Friday, April 24, 2020

That’s Crazy

         Next week, I am going to spend several nights on some lake in my camp-boat and hunt turkeys.  I intend to take a long my johnboat to use for fishing. I will set a trotline, hunt mushrooms and arrowheads, and pretty rocks, catch bass etc.  I may ignore crappie because I catch all of them I want in late April and May at night under lights… and white bass and walleye too.  Now do any of you have any better plans than that?  It is social distancing at its best. 

         Hunting rocks is a great hobby of mine for which I am often looked upon as crazy.  But once when I lived down in Arkansas I went to Bull Shoals lake and filled up my boat with beautiful rocks and in 3 or 4 trips I had my pickup weighed down with them.  Most were only a few inches long but some were larger, up to 10 pounds perhaps.  The next day I packed a suitcase with another shirt and pants and headed for Iowa.  If you had seen me with that pickup sagging in the back you would have said I was crazy then too.  

         But the next day I drove to every fish and aquarium shop I could find and sold that pickup full of rocks for a little better than 800 dollars.  It doesn’t sound like much money but in the early 80’s it wasn’t to be sneezed at.  I did the same thing a couple of times in Illinois. Not once did I bring home a single rock. Aquarim shops went nuts for them.  I told them they were imported from somewhere in Africa. In Harrison, Arkansas I stopped at a local filling station and the attendant, who knew me, said, “Dablemont, you are Crazy!!  So I have gotten use to being called that. 

         Today you could do the same thing on about any Ozark lake, but I found out it is illegal, so be careful; some Corps Ranger might haul you in for aggravated rock-stealing. At the same time, I got a permit to take a whole load of dead cedar poles from Bull Shoals to an Omaha Nebraska landscaper.  You wouldn’t believe how much he paid for them.  He was just as crazy as I was, and the people that paid him for those were even crazier.  On Bull Shoals alone there is a million dollars worth of cedar logs, beautifully white and silver colored, dead since the 1950’s and some of the prettiest decorative fencing you ever saw.  Sounds crazy, but it is true.

         Outdoorsmen are often accused of being crazy.  For instance, what is crazier than setting in some bushes, risking ticks and copperheads, scraping on a little box with a shotgun in your lap and some green and black paint smeared from one ear to the other?  That fits many hunters and from the mid-seventies into the nineties, I made a bunch of money taking those crazy people turkey hunting and camping here and there each spring.

         Often, you will call in a big old wild gobbler and he will start flopping around on the ground and another one will run to him and start fighting with him.  I had to kick one off my dying turkey once and he kept coming back.  I remember telling some of the guys at the pool hall what I had seen and they said I was crazy!  They said the same thing when I told them I had called in a gobbler by with a squeaking gate hinge on my neighbor’s farm.  Heck, when you see a tom turkey trying to escape by sticking his head and neck through an old hog-wire fence in the woods that he could just jump over, you realize that turkeys are as crazy as hunters.

          I am quite sure that as I roam the woods this week hunting wild turkeys with a shotgun in one hand and my camera in the other, I will see some things that will make me think, ‘now that is crazy’.  If I find mushrooms, I will give most of them away.  But if I find a rock that is something special, I won’t give it to nobody.  And if you want to see some of the very best I have ever found, come up here on Lightnin’ Ridge and you can see them scattered all over the place and in my office too.  I’ve got a dandy on my dresser!  I will give away wild turkey meat, mushrooms and fish by the dozens, but no one can have my rocks.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it. Sometime soon I will write a column about how to make bass jump in your boat.  I have done it many, many times, but when I write about it readers think I am crazy.

         Well, this week most of the suburban outdoor writers will be writing about how to hunt turkeys. But not me, because if you need to read about how to do something as easy as hunting and killing a wild gobbler, you probably ought to be hunting rocks instead.  Besides that, there are to many turkey hunters out there, and trying to create more of them seems crazy to me.

         If you want to read a couple of really good turkey hunting stories, and fishing stories too, get your hands on one of my spring magazines… The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, on sale in many stores with magazine racks.  Or call my secretary, Ms. Wiggins, at 417-777-5227, and she’ll send you one.  My new website is and you can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Birds is Worthless and What Ones Ain’t

goose nesting above the river about 20 feet over the water in sycamore tree.

         The virus hasn’t made life much different for me because how I live now is not much different than I have always lived.  Up here on this isolated ridgetop I call Lightnin’ Ridge, the highest point in this county, I have to spend a lot of time watching the birds that come to Gloria Jean’s bird feeders. It is part of my job because I take it upon myself to try to shoot all the brown-headed cowbirds I see.  I sit there beside my Labrador on my screened porch, which is up about 6 feet off the ground, looking out into the branches of oaks, hickories and walnuts wondering when the orioles will get here, or what kind of wren that little bird on the ground might be.  But in almost 30 years of that, I have never seen wood ducks there before.  

         About two weeks ago, a hen wood duck lit on one of the big limbs about ten yards away from my rockin’ chair.  In short order a beautiful drake joined her.  In a minute or so they flew into another tree, then another and then another.  It went on for 20 minutes or so, as they moved just north of my office to the pond I built there about 25 years ago.  In the fall, groups of wood ducks have used that pond, but none have ever nested nearby that I can remember.  Those two were indeed looking for a hollow tree to nest in.  Every time they moved to another tree the drake was just a follower.  The hen was the one doing the searching.  She had an eye on that pond, perhaps because there is corn spread along the shore quite often.  Dozens of doves feed there at times, and my place is a haven for nesting doves. I have seen doves nest on large tree limbs, in head-high bushes and on the ground in thickets. 
         Hordes of squirrels start using the hollow trees on my place in February to bring off their litters and three species of owls nest in them as well; the little ones, the medium ones and the big ones.  You know what species of owls I am talking about it if you are a woodsman or an ornithological enthusiast  (bird lover).  Too danged many raccoons have dens for their young on my tract of woodland, and there are pileated woodpeckers, flying squirrels and honeybees in other hollowed out trees.  Most of those cavities used as nurseries are in trees that are alive, not dead.  There are lots of them, but I sure hope the wood duck hen found one she likes.  If she did, I think there will be some little baby woodies on my pond soon. 
         Here’s a question some of you who have earned your master naturalist certificates in recent years.  True or False… Woodies can and do raise broods two or three miles from water!  True or False… They are the only waterfowl in the Ozarks that will nest in a hollow tree! Then answer this one… baby wood ducks leave the nest shortly after hatching.  That makes them which of the following… altricial or precocial.  While you are at it, name those three owl species which nest on my ridgetop.  And why would a lifetime professional naturalist  ( I wrote that ‘professional’ with in a humorous vein), kill a brown headed cowbird?   Answers later in this column.

         I shot a big old black snake yesterday only a short distance down one of my trails.  He was between 7 feet and 20 feet long!  I only shoot black snakes, copperheads and the occasional water snake in my pond.  Please keep that between us because it is illegal, according to our conservation department, to kill any snake or anything else that they do not mention in their rules booklet.  On a Lebanon radio station a game warden always ended his program with the words, “Remember, if we don’t say you can… you can’t”

         But black snakes, which can slither into any nesting cavity and climb any tree, eat bird eggs and kill baby birds by the dozens, in the spring, and baby rabbits.  My naturalist daughter Christy, who is a science and biology teacher, says that black snakes are valuable mouse eaters, to which I reply that I own enough mouse traps to kill every mouse between my sheds and hers without the help from black snakes.  Besides, a white-footed deer mouse is not anything like a house mouse and should be considered native wildlife. They are important food to owls and other predators that don’t eat bird eggs and baby rabbits!  If you are someone who falls into the class of tree-hugger or fern-feeler  (non-professional would-be naturalists) and you like snakes, I will bring you some of the three I named above.

         As to the questions above… altricial birds are those which have to take care of, and feed their young after hatching.  Precocial birds have fledglings which immediately leave the nests and feed themselves. When I was young, I was precocial! The three owls are… little—screech owls.  Medium—barred owls. Large—Great Horned Owls.  Brown headed cowbirds kick out eggs in another bird nest and lay their eggs in that nest.  They are a parasitic bird known to have done their evil work to more than 200 species of birds.  And lastly, woodies have been know to nest in hollow trees 3 or 4 miles from water, and hooded mergansers also nest in hollow trees near water.  So do some Canada geese, high in hollow trees right over the water.  Many won’t believe that but I have photos. 
Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, mo or email me at  My website, where you can see and order one or more of my 10 books or issues of my outdoor magazine, is found on the computer at 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Another kind of Hunting

         It is ‘mushroom’ week here in my area of the Ozarks.  I found the first ones on the second day of April, which is unusual because the average time of eruption over the years has been about 10 to14 days into the month.  I have what I call an ‘indicator tree’.   It is a big ash tree on my place where the very first mushrooms appear each spring, and over a two-week period in past years it has produced from 20 to 35 mushrooms. 

         I found three there a few days back and I know that it will have more.  Then about a week later there will be mushrooms sprouting up on Truman Lake, about 30 miles north of me as the crow flies.  A week or so later there will be mushrooms to find in north Missouri.

         Folks get excited about finding extremely large morels.  I have found one about 12 inches tall with a diameter of nearly 4 inches.   BUT… I am usually in southern Canada on some lake that first week of June, and there, when you find morels, they AVERAGE 10 or 12 inches.  I have found morels there that were 15 inches tall.  I never look for them in Canada; you just find them along the lakeshore here and there.  Some years though you never see one.  But when they are there, they are very big.

          I recommend that if you have never found morel mushrooms, you begin looking for them around very large ash trees.  Ash trees send out long large roots which may curve around as far as 15-feet from the trunk. The tops of those roots stick up out of the ground.  Mushrooms grow up all around those roots.  But over the years I have found morels in cedar groves where larger cedars grow, around big sycamores along waterways, around open areas where May apples bloom, under dogwoods, and… well heck, I have found them in what we jokingly refer to as a ‘lawn’ around my house up here on Lightnin’ Ridge. 

         They grow where nature puts them.  Along small streams I have found them on gravel bars and on a sand bar beneath maple trees.  Those sandbar morels are worthless because there are tiny grains of sand all throughout the indentions and actually inside the meaty part of the mushroom, and you cannot get them out.  When you fry them and bite into one, you are chewing on grains of sand.

         The funny thing about finding morels a little early this spring is that everything that blooms is blooming a little later than usual.  But I am not just going to look for and eat mushrooms around my wooded ridgetop in April.  I will fry up some pokeweed leaves, (only the young small ones) and some cow pasley (parsley to educated folks) lamb’s quarter and crows foot, and make some sweetened sassafras tea out of the roots of small sassafras saplings. If you want to try those plants, look them up on a computer or in a book so you can identify them and learn how to eat them.  If you get ahold of hemlock, which is similar, it can kill you!

         Later in the summer there will be raspberries, and blackberries and mulberries up here within a hundred yards of my home and office, and then in the fall, persimmons, pawpaws, walnuts, and more mushrooms of one type or another.  I built a pond twenty-five years ago to water ridge-top wildlife and it is full of fish and bullfrogs.  All around me there are squirrels, rabbits, quail, turkey and deer.  If the time comes that city supermarkets don’t open or they don’t have food, the natural market allowing survival is right outside the door.  Many country people can say the same thing.

         This week I will eat fried mushrooms until I get sick of them.  And I will give away a bunch as well.  If you want to come and hunt them with me you can, as long as you wear a mask and raincoat and stay 10 feet from me! 

         I might mention that in May and June, when those orange day-lillies are blooming everywhere, that if you collect a bunch of the buds before they bloom, you can roll them in egg and flour and fry them like mushrooms.  Great eating!  They are known by country folks as ‘poor man’s asparagus’. Which means, I guess, that you can fix them like you fix asparagus.  I ain’t never done that… but I may try it this summer.  

         I want to caution prospective mushroom hunters that there is a large rusty-red mushroom known as beef-steak mushrooms that are often found even earlier than morels, and many people slice them and fry them too.  They may be found as big as a basketball and even bigger.  But while some folks eat them with no problem, others get very sick from them.  I don’t know why.  But heck, there are some folks who get sick from eating too many morels, so if  you are a first time mushroom hunter, do this… eat only a small amount of either at first.  Find out if you have a mushroom tolerant system.
 Beefsteak mushroom

                        Beefsteak mushroom
                               at a distance

         Some folks is different than us normal folks, I’ve heered.  I once knew an old boy at the pool hall that got sick ever’time he ate baked ‘possums and another feller who was allergic to peekans and walnuts!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Doggone White Bass

Dablemont column 3/30/20     

      White bass caught on ultra-lite equipment, will outfight about anything in a stream… except smallmouth. And when there is a good current in a tributary to any Ozark lake, if you find a bunch of those big female white bass, you can wear yourself out just trying to get a dozen or so in the boat.

      That awful experience reared its ugly head for a friend and I a couple of days ago.  We were up in a rain-swollen river trying to hook a walleye or two and big hefty female white bass kept intercepting our multi-colored crank baits. Sometimes we just struggled to get them back to the boat.

      We might have caught a nice walleye or two or even a lunker smallmouth if they had just let those lures alone, but they wouldn’t.  We’d feel a hard jolt out several yards into the current and the drag would screech for a minute or two and some big ol’ egg-laden white bass would bend a rod nearly double, whilst we would hang on and hope they would tire a little.  What a fight!

      Finally we just gave up and caught a whole passel of them out of spite. That can be a lot of fun if you wouldn’t druther catch a walleye. White bass are below those shoals of many lake tributaries wanting to spawn soon.  You would think any fish wanting to spawn would be less interested in eating, but now that I think about it, I have known a few pregnant women who just couldn’t get enough to eat, so it may be a natural thing amongst females.

     White bass spawn on gravel shoals in the Ozarks at night, but they didn’t get the name ‘sand bass’ for no good reason.  In the spring, sand warms quicker than gravel.  I mention this because that day we came across a big sand bar deposited by high water, and exposed to an 80-degree sun.  And right there we found some big female whites just hungry as they could be.

      You might keep that to yourself or in the spring when you are out fishing for white bass you may find two or three boats congregating next to any sand bars.  I don’t fish on weekends, because of that problem.  Weekends in the spring, everyone, goes fishing.  For example, last Saturday afternoon I motored up one river to look for some mushrooms and shed antlers and the place was all choked up with boats.  I saw one 17-foot boat with three kids and four adults in it and fishing rods sticking up everywhere like quills on a porcupine… probably looking for my favorite sand bar.

      I passed one small boat with a father and a boy about 10 or 11 and my mind went back to my own boyhood, when I spent hours in an old wooden johnboat with my dad or my grandfather, floating the Big Piney when almost no one did but us.  I couldn’t believe how much that young boy looked like I did at that age.  Discarding my usual contempt for city folks who flock to the Ozarks on weekends, I couldn’t forget the look on that little boys face as he clutched that rod and reel. 
      So I motored over and told them if they would follow me I would show them my secret sand bar.  I got my picture took with that youngster, and found out that his father, from Kansas City, had been reading my fishing book the week before they came down to fish.  Well, for some reason the white bass weren’t hungry that afternoon, but they said they would keep my favorite spot a secret and would only fish there when I wasn’t.  I hope they come back sometime.  I would like to see that little boy haul in a stringer full of those whites.  I cannot get that blond mop of hair and his “I want to catch a fish” face out of my mind.

      I’ll share another secret with all you readers.  I do not like to eat fish!  I guess eating so many as a boy has sorta made me allergic to the taste.  I don’t like any fish, not even crappie or walleye.        But I filet what I catch and try to give them to poor or elderly folks who just love them.  Chances are you will like white bass, hybrids or stripers if you learn to skim off the red meat.  It is a little like skimming the chocolate icing off a cupcake, but it leaves a red stripe down the center of the filet you have to eliminate also.  I think that this week I will put photos of that step-by- step process on my website, That way, many will change their attitude about eating white bass filets. I will add some of my recent photos and what I promised to post about paddlefish.

      Let me add this… if you are a landowner instructed to register your land with the MDC so you can get a landowner permit this spring to hunt wild turkeys, DON”T DO IT!  There is more to this than you know.  I will hunt my land without the permit.  It will be the first time I have ever intentionally broken the law, but there isn’t a conservation agent anywhere who will be able to catch me. Makes me feel like one of them Bostonians who threw the tea in the Atlantic back in the 1770’s. 

      Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email

Reunion in a Boat

   Larry dablemont outdoor column… 3-30-20 
         I headed for Lake of the Ozarks that morning last week under sunny skies.  When I got there it was raining.  Of course it was! Every time I have been fishing the past month it has been raining, or was about to.  That day it didn’t matter.  I was there to meet Bill Goldinger and Dennis Whiteside, two old college dorm mates from the good old days at University of Missouri, when we were kids.  In fact, but for those two I don’t know that I could say there were any ‘good ol’ days” while I was there.  I never was cut out for studenthood.  Eventually I was kicked out of that dorm.

         Dennis and I fish together all the time, but Bill Goldinger; neither of us has seen much of over the last 50 years.  He arranged the whole fishing expedition with a Lake of the Ozarks guide by the name of Anthony Ford, who is kind of a multi-species guide, and this time he was going to take we three old college friends grabbing paddlefish.  His boat was a big outfit with a covered canvas cabin, so we sat inside, out of the rain, watching big heavy rods in rod-holders, while we talked about old times and the rain pelted down.  Two big motors the size of whiskey barrels idled us along, and if we were to hook a paddlefish as those huge treble hooks sliced through the lake way down deep where our guide said hundreds of paddle fish congregated, we would hear the reels screaming and would jump up and fight a monstrous paddlefish.

         I figured it would take awhile but it didn’t.  I think we were interrupted in the middle of a good story about the time I set a mousetrap under Dennis’ bed with an alarm clock behind it set for three in the morning and Bill was quickly leaning back on a heavy rod fighting a heavy fish.  When Anthony gaff hooked it and hauled it in, it was a 45- pound male, better than four-feet-long from bill to tail.  Then a few minutes later he landed another one the same size and had his limit of two.  So Dennis leaned into the next one and by golly it was another 45-pound male about four-and-a-half-feet long.

         Truthfully, I have been there and done that.  As an outdoor writer since I was 19 years old, there isn’t much I haven’t done in the way of fishing and hunting, and I went on a paddlefish-grabbing trip once in Oklahoma.  We stayed on the bank of a river not far from the fire on that cold March night and the fellows I was with hooked a couple, but I didn’t.  Half froze and sleepy, I discarded the memories of that night as something you wouldn’t ever see me doing again.

         So there in Anthony Ford’s big boat, I told Bill and Dennis to land the fish when the reel went to screeching again, but they wouldn’t have it.  I had to land a fish!  I figured that somehow I would goof up and break the handle off the reel, or that I would drop the rod, or lose the fish before I got it in.  Or, heaven forbid, the one I would land would only be about half the size of the others.  But I took it when Ford pulled the rod from the holder.  Instantly I knew it was no fish.  It was hooked on a big log out there somewhere!

         But soon, the log I had hooked turned into some kind of fish, or perhaps an alligator.  I couldn’t fight the darn thing standing flat-footed on the deck in a pouring rain.  I was sliding backwards.  So I braced myself against the gunwale and did the best I could.  Ten or fifteen minutes later, I won the struggle and Anthony gaffed a fish taller than I was.  The fish was worn out and so was I. She weighed fifty-eight pounds and I remarked to Dennis and Bill that I had never landed a fish that size on a rod and reel and never would again.  I was wrong about that.  About a half hour later I stood out there in the rain and slid around on the deck fighting one that weighed 70 pounds.  To see all the photos from that trip just go to my brand new website, ( and enjoy yourself.  I would like to know who all you readers think has weathered the last 50 years better, out of the three of us.  The really good-looking younger guy is Anthony Ford, and if you want to fish with a guy you won’t mind paying, look him up on one of those little boxes folks buy nowadays for more than I ever had in my billfold at one time.

         Oh yeah, the sky broke open when we came in… the sun shined, and the birds sang.  Anthony cleaned the fish and told me stories about his run-ins with game wardens that can’t be printed here.  Those stories will be on my website with the photos, where I have more to say about our trip and this unusual fish.  And I will tell you why that 70-pound paddlefish was a one-in-a-million paddlefish like nothing Anthony had ever cleaned before.  Just don’t have room for it here.