Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Memory From Another Time

One of the hunters in 1910 had a camera. The old double-barrel muzzle-loader he holds in the photo is today on the wall above my office fireplace.

What a story there is behind my grandfather’s old double-barreled shotgun.  In 1965 while I was a 17-year-old student at School of the  Ozarks, the museum creator, Steve Miller, loaned me a tape recorder which I took back to Texas County and used to tape my grandfather’s stories. Someday I intend to make an hour-and -a half  CD of many of those stories from his youth, but for now I will tell just this one, as best as I can remember as he told it to me.  It was in the fall of 1907 I believe.

         “I wasn’t allowed to kill all the turkeys I wanted to.” Grandpa said.  “Mom let me kill only what we could eat.  I use to give my sisters a nickel to eat all they could and I’d sneak some out to my hound.  I gave some to a neighbor family ‘bout 3 miles away.”

         “ I loved to call ‘em in an’ brother there was a lot of  ‘em back then.  When a farmer planted a field with corn or whatever, he had a battle to keep crows and turkeys away from the plantings. Pop had a field planted in corn an’ back then you tried to keep the turkeys out with a brush barrier stacked aroun’ a rail fence they couldn’t get through.  Coons could, but they was scarce ‘cause their pelts were a way of folks makin’ a little extra money.  Deer were scarce too.”
         “But they was turkeys ever’where and they weren’t real smart.  They could fly over a brush fence, but they didn’t… they just tried to go through it. Ain’t nothin’ smart about a turkey. Get one little gap started though and they’d find it.  Free-rangin’ hogs would too.  Havin’ a corn field or a big garden took a lot of work if you meant to get anything out of it.”

         “I had an old muzzle-loader double barrel shotgun an’ Pop would keep me in powder, shot and primers so’s I could keep everything out of the corn, and I was good at it.  One year in October, after the harvest of everything and farmers started roundin’ up their hogs, I found a big turkey roost, and I would go out with my ol’ coon dog huntin’ coons and scare them turkeys off the roost.  It sounded like they was a hunnerd of ‘em when they flew off in the dark.  The next mornin’ I’d go in at first light and get hid well where they was the night before and I’d call like an old hen.  “Bout anybody who ever heard a wild turkey can easy imitate ‘em.  I get tickled at everyone huntin’ ‘em nowadays with all them wood boxes an’ the likes.  Why if you can’t imitate a hen turkey in your own throat you must ain’t never heard one.”

         “Well there was a surveyor feller workin’ for the state not far from Pop’s place, and he saw me take a young gobbler to a little country store to sell it, knowin’ we already had one on the table at home.  He was so fascinated with that turkey he couldn’t hardly stop lookin’ at it.  So he comes to our place wantin’ to know if  Pop might show him where he can get one and  Pop he says in that French brogue of his, “That leetle boy dere, he take you to shoot de turkee.”  So he wanted to know if I would take him and a couple of his St. Louis pals turkey hunting if they would pay me.  That fit me darn well, making a dollar for a half day in the woods.”
         “Three or four days later three of ‘em comes to our place in a horse and buggy all decked out in their huntin’ an’ sportin’ duds and they paid pop two dollars to stay and take their meals at our place for two days whilst I took ‘em turkey huntin’.  That night after they went off to bed I took my old dog an’ went out an’ scared two bunches of turkeys off the roost about a quarter mile apart. Then I fixed up a couple of hideouts… what you call a huntin’ blind today.”

         “Next mornin’ about four or five oclock Pop hollers to ‘em, “clocks alarmin’.”  Well one of em gets up all sleepy an’ says ‘Do we hafta get up so early? It’s still dark.’
No.. I tells ‘em.  You can get up after sun up an’ fail, or you can go out with me an’ get hid and shoot a turkey.”

         “So about daylight they are sittin’ there behind that brushpile I made an I hear some turkeys fly down and I start callin’.  Here they come, puttin’ and calkin’ an’ kee-keein’ an gettin closer.  Them fellers was shakin’ so bad with the buck-ague I didn’t figger they could hold their gun barrels up.”

         At this point of the story my grandfather slapped the arms of  his home=made rocking chair and laughed hard and long. “Well they went to shootin’ too soon,” he continued to laugh and talk.  “But they had those breech loaders and I’ll be danged if they didn’t get three or four turkeys.  They was all floppin’ around the way turkeys do when they’s in their death throes and one of those fellers jumped up an’ ran over and grabbed one by the neck and went to shootin’ at its head with a little ol’ 22. pistol.”

         Grandpa had to pause again he was laughing so hard.  “It’s a doggone wonder he didn’t shoot his fool hand off.”

         My grandfather said he never was paid for two days of his guide service but when the hunters prepared to leave they gave him a breech-loading shotgun.  In another column sometime I will finish this story and perhaps start another.

         All of his recollections about growing up and raising a family on the Big Piney   are on the discs I am making of that taped interview which I should have ready this spring.  There are an hour and a half of his stories, dozens of them. The old breech loading shotgun was hanging on the wall in his cabin back then.  Today it hangs on the wall in my office.  It is a Liege, Belgium-made H.J. Sterling, not safe to use with today’s ammunition.  When our March 24 outdoorsman’s swap meet arrives, I intend to sell it and use the money to do something Grandpa would be very proud of.  It is a shamed it cannot tell stories of what it has seen.

 If you would like a free table at our outdoorsman’s swap meet, call my office… 417-777-5227


       Please think about this… the men who added amendments to our constitution knew only of muzzle-loading rifles that could fire only one bullet before a reloading process.  A militia they wanted to protect fought a war against armies which also had ONLY muzzle-loaders.  I have shotguns and rifles that I hunt with. None have the ability to load more than 5 rounds into the magazines. They provide a quite adequate defense of my home and no credible assault on hunting guns is even considered today.  Loaded with five rounds of buckshot, a short barreled, open-choke shotgun is a formidable defensive weapon, and I keep two of them loaded, safely away from anyone but me.

        I need no assault rifles!!! I never owned one! I abhor them.  I would not hunt with or associate with anyone who does. But there isn’t any possible way to rid our country of them.  Having multiple round clips or magazines is akin to owning hand grenades, bazookas etc. If one is legal, then why aren’t they all.  Each is a killing machine… meant to kill people.

       BUT…if we would outlaw any magazine or clip which holds more than five rounds, and make it illegal to own more than one clip, you can chip away at the killing potential of those horrible firearms.  Right now I cannot see any chance of reducing innocent deaths in public places such as schools, churches and large gatherings of people. We should at least try that first.  But we won’t.  Therefore, talk of ending the slaughter is useless.  We cannot stop an avalanche until it stops itself.  When a garbage truck comes down a hill out of gear and gaining momentum, talking about stopping it is ridiculous… you can’t.  We had the chance once to do something about the mess this nation is in, but we didn’t.  Now we talk about guns and mental illness and family structure.  Today those things are beyond our control.
       If you do not permit prayer in school, or the teaching of morals, ethics and the Bible, “thoughts and prayers” afterward do no good.  Again, we could begin by the simple restriction of the number of bullets the assault rifle can hold and restricting the number of clips in anyones possession!!!  Make it so that anyone possessing multi-round clips faces a prison sentence and follow up on it.  Then those misguided people who love their AR-15’s could keep them, and the NRA, (no longer a shadow of what it was fifty years ago when I taught hunter safety programs for them,) could remain the political power it still is.  Only ammunition companies will lose anything and maybe the government can subsidize their losses with some new taxes on churches!

       Otherwise, without that limitation, we might as well legalize the hand-grenades and the pipe bombs too. The carnage isn’t going to stop, it will increase now. Everyone knows that. It isn’t a result of mental illness or guns.  It is the ugly extention of evil.  It is something involving much more than those two obvious problems, and when we could have stopped the evil which is here and coming, we let our enemies talk us into being tolerant… embracing diversity., and abortion and homosexuality, letting drugs become a part of our culture, welcoming those who bring drugs and evil into our country.
       You can find peace far into the woods or on a distant gravel bar, today.  It is a world I live in and love.  But in the places when humans live in great herds like cattle, get use to seeing awful things happen, and being a part of it if you live there.  Peace and contentment and common sense does not abide where men live in herds. Marijuana and alcohol helps, I suppose.

       Somewhere, in some book it says, “You will reap what you sow.”  When we could have sown something different, we listened to Hollywood, television commentators and the left wing politics of casting aside what our ancestors believed and taught us, and making common sense a bad by product of another era. The founders of the constitution and its amendments didn’t see the day coming when we would see such horrible weapons in our schools and churches and everywhere that evil can snake itself into. Ben Franklin, John Adams, George Washington… those men with single shot muzzle-loaders didn’t mean for us to embrace assault rifles.  You couldn’t have made them believe this culture was to come!

       So let us forget what we were and celebrate what we are becoming, before the long limb our society bends low.  If it breaks-- in the wake of the horror that may lay ahead of us, in fires and floods and droughts and volcanoes and earthquakes, --and perhaps nuclear devestation-- we will not be clinging to assault rifles.

Monday, February 19, 2018


       To tell the truth, one of the most overpopulated species of wildlife in this day and time is the eagle. No so much yet that they are a problem, but when you consider today’s numbers of bald eagles to what we had 50 years ago, it is unbelievable.

         The eagle is about as much a scavenger as the buzzard, and they aren’t so much travelers passing through today. They are here in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas as residents, and the number of Eagle nests found in our region in the spring probably is greater now than it has ever been mainly because traditionally the eagle was a bird of the north and west and where we ain’t neither.

         I always laugh about what they refer to as “eagle days” when city folks go out with binoculars to view some eagles a few hundred yards away in a group at some pre-designated site. I love being outdoors in late winter with my camera and I have so many eagle photos I don’t waste much time on them any more. Unless it is something really unusual, like seeing a dead deer as I float the river, with five or six eagles sitting on and around the carcass.

         Eagles can carry away a newborn calf, and they do that on rare occasions. Ranchers hate them for having that ability, but even they know that it seldom happens.

         But what wasn’t seen much, decades ago, was an eagle or two eating a calf that had died or that had been born dead. Again they are carrion eaters and not prone to try to kill their prey.

        Eagles prefer, if they can, to eat fish. Right now on many Midwest lakes they are in seventh heaven because of all the dead shad. They also eat lots of ducks and coots. But they don’t get many healthy ducks. They do best on those, which have been crippled by hunters and can’t easily get away.

         Once I was hunting ducks in December when I dropped a mallard out at the edge of my decoys. He fluttered around some, seemed to get his head up and swum away a little.

         My Labrador was swimming hard to catch the drake and he was about ten yards away when a big white-headed eagle swooped down to pluck the duck from the surface. I don’t know who was maddest, me or my retriever.

         Yelling at the thieving bird, using my best pool hall language to describe him and his ancestors, I fired off a shot into the air. I think the eagle thought maybe I was shooting at him. At any rate, since eagles do not know the range of a shotgun, or maybe just because he didn’t have a good hold on my duck, he dropped it and flew away That eagle cost me a shell worth nearly a dollar and made my Lab swim a lot farther than he needed to.

         So if you live somewhere where eagles are not often seen, come and go with me on one of our wilderness trips and I will show you some. But I will pass on something I saw a week ago that is quite a surprise.  I stopped at a quilting shop about a mile southwest of the Truman Lake Dam, and there about a stone’s throw from the shop was an eagle nest with a big white head sticking up out of it, and the owner of the shop, Patty Wallace says it has been a pleasure having them there, anxiously awaiting the hatching of eggs likely just recently laid.  Mr. Wallace told me that the nest was built a few years ago and each year they add sticks to it.  Eagles do that.  You never see them use a nest they are satisfied with.  They spend late winter bringing new sticks, some of them 4 or 5 feet long and two or three inches in diameter, to place in the old nest.  I think maybe it is something the female insists on.  I never saw a woman who was satisfied with interior decorations.  At any rate, she lays the eggs, and does most of the incubation, although the male will spell her for an hour or so at a time while she goes to Eagle-Mart for fish.

         I knew where there were nine eagle nests on Truman and it’s tributaries two years ago. One of them is only about two or three miles from my Lightnin’ Ridge home and office, as the crow, er uh I mean eagle, flies. A really unusual nest was situated in a creek bottom sycamore where I could actually climb to the peak of a nearby ridge and look down on it! At one time there were ten nests in the area, but a powerful wind destroyed one. That doesn’t often
happen.  If you will notice, eagles in the Ozarks seem to always build nests in sycamores.  In Canada and the western states, big tall pines.  But I really believe that the pine-nesting eagles would prefer a sycamore… perfect place to guard eggs and then young.

         Eagles in Canada really get tame.  When I am there in the summer and fall, I feed them an occasional yellow perch, and I have had them fly down only 8 or 10 feet from my boat to take the offering, then set in a tree above me and twitter away, seeming to be begging for another.

         When you see an eagle that is all brown, it is a juvenile.  It will be two or three years before the white feathers on the head develop.  Oddly enough, a six- or eight-month old youngster is larger than its mother.  I have photographed so many eagles that I no longer take pictures of them, but you might want to if you go up to that little shop called, Saltbox Primitive Woolens.  Mrs. Wallace will show you the nest if need be, right there beside her shop, where that white-headed mother looks down upon you with curiosity.  You can take your binoculars and camera and have your own “Eagle Days” observance.

        As for the eagles, it is not hard to tell the males from the females.  You throw a fish on the ground and if SHE flies down to get it, you know you are watching the mother.  If HE flies down to get it…

I will be speaking at a free-to-the-public wild game dinner this coming Thursday evening at the New Hope Covenant church in Springdale, Arkansas. For more information on that, call the number below.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email  

IF YOU WANT TO GET OUR SPRING MAGAZINE CALL OUR OFFICE AT 417-777-5227. you want to get our spring magazine, call 417-777-5227.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Is a Duck Smarter Today?

My grandfather, hunting ducks from his johnboat

         Things change slowly in the outdoors but if you live a while and spend lots of time in the woods and on the rivers, you can’t help but see it.  One of the things I saw early in my life, due to my grandfather, was a change in the habits of raccoons in the Ozarks.  They of course had no corn to eat before white men began to settle here, but did they ever find it to be a wonderful change from crawdads and mussels.  Then they declined rapidly a century or more ago as massive clearing and logging began to take place and den trees were eliminated all over the Midwest.  In the Ozarks, by 1940, it was tough to find a raccoon.  Trappers and hound men had helped to make them scarce as well.  Their furs were really valuable before that time.
         When I was a boy in the 60’s, grandpa said he figured that raccoons were going to be gone someday, like the wild turkey…nearly non-existent.  But raccoons did come back because they began to raise young in holes in river bluffs when den trees weren’t plentiful.  One of my teachers at School of the Ozarks College said that such an adaptation was evidence of slow evolution, that God never had stopped creating, and those holes here and there made the raccoon become a little different animal.

         Well, eating corn and raising young in small holes in bluffs surely did work, as did the reduction in fur prices.  Today, almost everywhere in the Midwest there are too many raccoons, and natures way of reacting to an overpopulation is disease usually.  Distemper, and highways have been keeping raccoon populations a little lower than their production of plenty of offspring would normally allow.  If it were not for distemper, I think we’d have so many raccoons that we would have to have a bounty on them.

         I have seen wild ducks evolve a lot like that.  A wild mallard still has a brain the same size of his distant ancestor’s brain, but brother does he ever use it better than a wild mallard did fifty years ago.  Habitat change and hunting pressure in the lower Midwest has necessitated that.  If you do not change your ways of hunting, you won’t eat many ducks during the winter.  For one thing, mallards are really decoy shy at times and setting decoys surely is a different art nowadays.  And the old decoys that do not ride right in the water, or have poor colors, are a sure way to flare away a flock that seems dead set on joining your set-up.  They have come through too many good hunting spots by the time they get here to be as easily fooled as they once were.  A mallard flying south nowadays has heard 10 shotgun blasts to the one he might have heard fifty years ago. And while those shotguns may have affected his hearing, his eyes are really, really good.  Let a flock of mallards see something that looks a little out of place and they are gone.

         Only about 30 years ago I hunted out of boat blinds back in the coves and killed lots of ducks.  Today they have seen so many boat blinds that larger flocks are all to ready to flare away fifty yards out, and they often alight out in the open water hundreds of yards away.  You had best hunt from the bank behind a really well arranged blind or find flooded timber or a dead tree out into the water to stand behind now, and the more hunters hiding the less chance you have to fool ducks.  I find that when I hunt alone, my chances are much better.   I no longer hardly ever hunt from a boat blind as I once did.

         Wild ducks do hear well enough to know when a duck call sounds like a duck call.  There aren’t many modern hunters who have mastered calling ducks, and they call way too much.  I have found that calling just a little is best, and many times when a flock of ducks is interested in my decoys, I stop calling, finding that maybe a little bit of soft quacking or a chuckling sound made by feeding ducks is all that is needed.  One thing for sure, if you have a flock of five or six ducks circling, you have a lot better chance than if there are twenty or thirty.  If a big flock like that has twenty or so young dumb ducks, it won’t do any good if there are two or three old hens that have been there and done that and they feel like something isn’t quite right. Twenty dumber young ducks follow the old wary ones.

         Grandpa use to say that when we floated the Piney behind a floating blind, sneaking up on mallards.  He would complain because it just took one set of suspicious eyes to make the whole flock take to flight.  If there were two or three or maybe a half dozen ducks in an eddy or on a shoal, we had a pretty good chance of sneaking to within 25 yards.  No, ducks aren’t smart, but they are evolving to survive.  When you try that floating blind type of hunting today it is much, much harder to get close to mallards, and then, if there are more than 8 or 10, it is darn near impossible.  They have evolved, and we hunters, even with all our modern improvements in guns and gear, haven’t figured out how to evolve better than they have.
Grandpa's old double barrel, hanging on my office wall
         My grandpa Dablemont was the best outdoorsman I ever knew, and he hunted ducks on the Big Piney with an old breach-loading double barrel shotgun. It was given to him when he was about 14 years old, after he took a wealthy city hunter on a successful turkey hunt. Grandpa always thought it was a Stevens shotgun, because the only engraving he could see was ‘Ste’.
         Well before his death, he gave me that shotgun and I was surprised when recently I found it to be a Sterling Fox double barrel, a reasonably valuable firearm. With mixed feelings, I have decided to sell it and some other guns from my boyhood at our big outdoorsman’s swap meet on March 24. 
         We have to raise money for our youth retreat we run for underprivileged children, and I have no one to leave my guns to when I am gone, so it seems to make sense to sell them to benefit a lot of kids, many of them fatherless boys.  I know my grandpa would approve.
         If you would like to know more about this swap meet, just call me at 417-777-5227.  Tables for vendors are free, and admission is free.  I hope many of you can join us.  I want to see someone get my grandfathers old gun and hear the story that goes with it.  You might also want to see my website, where we soon will have information about where the swap meet will be held.  It is  E mail me at  You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Deer Hunting in February

       Beyond any doubt; beyond any question, this meat and bone meal by-product from beef-butchering, fed to deer in commercial deer-pen operations, is what brought chronic wasting disease to wild deer in the Midwest… and still it continues

         After this column I will begin to write about spring fishing, mostly, but I intend to hunt deer this week while it is cold and there is some snow on the ground.
         I never thought that I would ever hunt deer again, but a young biologist from the Kansas City office of the Conservation Department called me and asked me if I would kill at least two deer off of my land in St. Clair county to be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease. 

         I only agreed to that after he said that if the deer tested negative for the disease I could butcher them and put the meat to good use.  He also said that I could spotlight them at night or use bait. I may use corn as bait, but I wouldn’t shoot any deer with a night-light and I cannot believe they would ever permit that. 

         He also said that in doing what they are authorizing, they were hoping to thin the deer herd.  But they are approaching their objectives all wrong, and while I talked to him, a man who had grown up in St. Louis, I told him some things he said he hadn’t thought about.

         First of all, deer on my land are not overpopulated, and no one would know if any area has too many deer but those landowners who live there.  Secondly, thinning any areas ‘deer herd’ (herd being a term that really doesn’t fit deer at all) will have nothing to do with the presence or the spread of the disease.  If it exists, it will spread among 20 deer just as easily as it will among 40 deer. 

         Why would they not know that?  Why, if they feel there are too many deer in this state, do they restrict the number a landowner can take during the season to one per landowners tag, then require that landowner to buy the next one?

         The ‘biologist’ told me it didn’t matter what sex I kill or how old it is.  I told him that in young deer, the ones born last April, May or June, the presence of the disease likely would be far less than if you were killing a two- or three-year old deer, so it would be best to pass them up. 

         Also, if you want to thin the numbers of deer produced this spring, you cannot do it by killing bucks, you have to restrict your shooting to does at least a year and a half old.  Research in several states shows that among does there is a lower percentage of the disease than in bucks, so testing 100 does will give you a lower result than testing 100 bucks, IF that research is correct. 

         Very soon, bucks will begin to shed their antlers, and there are some landowners and hunters who will not know a thing about the age and sex of a deer at 100 yards unless it has antlers.  The ‘testing’ is to go on until the middle of March.

         I won’t be collecting deer in March, if I can’t get a couple this week or next I will be hanging up the rifle and fixing up my tackle box.  I urge all readers to scroll down and read the research information.  Tell others to read it too.  I will reprint it all in my spring Lightnin’ Ridge magazine. Though it is long, consisting of 4 or 5 different articles, it gives a world of information that you need to know.  The MDC will tell you none of it.

         One of the most stunning things I found there is the statement about the testing of the brains of many Alzheimers patients.  A number of them had prions in their brains.  To me that means it is likely they were misdiagnosed, and may not have had Alzheimers at all. You know how they separate that prion disease in deer and men? They refer to it in men as CJD… and in deer and elk as CWD.  Same disease, different names.  When you hear that humans do not get it from eating venison or beef or goat, someone is lying to you.  It is the way the disease started, in England, from eating beef, and something they called mad cow disease.

         Our Conservation Department is worried about losing tons of money if large numbers of deer hunters stop buying deer tags, so they lean heavily on letting people think there is a “species barrier” which means you can’t get the CJD from a deer.  In years to come, folks are going to find out that is big-time deception. But there is a way they can keep selling deer tags.  They have to test each and every deer killed and report to the hunter that the deer he killed does not have CWD.  If they do that, setting up check stations in each county, it will be costly and take great planning but it will work. If I feel they will do that I may kill and butcher a deer again.  But I have to know they can reliably test my deer.  There is no other way I will hunt deer ever again!

         With all this, that “share your harvest” program should be ended.  Trophy hunters, and pen-raised deer people are in my eyes, a sorry lot.  Any one who just wants to kill a deer for the antlers, should not be in the woods.  Those pen raised deer and the shooters who want a “trophy” are the people who made CWD a thing we will always have to deal with, because without the feeding of meat and bone meal to bucks in order to create bigger antlers, it would never have gotten a foothold in our state or any other.
         And yet it continues unchecked, because there is big money in it.  Any one feeding tame deer a meat and bone meal diet in a pen somewhere, trying to get rich, should know that many people have died of CJD, and likely some have died from eating prion infected venison or elk.

         And yes, several people are known to have died from the disease in Missouri, and I can give you the names of their next of kin, if you want to double check that.  What is worse is, more will die, and for a few years at least, know one will know what killed them, because doctors say they know little about prions, or how to find them in their patients.

         To cooperate, I will kill a couple of deer on my place, gut them with rubber glove on, then hang them in the shed until I hear they are CWD free.  If they are then I will make steaks from much of the ham and loin and cut chunks of choice venison for stew meat, grind up what is left for summer sausage or jerky. But I won’t be out there hunting a ‘trophy’ this week.  And if you want to call me a trophy hunter, I will take offense. In the outdoors, ‘trophy’ is an ugly word that brings to our words and waters people we should all look down on, those who can only talk of their hunt in terms of numbers they use to score their great feat of pulling a trigger. Those people should play golf or tennis or something else that furnishes them some useless trophy.  And in those pastimes, participants were never guilty of helping produce and spread a horrible disease.

         Call me at 417-777-5227 or email My mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613