Thursday, August 31, 2017

The First Days of the Hunting Season

Dove hunter in a sunflower field

       I don't know if the opening weekend of dove season really is the best time to hunt doves.  Migrating doves often come later, but hunters in the Ozarks are at least getting first shots at doves hatched locally before many of them move out.  The warm weather we usually have the first week of September means most of the doves north of us are still there, and most of ours are still here.

       If you could you'd like to hunt doves when there's a nip in the air and that can happen later this month, or early next month.  But probably 80 or 90 percent of the dove hunting in our area is done and over with after the first week of the season.  Usually, the doves leave the heavily hunted areas for awhile, but in time, a new group will migrate in, and the harvested grain fields will provide more hunting.

       Successful hunters are those who find the feeding areas days before the season opens...and because doves do not perch on grain heads as other birds do, you have to find grain fields like wheat or sunflower seeds which are on the ground.  They come to any kind of grain or weed seed found on fairly open ground.  And they fly very erratically, so they are a challenge for a shotgunner, though probably not as much of a challenge as the heat.

       To hunt doves on opening day you have to get out early, wear good camouflage, and have a couple of boxes of field loads.  I advise hunters to use 7 and 1/2 shot, and shoot modified-bore shotguns.   Doves were made for modified-bored barrels, an open choke gun is O.K. on opening day if all your shooting is at 25 yards or so.  But usually, dove shooting is a 35 to 40 yard challenge.   Full chokes restrict the small shot pattern too much.

       Bring along a stool or bucket to sit on...on opening day you don't have to hide as well as you will on day two or three. The temperature at sunrise should be 20 degrees lower than it will be at 11:00 a.m.  The birds will feed early and late in the day, but if it is a good field, some will be flying in and out most all morning and all afternoon.
       Sometimes we get really lucky here in the Ozarks on opening weekend and don't have the  hot weather during the late morning and afternoon.  But when the humidity is high and it gets up in the mid 80’s, I’d druther be fishing.

       Inexperienced hunters sometimes lose a lot of crippled or downed doves because the weeds are high around grain
fields and there's lots of green undergrowth to contend with.  Mark birds down well and make a special effort to find them.  Dove numbers have been dwindling over the years, and no hunter should wink at the bag limit, nor give downed birds a half-hearted search.  If you are going to call yourself a hunter, act like one, and don't waste game nor exceed the limit.

       A dog helps reduce crippled bird losses and a panting, young retriever might gain some experience from dove hunting, if he doesn't have a heat stroke.  Be sure so you to take some water along for him if there isn't a good pond or creek nearby.  And you'll have to help him get the dove feathers out of his mouth, which may make him decide the last thing he wants to do is go retrieve another bird.

          A dog helps reduce crippled bird losses... and a panting, young retriever might gain some experience from dove hunting if it's not extremely hot. Be sure you take some water along for him if there isn't a good pond or creek nearby. And you'll have to help him get the dove feathers out of his mouth, which may make him decide the last thing he wants to do is go retrieve another. 

        That's why I like hunting small ponds in the evenings, ponds which doves use for water holes before they go to roost.  Such a pond is used as a watering hole only when there is a flat, barren, gravelly bank without weeds, where they may land and walk to the water's edge. And your dog can stay right there beside you and retrieve your birds in the kind of environment retrievers are made to hunt in.  Remember, for those who want to wait, there are plenty of new doves later in September, and cooler weather sure to come. 
       It isn’t a good idea to break a young dog in on a dove hunting trip.  Old Bolt will retrieve them but he doesn’t like to because those dove feathers get stuck in his mouth.  Right now I have a pair of ten week chocolate Labrador puppies much like the ones I have raised for 50 years.  In fact they descend from my first great Labrador, old Rambunctious.  These two are beauties, and I want to keep one.  But  it is tough to play-train them when they are together because they begin to bond to one another and it is hard to keep one chasing a dummy when it wants to go back to the kennel where it’s sibling waits.  I use to raise a lot of hunting Labradors and even today I get lots of calls from hunters wondering if I have one from that old-style heavy, hunting stock. 

        Most old time duck hunters aren’t enthusiastic dove hunters because they want to spare their dogs from hot weather and those feathers.  And us old timers wouldn’t eat doves if they had squirrels to eat.  Of course I have to admit, back in the good old days no one would eat squirrels if they had chicken.   But squirrels were easier to get than chickens, and cheaper, and squirrel hunting was a great deal more enjoyable than chasing a chicken around the barn-lot, half scared to death that the farmer would come home and catch you!

     If you would like to get our upcoming fall magazine… the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, or if you’d like to get information on any of my books, just call my office—417 777 5227.  Or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at

Friday, August 25, 2017

Old Time Things

Wooden johnboats from another era
       A few years ago I was in West Plains Missouri at some local community event when I met some fellows who called themselves ‘flintnappers’. They were making arrowheads and spear points and they were really good at it. Each had wooden bows and arrows they had made themselves. They also had ‘throwing sticks’ also known as atlatls which you can use to hurl a spear as the early bluff dwellers of the Ozarks most likely did before the bow came along. If you know how to use one, you can use an atlatl to throw a spear, or something like a long arrow, completely through a deer if you can get close enough. One of those men had actually killed a couple of deer with his homemade bow and flint tipped arrows, and one was planning to hunt deer that winter with an atlatl.
       These guys were old-timers who amazed me at what they could do, and I always wanted to see them again. I found out that they are going to have another get-together on the weekend of October 7th and 8th at a little place called Chapel Grove 15 miles east of Ava Missouri. It will be billed as “The Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks”. The whole thing is free, for visitors or vendors. If you make or use things from that era like tools, knives or rifles, baskets, buckskin clothes, or blankets, etc. that were used in the settling of the Ozarks from 1800 to 1900, they’d like to have you join them. 
Building a johnboat in 1975 for the National Park Service at Buffalo River.
       They will welcome you and allow you to sell your goods or just put on a demonstration. I am thinking of attending and building one of the old time Ozark river johnboats out of white pine. I have a friend who still makes sassafras boat paddles and I hope he will join me. If you have an interest in this weekend event, call Donna Eslinger at:
417-496-2711, or Nina Carter at: 417-543-3401. Or you can email for more information.

       I think it was 2001 or 2002 when my Dad, my Uncle Norten and I spent the whole of October at the annual Fall Festival at Silver Dollar City building a wooden johnboat and making boat paddles… talking to visitors about another day and time decades ago. Norten made the sassafras paddles, and Dad built the johnboat, with my help.

       People flocked around us to watch and ask questions. At the time, I had published only 3 or 4 books and we were set up in front of the bookstore. Folks would buy my books in the bookstore and they would bring them out to me to sign. If back then I had all ten of my books available there, they would have sold well more than a thousand. On some days they would actually sell more of my books than all the others they had combined.

       As it was, they sold more than 200 of my books and paid me a little more than half of what the bookstore collected. For some reason, that didn’t set well at all with the two old ladies who were in charge of the October event. Another thing they didn’t like was the fact that uncle Norten sold a bunch of paddles to people. He had to make about 25 or 30 that winter, and only got 30 or 40 dollars for each. But those ladies did not like that at all. They wanted him to set there and attract a crowd and make paddles for nothing. Seems like Silver Dollar City bought Dad’s johnboat and when it was over, the three of us had made way too much money for the satisfaction of those two old ladies.

       Besides that, the whole operation attracted crowds that sometimes jammed up that narrow walkway and it detracted from the candle-makers and butter churners and other craft people. At any rate, the two women told us they didn’t want us back the next year. Dad was the last of the serious johnboat makers. I still make a few, but my dad and grandfather likely made several hundred over a period of 60 or 70 years. Dad made one at a time but Grandpa sometimes was working on 3 or 4 at a time, at different stages, sitting on saw horses outside his cabin.

       You know why I intend to have another wooden johnboat built somewhere, before November?  Because this winter I want to use it… when no one else is on the river, to fish or hunt ducks or deer or trap an otter or two.

       I’m not the only one who likes to paddle them. Last spring I stopped at a truck stop and there were three johnboats on trailers just like the ones we made for years on the Big Piney. They were owned by some young men who were master craftsmen, apparent by the way those boats were trimmed and finished. I found out they had built them after they bought my book, Rivers to Run, and used the johnboat building plan I had added toward the back of my book, in one entire chapter, with all measurements, blueprints and photos of Dad building one that he used for years.

       My Dad and Uncle are gone now, as are most men and women who lived in the early decades of our last century, the days before technology put aside that way of life, and those kinds of people forever. Today, as young generations curiously like to learn about their roots and a slower, more peaceful time, you will see demonstrations on all old-time ways, crafts and works at festivals and events around the Ozarks each fall, but there is no one ever building johnboats. But it was on display once about 15 years ago at Silver Dollar City. There may be a few of you who remember.

To contact me, email or write to box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613  our office number is 417-777-5227.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017



         It is not the change in climate that will destroy our nation, but the change in people!
         In my last column I talked about the new requirement the MDC has handed down concerning the mandatory checking of all deer taken the opening weekend of the gun deer season in some of the states counties.  Hunters ARE NOT required to check their deer any other time, only on the opening weekend.  As to what happens if you call in to check a deer on opening weekend, November 11 and 12, and you do not take it to a local CWD checking station, I don’t know… you might receive a citation.  Anyhow, this is mandatory in 25 counties, and at the end of this column, I will list them all.

         I talked with wildlife regional supervisor Debra Burns who grew up in a town in Massachusetts, and now works out of a Kansas City office, and she assured me that when hunters bring bucks to the check stations, they WILL NOT HAVE ANY DEER HEADS CONFISCATED or kept.  She cannot assure me however that if you have killed a very big buck, some agent might not look you up at a latter time and take your antlers or mounted deer head as a result of some violation they say you committed.

         Some supporters of the Conservation Department doubt me when I say this is an ongoing effort by enforcement agents to gain through confiscation the larger deer antlers taken in the Ozarks.  But while you won’t be able to see this, you should realize that no does or small antlered bucks are ever confiscated.  Doesn’t that say something about what is happening. Have small deer been confiscated..ABSOLUTELY NOT. 
         I am going to attend the meeting held in Humansville on August 22, because the MDC constantly refuses to say if people have died in the Ozarks, and other parts of our state, from that awful disease.  I want to hear them either avoid that truth or confirm it.

         The white oak acorn crop in my back yard is not going to be anything like it was last year.  And this week’s nature question for the master naturalists scattered around the Ozarks…  Available acorns from white oaks and black oaks always depend on factors like late frosts in the previous spring.  True or False?

         Last year the acorns on my huge 300-year old white oaks behind my office were as thick as tadpoles in a mudhole, but this year they are just average in number, maybe a little less than average.  Acorns are about the most important winter food for a variety of wild creatures, and no matter how many there are, they get scarce in January.  But if the fall crop is abundant, deer and especially turkeys, go into the bottleneck of harsh winter with a little more fat, and a little more ability to survive through to spring.  In years of lean acorn availability, turkey and quail especially will suffer in late January and February.  So will many other larger bird species and small mammals.

But the thing is, while I see my acorn crop as less than desirable, it is a local or regional thing.  Someone with big white oaks a hundred miles in any direction may have a better production of acorns, and some may have less.

         It strikes me that in the Ozarks, there was a time when all country people knew all about the acorn crop because it was important to them, especially in a time when free-ranging hogs were raising little pigs out in the woods, and their main food was acorns.

Today I would be willing to bet that excluding all the master naturalists out there, 99 percent of the overall population of all suburbanites have no idea what each years acorn crop is.  But white oak acorns are the one forest food which can keep you from starving in the winter.  They are very bitter, but if you boil them several times, and pour the darkening water off until the boiling water is finally clear, they can be ground up to make a kind of bread, or eaten whole.  Yes, I have eaten lots of them, but I prefer to roll them in cinnamon and sugar, something you aren’t likely to have if you are starving.  Knowing this, should times get hard and you choose to go live in a cave in the wilderness you might remember to take an axe, fishing hook and line and cinnamon and sugar.

         The other evening I saw a television show entitled “Naked and Afraid” while I was trying to find the cardinal ballgame.  I think it was about two people, one man and one woman, who were set out in the wilderness ‘neked’, and were offered a lot of money to survive a few weeks.  Before Gloria Jean caught me and made me switch channels, I could discern that the two of them were worried about food.  Must not have been any acorns.  Any how it occurs to me that if I was out there with that beautiful blond lady that was running around looking for grubworms and lizards to eat, I wouldn’t be worrying about food, I would be concerned with keeping my hair combed and my belly pulled in so I wouldn’t look fat. And the only thing I would be afraid of is eating worms and snails. I would be collecting acorns!!

The answer to the acorn question….  False,-- this years black and red oak acorns are affected by conditions in the spring of 2016 while 2017 acorn crops depend on what conditions exist in the spring of 2017.

         I leave you with my conviction that while it is alright to be naked, you should never be afraid, and almost surely, if you are afraid, you should certainly not be naked.
I don’t know what channel that show was on, but will try to find it, as it is a great nature-oriented television show.

         I want to remind all of you that you can acquire any of my books or magazines with a credit card simply by calling my secretary, Ms. Wiggins at 417 777 5227.  If you want to get a description of what my 10 books are about, she can send that too.  Email me at or write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A News Flash From the MDC

       It is not the change in climate that will destroy the United States… it is the awful change in people!

       The Conservation Department is holding a meeting at the Humansville United Methodist Church on Tuesday evening, August 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss Chronic Wasting Disease (mad-deer disease).  CWD infected deer have been found in St. Clair County, so now the Conservation Department is requiring all deer hunters to check their deer at a designated site in 25 different counties. IF YOU DO NOT DO IT YOU CAN BE CITED AND FINED! 
       This is some more flailing around by one of the most inept conservation departments ever. It is a useless endeavor and attending such a meeting is a waste of time. They have made an attempt to evade the truth at every turn. The letter sent out says, “CWD is an infectious disease which affects the deer family.” They have never ever, in any communication, mentioned that it can and has affected humans as well.  There have been many, many documented deaths from this awful disease over the past few years. In humans though, it is called Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease.

       Twenty years ago the MDC could have prevented the spread of this disease by doing what Colorado’s conservation department did… closing down all elk and deer pen operations in the state, where the operators were buying deer from other states, trying to get rich on huge antlers grown by feeding bucks MEAT BY-PRODUCTS, against every rule of nature. Deer are not and never have been carnivores. The disease was spread through that feed, and those operations would sometimes just release sick deer into the wild.

     When a weak and dying buck was found near my home a few years ago that I believe had CWD, the landowner called game wardens in that county and they never came to look at it or sample tissue from it.  I have never seen nor heard of an agent or biologist come to look at a sick deer and many of my readers who have reported sick deer say the same thing.  WHY?

        I got this letter only a month or so ago from Lucas Yeggy in Dent County…
       “I’ve seen what you have written concerning about sick deer (the mad deer disease. I have seen lots of sick deer for years and have pictures of many of them. The MDC has always said I am wrong about all the sick deer. I have had bucks hang around in the yard and when the kids go’s out and play they just lay there. I have posted in the papers about it and the MDC tries to have the photos pulled. I have enclosed the photo of a very sick deer. For the third year I have been seeing deer like this one on my game camera. I have sent these photos to MDC and they have blocked me and deleted he pictures.”

       If your newspaper doesn’t have the space to use Yeggy’s photo, you can see it on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors, or in the summer issue of my magazine, the Lightnin Ridge Outdoor Journal, on many newsstands now. If they have such an interest in doing what is best for deer and deer hunters, why doesn’t the MDC come to investigate sick deer found by the public. Of course they are very worried about the loss of revenue from dropping deer tag sales and I think controlling that loss is a main purpose of what they do.

       But there is one thing I will pass on, and I will have more to say on it in later columns… IF YOU HAVE A REALLY LARGE AND VALUABLE SET OF ANTLERS ON A BUCK, DO NOT TAKE IT TO A CHECK STATION, OR YOU WILL LOSE IT. It will be confiscated. In my fall magazine I will print a lengthy article about what has happened to so many who have had big deer antlers confiscated for drummed-up minor charges against a hunter.  I hope all deer hunters will read that article.

       For years, the enforcement division has lied about destroying the antlers taken from some poor hunter who lost his deer as a result of a false charge. THOSE VALUABLE ANTLERS ARE NEVER DESTROYED! I found out recently that many of them are given to a craftsman who puts together antler chandeliers. Some wind up in the home of commissioners or high-level employees or places like Bass Pro Shops. Other sets of big antlers are sold, some for thousands of dollars, to wind up on mounted heads found in offices and galleries of well-connected people. One southwest Missouri conservation officer has a shed just for confiscated deer antlers, which he has boasted about being his retirement fund.
       When you check your deer by phone this fall, notice they want to know the circumference at the base and how many points. Want to see if I am on to something? Report your buck as an 18 pointer with a large base. Then wait for the agents to visit you. Or call and say you have found a monstrous buck in the ditch along the highway and ask if you can have it? See how long it is before an agent gets there. If you report hitting a fork-horn with your vehicle, you can keep it with the proper paperwork. They have no interest in seeing it.

        If you kill a big-antlered buck, don’t put a picture of it on facebook, or in the newspaper or you will make yourself a target.  Again, my magazine this fall will have stories from readers who have been antagonized by agents who try to get the antlers.

        This goes to show the power the MDC has, because no large scale TV or print news media anywhere will investigate this or even mention the possibility it is happening. And this article will go to over 60 newspapers in three states, but some will not print it.

       That meeting in Humansville will be useless as far as changing anything in the spread of CWD.  NOTHING CAN BE DONE TO SLOW IT.  But that meeting will be an opportunity to say with a loud voice, that the MDC has decided to force you to do what they say, as useless as it is, or else!!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Open Invitation to A Canadian Fishing Trip Adventure with Me

Tinker Helseth
To anyone who wants to fish with me on the wilderness lake... Loonhaunt… plane leaves Nestor Falls Ontario on morning of August 12. The cost is $500 per person, and that includes the flight cost, lodge, boat, motor and fuel. I will come back on august 17, but others may stay until 19th. This is one heck of a bargain. Lodge is a big one, has big kitchen, lots of beds... lights are solar powered. Call me at 417-777-5227 if you want to go. I can take one to four fishermen. I know the lake well, know where the fish are and how to fish it in August. In addition, fishermen will get to meet a real Canadian legend… Tinker Helseth.

Google Tinker’s Place, Ontario Canada to learn more about Tinker, his lodge and cabins and to hear what others have to say about a Canadian Adventure.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Miracle on a Cedar Limb


         Sometimes you have to just figure that the Great Creator fixed something especially for you to see and experience.  I know most of my readers feel that way. Chances are you have felt His attention at some time or another in your life, maybe lots of times. The more time you spend outdoors alone, in a natural world, the more you tend to feel that way.

       Time was when I was young, I just lived to catch or kill something. A big fish, an unusual waterfowl species, a rooster pheasant or wild gobbler, I just couldn’t wait to get something wild and beautiful in my hands. When I did, I just couldn’t stop looking at it and marveling at the beauty of wild things.

       A lot of that longing to hunt and fish and explore was my heritage, my ancestors didn’t raise much stock to eat, wild meat was important. I never thought anything would replace a rod and reel or a shotgun and rifle in my hands.

       But that new Nikon camera I bought a few weeks back is something I intend to shoot a great deal more than my old model 12 Winchester. I got it out of the package, remembering my first camera when I went to work for the Arkansas Democrat newspaper just out of college as their ‘outdoor editor’. It was a big heavy black box which took only black and white pictures.

       The first month I was there, I won a little award of some kind for a photo I took. I nearly wore that thing out, and I still have some of the square negatives in my files that it created.

       When I went to work as a naturalist for the state of Arkansas a year later, I bought a 35 mm Pentax camera that indeed took color photos in the form of slide transparencies.  The state couldn’t afford a camera for me but they did pay for film and developing. I kept duplicates and I now have a few thousand old slides and prints that camera gave me. I have added to that hundreds and hundreds of color prints and when I want to find a certain photo, it my take hours to run it down.

       I sold hundreds of photos to magazines when I finally became a full time outdoor writer, and I think I sold more than 40 cover photos for various magazines. I learned that understanding the technology of a camera wasn’t as important as just knowing what would make a photo, and being out there where you could see things not normally seen. There was indeed money to be made from selling photos, but not only that, if you sent an article to Outdoor Life or Field and Stream, you had a much better chance of selling it if really good photos came with it.

       I have never been more than an amateur
photographer but my cameras have been professional, and this new one is something spectacular. I am going to have to find someone to help me with the instruction book to ever find out how to completely understand it.

       So three or four days ago, I just took a little walk down one of my trails to practice with it. Now remember that I have written recently about yellow-billed cuckoos, which are known as rain crows to us country folks. I have been here on Lightning’ Ridge for 25 years and never had a clear view of one, although each summer they nest up here, staying high in the foliage of big trees, as if they are trying to hide. You see one for a second and then they are gone.

       Walking down that trail with the camera and two lenses, a rain crow flew down and lit on a cedar limb I had trimmed along the trail. I brought up the camera and tried to see him through the lens. Nothing. The lens cover was still on! I took it off, and just chose a setting on the camera I thought would work, and clicked a couple of quick photos. 

       Too far—then I remembered the telephoto lens in my pack and my shaky fingers worked to find the way to push the right buttons to change them. I knew it was not going to work. He could see me so well, just 15 or 20 yards away. But somehow I got the telephoto lens on, found him in the viewfinder and began to click the shutter. That rain crow sat there for at least five minutes, turning his head to give me different shots, acting as if he was modeling for me. When he flew away, I headed for my office; so happy my feet scarcely touched the trail. I stuck the little card in the computer and there were the very first photos my new camera gave me…  spectacular shots of a rain crow, something I thought I would never ever get.

       I really am inspired by those photos, and such a rare opportunity, and sometime in the future I am going to find my best 100 photos, taken over 45 years as a naturalist and outdoor writer, and publish them, with a page of information about what each one is and where it was taken. I think it will make a good book, because if there is a photo of a bird or animal or whatever, I don’t intend to just tell the facts about that creature that you can find in a dozen books, but I want to tell the story of my own experiences and observations and what I have learned that hasn’t been printed on some internet account!

       I am not sure that better photos than I ever taken aren’t ahead, with this camera I have. I am certainly going to be spending a lot of time on the river and in the woods with it. That is the secret to getting good photos, being where they are found as much as possible.
       It was only a short time ago that we obtained the ability to sell my magazines and books over the phone via credit card.  I can’t do it, being computer illiterate, but my secretary can.  Folks have been calling wanting information about my ten books, and that is one thing I can do.  We have made little sheets of info about each one and I can mail you all of those if you would like.  Just call and ask for those, 417 777 5227.  You can email me at or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613