Monday, September 30, 2019

You laugh, I still can't....

flowers and the rim of the hillside into Hell's Canyon
best eating fish ever! 

Hell’s Canyon----It looked fairly ‘unthreatening’ to me, a hillside down into a small creek in western Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, where brook trout lived in beaver dam pools. Maybe 10 or 12 inch brook trout wouldn’t appeal to most Ozark fishermen… until you ate a couple. After you have de-headed and gutted a few to fry whole, I would guess you might change your mind. I have never eaten any fish that good. I would trade a 15-inch walleye for a 10-inch brook trout anytime. About the only thing I would rather have for supper is a ten-inch apple fritter!

a glimpse of the bottom of the canyon, where brook trout were supposed to be but weren't
        My partner, Kevin Kaltenbaugh, a mountain man, outdoorsman, naturalist who in all those phases is the equal to any man I know, is use to that wild country and the thin mountain air. He said he knew of a little trail down through that thick underbrush, so off we went. It was there alright, not so much a deer trail or even a goat trail. It was more of a rabbit trail.

          Clutching my little ten-dollar ultra-lite spinning outfit, with my 600-dollar Nikon camera slung across my back, I followed Kaltenbaugh into the depths of Hell’s Canyon. Until then no one had named it! The beaver dams were pretty much washed out, and I suspect the beavers had gone off looking for a new place to live. The water that was there had a foul smell, and the brook trout that Kevin had found there years before were only a memory. So I decided to try to find that little trail and go back up to the jeep, only about 100 yards up the hill resting on a trail where Kaltenbaugh’s wife had came upon a mountain lion there, too close, too big and too scary to forget. There in the duskiness only an hour away from darkness, the little trail eluded me. There was only one thing to do, set forth into the mountain jungle before me and pray. I do quite a bit of praying, but not near as much as I did that next hour in the mountains of Colorado, where the oxygen is about one-third as effective as what I am accustomed to. I was faced with patches of chest-high thick grass, and those patches lay in little ten- or fifteen-foot openings ringed by a thicket of ten-foot-high thumb-sized woody plants which only small mice could go through. Between those green thickets were the remains of dead thickets, brush piles you could not climb over. It was a maze that only the larger bulldozers I have seen could break through. Smaller dozers would have had to be left there, and here is why. In and amongst the high grass which kept you from seeing the ground, there were ditches about three feet deep, containing almost two feet of that dark, dank, stinking water. It took only a few minutes to find a good deep one! When you give all your strength to break through grasses as thick as porcupine quills, and then your foot goes into one of those ditches, it is a job to get it out, and you come out wet and cold, up to your knees!

          I don’t want to try to describe the next hour. It reminds me of a life or death struggle, of which I have only had a few, in which for many nights later you wake up screaming in terror. I asked God to help me, but I think He was busy with something else. Then I asked him what I had done to deserve that but unfortunately He reminded me! In the next hour I got briars in both hands, and gave all my strength to bulling my way through grass and high thickets and across dead branches stacked waist high. I could’ve handled it were it not for the ditches, and water likely filled with beaver dung and dead aquatic life. Again and again, down I went. Finally I went down and could not regain my feet, exhausted and out of breath and weak, I lay there looking at the sky recalling that commercial I saw once where some old lady was hollering, “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
          Finally, gathering all the strength I could muster, I grasped a thick handful of grass and gained my weak and shaking legs beneath me.
Kevin and his dog Cashew at the bottom of the canyon

          I thought of how that mountain lion might feast upon my carcass in the night, and then I saw Kevin in a thicket just above me. He wasn’t a paid assassin after all! He showed me where he had broken a narrow path through dead brush, but between us was the biggest ditch of all. I tried to step across it but lost my balance and went in up to my shoulders. Kevin stepped into a waist-deep ditch next to me, and grabbed my camera off my back to save it. We gained the ground on the other side and he clutched my belt to pull me up on to the brush pile. Moments later I was beside the jeep, weak and wet and glad to be alive.

          I might add the one good thing to come from that hour in hell’s canyon. Six months ago, they found that as healthy, strong. virile and obnoxious as I am, there were three blockages in small arteries around my heart. They laid me out on a table and ran a little bull-dozer type thing up in there through my wrist to push out the blockages, which I gained from 40 years of eating all the donuts, pie and cake I could eat. I was awake the whole time the doctor did it, running the entire machinery up there wherever my heart was, and then as best as I can figure, putting little tiny things in there to keep it open so I can eat more donuts without consequence. The doctor said my heart was like new, like I was thirty again. But I doubted that. I figured then that if I had an ordeal like I had that night in the mountains I would have to be hoisted out of that mess and air-lifted to the funeral home. But by golly I guess he was right! I think now I might climb up a little higher and hunt some mountain goats on my next trip.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


         Fall migration time is here and over the next few weeks you can hunt both migrating doves, and blue-wing teal ducks.  The teal are one of the best eating of all waterfowl, and I have hunted them since I was about 15 years old. Back then I paid less attention to bird migration, but as I sit in the morning on the porch drinking coffee I notice the birds that have left my feeders and see new ones that are arriving. 
         Blue grosbeaks are gone, as are the rain crows, which live in my big oaks and never visited the feeder anyway. Butterflies are starting to show up everywhere on this wooded ridge; I saw three or four this morning alighting on the bark of oak trees.  They will start showing up in large numbers the next few weeks, into October, dozens of beautiful species.  Some migrate a long, long ways, like the monarchs.  Some species don’t go that far.  But none of them migrate ten or twenty feet off the ground where we see them.  They get up high when the upper winds blow south and it doesn’t take much for wings that light to travel hundreds of miles in a hurry. 
         I watched three immature yellow warblers, which I am sure hatched this summer, come and eat from my feeders, then disappear.  They are travelers and will not be back.  The gulf coast beckons.  On a limb from a white oak next to my porch, a small slim grey catbird spent some time sitting stone still. I think it is the first one I have ever seen up here but they are not uncommon.  
         Though some might think I am crazy to like being apart from most of the world, I think about how I am blessed to be sitting there watching birds and butterflies and wildlife as the sun rises above the timber, knowing that millions on a morning like this are driving in city traffic, about to spend the day in some kind of cubicle or office.  I haven’t ever had to do that.  But then, all those multitudes have much better bank accounts than I have. 
         Few people today treasure birds and butterflies as I do.  Most of the masses don’t miss that, in fact most never see a bird or butterfly.  My pickup is ten years old and my boat is 20 years old, and that’s what happens if you don’t really live your life for money.  But I have a peace and contentment, and a whole ridge full of huge, tall valuable oaks and walnuts, and birds and wildlife. Someday, when I am gone, someone will probably make a fortune from “harvesting” my trees.  Loggers like that term, ‘harvesting’.  And when that time comes, I will be gone and so will these forest loving birds that, like me, aren’t really worth much…
         With the bow hunting season beginning, deer hunters need to know about how the telecheck system is being used to target those who kill and report large-antlered bucks.  That information comes in a letter a year ago from a person inside the conservation department’s enforcement division and he says that women who hunt with a bow are especially singled out.  Agents go to the home of women who report killing a deer and want to see them shoot their bows.  Most folks do not know that you can refuse that kind of bullying.  You do not have to let any agent in your home or shed or barn if they have no search warrant, and you do not have to prove you can shoot a bow or a rifle either for that manner.  If you hunt deer, for heavens sake read that letter on my blogspot, and pass it on to other hunters.
         And if a pair of agents come to your home and act as if it is a friendly visit, don’t let them in if they have no search warrant… talk to them outside.  Last year a young man who allowed two ‘friendly’ agents to come into his home lost 5 mounted deer heads that he had legally taken over many years. They confiscated his deer.  That is what they came to do, and they fooled him into letting them in. Remember that you have rights they cannot usurp.  A few years ago the MDC lost a one million dollar lawsuit because someone knew their rights and acted upon them.
Victims are almost always people who have no idea what agents can and can’t do.  I cannot believe that people are ignorant enough to let themselves be bullied that way.
         We have a couple of thousand dollars worth of funds set aside to hire lawyers to defend people unjustly accused.  If you know of a hunter or fisherman charged with a technicality or completely innocent of a charge made by conservation agents this fall, notify me and we will help you get a lawyer with those funds.  More information about your rights can be seen on my blogspot, (larrydablemontoutdoors) resulting from my own interviews with MDC heads of the Enforcement Division.  Somehow this needs to get out to folks.  It is time to start fighting back… way past time in fact.
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Heartbreaking but Informative!

Not long ago I posted a newspaper column that I wrote about copperheads being dangerous this time of the year. Since then, the following was posted to my fb page. I feel that the information written is well worth reposting L.A.D.

By Gavin Hollabaugh

            This is long but worth the read!  Please pass this information on.

            On August 10th our 8-year-old daughter was bit by a copperhead in our own front yard. She was outside that evening, playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark like my kids and their friends had done hundreds of times before. It was 9:11 pm when she was bit. Initially she just yelled, “Ouch, I ran through prickers”. It was not alarming at all. However, after less than a minute she yelled a little louder and let out a whimper and said that the prickers were still in her foot.  I went with a flashlight to look and saw that she was bleeding. I wiped away the blood but didn’t find anything in her foot. I then asked her where she was when she felt it. I took the flashlight and slowly started walking and about 4 feet from her I saw the back half of an adult copperhead and my heart sank. I immediately got her in the truck and headed for the hospital. We live up a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and knew I would be faster than an ambulance. From my driveway to the hospital it took me only seven minutes (yes I was driving well over the speed limit). The screams coming from my child were worse than anything I had ever heard and I never wish for any parent to experience.

            Now that brings me to the educational part of this nightmare. In doing research and listening to the doctors, I have found that copperheads are most active between 9pm and midnight any night when it is hot and humid. I hear a lot of locals say the copperheads are so bad this year because of the cicadas. I didn’t know there was a tie between the two, but come to find out, cicadas live up in trees but at night they drop their larvae from to land on the ground. This is a feast for a copperhead. They like the larvae because it is soft and doesn’t have an exoskeleton. I also found out that Cicadas favor oak trees. Those are things I did not know. Now it is August and people need to be vigilant and keep an eye out because this is also the time that baby copperheads are born. Jodi was wearing a pair of Nike slides, which a lot of people wear in the summertime. But from now on after dusk all my kids will wear leather boots if outside because a snake that size will not penetrate a bite through thick leather boot. Our daughter is almost a week and a half out from getting bit and she is still not able to walk yet but is getting better every day. The doctors have no time frame on healing. They said it is up to her body to process the venom and eliminate it from her system. The venom does soft tissue damage, which will have to heal from within. But I can assure you the emotional side of this will take even longer. Please share our story just to spread awareness because I’m sure there are others like me that did not know some of this!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Dove Hunter

         I hunt doves for four reasons, to sharpen my shooting eye, to give my young Labradors an idea of what it will be like if we ever see an ducks again, and to get out of whatever work my wife has for me around the house.  And I like to eat them, even though I seldom get enough to eat in one hunt.

         One September I told my wife I felt compelled to go over to old Mr. Thompson’s place to help him with his millet field. I went on to tell her how badly I needed to do some things around the house and how determined I was to get her laundry room fixed up. Finally, I put my head on the dining room table and moaned about how hard it was for me to turn down folks in need.

         As I went out the door, my wife was saying something about how her mother had misjudged me. The shotgun and shells were stashed in my pickup, where Gloria never ventures, abhorring the smell of wet dogs. Beau, my six month old pup, and Belle my two year Lab, were in the back, confined and hidden by a camper shell. I got away with it easily.

         It was harder to lie to Mr. Thompson’s wife, who hated dove hunters,-- but not all that hard. After all, Mr. Thompson lied to her all the time. I arrived at the Thompson farm about 4:00 p.m. there were small flights of doves in the air. There she stood in the lawn, the little old lady who would boil a hunter in oil if she could catch one. Mr. Thompson had already advised me how to get around her.

         I introduced myself, took my hat off and commented on how hot it was, adding in the same breath that nothing had been right since the Republicans had taken office. That won her over! Before I could get away, she had me relaxing on the front porch drinking a glass of lemonade while she went looking for a jar of tomato preserves for me to take home.

         I was there at Mr. Thompson’s behest, to wipe out all the starlings raiding the back millet field.

         She said it was sweet of me to help… she feared the starlings might drive off the doves and quail. She said she wanted to see anything exterminated that meant harm to doves or quail, including hunters. When I finally fled the porch, remarking that I had once shot a hunter and dumped his body in a ditch, there was only about two hours of shooting time left. I drove my pickup down the farm lane toward the pond at the edge of the grain field.

         Past the third gate was the millet field. I got through two of the gates with no problem, but the third one was one of those kinds of gates. Every hunter knows about gates like that… an old farm wire-and-post gate with a wire noose that slips over the end post. Mr. Thompson, twice my age, could close it easily, but I couldn’t get the post within six inches of the noose.

         With the gate finally closed, I watched my Labradors circle the field, scaring up a couple of dozen doves before heading toward the pond. I waited there in a clump of weeks, attracting an early flight of mosquitoes. Beau and Belle cooled off in he pond before taking their places beside me, smelling like pond, which held eight inches of water eight inches of algae and 16 inches of mud.

         About that time, several doves flitted by and shots were fired (how many is unimportant). A dove folded into the grain stubble beyond the pond. Belle was on the bird in a minute, closely pursued by the half-grown pup, Beau. She brought the bird back to me and eventually I got it out of her slobbering mouth. By then it looked like something a hoot owl had regurgitated.  Young Beau was watching and learning.
         You could see that he was excited about the aspect of getting one of those birds for himself and there was little doubt in his mind that his master would come through. Actually, I don’t subscribe to that baloney about doves being hard to ht. With five or six boxes of shells, I can hit as many doves as quail or ducks, probably. For me a limit of doves is as easy a limit of quail or mallards. I don’t think I’ve ever had either of them either.

         You can practice in the summer and greatly improve your dove-per-shell ratio, of course. In August I work on my coordination and reflexes by throwing darts at butterflies, or shooting flies off the screen door with a pea shooter. That kind of practice paid off that September afternoon in Mr. Thompson’s millet field. When I dropped my second bird, Belle charged from the pile of empty shot-shell hulls to retrieve it. Beau followed but couldn’t keep up. In the middle of the field, he conceded defeat and sat down. The pup had decided that if he couldn’t outrun Belle, he would wait there where the next bird would fall.

         It was a heart-rendering sight, the young dog so desperately wanting to retrieve a dove for his master. I couldn’t help but feel for the little guy. He lay down, head between his paws and eyes skyward, returning only after I threatened to come out there in the field and kick his backside halfway to Kansas.

         He needed his chance. I took out a piece of cord and tied one end to Belle’s collar. The cord was a bit short, so I tied the other end to my bootlaces. Now with her tied to my boot, Beau would have his chance.

         Belle was a dynamic retriever. Chained to a duck blind, she always waited until I unchained her to go after a fallen duck. But, if the duck blind wasn’t set in concrete, it was better to tie her to a tree, and it needed to be a good-sized tree.

         I don’t know why I forgot that as I tied her to my boot. I dropped the next dove with one shot, then left my gun behind me as my arms trailed behind me and my right leg followed Belle. There are many thoughts that race through a man’s head as he is being dragged across a field of millet stubble by his retriever… foremost among them is the fear of a large, protruding, sharp rock.

         Luckily, my boot came off. I had slowed Belle down just enough and Beau got to the dove first. But with the older dog on his heels, Beau headed for the other end of the field. By the time I got to my gun, both dogs were out of range—fortunately for them. I had terrible apprehensions of Belle chasing Beau back to Mrs. Thompson’s house with that dove in his mouth. Eventually though, Beau circled and headed back tome with his prize. Belle, much wiser than most folks consider a dog to be, stopped long before she got close and began working on developing that, “I’m no darn good for nothing and I hate myself,” look that had saved her fanny before.

         As it grew later, I stashed my all-too-few doves and game vest beneath the seat and loaded the Labradors. With the gates behind me, I could see Mrs. Thompson standing in her yard in the gathering dark, with a jar of preserves. I wished desperately that I had checked Beau and Belle for any clinging dove feathers.

         She thanked me for my help and I told her had raised cane with those starlings, leaving vast numbers of the black-hearted rascals as coyote bait, laying dead in the field.  She said she had heard the shooting and deduced that I must have killed a hundred!!