Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Best Event of the Year



   This week’s Lightnin’ Ridge nature question for all those master naturalists out there is… “Mountain lions do well when their number one food source, the white-tail deer is plentiful. Another mammal, which is steadily increasing, is a prey animal mountain lions would rather have than venison. Mountain lion numbers might rise in the Ozarks solely because of this animal.  What is that animal?

         It is likely the best time to discuss our spring Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’ Swap Meet, because the fishing is getting good and in the next few columns I am apt to be bragging about the fish I have been catching.  Believe me you are going to be amazed at all the big fish I am going to catch soon.  But on Saturday March 25, I will not be fishing.  I hope to be with lots of you folks at the Brighton Assembly of God church gymnasium where we will have about fifty tables of outdoor gear for sale at bargain prices. 
         Honest to goodness, at that swap meet five or six years ago I saw and antique fishing lure worth 60 or 70 dollars sell for three bucks!  And I saw an antique muzzle-loader sell for about half of its true value.  The thing about our swap meet is…there is no charge to get in and there is no charge for a table.  In this day and time, that is unusual.  There was a swap meet in Springfield recently where they charged 85 dollars per table and five dollars to each visitor who wanted to come in and buy something.  But we have a hard time getting tables for everyone who wants to bring something to sell.  So if you want to be a ‘vendor’ you need to contact me soon.

         We’ll open at 8:30 in the morning and close things down at 2:00 in the afternoon.  The church has a youth group that prepares coffee and biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and then hamburgers, pork sandwiches, potato chips, cake and pie for dinner. So therefore it is a great way for them to make some money for the activities they undertake.           And this year we are going to have a room set up with antiques and various things for sale which will help us with the Panther Creek Youth project we have set up for underprivileged kids.  You will be able to hear about and see photos of what that place is, basically a no-cost outdoor setting for those youngsters with a lodge and cabins on a 60 acre tract along Panther Creek.  And there will be lots of items for sale, which will go toward paying electricity, insurance and taxes there.

         Out on the main floor of the gymnasium I expect to have about 50 tables.  One of them might be particularly interesting to visitors who are into antique lure, rods, reels, etc.  I think Jerry McCoy, from Lakeview Arkansas probably knows more about those old, old lures than anyone in the Midwest, and he will be there to buy and sell antique lures.  But if you have some that you want to keep, Jerry can tell you what they are, when they were made and what they are worth.

         This year we will have lots of items for those folks who want to decorate a den or office or cabin with art.  We will have many beautiful wildlife paintings of deer, bear, elk, eagles, wolves, etc. hanging on the wall, 11 by 14 paintings in black wooden frames, for only ten dollars.  Already I have purchased a half dozen for my own home.  They are really something.  A woodworker, Harold Mitchell will be coming from my boyhood town of Houston, Missouri with handmade wooden bowls and other wood items that he sells for a great deal less than they are worth.  I saw his work several years ago and kept after him until he agreed to come to our swap meet. At his table, you will see some of the prettiest woodwork you have ever seen.

         Another woodworker comes from Galena, Mo.  Dale Olson has been to every swap meet we have held, and he makes things like birdhouses, bird feeders, jewelry boxes and many other things.  He has been a favorite vendor of ladies who come to our swap meet because he makes cutting boards that are absolutely beautiful on a kitchen counter, and priced below their actual value, on account of, Dale is a grizzled old outdoorsman like me who hasn’t been to the big cities much and doesn’t realize how good he is at this stuff. We will also have a fellow from down around Norfork Lake, who makes cedar cabin furniture and picnic tables, with his handiwork displayed outside the door.

         David Preddy usually comes from southern Missouri with tanned furs, mounted predator heads sitting on deer antler stands, fur caps like the earlier frontiersmen wear, and I think Vernon Myers will be there with a whole table of handmade knives.  In fact many tables have old antique knives, pocket knives like my grandfathers and the old-timers at the pool hall use to carry.  On those tables which just have a hodge-podge of outdoor items, you will also see good usable rods and reels, camp stoves, minnow buckets, bait traps, steel traps, old carbide lamps, lanterns and duck decoys.  There will also be vendors there selling turkey calls, duck calls and predator calls, with some archery equipment as well.

         Lure makers who produce modern day lures also come, for example the Criddly lure company from Pleasant Hope who makes all kinds of spinner baits, of all sizes and I use their lures often because I catch fish on them.  They are quite a bit different than other spinning baits.  Of course, me being a grizzled old outdoorsman like I am, you might expect me to catch fish on about anything, and I sure won’t argue that fact.  I have never once written about the lures I didn’t catch fish on, and I ain’t about to admit that ever happened!!

         I really want to contact ladies who do baking, and who make jelly and can pickles and relish, because we notice how much attention such a table garners.  We need that, because I don’t have time to make muffins and cookies and such.  What I do hope to do is make some of my handmade turkey calls, the ones I use myself.  Thousands of beginning turkey hunters have called up their first gobblers with my handmade calls, and while I know that I can’t prove that, I also know that no one can prove otherwise!!

         I just cannot get to all the other special things that will be there, but I intend to put up for bids one of my Uncle Norten’s handmade sassafras paddles and one of my grandfathers sassafras paddles made some time in the 1930’s.  The money from those will help with expenses at the Panther Creek Youth Retreat mentioned earlier.

         Remember that this event is free, there will be tables where visitors can set and relax and drink coffee and eat dinner and have conversation with other folks.  I’ll be there amongst ‘em, with my new spring issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge outdoors magazine and all my books, which I will sell as usual for about 2/3rds of the book store prices.  I have a couple of new ones, so now there are a total of nine.  My daughters and their mother will be there too, so this has become a family affair.  And the event gives me the opportunity to meet and talk to those folks who read this column.

         I cannot thank enough the Brighton Assembly of God church for giving us this opportunity year after year, and assistant pastor Mark Cross for all the help he gives us to make this work so smoothly.   

         The answer to the nature question… feral hogs!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Just a Pair of Antlers

These two summer fawns are both does.. difference 
in size suggest they were born a month apart.

        This weeks nature question for all you master naturalists… True or False.  Some fawns in the Ozarks are born as early as January!  Answer at end of column.



       Not long ago I received this email from a reader…”I just read your article in the local paper in November. I have never heard of Conservation officers taking deer horns from a hunter. Can you please tell me more??”

         Shortly afterward, I received this email from another reader…
“My husband is challenging a Conservation Agent in North Central Missouri who is trying to bully him into relinquishing a very large rack from a deer he killed this past season. He tagged the deer with a landowner/lessee tag and was told that he cannot use this tag because he does not reside on the 628 acres we have leased. We do however pay utilities on this property and have for years. This agent got a search warrant and searched our home when no one was present and took an 8- point rack killed years ago that was not even related to the issue. We are taking this to court and suing the MDC for harassment due to the fact this agent is verbally threatening to take every rack we have and write every ticket possible since my husband would not give him the rack in question.
Thank you...Amy L Barto

         My answer to her… ---Amy, the law states that landowners or lessees may hunt with a landowner permit.  What that agent is doing is done often.  He wants the antlers because they are so valuable, sometimes they get thousand and thousands of dollars for one deer head.  Taking the 8-pointer from your home is theft, pure and simple, and you should contact the sheriff in your county to report it.  A search warrant cannot be used to enter when no one is home.  It is to be served to you before entry.  Another violation of the law.  You should try to contact the director of the MDC.  She is new, a woman who should listen to you. It will do you no good whatsoever to contact the Enforcement Department of the MDC. This agent is ignoring your constitutional rights and he is guilty of theft.---

         This stuff makes me sick.  Why are conservation agents allowed to bully and harass and make charges against hunters just because they want their valuable deer heads?  Why have such a high percentage of younger agents decided they can break the law without any consequence and why is there no one in higher power in our state willing to look into this and do something about it.  Maybe if we go to newly elected governor and attorney general we can have some of this looked at.  But it hasn’t worked before.  Over the past few years this has happened hundreds of times, and it has worked so often because any legal action must go before judges who are indebted to the MDC, like the west Missouri judge named Kelso, who received 235,000 thousand dollars from them, and whose property taxes are paid annually by the Missouri Department of Conservation for perpetuity.  When high ranking MDC officials hunted on his hunting preserve with him, how can anyone they charge be heard in his court fairly?

         This is coming now to an almost mafia-like corruption, with no attempts made to control it. A few years back, I was threatened over the phone with physical violence by an ex-director just for writing about what he had done and what was happening. He told me that he and friends would come to my home, because he knew right where I lived, and he hinted if I didn’t stop writing about the MDC someone would find me floating in the river I live near. That man had been an MDC director for many years.  They named a place after him!! 

         Indeed, an agent in southern Missouri has a shed filled with confiscated antlers he calls his “retirement fund”. Other agents laugh about it, but if they thought you had that shed full of unmarked, unaccounted for deer antlers, worth thousands and thousands of dollars, you could be arrested and required to pay massive fines, and perhaps serve jail time.

         One thing more, from an employee in the department who ask me never to use his name, confiscated antlers that are said to be destroyed according to law, are never, ever cut up and discarded.  He says it doesn’t happen, and that is why the Enforcement Chief, Larry Yamnitz, will not allow anyone to see the bogus destruction.  No member of the press can view such a destruction because it doesn’t ever happen, and it has not happened for many, many years.  Those deer heads are often worth from 10 to 50 thousand dollars on a black market.  

         In this state, if you kill a deer with big antlers, keep it quiet.  When you check a deer by phone and they ask if it has a beam above 2 and a half inches at the skull and how many points it has, DO NOT COMPLY,  If you report what they want to hear, you may get your deer head confiscated on some made-up charge and stand before a judge who is in the MDC’s hip pocket.

         I will have much more about this in my spring magazine if you want to hear more.  Some of the stories about hunters who did everything legal and still lost their deer are hard to believe… but it happens, and often.  If this has happened to you, contact me and we will get your side of it told.  I intend to publish a true account of much of what is going on with our state Conservation Department in that spring magazine, and eventually a book that they dread very much.  In most larger newspapers in this state, none of this can be published, and that tells you a little about the power of the MDC.  When they lost one million dollars in a lawsuit a few years back which was the result of three agents breaking the law, no news media mentioned a word of it.  They paid the million dollars out of money you and I give them in that 1/8 cent tax, and none of the agents were even disciplined.  Unbelievable isn’t it.  Is there any hope that they might ever be held accountable for breaking laws and violating constitutional rights?  Not much!

         I will catch hell again for writing this.  There will be threats over the phone and some papers will not publish it, but I want the truth to be known. I would love to gather with a dozen of the MDC’s top officials in a public place where hunters and fishermen could gather to discuss these things and others, so everyone could hear, and they could ask questions.  Wouldn’t you think they could really discredit me if I was there alone to debate the things I have seen in my last twenty years as an outdoor writer.  That is a challenge I have made before.  I’d do it anytime, anywhere.  You would think they would love to make it happen!  As for me, I would bring up what they have hidden for years and years.  But the upcoming book will do just that, and I hope to distribute thousands of them to Ozarkians free of charge.

         It will be a rare thing… the truth about the MDC, being shown to the people of Missouri, most of whom haven’t got the slightest idea what is happening.
As for the nature question… yes, some fawns are born in January.  I saw one on Feb 1st and photographed it's tiny tracks.  

These are the fawns tracks in the mud at Panther Creek.  It’s steps were 15 inches apart

--> The newborn fawn on my place has to be the result of an early September breeding.  It happens occasionally but not often.  Usually the early fawns appear in march, but the bulk of them are born in April or May.  For some reason, the early fawns are usually just single.  Twin fawns seem to be most common after April begins.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Turkeys and Lightning

Fishing last February— My daughter Christy caught 30 white bass and 40 black bass on light tackle on this February afternoon  last year.  She released them all.


       Some folks said they enjoyed last weeks outdoor quiz questions, so here is another one I learned recently from the National Geographic channel…   Experts say the fastest mammal is the Cheetah, found in Africa.  They say the second fastest mammal is found in the U.S.  It is… (answer at end of column).

       I always thought the fastest runner in the Ozarks was a wild turkey gobbler, as I have seen several outrun my shotgun blast rather easily.  It is nice to sit around during this colder weather and think about April turkey hunting, a calm sunny dawn with redbuds blooming and birds singing and the slightest hint of green everywhere you look. 
       Probably won’t be exactly like that though.  My pants will be wet up to the knees from the dew, and the gobblers will be with 15 or 20 hens each.  A storm will blow in about mid- morning, with hard rain and lightning and I will slide halfway down some hillside because I stepped on a wet rock, then have to find my shotgun, which slid farther than I did.   Knowing that will happen makes me wait until later in the morning to hunt turkeys in the spring.  

       I can go out about 9 or 10 and have similar problems with gobblers.  They often ignore me just as well at noon as they do at dawn.  But after sunrise I can look off into the southwest and see if a storm is forming.  You often can’t see those big cloud banks if you are tripping around and falling off the porch at 5 o’clock in the morning, trying to carry too much stuff to the pick-up.

       I probably fish more than I hunt in April because my boat runs great at 10 a.m. and I am not so likely to fall out of it as I am right at first light.  I have found that in April, the best fishing is found after I wake up, and I often don’t wake up very early.  That is often because I write until 1 or 2 in the morning and when you do that and then get up at 5, two or three cups of coffee do not make one whit of difference. 
        I could handle it all when I was 25 years old but not now.  If I want to get up at 5 in the morning, I really need to get to bed about 5 in the evening.  I have found too, that there are no mushrooms in the morning until the sun gets up well.  I know this because for the last 5 or 6 years I haven’t found a single mushroom until I go out and look for them, which is always about 10 in the morning.

       I never get caught in a storm while fishing or looking for mushrooms, because while I fear nothing in the world, man nor beast, (with the exception of grizzly bears and Islamic terrorists) a bolt of lightning from a distant black cloud strikes terror in my brain and legs, which, working together, have saved me in the past. 

       It could be that the fastest I have ever ran was when a bolt of lighting hit a barb-wire fence I was astraddle of one summer evening in my youth.  And in a lightning storm, I can still be called a good sprinter.  

       That awful fear of lightning developed early!  Because the night I was born, way back there in the Yukon, (Yukon, Missouri) lightning hit the small farmhouse where I came into the world and killed two chickens in another room at the exact second I drew my first breath. 

       Similar circumstances occurred when a great comet appeared the exact time of Mark Twain’s birth, and didn’t come back around until decades later.  When it appeared a second time, Mr. Twain croaked.  I guess you know, since I am so much like him, how I am going to go out… in a great flash of lightning.

       You may laugh at that, but one of the old timers at the pool hall said he was born two weeks early because his mother was kicked by a horse, and he was afraid to get near one, knowing that.  They all stopped laughing when they found out that the old guy had died from a kick in the head… you guessed it… from a horse.

       But all that really doesn’t have much to do with turkey hunting.  Actually, since April is so far away, my attention right now is on the month of February because I have enjoyed some of the best fishing of my whole life after four or five days of unseasonably warm days in mid to late February.  Fortunately, for you readers, you will read every detail of the best of those trips, right here in this newspaper unless I get hit by lightnin’!


       If you intend to reserve a table at our grizzled old outdoorsman’s swap meet, you need to let me know soon.  We are going to have about 45 free tables for anyone selling anything pertaining to hunting, fishing or the outdoors.  We will do this at the Brighton Assembly of God Church, where we have held it for the past 8 or 9 years I think.  From 8 in the morning until about 2 in the afternoon the last Saturday of March.

       I will be taking groups of people out on Truman Lake via pontoon boat again in the spring to see that remarkable natural area over there that has lots of history, wildlife and huge timber.  We have a fish fry on the lake at noon, do some hiking and then come in as the sun sets. 

         This year we will do things differently, by opening up our Panther Creek Lodge and cabins to participants on Friday evening, having breakfast there on Saturday morning and coming back there on Saturday night to spend the night again.  On Sunday morning visitors can roam around the property at Panther Creek and see what we have accomplished before going home. 

         This trip once cost 40 dollars per person but this year there will be no charge to anyone. If folks want to donate any amount to our program there for underprivileged kids, that will suffice.  The Saturday trip to the lake is limited to fifteen people because that is the number legally allowed on our boat, so if you want to join us, get your name on the list soon by calling me at 777-5227 or emailing or mailing a postcard to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  Dates will be in March and April, decided about a week in advance according to the weather forecast.


      The Lightnin’ Ridge Magazine’s spring issue will come out in March.   For the first time in fifteen years it will be all color--88 pages of great reading.  If you want to get one, call my executive secretary at that phone number above.  Ms. Wiggins says we have just had hundreds of orders for it; and my latest book as well, “Little Home on the Piney”.  She says that each will make a wonderful Valentine’s Day present for an outdoorsman’s wife.

The second fastest mammal… the pronghorn antelope.