Monday, August 31, 2020

A Hunting and Fishing Month


       Dove season has opened by the time you read this.  There are dozens of them here on Lightnin’ Ridge, feeding beneath the bird feeders, nesting and raising young and then watering at my pond just a hundred yards from my office window.  I wonder how many newspaper and magazine articles I have written about doves and dove hunting?  So many, I am sure, that I could compile a pretty good-sized book about the bird and hunting them over the years.  Probably will in time, to follow my books on turkey hunting and duck hunting.

       But I can’t see packing up my Labrador and my shotgun and driving to some grain field on public land and hunting them at daylight this year in September.  In October maybe.  Fishing is too good now to be standing in a weed patch sweating, swatting at mosquitoes and shooting doves that wing over some harvested wheat field so fast that a lot of my shot pattern goes where they was instead of where they is.  Sure, they are good to eat, but pork chops and squirrels are better.  In my early years I couldn’t afford pork chops, so there was more of an incentive to hunt doves and squirrels.

        I prefer to hunt doves over small ponds in the evening just at sunset. I have done a lot of that.  They swarm into my pond right now in the evening to pick up grit for their craw and to drink water.  If you hunt with Labradors as I always have, pond hunting in the evening is rewarding because your retriever enjoys the swimming, and on a hot day, he doesn’t suffer, as he does out by some grain field.  Three or four years ago, poor old Bolt got so hot and dry on a dove hunt he was lapping up a small bit of water from a mud hole, before wallowing in it just to cool off.  Right then I said, ‘no more of this’!  The dove season goes on through October so we just might go down to the pond a time or two and drop a few doves in the pond for him to retrieve… just enough to put on a spit and grill them.

BUT…. the teal season will open in a couple of weeks and they are big enough to go after.  I just love blue-winged teal on the dinner table. I cut the breast meat into strips about the size of my little finger, roll them in flower mixed with Lawry’s seasoned salt and fry them.  I have hunted teal a great deal over decoys, but my favorite way to hunt them is too float an a river with a blind on the bow of my johnboat, like I did many years ago with my dad.  I set my shotgun beside me and fish as I drift along.  Right after any kind of rain that raises the river a little, smallmouth, Kentuckies and goggle-eye really get active.  But a few times on an 8- or 10-mile stretch of river, there will be a good-sized flock of teal, and they are not as wary as mallards.  I will get some good shots at them when I see them before they see me, and perhaps I’ll bring home some of the spotted bass (Kentuckies) too.  And if I go during the week, the rivers I float will have no one else but me to enjoy the peace and quiet.  It is a great way to enjoy a world where men and their troubles aren’t found.

       This week my friend and fellow fishing guide, Dennis Whiteside and I plan to take my pontoon camp-boat up a remote river or out on a lake.  We will cover it and camp in it, a great place to sleep and eat.  We will bring a fishing boat along, set some trotlines and bass fish late in the day and after dark.  The rains that have come through the last few days should make fish really active, so I might have a good fishing story for next week’s column.  September may be the month for a lot of things, but there are few times in the year when top-water fishing is better.

       A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Missourians who own 20 or more acres in a CWD zone (which most of us are) can kill ten deer on your land with free landowner tags.  I pointed out that the Conservation Department wants your land registered with them, and this is an attempt to get hesitant landowners to comply.  To make it even more enticing they will pay 60 dollars to you to get your deer processed.  I said in that column that I didn’t think it included all ten deer.  I was wrong!  The state conservation department will pay you 60 dollars for each deer killed and processed by someone they approve-- possibly 600 dollars total.  For more info call wildlife health specialist Alicia Burke at 573-815-7901 ext. 2898.   If that doesn’t get you to register your land with them, I don’t know what you will do next.  But for all of you who own 40 acres or less, in a few years this will all end, because they will only allow large landowners to get such permits.  Small acreage owners will be required to pay for their deer… and the processing.  BUT—you will still have your land registered in their computers.

Email me at or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.  My fall magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, will be printed this week. If you want to get a copy, call me at 417 777 5227 and I will pay the postage to get one to you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Dead Deer in the Pond

       A lady sent me an email about finding a dead buck deer in her pond, and another reader called to say he had found one in his pond too.  Both were afraid the deer had Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, which is the real name of what is commonly referred by a common term, ‘chronic wasting disease’, or CWD.  But deer found in or next to ponds, creeks or rivers this time of year are dying of something entirely different, a virus known as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

       Now you have some big medical names to remember.  You can go into the pool hall this week and say, “fellers, the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease is really getting bad, and some of the guy sitting on the bench will look at each other and think, “boy he is a lot smarter than I thought!”  What will make you look even smarter is explaining that EHD is commonly called “Blue-tongue” by wildlife professionals and veterinarians.  It can affect all ruminants, but it is especially bad on deer in August and September. Ruminants have four stomachs and eat grass, like cows and sheep and elk.  But it is strange to me, that while I have seen many deer die of the blue-tongue virus, I have never seen a cow or sheep dead from that virus.

       But anyhow, this is a virus that hits deer hard some summers and not so much in other summers. Many   states with lots of deer do not seem to have a problem with it, but most southern and midwestern states do.  It is spread by a little flying insect we call midges.  There are several kinds of midges and they bite like flying piranhas.  You have no doubt heard country folks speak of ‘no-see-ums’.  Those tiny little flying biters are just some of many types of midges.  Bigger ones carry the virus to deer, and then the deer will die within a few hours to a couple of days… but they seek water to drink and provide cooling relief from the fever.

       Find one dead in the water and he usually will have a swollen, bluish colored tongue.  Humans can’t get the virus because we aren’t ruminants.  You might be interested in knowing that you can eat the meat of a deer that has just died from blue-tongue and not have to worry about contracting the virus.  But even if you don’t intend to eat a deer which obviously comes to water this time of year with the symptoms… shoot it to end its misery.  None recover.

       You do not have to worry about game wardens writing you a citation for ending the misery of a suffering animal.  If they aren’t able to see you do it from their pickup, you won’t be bothered by them.  The new breed of agents doesn’t walk through the woods in August, hot or not hot.  I don’t do it myself much, because the darn spider webs are everywhere and those webs, while not built by spiders that will bite or hurt you, are something that drives me crazy.  If I am walking a trail to a good fishing pond, or looking for mushrooms or taking photos, I get so discombobulated by getting spider webs on my face or arms I just can hardly stand it.  August and September are bad about spider webs in the woods.  These two are the two months when a man needs to stay on the water in a boat of some kind.  In a week or so I am going to write about hot weather, late summer fishing which can really be good.

       Remember too that for the next couple of months, poison snakes are at a peak of activity, especially copperheads. Some of the problem this time of year stems from molting, but that’s only part of it. They start to enjoy the summer heat during the day and then when it cools at night, they seek the rock outcrops, pavement and cement where the warmth lingers.  I kill copperheads every year here on Lightnin’ Ridge which seek out my gravel driveway and cement basement. In October down in the Arkansas Mountains I have had some close calls with timber rattlesnakes up to four feet long. And when floating and camping on Midwest rivers in the fall, I am especially aware that cottonmouths like the warmth of sand bars and gravel bars at night where I like to camp.  Occasionally a copperhead comes down to the warmth of such places too.  I know you have heard the words of some foolhardy suburban naturalists telling you that poisonous snakes are not to be worried about, but a couple of years ago a man died from the bite of a copperhead that got in his tent.  He likely had read the leaflet from the conservation department saying that copperhead bites are never fatal.  The guy picked it up, it bit him. He didn’t go to a medical center because he thought he didn’t have to.  He died.  In the early part of the last century, hundreds of people in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas died of snakebite.  At night for the next 3 months, be aware and use a flashlight.  If you are foolhardy enough to let poisonous snakes live around people, they may in time account for dogs or people being bitten.

       To see my books and the upcoming fall magazine, go to my website,   You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, mo 65613  or email me at  And while the heat is bad and spider webs are worse, you might get ahold of me at phone 417 777 5227.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Kill Ten Deer This Fall???


         I don’t think this land registration thing is going well for the Missouri Department of Conservation.  I and many other landowners have vowed to hunt on our own land this year without registering it, and the whole idea has turned lots of deer hunting landowners into skeptics of what the MDC is and what their objectives are.

         This week I got a letter from the department saying that if I will register my land they will give me ten free deer permits which I can give to anyone.  But I can only get them if I register my land with them.  Boy it seems like in the last year or so they have gone a little bit crazy. Ten deer on 20 acres!!

         Instead of trying to get information on hunters and their land, I wish they would concentrate on the big decline in wild turkey numbers.  If a hard look is not taken at cutting back limits and seasons wild turkeys will decline even more.  I am not sure they have biologists competent enough to take over the problem that so many outdoorsmen are observing with turkeys.  Is the wild turkey biologist today the same one who instigated the “gobbleteers” program a few years back?

         That was the idea he came up with to get landowners involved in reporting on spring gobbling activity on their land in order to win a new shotgun.  Lots of suburbanites got in on it too. You were to sign up, then report the times in the day you heard various gobblers gobbling on your place by keeping a little notebook and pen in your pocket.  That’s all you had to do… just send in your report, how many you heard and the times of each gobble.

         If you think I am suppressing a laugh about that as I write, you are correct.  Dozens of farmers joined in who just fabricated what they heard over a two-month period, (nothing could be verified) waited to hear if they won the shotgun.  Can’t you just see that biologist sitting in his Jefferson City cubicle with that pile of gobbleteer info trying to figure out what to do with it!  Again, I am snickering a little as I write.

         The new letter is from some lady employee that I will bet is somewhere between 25 and 30 years old and grew up in a big city.  I think I will call her and ask her, and report back in another column. Her title is MDC wildlife health specialist.  It is complicated, talking about CWD and ‘share-your-harvest’ and land registration in the same pages. The letter says if you do everything she wants, you can receive a 60-dollar reimbursement for taking your deer to an approved processor. You should call about that! I don’t think you can get paid for all ten deer.

         But you can’t get anything (no ten deer-no 60 dollars) unless they get the info on you and your land through their newly instigated land registration requirement.  You need to get all this done by their deadline on August 28.  If you didn’t get the letter as a landowner you might call Ms. Alicia Burke at 573-815-7901 ext. 2898.

         If you own 20 acres or less you had better get in on killing 10 deer on your land this fall, because in a couple of years they will move the requirement to 40 or perhaps 80 acres and you will be out of luck, just another deer hunter.  But your land and all your info will still be in their files so that is something their agents  can use to make you special, should you kill a big buck with valuable antlers.

         MDC says that their only interest in all this is to “slow the spread of CWD”.  Reminds me of how they were fining boat owners to “slow the spread” of zebra mussels.  That didn’t work so well, did it? Zebra mussels are everywhere.  Better luck this time.  Maybe they can make CWD just disappear, especially if we all will kill ten deer!

My Outdoor Journal magazine, fall issue-- will go to print soon.  Ninety-six color pages makes it larger than any other outdoor magazine you will find on newsstands. It is full of info on the outdoors you cannot read anywhere else, and we print letters from people who cannot get their opinions published anywhere else. To get it, call me at 417 777 5227.  Fewer and fewer newsstands will carry it this fall, as our long-time distributor has gone out of business.  Please visit my website,  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar Mo 65613 or email me at

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Land Registration ALSO August Ain’t So Bad

         I have received several emails from landowners asking me if I was going to register my land with the Missouri Conservation Department in order to get a free landowner permit this fall.  I will absolutely not do that and I recommend that no other landowner does that.  One of the few honest lawyers I know in this day and time tells me that the problems behind doing that are very numerous, and that the MDC will use that ‘registration’ to do things in the future few people realize is coming.  He says, ‘pay them for a tag’ and keep your land unregistered.

         An employee with the MDC tells me it is going to be another thing the agency uses to do the type of enforcement work that victimizes landowners who hunt.  He said that as soon as they feel they can push it through, to get a free hunting permit for your own land, the MDC will require you to own 40 acres instead of 20, and in time it will go to 80 acres.  What is behind all this is money, he told me.  They want hunters who are now hunting with free permits for deer and turkey on their own land to pay for deer and turkey tags.  He says they feel they are losing too much money.

         I talked with a landowner in another county who told me that he and several other landowners have agreed they will not register their land, but hunt on it anyway without tags.  They hope to sign up about 20 landowners this fall who will follow suit, and put up money to pay the fine of anyone who gets caught and cited.  But he made a good point.  He said if you are not part of the system they use to victimize people on technicalities, (and he meant the ‘call-in’ checking system now used which brings a game warden to your door step only an hour or so after you have called in a deer kill); no agent will know a thing about you.  He is right… no one in years has received a visit from a ‘game warden’ in deer season unless they have called in a deer kill, or put a picture on face book, or took a deer head to a taxidermist… NO ONE!!  Think about that.

         I won’t worry about killing a deer on my land without handing over land registration to this bunch. Agents do not leave their pickups and there are no roads they can use to get to the back of my land, they would have to walk in.  And if I kill a deer on my land, they will have to bring a search warrant to find it.   Or they will have to hide out in the brush on my place for days and days to catch me.  They don’t do that. 

         If you want to join those landowners resisting the land registration law the MDC has imposed I can tell you who to contact.   I myself have nothing to do with it.  If they catch me, I will be very happy to pay my fine. Until now I have never intentionally broken a game law!!! But now I feel a little bit like those fellows who threw the King’s tea overboard back in the 1770’s.  In this country we have to someday group together to stand up for what is right.  If your newspaper prints this, call them and thank them for doing it.  Many newspapers in Missouri cannot, because they fear of the power the MDC holds over the news media.  Newspapers hear from them when they do not like what I write, and many publishers and editors tell me that pressure is intense.  You can hardly blame them if they choose not to print a column like this.  A newspaper needs to hear from you too.
         Contact me by calling my office at 417 777 5227 or emailing me… or writing to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

… in august on small ozark streams, use a jitterbug like this one to catch smallmouth like this one.

       It is unusual for the Ozarks to get so much rain in July, but it certainly doesn’t hurt fishing, especially in streams.  When I was a kid, any summer rain that raised the Big Piney and made dinghy-colored water flow into it, sent me to a couple of favorite gravel bar spots with a rod and reel and a bucketful of night-crawlers.  There were some special places where muddying water swirled and slowed below shoals, and about every kind of fish in the river would congregate.  They wouldn’t be there like that in normal low levels you would find in late summer, but that change in water color and flow really turned the goggle-eye on.  They were the fish I was after of course, but with those night crawlers you often hooked big “yaller suckers’ maybe 18 inches or so long.  Talk about a fight, when you hooked an occasional sucker or catfish, you had your hands full!  And while I don’t remember catching lots of smallmouth at such times, largemouth bass were quite often in those pools in good numbers.  I would take home good ones at times, up to 16 or 17 inches long.  To a 12- or 13-year-old kid, those bass were lunkers.  But of course, that long stringer of fish mostly held the goggle-eye and green sunfish, both up to 9-or 10- inches long, something rarely seen today.
Rising, colored water in streams really turns fish on during August and September.  Catching green sunfish and goggle-eye and bluegill at times like this is great fishing.  And at some time, there will be a tough-to-land smallmouth.  In this photo, a green sunfish, known to Ozarkians as ‘black perch’ has a couple of good filets for the camp skillet. 

        Colored water in streams really turns fish on during August and Sepember, but when any small stream or creek is very clear, fish are tough to catch.  Take Crooked Creek down in North Arkansas for instance.  I have seen it so clear in August that if you intended to catch a smallmouth you almost had to be a fly fisherman.  But certainly it can be achieved in clear water with spinning gear and four-pound line and very very small lures.  If you want to catch lunker smallmouth though when water is low and clear, go out on a small stream on a dark night and fish a jitterbug in the deeper holes below a shoal.  You had better not do that with light line.  I remember times when I was a naturalist for the National Park Service at Buffalo Point when we would fish the river at night because the caravans of banging canoes made it tough to catch a big brownie during daylight hours.  But those jitterbugs at night made you realize just how many smallmouth lived there.  In another column, I will write about late-summer lake fishing for bass.


Thursday, August 6, 2020



          After months of having no distributor for our magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, we now have obtained a way to put the magazine back on the news-stands in major stores.  But the best way to get the new Fall Issue we are publishing, is to call our office at 417-777-5227 and receive it via credit card, or send a check for six dollars to LROJ, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  You can subscribe to the next 3 issues for $18 if you wish.  The fall magazine has some great reading, 96 full color pages.  It is good to know our magazine has a future again, hope you are a part of it.