Thursday, March 28, 2019

Big Fish, Big Risk

      In my new book “Recollections of an Old-Fashioned Angler” I begin by writing about going trotlining on the river with my dad.  I was only 6 or 7 years old and I sat there in the old wooden johnboat watching him run that line, which was lunging in his hands.  Then I caught a glimpse of that huge fish coming up from the depths with a tremendous struggle, looking bigger than I was in that dim light.

       The story of that night, which eventually was featured in the ‘Believe it or Not’ section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, can be read in the book when it comes out this summer, but it is too long to tell here.

       Our quarry was never anything but big, hefty flathead catfish. The river had no channel catfish, but my grandfather said they were too small to interest him anyway. To me, when I began floating the river and camping on gravel bars, setting my own trotlines at the age of 13 or so, any catfish above ten pounds was fine. To Dad and Grandpa, a flathead, also known as a yellow cat, needed to be at least 25 pounds to be called adequate.

       But when you are as young as I was, setting and running those weighted lines that often lay across the bottom of 15-foot depths could be dangerous. Grandpa and Dad, as they trained me in all the ways of a riverman, stressed the danger of trotlines.  Grandpa told me of several men who had drowned when they became hooked or entangled in a weighted trotline after falling overboard or being pulled from the boat after losing their balance.
       Because of that Dad wanted me to wear a sheathed knife on my belt always. “If you get pulled over by a hook on a weighted line,” he told me, “hold that knife as tight as you can and cut the line.  If you drop the knife, you’ll drown.”  Because of that, I actually wore two on my belt.

        About a year ago I read and article about trotlining by a media specialist who had never been trotlining in his entire life. It never mentioned the things you learn by DOING what you write about.  It said exactly what a hundred such articles about the subject had said in the past.  Few outdoor writers who write about trotlining know much about it if they haven’t actually done it, and in this day and time, most writers haven’t done much of what they write about.
       In high school, I spent nights trotlining several holes of the Big Piney not far from my home, at the age of 13 or 14, trying hard to catch a bigger flathead catfish than Grandpa had taken. Of course I never did, he caught some over 70 pounds. It was easy for me to set trotlines in the river because Mrs. Kelly kept one of our johnboats on the river below her farm, and several big deep eddies were nearby.  When I was 16 years old, Roy Wayne Morton and I drove down to the Sweet Potato Eddy and used her boat to set a couple of trotlines in the deep water beneath the bluff, baited with live chubs and sunfish we had seined earlier in the evening.

       About 11 o’clock that night, we ran the line. About halfway across the eddy a hook was hung on something, likely a big rock.  In the dim light of a lantern in the boat and a carbide headlamp on my forehead, I stood up and began to yank on the line, pulling it for all I was worth.  It wouldn’t give… until it did; and I stumbled backward, caught my balance briefly in the rocking boat and then pitched forward right out into the cool water, still clutching the line.  A hook, sharp as the tip of a locust thorn, caught my jeans and bore into my thigh, instantly pulling me under.
       I suppose I have never been that scared in all my life, but I remembered what I had been taught, and with that knife I cut the stagion line attached to the hook.  Roy told me that even though I had been pulled under, I had held on to the edge of the boat with my left hand. It didn’t take me long to get back in the boat and cut the hook out.  I was so shocked it didn’t even hurt.

       I have taken lots of folks on trotlining trips since then, but I never allowed anyone to run a line unless they had a good knife on their belt and the training about what to use it for.

      Since that night there have been lots of big flatheads hooked and landed from my boat, many between 40 and 50 pounds.  Sometime this summer I will tell you about some of them.  But I will end this with a warning… do not ever go trotlining in a canoe or boat that you can tip over.  The only outdoor writers who will tell you that are those that have been there and done that, and perhaps have lived through the terror I experienced that night in 1963, many many catfish ago.

       If you want to contact me, or get one of our spring magazines,  just call our office at 417-777-5227 or email me at  Or write to me at Lightnin’ Ridge Publishing, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Truth About CWD… Not Hardly!!!

     A small town reporter who likely knows nothing about deer or the TSE disease, conducted an interview recently with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Jasmine Batten, Wildlife Disease Coordinator. The interviewer didn’t know enough about the disease to follow up on misleading answers.  But here is what came of it.

Ms. Batten….“In 2017,  researchers from Canada and Germany announced that they gave Macaque monkeys (often used as a model for humans in research, from Northern Africa and Southern Europe)  CWD after feeding them meat from CWD-positive deer and elk. They have not concluded that study. It is ongoing. Research from other groups since that time have found different results.
Following recommendations from human health experts, hunters should take minor precautions: wear gloves when processing deer and not handle brain or spinal cord tissue.”

Dablemont….This is a very deceptive answer and Ms. Batten knew it.  Some macaque monkeys fed meat from a TSE infected deer did not get the chronic wasting disease.  Then they fed another group venison from CWD infected deer and ALL OF THEM GOT THE PRION DISEASE.    She didn’t want to say that of course…but everyone should know it.  As for that study being ongoing… that is a little deceptive too.  Studies like that one are continued for years.   They want to find out if different strains of CWD exist.  And by the way, the center for Disease Control and other researchers say that besides wearing gloves and handling brain and spine.. ‘Don’t grind up meat with lymph nodes or cut into any bones or eat bone marrow.’

Ms. Batten…..“The CDC actually hasn’t made any changes to their recommendations regarding CWD, though they did strengthen their recommendations a bit in 2017. They have long recommended that hunters avoid eating deer that are known to be infected with the disease. From what I am aware, there have been no new warnings released. There has been no new evidence brought forward. To my knowledge and all my colleagues knowledge, there are no new results out there, no new research.”

Dablemont…Again to say there has been no new research done since 2017 is just ridiculous… she knows better.

Interviewer question….Is there any evidence that people feeding deer to grow horns in captive deer has contributed to this?
Ms. Batten…”No, not to our knowledge. There is no evidence of that being a link.”

Dablemont….CWD in most all Midwestern states originated in such captive deer pens, and why she would say that I have no idea…. Those deer pens feed deer meat and bone by-products, to grow big antlers so they can sell the deer to trophy hunters for thousands.   That feed, given to cattle in England, is what brought about the mad-cow disease, which is also a prion disease known in that TSE group.  The first deer in Missouri found to be dying of mad-deer disease (CWD or TSE, whichever you want to call it) were found very close to such captive deer growing businesses, within just a few miles.  In some such businesses, more than half the deer in the enclosure had the prions.  In an interview last year, a researcher said that in one Iowa captive deer farm had nearly 200 deer in a farm of 260 with the prions.   Why Batten would say such a thing puzzles me.  Does she just not know or is it some attempt to conceal more truth?

Interviewer question…You have a lot of deer donated to Share the Harvest. Is there any concern that somebody will unknowingly donate a CWD infected deer?
Ms. Batten….“Absolutely. We require testing of deer donated to Share the Harvest from counties where CWD has been detected.”

Dablemont….This is tremendously deceiving… share your harvest program originated so that trophy hunters could just hunt for antlers and wouldn’t be guilty of wanton waste of venison.  Batten says deer meat donated to the share your harvest program is tested…WHEN IT COMES FROM A COUNTY WHERE THE DISEASE HAS BEEN FOUND!   How many deer may there be out there with CWD-TSE that are not in those counties?  Share your harvest venison is taken to a variety of processing places, privately run.  How many such places process untested deer?  They cut through bone and spine, and the deer they just cut up before the one you get to eat…what if it had CWD?  How would anyone know if prions from a diseased deer might remain on saws, tables, etc?  If you eat any Share Your Harvest Venison, or any venison given to you by someone else…. You are taking a gamble.   The risk may be slim, but it is indeed a risk and the MDC will never let you know that… because it would destroy their ability to protect trophy hunters and the tremendous amount of money they provide.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Chance to Meet Readers

         I hope that many of the folks who read this column can attend the tenth annual Grizzled Old Outdoorsman Swap Meet, held on Saturday, March 16 in the church gymnasium of the Brighton Assembly of God Church.  It is easy to find, just off Highway 13, five miles south of Bolivar and 15 miles north of Springfield.  It is an unusual get-together because there is no charge at the door, you get in free. Tables for vendors are also free and several are still available.  There is also no charge for visitors, a completely free event. 

        It is an opportunity to buy new and used outdoor equipment, from boats and motors to antique guns and hundreds and hundreds of fishing lures, camping gear, knives, rods and reels, etc.  To reserve a table, call 417 777 5227.  The meet will open at 8 .am and close at 2 p.m.  Breakfast of coffee, and sweet rolls and biscuits and gravy will be served early by the church youth group and hot dinner sandwiches (hamburgers, pulled pork) and desserts offered at midday. I’ll be there giving away free copies of both magazines I publish, ‘The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal”, and the “Journal Of The Ozarks”.  I’ll also have all my books there selling them for about half price.

         To find the church, turn east on Highway 215 going to Pleasant Hope.  Then take the first left (Old Highway 13) and the church sits on the left side of the road about a quarter of a mile to the north.  It is hard to miss.  It gives me a rare opportunity to talk with folks who read my outdoor column.

         A week or so ago I wrote about a mountain lion attack that was in the news, and a few days ago I wrote about black panthers.
There really is no such thing as a black panther.  There are black jaguars and black leopards, but there has never been a black mountain lion confirmed that I can find a record of.  I cannot find a record of a black bobcat either.

         In a week or so I will send out that column about “black panthers” which I think will fascinate you.  Two days after I wrote it, a lady at a zoo somewhere was injured when she leaned over a fence to get a photo of a black jaguar and it grabbed her and pulled her into it’s enclosure.  So before you see that column here is a quiz for you…   First of all, what is the larger cat, a black jaguar or a black leopard, and where are they found?  True or false… males of one of those species have weighed nearly 350 pounds, much larger than mountain lions!

         Black members of several species, like squirrels, are known as ‘melanistic color phase’ individuals.  I have seen towns in Illinois where the entire population of gray squirrels are black.    And the scientific name for fox squirrels is Sciurus Nigra.  Nigra means ‘black’ in latin.   There are black color phases of wolves and foxes of course, but I have never seen a black rabbit or a black deer.  You wonder why it is something seen in only certain species.About ten to twelve percent of the leopards and jaguars are born black.

       In a recent interview an MDC official gave some false information about the TSE disease (CWD) in deer, which you need to know about.  It is on that website and concerns the feeding of infected deer meat to monkeys and what happens.  Also, any poor families which receive venison through the ‘share your harvest’ program are told that the meat is safe because the deer are tested.  You need to know a lot more about that venison than you have been told.  Read that too on my website.  With some newspapers this paragraph cannot be printed so tell others about the site,

         Many landowners do not realize that the MDC will soon require you to own 25 acres or more of land in order to get landowner permits.  They are asking for landowner comments, which is deceiving, because the decision has already been made, in an attempt to gain more money from deer permit sales.  The cost of those permits will also be increased in a year of so because they anticipate the loss of revenue as more deer hunters learn everything about CWD.  And they are about to buy a four million dollar helicopter!

To contact me, write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email You can often catch me in my office by calling 417 777 5227.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Don't forget March 16th Event... All are invited!!

        Don’t forget our Outdoorsman’s swap meet at Brighton Missouri on March 16th.  Free tables still are available for those who have outdoor items to sell and there is no entrance charge.  You can get more info by emailing me at or just calling my office… 417 777 5227.

Don’t Say Never

         A couple of weeks ago a hiker in Colorado was attacked by a mountain lion they say was only 6 or 7 months old.  It weighed only 40 pounds, so the man was able to kill it by choking it to death. Some house cats get to 20 pounds, so it was a small panther. But he is lucky that even a kitten lion, on its back, didn’t rip a pretty good hole in him with its back claws. I kind of wonder if it wasn’t sick or injured.

         It is amazing that such a thing would happen, but in the west, a number of people have been known to have been killed by mountain lions, at least four women in the past ten years, all while jogging. That is something to think about, in each case, the victims were running. The animal kills most prey by waiting on a ledge or tree limb hoping the deer or elk or goat or whatever, will pass beneath it, then it drops down onto prey that passes beneath them and bites through the spine while trying to open an artery with their claws.  Sounds gruesome doesn’t it? Usually they don’t get lucky enough to have prey right beneath them so they make a leap and chase down a fleeing animal. The humans they have killed recently must have attracted the cats by running away from them as most all their prey does. A grown mountain lion male might weigh more than 200 pounds.  No man could fight one and win.

        I don’t know how many mountain lions are found in the Ozarks of south Missouri and north Arkansas, in southeastern Kansas and Oklahoma, but all those areas have some and in general they are going to avoid people.  There have been mountain lions in the Big Piney-Mark Twain region of the Ozarks since I was a boy.  In the woods with my grandfather, I saw plain, obvious tracks in the snow when I was only 15 or 16 years old. I photographed a clear track of a mountain lion a couple of years ago and in my life I have seen two in Missouri and four or five in Arkansas. I have no idea why conservation agencies have wanted to insist there were none in the Ozarks, but they angered many, many country people who would call them to report a panther sighting and get laughed at, receiving a very condescending insistence that they surely saw a big dog.

         Now I know that if 20 people say they saw a mountain lion, that some of them were mistaken. But you can’t tell 20 people that all of them are making it up or just making a mistake.  Finally conservation agencies had to cave in and admit that there were a few in their state after photographs and some of the prey animals, which did in fact involve a calf or sheep or goat every now and then, were shown to have mountain lion DNA on carcasses. Twenty years ago I wrote a column about the different mountain lions I had seen between Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains and the Ozarks of southern Missouri, and it was answered by a conservation agency writer who ridiculed me as a writer who just made up much of what I wrote about.   The newspaper published his letter, and then about six months later published the story about mountain lions found and verified by that agency’s same people…one in Texas County, where I grew up.  Within a year the state agency reversed it’s official policy from “There are no mountain lions in the state and never has been” to “Mountain lions do in fact occur in the state but in very small numbers.”

        Today the official position appears to be…”We admit there are wandering males in the state, but none are ever actually born here.”  You can believe that if you choose, but I don’t.  I remember interviewing a biologist who told me he was the head member of the group working on finding mountain lions in Missouri.  He told me that panthers never take their prey carcass up on a ledge or limb, always covering their kill on the ground. I didn’t argue, but a few years before, a young deer was found up off the ground about 20 feet, in a deer hunter’s old board platform.  It was determined through DNA to have been killed by a mountain lion and I am fairly certain that crows didn’t take it up there.

         The trouble is, some of today’s younger experts often don’t realize what true older outdoorsmen soon learn… there is no such thing in the wild as ‘NEVER’ and ‘ALWAYS’.  No wild creature can be exactly figured out, none do just what you think they are going to do in every situation.  A wild predator is unpredictable.  Not long ago a fellow was killed with a three-second attack by a young tame grizzly with its trainer right there beside it. A man in Arkansas was mauled by a wild black bear not long ago that he was baiting for a couple of months with day-old donuts.  Should we be telling people in the Midwest that panthers or bears, or some wild sow with piglets is nothing to worry about?

         If you hear that, don’t believe it.  What a knowledgeable outdoorsman will tell you is, don’t take chances.  The next person attacked by a mountain lion may be 30 years away or it could be tomorrow.  But in the history of settlers coming into the Midwest, there have been attacks on humans by great horned owls, coyotes, bobcats eagles, even deer and bison. No one can predict what any wild creature will or will not do.

         Don’t forget our Outdoorsman’s swap meet at Brighton Missouri on March 16.  Free tables still are available for those who have outdoor items to sell and there is no entrance charge.  You can get more info by emailing me at or just calling my office… 417 777 5227.