Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Truth About the Missouri Department of Conservation

         Within a few months I will publish this book that is 30 years in the making.  We will try to publish about 20,000 copies and give them away… no charge.  The Governor, the Attorney General and every state legislator will get a copy, as will every newspaper in the state.  If you would like to contribute your experiences with the MDC of today and agents they employee, either good or bad, you need to contact me.  Some of this Commission’s agents have broken state and federal laws and violated the rights of citizens who lack the ability to fight back in court because of lawyer fees. And many judges are rewarded by the MDC to decide against common people who try to give their side of the story.  I am going to name them.  You will read the truth about many of them in this book.   Contact me if you want to help contribute to this book or help finance the printing of it.  Larry Dablemont   417 777 5227, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Ducks From Somewhere Else

These are the Ruddy Ducks Bolt and I saw on Truman

         Bolt and I loaded up the boat and headed for Truman Lake the day before thanksgiving. Bolt is my big brown Labrador, the third or fourth greatest duck dog in the world. I call him that; so all the other Lab owners who think their dog is the ‘best one in the world’ have no reason to argue with me.

Ruddy Duck Drake in Spring plummage
         We didn’t see many ducks, but there were 8 or 9 back in one cove that seemed about half tame.  I slowly motored toward them they didn’t want to fly. Suddenly realized what they were. They are known as ruddy ducks, and their range does not include Missouri.  This was a species of duck I had never seen before, a member of the ‘diver’ duck group in a family all by themselves known as stiff-tailed ducks. In the spring, in breeding plumage, the drakes of this species are beautiful, displaying fantastic color and courting the female with a high spread tail something like a wild turkey tom.  The flock I saw, in winter plumage, had little color.
         In the Missouri Department of Conservation list of ducks in the states bag limit, ruddy ducks are not found.  But they are legal and if I had shot one or two, no game warden in Missouri younger than 40 would have known what it was.  According to an old waterfowl book I use for research, ruddy ducks are very plump and exceptionally good to eat.

         There are few species of waterfowl I have not seen before, now even fewer.  To most folks, coming across a ruddy duck wouldn’t mean much, but to me that was a day and discovery of great importance, one I will never forget.  I have a strange way of discovering wild creatures well outside of their range.  When I was 19 years old I spent a week on the Big Piney River after Christmas trapping ground mammals for a class project at the University of Missouri.  I live-trapped a small rodent known as a brush deer mouse, (Peromyscus boyli) that had not been found in Missouri, a large deer mouse with a hairy tuft at the end of an unusually long tail--whose northern- and eastern-most range was in Oklahoma until I found those two in the center of southern Missouri.  I sold them to the St. Louis Zoo back then, to a man creating a small mammal display.  His name was Marlin Perkins.  That was before he became famous on T.V. 
silver-colored Gray Shrew I was fortunate to see here on Lightnin' Ridge
Here on Lightnin’ Ridge I found a silver-colored gray shrew,
(Notiosorex crawfordi)  also said not to exist in Missouri.  I photographed him, another critter you can see on my website, and his silver pelt leaves no doubt what he is. On Bull Shoals Lake one winter I photographed a flock of avocets, a shore bird far from the edge of its range there on that lake.

          As a boy I dug up a large ivory pendant three feet down in a cave floor and found out years later it is the only ivory artifact ever found in the state and perhaps the whole Midwest.  But I see so much because I spend more time outdoors than hardly anyone I know.  It means as much to me nowadays to get a photo like I did that day before Thanksgiving as shooting a limit of ducks or pheasants or catching a stringer of crappie or bass or walleye.
         My deer hunting and turkey hunting is now done with a camera.  I’ll pack it more often than a gun and even when I am trying to get a couple of rabbits or squirrels for the grill, I will have that camera slung across my other shoulder.  I have always loved to explore new places in the Ozarks.  No telling what I will discover next.  I look at any unusual thing in my path as a treasure, and a gift from the Creator. 
         Much of that comes from the times decades ago when I explored wilderness areas in Arkansas’ Ouachita mountains and Ozarks as a paid naturalist for the Arkansas Heritage Commission.  The things I saw and found back then roaming throughout the winter in beautiful mountain country was spectacular, and the result was several areas set aside and preserved, saved from loggers and development, hopefully forever.
         Today there are over 100,000 acres of watershed on Truman Lake that are likewise preserved as least for awhile, until the MDC loggers get a good picture of what is there and convinces the Corps of Engineers there is a better use for the money than the trees.  In that watershed are some of the biggest trees of several species I have ever seen.

         If you would like to join me in exploring a little of the best of it, we take from 10 to 15 people on day-long expeditions there in February and March, complete with a shore-side fish fry at midday.  Who knows, maybe we will find something that none of us have ever seen before!

         By the way, If you happen to live close to Houston, MO you might want to come visit with me at the Texas County library December 14th from 9 to 1.  I will be helping them raise money to buy books and I will be selling and signing my books at a good discount and giving away my Christmas magazine.  But if you have a youngster between eight and fourteen years of age, bring them to get one of my books free, or pick one up for your youngster to give away on Christmas morning.  That book is entitled “Dogs and Ducks and Hat-rack Bucks and it consists of 25 chapters, each of which is a short story about boys in the outdoors.

         Years ago Gloria Jean was working at a local school trying to help kids who couldn’t read well.  This book was to help boys get interested in reading. I give it away to anyone at Christmas who has a boy who needs and will value a book for Christmas.  You can acquire a copy for such a youngster by contacting me at or calling my office at 417-777-5227.  I will inscribe it to him and sign it.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Christmas Gifts... Lightnin' Ridge Christmas Issue AND books, signed and inscribed by me

Last year we published a Christmas Issue magazine... nothing but Christmas stories. Have about 20 left.. you can order one for 5 bucks postpaid and i will sign it and inscribe it to whomever you'd like.

My latest book, Recollections of An Old Fashioned Angler, is also available as but you have to tell us where to send it and how to inscribe it... $15 postpaid. You can order by credit card by calling 417-777-5227 or send a check to LROJ Christmas order... Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613

My latest book, Recollections of An Old Fashioned Angler, is also available as a Christmas gift but you have to tell us where to send it and how to inscribe it... 15 dollars postpaid. You can order by credit card by calling 417-777-5227 or send a check to LROJ Christmas order... box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Friday, November 29, 2019


soon I will take my leaf blower and remove the leaves from my woodland trails so that this winter I can see the deer and turkey tracks better.

         I realized last fall that the greatest invention of mankind is not the wheel, it is the leaf blower. On Thanksgiving day I will be thankful for many many things, and one of them is the leaf-blower. I can’t imagine any outdoorsman not having one.
         I remember years ago spending hours trying to sweep leaves off the porch and out of my basement, having to spend hours raking off the immediate area around the house, which I jokingly refer to as a ‘lawn’.  I would put them on a big tarp and pull them to a spot in the woods and dump them.
        Whenever I would dump them, the next day the wind would blow like the devil from that very direction and blow them all back where they were. 
         That is the story of my life… the wind always blowing the wrong darn direction.  I don’t know how many times I have been out hunting ducks and the wind would be blowing out of the south and so I would spend an hour fixing a blind and decoys just right for the wind direction, sit back and get ready, then watch some front come in and the wind would switch direction and start blowing out of the north.
         I don’t suppose, if you do not hunt ducks, that you would understand why that would be a problem!  But if you ever float down a river (and with the coming of those little cheap kayaks, who doesn’t float down the river... meaning that every weekend a bunch of green-horn beer-drinkers go wind-milling down every river in the country) you know what happens when you are floating northward as the wind is calm and not at all a factor, and then it starts blowing out of the north with the strength of a small hurricane.
         But I digress!  What I started writing about is how wonderful leaf blowers are. Last fall I made enough out of selling walnuts that I had a down payment on a leaf blower and now there are no leaves on my porch or in my basement.  In the basement, it also blew out spiders, spider webs, an empty gas can, a dead mouse and dozens of crickets.  My basement ain’t been free of crickets since it was built.  Up ‘til now, I had enough of ‘em to start a bait business  for perch fishermen.

         I never have lived in town, but I can see how a leaf-blower could create a neighborhood war.  Imagine three or four neighbors living where they build those houses side by side, blowing their leaves into one of those manicured lawns next door or across the street!  And then that neighbor blowing them back or passing them on to the next neighbor. That could go on all winter! But out here in the wilderness, I can blow my leaves off out in the woods and not worry about it. I ain’t got no neighbors within yelling distance, nor shootin’ distance neither, thank heavens.

         I now have leaf piles all around that I can set fire to some day when there is snow on the ground, so I can have a five-minute bonfire when it is real cold, maybe roasting a hot dog on a real long limb.

         But I like to fish in November and the river is sometimes so darned full of leaves that every cast hooks two or three leaves.  Think of sitting in your boat using your leaf-blower to clear all the leaves from an acre or so of fishing water.  And then you can point it backwards and stick the nozzle down in the water and use it as a trolling motor!

         Two guys could hunt rabbits with a leaf blower.  Get into thick cover or briar bushes where you can’t hardly see the ground, where rabbits don’t want to get out of.  Turn on that leaf blower and your partner with his shotgun could get on the other side of the thicket and shoot flying rabbits, blowing in the wind. Say you want to get rid of ground hogs…. Just point that leaf blower down in the hole and let ‘er rip.  If that groundhog don’t go out of the back-door hole he is likely dead.

         You can open both doors on your pickup and clean it out like it ain’t never been cleaned; loose shotgun shells, old caps, donut bags and dried up sandwiches, gone in seconds. And you can remove stuff in the bed that has been unsweepable; clumped-up stuff will uncling itself and vanish in the wind.
         Say you are hunting ducks on ponds and you sneak up over a bank and there’s a nice greenhead mallard sitting right in the middle of the pond. You clobber him with a load of number fours.  Now there he is in the middle of the pond deader than a frozen frog, and there’s no wind.  You’ll have to wait for an hour or two for him to drift to the bank.  But if you have a leaf-blower...  or maybe a squirrel hung on a limb in the branches of a hickory.  You can see how the problems of that kind can be solved.

         I guess I have expounded enough on this.  As time goes on I will let you know if I come up with different uses for one.  Might even write a book entitled, “What you can do with your leaf-blower!”  That title comes from something my wife said to me when I turned it on in the kitchen!

         I have four sheds and they are crammed full of useful things I just couldn’t throw away.  I use to empty them each spring and clean out leaves and cobwebs and an occasional dead lizard and then put everything back.  I will never do that again.  Now I will just make a little path to the back of each one, start that leaf blower and let ‘er rip.  In just a minute, there won’t be nothing left that ain’t necessary and useful.  And I will have the cleanest sheds in the whole county!

          I urge readers to go to my website on the computer,
On a regular basis it contains information which newspapers cannot print.  To get in touch with me, write to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo, email me at  or call me at 417-777-5227

Monday, November 11, 2019

Working with the new MDC enforcement Chief, Randy Doman

Caption .. Two years ago an MDC agent-supervisor stood on my porch with another agent for 2 hours wanting to find a technicality which would allow him in my house so he could take this deer head and perhaps 2 bigger ones. I refused to let him in, so he stood there and called me a G___D___ liar. He wanted revenge because I wrote about seeing him break Department rules two years before.
             Unless they have a search warrant... DO NOT LET THEM ENTER YOUR HOME, SHED, BARN OR VEHICLE.

From Randy Doman, Chief of Enforcement, Missouri Department of Conservation… “Mr. Dablemont, in a previous correspondence, you mentioned a desire to provide information that sportsmen should know to avoid problems with MDC enforcement.  I appreciate your efforts to educate sportsmen and women on hunting and fishing regulations, even those rules you may not agree with.  Avoiding problems with MDC enforcement is not difficult.”
1.   Obtain the proper permit prior to your hunt and have it with you while hunting.  Acquiring a deer permit after the harvest and then checking your animal on that permit is illegal.
2.   Immediately after harvesting a deer, hunters must notch their permit. (Select date taken on permit).
3.   Hunters must Telecheck their deer by 10 p.m. on the day of harvest, before processing the game, or before leaving the state whichever comes first.
4.   As long as a hunter stays with their harvested game, they do not need to attach the tag it.  But if they leave their deer or turkey, they must attach a tag.

Question for Doman from Dallas County…”I have been told that agents are allowed by law to go anywhere on my land without a warrant anytime and that they may search any closed barn or shed without a warrant. I have also been told that if an agent sees a mounted deer head on my wall through a window he can force his way into my home without my permission and no search warrant.  Is that true?”

Doman’s answer…”The 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure apply to conservation agents just the same as they do for state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, city police, etc.  The Open Fields Doctrine provides that open fields do not carry the same expectation of privacy as an occupied dwelling or curtilage.  Pending exigent circumstances, conservation agents may not search a closed barn or shed without consent or a warrant.  Conservation agents may not force their way into a home without a search warrant or consent based on seeing a mounted deer head on the wall.”  

Question from Wright County…. “I have 40 acres on which I hunt deer.  Around my yard I feed quail, songbirds and turkey in a couple of feeders and corn, soybeans and wild bird seed.  No feeders or food is more than 40 yards from my porch.  Can I be arrested if I hunt the back part of my farm, a quarter to a half-mile from my house with that scattered food therein my back yard?”

Doman’s answer…”Regarding the enforcement of baiting laws, citations are warranted when hunters are found physically within or immediately adjacent to baited areas. When hunters are found outside of sight of the baited area or out of range for killing an animal standing in the baited area, no ticket should be issued unless other evidence is present to indicate the hunter knew or reasonably should have known the area was baited and is hunting there because of the bait; Conservation agents may instruct hunters in the immediate surrounding area of the bait that further hunting in that area is prohibited until ten (10) days following complete removal of the bait. Agents are instructed not close entire farms or large areas of land simply because bait was found at a particular location. Likewise, adjoining property owners should not be considered in violation unless they were aware of the bait and were using it as an attraction to deer or turkeys for hunting.”

Question from Polk Co.….”In August (2018) an agent came to my house and gave me a ticket for having a live copperhead in a large aquarium in my garage.  I intended to take it somewhere to release, since I have heard you can’t kill one legally and I didn’t want the snake around my home. She had no search warrant but she took the snake and the large aquarium, worth more than 100 dollars and will not return it.  I was recently told it was at her home.  Is there any process where I can get it returned? I paid the ticket of 120 dollars.”
Dablemont’s note…. THIS WAS ABOUT 14 MONTHS AGO!

DOMAN’S answer…”In visiting with the Polk County Conservation Agents, neither of them report issuing a citation for a copperhead IN THE PAST12 MONTHS.”

Dablemont’s note… “Please ask both agents if they recall this case from about 14 or15 months ago? That changes things a bit. 

Dablemont’s question…Two years ago a retiring agent sent a letter saying your Telecheck System is being used to determine how to find a hunter and how big his deer might be (a question asked over the phone which should be eliminated) One agent says that system never results in visits from agents if it involved a doe or small buck.  Confiscated deer always are big antlered bucks… always.    And in many, many cases the agents keep the deer themselves.  People within your department say that one agent in Stone County has a shed full of antlers he refers to as his ‘retirement account’. The man who wrote the letter says no antlers are ever destroyed, as people are told their confiscate deer heads are, and when I asked past MDC enforcement chief, Larry Yamnitz, if any journalist or other interested person could actually watch that process where confiscated deer antlers are destroyed, his answer was a resounding “NO”

Doman’s answer…Regarding your concerns about conservation agents conducting Telecheck investigations, Conservation agents must abide by the same 4th Amendment protections as any other law enforcement officer.  Conservation agents often follow up on deer Telechecks as their schedules allow.  With the discontinuation of wildlife check-in stations in 2005, these Telecheck investigations have become an expectation and a valuable tool for conservation agents; not only to increase compliance with the Wildlife Code, but to ensure the integrity of the self-reported harvest data. 

   Dablemont’s advice to all hunters…Before you hunt deer, read that letter about how the telecheck system can be used against you. It is posted on You can be somewhat protected by describing the base size and point number of your buck as smaller than it actually is or refusing to answer. You have that right, even if you are told differently. Also, if you have killed a big buck, wait several hours to report it.  It does not have to be called in until shortly before 10 p.m.

Telecheck MDC


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Recollections of An Old Fashioned Angler


---Finally I have finished the book I have worked on for so many years, entitled, “Recollections of an Old-Fashioned Angler.” It is being printed this week. I am numbering and signing the first 100 of those books to come off the press, and will inscribe one to you if you’d like.  The book is 40 chapters, 288 pages and dozens and dozens of old photos.  The cost, including postage, is $15. To get your copy, you can call 417-777-5227 to pay with credit card or you can send a check to Recollections, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Charlie Hartman Jr.

       In October of 1958, I turned eleven years old. Dad had promised that when I turned eleven I could go with him on a duck hunt down the Piney River. And there I was, the first Saturday in November, sitting on the front seat in his wooden johnboat, looking through the blind he had attached to the bow, shaking with excitement.. I was to watch and listen and learn so that when he thought the time was right I could sit there actually hunting with my own gun.

       We put in that morning at the Dogs Bluff bridge. Downstream an hour later, in the Paw-Paw bottoms, I saw a mallard hen swimming amongst falling leaves in the midst of the eddy, and Dad paddled slowly forward, finally turning the boat sideways so he wouldn’t have to shoot over my head.  The mallard flushed and Dad’s old 97 Winchester roared and I was elated. We’d have wild duck for dinner that week.

       Downstream about an hour later, a young fox squirrel climbed high into the branches of a riverside maple, and Dad shot it. No river duck hunt took place back then without 2 or 3 fox squirrels being part of trip. This fox squirrel though, fell dead into the crotch of tree limbs and stuck there, about 20 feet above the river’s edge. That was an historic site for me as I grew older, because it was just below where the old Lone Star Mill house had once stood, the place where my grandfather had spent many years raising a family. Dad had grown up there. In the book “Little Home on the Piney” which I wrote about my dad’s boyhood, there are many pages about, and many pictures of, that old mill from the 1930’s when he was a kid. 

       Dad thought he was a better climber than he was, and he wasn’t about to let a squirrel he killed go to waste. So he climbed the tree in hip-wader rubber boots and as he reached for the squirrel he slipped. I still remember that awful sight. The bank was steep and large roots grew out above the water. Dad’s body crashed against those roots and he fell into the water, unconscious for a few seconds. Back then I was so small, only about five-foot tall and less than 100 pounds. Dad was six-foot-three and more than 200 pounds.  His face was bleeding badly and he was in tremendous pain from several broken bones. But the water was only about two feet deep and as he reached out and grabbed those roots, I got into the water and tried my best to help him. 

       Somehow he crawled up to a level spot above the water and just lay there on his back, blood all over his face, moaning and gasping. You cannot imagine my fear. I just knew I was watching my dad die, but he was able to tell me how to get to the highway a mile away. I was very fast back then, and a good fence climber. I couldn’t find the little lane that came down to the old mill, but I didn’t need to. I remember dashing through a hundred yards of woodland to a green field, where I easily cleared a fence, seeing a big bull with horns there that just increased my fear.
       He headed toward me but no bull that ever lived could have caught me that day. Thank God the first car stopped, a green 1950 Ford driven by someone my dad had considered his enemy. That in itself is one of the most amazing stories which came from that day. I’ll tell it later! The man knew of the old lane to the mill, and in a matter of minutes we were getting my father in the car and heading to the doctors office in Houston. The way he was grimacing in pain stretched across the back seat, and all the blood on his face made me sure he was about to die, and no eleven-year-old kid ever prayed like I did that day.
       While I waited outside the doctor’s office, Mom assured me Dad was not going to die, an assurance that didn’t help much, with all the tears running down her face.
As I waited and prayed, a tall man with a big smile came in and knelt down beside me and asked if I would go with him to retrieve our boat and dad’s shotgun. His name was Charles Hartman Jr. I had seen him before, he was my dad’s friend and they fished together and he and his wife and young son had been at our house many times. But I didn’t know him, really. Charlie knew perfectly well how to get to that boat, but he wanted me to show him where it was, I think he knew I needed to get my mind off of dad’s plight. He and I, he told me, had to float it all the way down to Mineral Springs ford where his wife Evelyn would be waiting with dad’s pick-up. It was a trip that took a few hours, but one I will remember forever.
       That day Mr. Hartman took the tears off my face by talking about everything I needed to hear… how tough my dad was and how he’d be back on the river with me, likely the next week-end. With strong sure strokes he paddled us over swift shoals and through quiet eddies and talked about the beautiful day and how wonderful it was to have a day on the Piney in the Fall. He was not at all quiet or sad. I don’t know that he even knew how bad my father was, but he quickly convinced me that if my Mom would have let him, Dad would have been with us right then, floating down the river. Everything was going to be alright.

       By the time we arrived at Mineral Springs, the tears were gone, and I knew a man who was to become one of our family’s greatest supports, my father’s closest friend and brother, and the only man I would ever put on the same level as my Dad. The only one!

       So fast forward to the first Saturday of November, sixty-one years later. I was in Houston to attend the funeral of Charles Hartman Jr. Don’t you know my mind kept wandering back to that Saturday exactly sixty-one years ago. There isn’t enough room in the allotted space for this column to continue with what I want to say about that special man… so I will conclude this column next week. I hope you can make it a point to read it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

If Boone Had Only Had a Drone..or maybe a trail camera!

         If you know how to work a trail cam, you can start feeding deer corn in late September and see what bucks are using the area, and when they are passing through.  Today’s trophy hunters know all about that.  Those are the people who start giving you antler numbers which tell you what buck is a trophy and what isn’t.  Even some of my close friends do that, and it is revolting to me, perhaps because of the way my dad raised me.  He told me often that when a man hunts or fishes he should never look at a wild creature as a trophy.
         Dad said that all living things we hunt or catch should be considered valuable as a creation of God.  If it doesn’t serve a purpose as such it should not be killed.  Of course when I first started observing the ritual of deer hunting back in the 1950’s deer hunting had not been allowed for several decades.  But those old outdoorsmen who came in Dad’s pool hall knew how to find and hunt bucks.  No one would think of killing a doe!! Old Bill Stalder and Old Jim Splechter didn’t hunt bucks only because they were wanting trophies, they were wanting to leave does to raise all the fawns they could.
         Antlers were nailed to the barn or shed back then, the hides were tanned and used and every ounce of meat went on the table during the upcoming winter.  Back then, no one was keeping records and no antlers were valuable, no matter what size they were.  I remember talking to a city hunter just a few years back who told me how the Missouri Department of Conservation had “brought back the deer and turkey.”
         I told him the MDC had never stocked one deer or one turkey, and I know because I was there.  It was the biologists, (who never called themselves that) of the MISSOURI CONSERVATION COMMISSION who did that.  They started stocking whitetail deer well before I was born, and the men who started it and carried it out are forgotten people, most of them dead many years.  Today’s deer hunters owe them a debt of gratitude, but their names are long forgotten.
         By 1960 they were still stocking wild turkey, and as a 12- year-old boy, I remember seeing some of that as they were stocked on the Big Piney and on a local landowner’s forested land.  The landowner who worked with those MCC people was Nolan Hutcheson. Landowners like Nolan made it happen and they respected the Missouri Conservation Commission and what they were doing.

         Today there are lots and lots of really big, measurable ‘”Trophy Bucks” in the Ozarks and those game cameras and modern tree stands make them much, much easier to kill than those that Ol’ Bill and  Ol’ Jim took every fall.  Now we have another device that makes it even easier.

         I have a good friend from Wisconsin by the name of Al Narveson who hunted deer with a bow in cornfields where the corn was still standing.  He told me once that big bucks in September would get in the middle of those cornfields and bed down in the afternoon and he would sneak down the rows with his bow, into the wind, and often walk right up on them.  It took lots of walking but he killed a lot of bucks that way.

         Today all that is simplified by using drones to fly over the corn and film what is in it.  You can pinpoint bucks that way, then sneak up on them.  I don’t know if any Ozark hunters do that yet, but it is coming.  Drones will make late-season hunting, after the leaves are gone, so much easier… especially with a skiff of snow.  Bedded down deer in thickets will show up like an unpeeled potato in a platter of gravy.  And you can figure out just how a buck will “score” and how to go after him. A Boone and Crockett set of antlers could be yours with such a drone.  Knowing what kind of men Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone were, I’ll bet they’d raise heck with their names being associated with many of the ‘trophy hunters’ of today.

         I have killed my share of the kind of bucks those kind of hunters want. I have long known that I could go up to northern Manitoba and take antlers in a habitat where no trees grow higher than 15 feet.  There are bucks there like no one in the Ozarks has seen.  What a hunting device a drone would be there. But when I am there the deer just do not interest me as much as the incoming ducks and geese.
         I will hunt no more deer.   I will hunt ducks while the woods is filled with blaze orange.  Part of that is because I know a lot about the TSE disease spreading through deer herds.  But too, sitting in a deer stand for hours and then working your butt off to dress and drag out a buck gets old as I get old. I would never ever take a deer to a processing plant, so I spend most of an afternoon cutting one up and grinding up what won’t make steaks.

         Deer season sometimes kept me from some great fishing in past years, or from pheasant hunts back in the days when southern Iowa still had some cover and some birds; and as to watching deer, or killing one, I can do that a hundred yards behind my house.  I can tell you this; nothing in the woods in mid-November can compare to the sight of mallards on cupped wings over a block of decoys.

A High Sandy Hilltop instead of MO deer and possible disease


         This November may be the first one in many, many years in which I do not spend any time hunting deer.  I think I will drive up to northeast Nebraska’s sand-hills to talk with ranch owners and ask permission to hunt prairie chickens and sharp-tail grouse in the high hills… and waterfowl in the small waters of the lowlands.  It has been many years since I have been there, but in the fall it is beautiful, as small shrubs seldom reaching 10 feet in height burst into color.
         To hunt those hills, you must have really good leather boots because of the small cactus balls as thick as mice in an Ozark barn.  And my Labrador will have to have the special leather foot coverings made for dogs.  No dog in the sand-hills should be without them. The sight of my dogs trying to run and shake off those leather foot coverings at the same time was one of the funniest sights I have ever seen.

        Sharp-tail grouse and prairie chicken are seldom together; the sharp-tails are usually higher in the sand-hills, and prairie chicken much lower.  I think that hunting ducks there has perhaps given me the best waterfowling memories of all because there are so many species there now and head-high reeds mean you can hide at the edge of open water without preparing a blind.   The best thing about it is, there is no mud, the substrate is solid sand and wading and hiding in those small shallow lakes is so easy. The last time I was there, every time I shot a duck, wild turkey gobblers would sound off a mile or so away.  It was late October, but those Merriam’s gobblers, which you could call up with a squeaky gate hinge, were acting like it was spring.
         One of the ranchers told me I could kill a couple of the gobblers roosting in tall cottonwood trees around his home because the turkeys were getting too thick.  They had few places to roost but in those trees beneath which he wanted grass and flowers to grow, and their droppings were killing everything.  At that time a fall turkey tag for non- residents was only 25 dollars.  Every time I hear some turkey hunter talking about killing a ‘grand slam’ in turkey hunting, which consists of four species of wild turkey, I have to grin.  Merriam’s gobblers are on a difficulty scale about equal to leghorn roosters as a challenge.  I shot several with my camera.


       But there was that one morning that I climbed to the knoll of the highest sand hill around, and as the wind tried to carry away my cap and my Labrador ranged before me, still trying to shake off those leather boots, that I noticed a movement in the grasses before me and four or five sharp-tail grouse took to flight before us.  I dropped two of them, and my Lab ignored those boots long enough to joyously find and retrieve them both.
         I was hunting that year with the publisher of Gun Dog Magazine, Dave Meisner, one of the best hunting partners ever.  We had camped next to a windmill on a rancher’s property, where there was green grass around the pure water it was pumping. One evening while we were cooking beef stew on a Coleman stove, we watched wild ducks circle a waterhole nearby. At the same time, wild gobblers sounded off a mile or so distant as they flew up to roost.  Shortly afterward, as prairie chicken do, a small group flew down into the bottoms from a place halfway up a nearby sand hill and they sailed past the glowing sunset to our west.  I want to see that again, and will in few days, maybe for the last time as the years roll by.  So in my winter magazine to be published in December, you might read a full feature story about wonderful fall days in Nebraska’s sand hills.

         I will never hunt deer again because of what I know, and continue to learn, about the TSE disease spread amongst deer by deadly prions.  If everyone knew what I knew, from reading everything I can about the disease and talking to dozens of medical people and researchers, there would be lots of folks spending their spare time fishing, all the way through the deer season.  I never was a trophy hunter, and always prepared my own venison, and hunted because I wanted to have venison steaks, venison hamburger, jerky, etc.  In time, the truth about how that disease can and has spread to humans will come out, but it will be awhile.

         I cannot print what I have learned in my columns which go to many, many newspapers, because few feel they can use them because of various repercussions they might face.  I can only say that there are those depending on deer hunting for millions of dollars in tag sales and ammunition sales, etc, and they are not letting the truth come out.  You can read about the prion disease called CWD, scrapies, TSE and mad cow disease in my winter magazine. Much of that comes from interviews with researchers who have been studying the disease. My latest conversations have been with a biologist at Texas A and M university who has spent seven years trying to learn all she can about the disease as it occurs in deer and other mammals… and humans.  When I asked her if there is proof that the disease can occur in humans from eating venison, her answer was a resounding yes.  “It not only can,” she told me, “it has!  And there is solid proof of that.”

         On the radio and television I hear appeals from conservation agencies in several states to trophy deer hunters to donate their venison to “share your harvest” programs, where meat goes through various and various butchering processes which involve large numbers of deer in a short period of time. How are the saws cleaned after each one?  Think about that, and think about what it takes to destroy prions.   It is then donated to the poor, people who know nothing of the TSE disease, many never hearing the word “prion”.  As for me, I wouldn’t eat that venison for all the money in a politician’s bank account.  It does seem like a great humanitarian program though…and if you want to get a trophy for the wall it is against the law to just leave the deer to rot in the woods. So give it to the poor, chances are slim that it will lead to the prion disease, right?
         As one doctor told me, “People who have died from TSE are almost always misdiagnosed… thought to have died from something else.”  That was found to be the case when several elderly people who was said to have died from a very rapidly developing Alzheimer disease were found to have prions in their brain.  I really believe that is what happened to an outdoor writer I knew a few years ago who killed deer and elk and ate both.