Friday, May 29, 2020


All of Larry's books and past issues of THE LIGHTNIN' RIDGE OUTDOOR JOURNAL can now be viewed and/or purchased by going to his web site There is also a way to view and/or donate his upcoming book, THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MISSOURI CONSERVATION

Fish Guts

Carcasses and guts, flies and buzzards... a popular launching ramp that stinks all summer. Corps of Engineers apparently can't do anything about it. 

            I believe that we all should give maximum effort to leaving the outdoors and the world around us as natural and as clean as possible.  Why are there so many who just don’t seem to give a darn?  One of the most disgusting things I have ever seen at an Ozark Lake is at the launching ramp on Truman Lake at a site known as Fairfield.  The history of that place is interesting.  The lake covered a small, old-days village by that name, a few buildings and a post office. There is a campground and small store north of the boat ramp about a mile.  There are several summer homes and likely two-dozen permanent camper-vehicles there and the campground owner has a place to clean fish there.

carcasses on top and underneath the water next to launching ramp
             Each day someone with all those fish cleanings comes down and dumps them at the ramp.  It stinks something terrible in the summer, and as the water drops, you actually step on dead and rotting fish carcasses when you get out of your pickup to launch or load your boat.  All around there are buzzards feeding on those decomposing fish carcasses, entrails and skins and flies. There were 18 there last week. I kind of wonder, why does the Corps of Engineers permit this?  

          Last week I was there in the late evening when the guy arrived in a pick-up to dump two or three buckets of guts and carcasses. He backed his pickup down to the end of the ramp and emptied them.  I asked him why and he told me he was doing it for the campground owner.  He said he did it every day when the people living at the campground clean their fish at the owners designated fish cleaning station. It makes a mess at the campground; therefore it has to be dumped in the lake.

I could not believe people would actually choose to sit at the dumping site next to the ramp... the smell was horrendous
           Of course, all that needs to be done to keep the launching ramp clean is for someone to take those buckets of dead fish out a half-mile into the lake to dump the carcasses each evening in a boat, where they would sink and be eaten by scavenger fish.  Either it is just too much trouble or maybe the campers there like the stink and the flies and the buzzards.  But someone is opening themselves up to a lawsuit from someone who wants to make lots of money. This isn’t just a health hazard.  Last week I saw a man get out of his pickup to launch his boat and he slipped and fell.  What made him slip?  A rotting fish carcass twenty feet up the ramp! With me and others as a witness, all he has to do is find a lawyer.

            The campground owner says he has nothing to do with this, that the dumper who says he does that for him is lying. It would be easy for the Corps to find out who is responsible, who is lying and who isn’t.   A retired Corps of Engineers Ranger I once hunted and fished with doubts what I am writing here, saying that one of the Rangers for the Corps says it happens at lots of launching ramps.  I am doubting that.  I challenge the Corps to show me photos at any ramp that comes anywhere close to that mess at Fairfield.  I have been to lots of launching ramps and I do not see that on any scale close to this.  Instead of thanking me for pointing out a problem, they’ll be mad at me for this column, like that old friend of mine saying I am basically uninformed. I don’t think they will want to do anything about it, from what I am told, because their offices are many many miles away and the problem is out of sight.  Out of their sight…but for hundreds of fishermen who used that ramp over Memorial Day, it was a part of their experience at Truman Lake, and no one should have to put up with it. 

            While the campground owner denies he knows anything about this, it isn’t something that results from a few fishermen cleaning fish at the ramp. It is a wonder is that there are such people in this world who would do this, whoever it is to blame.
As to the Corps of Engineers, they have a regulation that walking their shore and finding an arrowhead is unlawful.  They aren’t going to enforce that, but if you get caught by a Ranger out on the lakeshore with a metal detector and you are going to hear about it.   Apparently there is no law against piling up fish carcasses night after night at a Corps boat ramp. What would make them do something to find answers and end the slime and rot and stench at the Fairfield launching ramp?  Right now you can stand at the ramp and count 50 or 60 carcasses.  They should either erect a sign saying…”Do not dump fish here.”  Or maybe… “Do not dump more than 100 fish carcasses and entrails here at one time!”
            If this bothers you as much as me… please send this column to the address of any Corps office you can find. First, see the photos I have taken. Go to, or to my website,
If you would like to give me heck for writing this, thinking it is no big thing and should just be ignored  (as the corps does)… just email or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

An Uneventful Turkey Hunt…a Spectacular Turkey

A seven bearded gobbler

         I guess in most ways he was an easy gobbler. I can’t say there haven’t been many, many others that were more of a challenge.  From his spurs it was apparent that he was old. But then so am I.  On opening day I was too sleepy to get out of bed, so I didn’t hear him gobbling on the roost.  The night before I had been writing very late so I was still sleepy when I threw my old shotgun over my shoulder and headed for the woods after 8 a.m.  I went down through the woods with the sun climbing high and found a few mushrooms, and then about a half mile away I heard a gobble, and then another.  Even someone who has hunted wild turkey for 50 years gets excited about hearing an old tom on opening day.  I will always head for a wild gobbler’s call like a beagle pup on the trail of a rabbit.

         When I got to the little wooded knoll I thought was close enough, I could actually see two gobblers in a little opening about 200 yards away, courting 5 or 6 hens.  What a sight it was, those toms all huffed up with tails spread and heads blood red in the bright sunlight that found its way through the branches of surrounding oaks.  Well as any grizzled old veteran turkey hunter knows, there are times when calling a gobbler is a waste of time, because he can see the hens before him, and one off in the distance that he can only hear just isn’t of much interest to him.  If he has a shapely young female in a bikini right there in front of him, telling him what a handsome rascal he is and enticing him to come closer, he sure isn’t going to leave her and go check out a distant call from some hen that might be old, fat and ugly!

         On a few occasions over the years I have called in a small group of hens, 2 or 3 usually who have been followed by gobblers.  That is rare, but it can happen.  So I got settled up against a log with some buckbrush before me and gave forth some of the most enticing turkey calling you can imagine, apparently sounding like one of those fat and ugly old hens.  The show out there before me was something to see, a turkey flock orgy of sorts that made me plumb ashamed to be watching.  It was about 10 a.m. when I just gave up and leaned back against that log and dozed off.  I didn’t know I was so tired.  I woke up about 11: 30.  Maybe it was a lusty gobble that woke me up.  The two old toms were about 30  yards closer than they had been and there wasn’t a hen in sight.

         This is where I might brag on my ability as a turkey caller you know.  But I only called once. I doubt if it had much affect, they were coming straight as a string. They just ambled toward me, pecking here and there, not strutting at all.  At 70 or 80 yards they stopped and gobbled in unison, and if you’ve hunted spring gobblers I expect you have seen that too, on occasion.  They did that one more time when they were about 45 yards away.  I couldn’t tell one from the other so I just picked out a red and blue and white target and it was all over as the shotgun blast interrupted the peaceful forest landscape.

          So there I was waiting for the gobbler I had chosen to stop flopping, watching his buddy hotfoot it in a big curve through green grass into a green woodland. 
         I had found a few mushrooms, had a good long nap and was heading home before noon with a hefty gobbler over my shoulder.  I don’t know why I hadn’t paid much attention to the beard, but it was two hours later, when I hoisted the gobbler in my basement to be dressed out, that I saw his beard, and another and another and another.  THERE WERE SEVEN OF THEM!!  The longest was 11 inches long, and the combined length of all seven beards was 49 inches.  The tom weighed 21 pounds and had spurs that were one and a quarter inches long.  You can see his  picture on my blogspot and on Lightnin’ Ridge facebook page, or on my website...   A friend of mine was amazed at that tom turkey.  He said that with the Wild Turkey Federation’s record book, my gobbler would  likely score in the top five!  That’ll be the day… if I start trying to score a wild turkey, somebody come and declare me an idiot and have me locked in my storage shed.  Never will I use a wild creature in such a way.  I may have it taxidermyized just to prove it really did have seven beards.   But to tell the truth I have had much more exciting turkey hunts.  If you don’t believe it, read about many of them in my book, ‘The Greatest Wild Gobblers’.  In the 80’s I wrote an article for Outdoor Life magazine entitled, “The Gobbler Across the Gulch.”  I reprinted it in that book.  Now there was a gobbler to remember.  But he only had one beard.

Next week… A spring outdoor quiz for the ‘Master Naturalists” and a story about fishing in solitude.