, unless I hit one with my pickup!  I say that not with any guilt from being a hunter, or sympathy for the deer.  I may indeed take a doe in future hunting seasons, with my crossbow or muzzle-loader, if this deer disease doesn’t make it too risky to do so. but never another buck.  But otherwise I have had enough.  The deer season falls during that time that I would love so much to be walking the Sand-hills of Nebraska or South Dakota hunting prairie grouse, or following a bird-dog in Iowa, hoping to get a couple of ring-necked pheasants to jump within range.

       The fishing, when deer season opens, is often really good, especially the farther south you go.  And over on Truman Lake, my Labrador and I can hide back up in the tip of some cove and almost certainly drop a mallard or two in the decoys, if we wait long enough and I’m not napping when they fly past.
       The best time of the year is October and November, and I always feel like I am missing something when I hunt deer.  In this day and time, when preparation for bagging a big buck entails game cameras and corn feeders, and walking the woods in blaze orange clothing with doe pee squirted on your boots, I don’t fit. I may hunt for deer with my camera, but not with a modern rifle.  I am not suited to be decked out in bright colors, mixing with the crowds from the city suburbs who come once a year to the woods in pursuit of trophies.

       I came to that conclusion the day I killed that big buck, working for hours to gut him and skin and properly take care of the meat without cutting any bones or lymph nodes or internal organs.  No more!  In future winters, I may walk the woods, hoping for a skiff of snow, hunting a young deer for the freezer with my muzzle-loader.  And I will be doing it as a hunter, dressed warmly in camouflaged clothing—nothing orange-- even in my pocket.  All you game wardens take notice of that. There’s your opportunity to get me on something.  All you have to do is leave your warm state vehicles and go out in the winter woods.  I don’t think there will be much chance of that.

        My next column is an important one, don’t miss it.  Until you read it, don’t eat any venison someone else has butchered.  You may call my office if you want to order one of my outdoor books or a subscription to my outdoor magazine for yourself or as a Christmas gift. The number is 417 777 5227. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.
OUR EMAIL ADDRESS HAS CHANGED TO:  lightninridge47@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Flowing Waters of Another Time

Dad with a pair of Piney River mallards from my boyhood, behind the floating blind which we used to hunt the river

          It was a November river, brightly arrayed in the reds and yellows and orange of fallen leaves set adrift on the blue-gray water before us.  But downstream, there were dapplings of green along the lower end of a wide eddy, the green heads of wild mallards… lots of them. The mallards were what we were after but in this case, my dad said the odds were against us.  

         I was shaking with excitement, only eleven years old, clutching that new used shotgun and anxious to shoot something that could fly faster than a squirrel could run through the branches.  But it wouldn’t’ t be those mallards, they were 200 yards away and between us and them was a rocky shallow shoal that our old wooden johnboat couldn’t float through without wading. 

         Sometimes it was like that, when it had been dry in the fall and the Piney was lower than usual.  But Dad said sometimes a dry fall put more ducks on the river because the shallow marshes dried up and Ozark ponds were low, and froze over easily when it got below freezing for a night or two.  Then the only good open water was the river, which seldom froze completely.

         The problem we faced that November day was that in a big flock of ducks, there were too many eyes; old ducks with wary eyes, as Dad said on occasion.  In our johnboat, with the bow covered with brush, limbs of sycamore and oak and willow, we could sneak up within shotgun range of wild ducks when there were only five or six or so, and we had water deep enough to float through without making any noise.  But it was harder when there were 20 or 30.  Then you had to really go slow and be sure they couldn’t see anything behind that blind.

         A couple of weeks or so before, I had shot my first ducks when Dad slowly paddled our floating blind right up on some wood ducks sitting on a log.  At just the perfect range he whispered for me to shoot and I did.  I got the one I was shooting at and two others behind him.  And in those days, the limit on woodducks was one apiece.

         My ambition was to shoot a duck flying, like Dad and Grandpa did often, but as I said, that memorable day many, many years ago, it seemed that we were looking downriver at ducks we could never get within range of.  But then Dad had an idea… he backed the boat up a little and wedged it against a rock near the bank.  He told me to just wait there on the front seat right behind the blind while he would sneak over to the bank and downstream through the timber where he could sneak up close to the flock and surprise them.
         He’d likely get off a shot or two and the flock would take to flight upriver, right past where I was waiting.  I would like to have gone with him, but his legs were long and mine were short and it was always hard for me to keep up.  And so as I watched him disappear over the far bank clutching his Model Ninety-seven Winchester, I sunk down behind the blind disappointed and impatient, figuring I wouldn’t have much of a chance that morning.

         I waited, watching a kingfisher pass by, and counting the leaves that floated past on the slow current of the river.  And just as it seemed that I could wait no longer, I heard dad’s shotgun roar twice, well down the river. All at once, my senses were alive, and my heart beat faster as I saw the flash of wings downriver.  They were flying upstream right at me!  In only a few seconds they came to me, about twenty feet above the river, one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. 
         There were more than twenty mallards, red legs and green heads mingled among the drab brown hens.  I had my hammer cocked on my single shot Iver Johnson sixteen gauge and tried to look for just one duck as Dad had told me to.  He was a big ol’ green headed drake, and too fast and too close, and though I didn’t completely understand shot patterns, I understood that my drake mallard only lifted a little and bore on upriver in unbroken flight.  I had failed to lead that duck at all, and shot behind him. 

         But behind him, there was a pair of ducks that had to be the unluckiest ducks ever to leave the Canadian prairies.  The two folded up at the blast of my little shogun and plunged into the river only about twenty five yards away.  One was a drake, and he was there fluttering upside down in a circle with his red legs kicking at the sky. The other was a hen, and she was still very alive, with only a broken wing.  I quickly kicked out the empty shell and reloaded and when she was about forty yards away, headed down river. I took careful aim and dispatched of her at the very limit to the little shotguns range.

         Dad got back shortly afterward, carrying two mallard drakes, and we retrieved my ducks, then paused on a gravel bar to eat lunch.  As we warmed baloney sandwiches on forked sticks over a warm fire, my dad carried on about how big my mallard drake was, how he didn’t reckon he had never seen a bigger one.
         I don’t see how a kid could have been more happy, nor as lucky.  It was a time and place when simple things were rewards of the highest value.  I treasured the life of a boy who had the Piney River and the woods of its watershed for a playground, and a Dad and Grandfather who I longed to emulate.

         I always hoped I would have a son who felt the same way and grandson’s who wanted to be just like Grandpa.  But the Dablemont name ends with me, and the love of the outdoors will die with me.  My descendants will never long for the sight of mallards lifting from leaf flecked eddies of the Big Piney.  The river I knew is gone and the little Iver Johnson from long ago memories is gone with them. Last week I sold it to a friend of mine who will put it on the wall of his den with a copy of this article.  And if I ever want to see it, I will know where it is.

         I killed my last big buck last week; I will never shoot another. In next weeks column will tell the story of that last hunt.  As one old Indian Chief put it…”I will fight no more, forever.”   I will also have much more to say about the chronic wasting disease in deer and elk and whether or not it can kill humans who eat deer meat.  In the meantime, I will advise anyone who has been eating venison donated in the “Share Your Harvest” program to not continue to do so.  I will tell you why next week.