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.

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