Monday, October 22, 2018


NEW YORK – A 61-year-old who experienced a
severe cognitive decline before his death may have had squirrel brains to blame.

          A new report on the 2015 death in Rochester, New York, finds that he may have suffered from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a rare brain condition you’ve likely heard of as “mad cow disease.”
That’s what it’s called when it’s tied to consumption of contaminated beef, but in this case, doctors suspect a different culprit.

          The man was a hunter, and it was reported that he had eaten squirrel brains, though it’s not clear whether he ate an entire brain or just squirrel meat contaminated with brains. He was brought to the hospital after losing touch with reality and losing the ability to walk on his own, LiveScience reports. An MRI found that his brain scan looked similar to those seen in vCJD sufferers.

          Dr. Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health, came across the case while writing a report on suspected cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease at the hospital over the past five years; she presented her findings this month.

          There are three forms of CJD, and just one form (which includes vCJD) is caused by exposure to infected brain or nervous system tissue. Infectious proteins, called prions, fold abnormally and cause lesions in the brain; there is no treatment or cure.
Only a few hundred cases of vCJD have ever been reported, most of them in the UK; just four cases have ever been confirmed in the US. So far, the hunter’s death is only considered a “probable” case of vCJD. It can only be confirmed after death, and doctors are waiting on medical records to see if an autopsy tested his brain tissue to confirm the diagnosis.
(There have been alarming findings related to CJD in humans—and a possible connection to deer.)


This letter is a copy of one received from a retiring official of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Enforcement Division.

         We began a new phase of law enforcement when the MDC adopted the telecheck system. It provides much information about the individual who uses it, capturing the hunter’s name address and permit number. It provides the date and time of permit purchase, the date and time of the animal being checked, the telephone number or computer address used to check it. It also provides the history of the permits purchased and all animals checked. 

         Soon the telecheck system was being used as a major component of law enforcement by agents. The telecheck system was soon being used to instigate investigations. It started with “quick check” investigations, where there was only a short time between permit purchase and the checking of the animal. This was very successful and lead to a broadening use of the system. So it began to be modified to get more information for enforcement agents. 
        Filters and alerts were place on the system. It began to be used to provide information on such things as; multiple animal checks, after hours checks and first time checkers. Filters provided real-time alerts for short interval checks and checks on landowners with small acreage. The system has also been used to check on hunter education certification. While it sounds like a good tool for legitimate law enforcement, resulting investigations began to come dangerously close to violating civil trights. 
        The system allows for PROFILING FEMALE HUNTERS, and others who are first time users of the system. Agents began to use any information they deem suspicious to find and confront hunters who have legally checked a deer or turkey. Many times these confrontations occur on a hunter’s private property with no probable cause. Typical of this would be singling out a woman with a first time archery kill. Probably none of these hunters are given their Miranda Rights before they are questioned. They are routinely commanded to provide proof they killed the animal legally!!!
        Some hunters are told to prove their proficiency with a gun or archery equipment. Agents often want to be taken to the site of the kill. The requests are more like demands, with hunters feeling they have no rights nor options other than to comply.
        Telecheck is the basis for what we call ‘audits’ These audits are encouraged by the supervisors, and amount to telecheck enforcement saturations.  Agents saturate a county or region and spread out over that area, with one individual monitoring a laptop computer, directing other agents to individuals who have recently checked animals. The agents then confront that individual and try to find a violation. Most audits occur on private property with Miranda Rights optional. They intimidate people into compliance with what they want. 

        The state statute that allows for agents to enter private property to check for some kind of violation is probably stretched. It is unclear whether a telecheck suspicion investigation is legal. Our agents have no special search and seizure powers. They must adhere to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S.Constitution. They must have a search warrant or consent to search and they are required to give Miranda Rights before questioning. Agents must have probable cause before making an arrest. Finally if you use the Mo Hunt App on your I-phone to buy permits there is something you need to do… You need to look in settings for the MO Hunt App and disable the “Use Specific Location”. Otherwise MDC agents can track your location.


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Michigan officials are warning hunters to be on the lookout for bovine tuberculosis in deer.

          The Michigan Department of Natural Resources called it an "emerging disease," which has recently affected a large beef herd in Alcona County. It's the 73rd cattle herd to be identified with bovine TB in the state since 1998, the Associated Press reported. According to the agency, bovine TB is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis. It can be transmitted between wildlife populations, as well as farm animals.
The disease may develop in the lungs, but can also be found in the intestines and other parts of the body. 

          Wildlife managers in Michigan are working to eradicate bovine TB from white-tailed deer in the state. Meanwhile, hunters are urged to get their deer tested -- even if the animal looks healthy.
Here are a few warning signs of bovine TB to lookout for when field dressing a deer:
  • Lymph nodes in the animal's head usually show infection first. As the disease progresses, lesions may begin to develop on the surface of the lungs and chest cavity.
  • In severely infected deer, lesions can sometimes be found throughout the animal's entire body. Deer with severe TB may have tan or yellow lumps lining the chest wall and in the lung tissue.

          The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will host meetings to discuss its latest findings on Oct. 29 in Mio and Nov. 1 in Hillman.

For more information, visit

A photo provided on the department's website shows what the disease looks like in a deer's ribcage.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources


Chicken of the Woods... photo by Terry Morrison
       It is a heck of a good time to spend a day in the woods, with a pack and a lunch, shooting everything you come across… with a camera. 
Sulphur Shelf... photo by Christy Dablemont
Mushrooms are plentiful this fall, and some of them surpass the spring morels as far as flavor and edibility. And they are very photogenic.  Colorful… I reckon! There are so many different kinds… and there are few people confident in knowing the good ones from the bad ones. 
Blewits... Photo by Christy Dablemont
       Mushroom books show them all pretty well, but what is needed is a class in the early fall or late summer to show the best of edible mushrooms and teach folks how to find them.  I am going to try to get my daughter to go out and collect specimens to freeze and use in such a class next year.  Christy knows all the mushrooms like Audubon knew birds. She is a science and biology teacher and has worked many years as a park naturalist. 
       I can spend a day out in the woods with my camera now and enjoy myself more than I did when I once carried a gun all day.  In Canada a couple of weeks ago I got several extraordinary photos, one of a male ruffed grouse, just by easing along a Lake of the  Woods trail.  I will hunt deer some this fall, but only with the camera.  What I know about Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy has ended the deer hunting for me.
       News out of New York concerns that same disease in squirrels. Here is part of that news story…
“A 61-year-old who experienced a
severe cognitive decline before his death may have had squirrel brains to blame.
A new report on the 2015 death in Rochester, New York, finds that he may have suffered from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a rare brain condition you’ve likely heard of as “mad cow disease.”  The article ends with the statement…”There have been alarming findings related to CJD in humans—and a possible connection to deer.”

You can read all of that story on my website, as well as the letter I received from a retiring enforcement officer who sent me information on the present day telecheck system hunters used to check deer and turkey by phone. No newspaper can print it, but we will use it in our lightnin’ ridge outdoor magazine’s next issue. Being informed is being protected. That site is.

       Lots of old time squirrel hunters ate squirrel brains.  My grandfather was one of them.  About this time of year he and I and my dad would float the river and hunt ducks and squirrels together.   Back then, in my boyhood, wild ducks came into the lower Midwest much earlier than they do now.  In a future column I will talk about how we used a blind on a wooden johnboat to hunt ducks along the river, and what a tremendous change duck hunting has gone through… and how much wild ducks have changed as well.
        But back to the squirrels.  Along the river, fox squirrels were plentiful and that’s what Dad and Grandpa favored.  Grays were good to eat too, but small.  The meat on the lower back was what I favored but Grandpa would crack open the skull of a fried squirrel, or one baked whole with dumplings, and eat the cooked brains. 
       In recent years it has been said that such a practice is unwise, a possible way to get ‘encephalitis’.  Now there is the knowledge that ‘cjd’ (what they call cwd if humans get it) may sometimes be found as prions in the brains of squirrels.  We can add squirrels to the list containing cattle, elk, sheep, goats, caribou and deer, as animals found to have those prions in the brain. And hundreds of humans have died from prions in the brain as well. It has been fairly well covered up because of the fear of a great loss of money due to declining deer tag sales. Scientists and doctors are beginning to think that the number of misdiagnosed deaths in humans may also be due to those prions, wherever they may have come from.  One study says that in examining the brain tissue of 230 alzhiemer deaths, more than 20 were found to contain those prions!  That is scary. If you would like to receive copies of that study and others, I have compiled an eight-page printing of them and will send you a copy if you want to mail 2 stamps to me with your address. I’ll shoot lots of deer this fall… but only with that camera.

       The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says that they are seeing Bovine Tuberculosis in deer in that state and they are worried about it spreading, and affecting cattle.  They do not say if it could be any threat to humans, but who knows.  You can read all about that on my blogspot as well, address given above.  Or go to Via computer.

       I do not recommend going out to enjoy the woods with a camera when the gun season opens for deer, at least during the carnival atmosphere of the first weekend.  Do it now and you will be all by yourself.  If you should see a sick deer anywhere, or a healthy looking one that seems tame, report it.  If a conservation agent doesn’t come to look at it, call me and I will.  My office phone is 417-777-5227. Email is, mailing address Box 2, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Monday, October 8, 2018

My Old Friend Owlvin

     If a great horned owl smells, what does he smell like?  Some have that specific odor I am thinking of, and some don’t. But if one of them smells, you know exactly what the smell is. If you don’t know the answer to this, you don’t know owls.

       I know about great horned owls from first hand experience.  I had one for a captive for several months! At first he had that strong odor I mention.  I would like to say he was a pet but he wasn’t.  He was injured in a steel trap and I nursed him back to health.  Ol’ Bill Stalder, my Grandpa Dablemont’s trapping partner, brought him to me one November day while I was at the pool hall.  

       Dad and I had been on a Piney river duck hunt and I was there to show the ‘front bench regulars’ a mallard drake I had killed with only three shots.  Since I had a pump gun then, it must have been just around my fourteenth birthday, and that owl with the mangled leg fascinated me. I name him Owlvin.  Bill had him in a box with a towel over his eyes.  I took him home and put him in the smokehouse before I took the towel off.  He jumped up on one of the rafters and looked down at me as if trying to figure out if I was small enough to eat. And he sure enough did have that smell.  He smelled like a skunk.         Supposedly an owl doesn’t have a sense of smell amounting to much. Truthfully, their sense of hearing may be better than their eyesight. When a creature can see and hear like they can, who needs a sense of smell?  That’s why, when a great horned owl glimpses a skunk rummaging around on the forest floor at night, he nails him and eats him.  Maybe nothing else likes skunk meat, but a great horned owl does!  And in the process he gets sprayed.  

       If you doubt what I am saying, the next time you see an owl dead on the highway, carefully park your vehicle out of danger and get out and smell the dead owl.  See if a good percentage of them don’t smell like a skunk?  I am joking of course.  If you really try that, and someone sees you, it might get around that you are about half crazy.  But that has already been said about me.  Dad told me I was crazy to be doctoring an owl.  

       But every day I left Owlvin the owl a squirrel or two or a bird or road-killed rabbit or possum and he would eat really good. Since his leg wasn’t broken it began to heal well. And he would swoop down and flop around in the water pan I left in the smoke house and splash all the water out. It was very educational, especially learning about the pellets of bone and hair he would expel because owls of all species are known to regurgitate everything that is undigestible. 

      Owls have a habit of roosting in the same place in the deep woods, so when you find one of those regurgitated pellets, you’ll likely find a lot of them. The study of owl pellets is a popular college ornithology project.  But their diet varies according to the region in which they are found.

      In a couple of weeks of smokehouse confinement, Owlvin, healed very well and I taught him to sit on my arm, on a long leather glove of course.  With a tether on his leg I took him out to the edge of the woods and secured him on a post, hid myself well and began to call crows.  When they came close enough to see Owlvin, there was one heck of an attack. Crows hate owls. 

       I would wait with my handmade sassafras bow and shoot at them overhead, so the arrow would come straight back to earth if I missed, and could be found.  In an hour, I finally lost all four arrows anyway and never hit a crow.  But I did come awfully close.

       Owlvin was indignant about it, and when I took him home, I paused at the door of the smokehouse and began to tell him what a pretty boy he was.  I don’t know what he thought I was saying to him, but with a lightning strike he reached out and impaled my upper lip with his curved sharp beak. It went all the way through my lip and hurt like the dickens, and bled like crazy. My eyes watered so bad I couldn’t see.

       With that, Owlvin won his freedom.  I tethered him to my bicycle handle bar and rode down to the river and watched him fly away, while my swollen lip throbbed.  I yelled after him, “So long Owlvin, I hope someday you eat another skunk and get rabies.” 

Outdoor note… Special wing-tip feathers do indeed make the flight of all owls completely noiseless, and none of them can build a nest because of that curved beak.  Most owls nest in hollow trees sometimes in mid winter.  One species, short-eared owls nest on the ground.

If you would like info on my outdoor magazine or one of my ten books, you may call our office at 417 777 5227.  My email address is  By the way we are having a big sale and birthday party here on Lightnin Ridge on Oct 13, 9 til 2.  Come have some birthday cake and see the place and my museum.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Eat More Squirrels?

      What you really want is a young fox squirrel, if you are going to hunt squirrels. And if you aren’t going to hunt squirrels during the best of October, what the heck is wrong with you? 

       You don’t want an old squirrel, especially an old boar fox squirrel that looks like he’ll weigh three or four pounds. Once I was walking along a wooded ridge-top in early fall when a young fox squirrel fell from a limb above me and landed with a thud not more than ten feet from my shotgun barrel.  He didn't waste any time leaving but he would have been a goner if I had wanted to pull the trigger.

      The little rascal had hidden in that treetop well enough to keep me from seeing him but his curiosity had caused him to lose his balance and his dignity at the same time.  I shouldered my shotgun as he fled but I let him escape.  I just couldn't do it because when you shoot a squirrel running away from you the meat on the back legs and loin are ruined. 

       Dad, when he was teaching me to hunt, said it is never good to shoot a rabbit or squirrel when it is running away from you.  You don’t want the best of the meat, which is the back, loin and hams, to be full of shot and blood.   Of course, Grandpa didn’t want a squirrel headshot either because he wanted the head intact when he fried it so he could crack the skull open and eat the brains. Yuck! I was a little bit better fed than he was! 

           I learned a great deal about the outdoors when I was a kid, chasing squirrels in the fall after school. If you grew up in the rural Midwest chances are good you too learned to hunt by searching the branches of an oak-hickory woodlot or creek bottom for squirrels. ‘Bushytails’ are efficient teachers.  And there was a time when every country lady knew how to cook them.  Squirrels were at one time the main diet in fall and winter of backwoods families, in a day when deer and wild turkey were scarce as silver dollars. 

    Right now, squirrels are as thick as flies up here on Lightnin’ Ridge, carousing the late-summer hickory trees and leaving the cuttings of gnawed up hickory nuts all over everything.  A good white oak acorn crop is coming on, and soon they too will be fattening squirrels up here in the woods.

       On a crisp, still October morning, you can actually hear the grating of teeth on hickory nuts and the sound of small bits of hickory hulls falling to the forest floor.  As the weather cools a bit more squirrels stay out later in the morning and come out earlier in the afternoon. Find a supply of hickory nuts this time of year and you'll usually find squirrels. 

   There are four methods of squirrel hunting that work all over the Midwest. In a future column I will write about the other three, but in those long ago days of my youth, the favored way of course was 'still-hunting'. I'd take my old Iver-Johnson 16-gauge single shot down to the Tweed bottoms just off the river and walk an old wagon trail where gray squirrels were abundant. 
       Grays are good eating too but so much smaller you need to have more of them for a meal.  There were always about three or four times as many grays in heavy woodlands. The fox squirrels liked fringes of woods around fields and fencerows.

       Occasionally I'd spot a squirrel by moving slowly along but when I'd reach a certain spot on a rocky hillside I'd find a big flat boulder and sit still enough to be taken for a part of the rock.  Within 30 minutes, gray squirrels would forget there was an intruder and begin moving about.  When one presented a good shot within 40 yards or so, my old shotgun would roar and the forest would be still again. 

    I learned if you stayed put, marking your downed quarry, that in 10 or 15 minutes things would return to normal again and squirrels would begin to scurry about. A still hunter could sometimes take three or four squirrels from one spot.  And there was always much more to see, as other wildlife passed along the paths, and birds flitted through the nearby branches. When things were slow I would lay back on that rock and go to sleep, dreaming of hunting moose and bear in Canada someday. 

       Still-hunting had many rewards.  And, for those few who still want to work their way through the woods in October, the many rewards are still there.  Part of those rewards is the search for fall mushrooms. Some of the best of the edible mushrooms are found right now.  But truthfully, if you have ever eaten a couple of young squirrels fixed in any one of a dozen different back country old-time recipes, you have missed something.

Outdoor note… I have an eight-page report on the deer disease called CWD, now said to be something which has infected humans.  The eight pages consists of scientific research reports from several wildlife biologists and doctors who have dealt with the disease, and anyone who eats deer or elk meat needs to read it all.  It might scare you a little, but the truth is necessary here. You need to have the facts.  To get a copy, send two stamps and your address to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.