Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Hunting a Flying Biscuit




green winged teal right, blue winged teal left


         A teal is a duck… a little duck about half the size of a half-grown chicken. Most of them have a wingspan just shy of 24 inches and a weight just shy of a pound. There are blue-winged teal and there are green-winged teal and to the west of us there are cinnamon teal.  


         During most of the teal season, which runs through most of last half of September you most generally see only the blue-winged teal, but there are a few green-wings mixed in with them some years.  That is unusual; because green-winged teal migrate so late most years that there are people hauling used Christmas trees out in the lake when they make their big flight.  They come with the late mallards usually. That seems odd to me, because both species are very similar in nesting and feeding and all other things. But as a rule blue-winged teal head southward with the first little cool snap in the northern prairies, and the green-wings wait until there's a blizzard somewhere. Teal are fascinating little ducks, and to my way of thinking they are better eating than anything that flies and sits on the water.



        Most years there won't be many teal hunters take advantage of the season. Hunting them gets into some work.  You need steel shot and special gun barrels, and decoys and a boat and waders and maybe a good dog if you have one.  A mediocre dog will work too if that’s all you have. And you need a state migratory bird stamp and a federal duck stamp in addition to a hunting license. 


         Blue-wings like to fly early in the morning and late in the evening, and they like shallows and mud flats and smartweed if it is available.  When you hunt them, you will likely see a variety of early migrating shorebirds and it is a fascinating thing to see.  It is also likely that you will see some other species of ducks, especially wood ducks, a few pintails and shovelers and maybe a gadwall or a widgeon, so you'd best know your species. Hunting September teal is complicated by the fact that most ducks are drably colored in late summer plumage and not so easy to identify. 


         If you drop a duck that isn't a teal during the special teal season, you are a federal violator, and that's serious.  The Missouri conservation department people aren’t real sure what a September blue-wing looks like either.  On their website concerning teal season in past years they show a drake blue-winged teal in spring plumage.  They look that way in April!  In September they look like an entirely different duck, drab and grey and brown, and if you aren’t really familiar with how different ducks fly, you can confuse a teal and another drably colored species.


         Another flying creature you will likely see on a teal hunt is the mosquito. Sometimes mosquito flocks numbers into the thousands. They seldom have a poor hatch. You might also encounter a watersnake or two when you hunt teal. But when you have a squadron of blue-winged teal sweep across your decoys, you are very likely to think of the mourning dove as an easy target.  


         Teal seem to be very fast, even if they aren't.  You seldom lead one properly, but the good thing about teal hunting is, there are often several in a group and therefore you might get one that is flying behind the one you are shooting at.  Six teal makes a good meal for two.  That’s what the limit is… six daily and 18 in possession.  I like to cut the breasts up in small, finger-sized slices and fry them with Lawry's seasoned salt and onions.  They are also very good when grilled on a stick with onions and peppers, and little strips of bacon.


         Problem is, this is a great time for a day spent fishing.  I like fishing after the crowds are gone, and there won't be a soul out there but me.  But it is rough on me when I am fishing this time of year and watch a flock of teal winging past me.  Makes me want to hunt ducks.


         My dad and I use to hunt teal a lot when the season first became a reality back in the sixties.  We would float the river with a blind on the bow of our boat and find quite a few.  They were never as wary as woodducks and mallards and fairly easy to sneak up on. Trouble is, some of the best smallmouth fishing we ever had was during the floats we made on the river hunting teal.  So there were times it was harder to watch for them. In Missouri the teal season ends on the 27th and in Arkansas it ends on the 30th.  There is still time, and I am going one day this coming weekend… I don’t care how good the fishing is.


The fall copy of my magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal is printed and ready.  I would love to send you a copy. It is 96 color pages of the best outdoor stories you will find in any magazine. They are six dollars with the postage paid, which is about half the cost of the magazine.  Call me to inquire about that or one of my books, or you can see them on my website, www.larrydablemont.com  You can send a message to me via email… lightninridge47@gmail.com or write to me at Box 22 Bolivar, Mo 65613.



Friday, September 18, 2020

Catfish on Norfork



      Most all waters in the Midwest have catfish, but if you want to eat some, you should go after those in ponds, lakes or rivers that are not muddy or of substandard water quality. 


      Preparing for a fish-fry event coming up this
weekend in Houston, Mo involving a class reunion, I needed some good-to-eat channel catfish so I chose Norfork Lake in North-Central Arkansas as the place to go after them.  It is a clean, clear lake, and my old friend and fellow outdoor writer Jim Spencer lives there. Jim catches more catfish than any Arkansawyer I know. 


      I took Michelle James with me.  Michelle is the assistant publisher, and editor of my magazines, and advertising executive too. She, --are you ready for this-- had never been fishing in the Ozarks, and had never caught a catfish.  How can you rely on someone who has never caught a fish?


      Well last week she caught a bunch of them, catfish and some big bluegill as we fished an afternoon on Norfork Lake from Jim’s pontoon boat, over a hole he had baited with calf-food pellets. The first catfish she caught was between three and four pounds and Michelle was delighted.  Jim netted it for her and minutes later she landed a big pan-sized bluegill.


      As I said, I can’t have an employee of mine not having fished and hunted, but then again, Michelle is compiling and editing and writing for a magazine I publish called the Journal of the Ozarks. It doesn’t deal with hunting and fishing, but with the history and people of the Ozark country.  The next issue will be the 13th we have published, but I lost my editor last year and Michelle is working on the edition about to come out.  If you love the Ozarks and like to read about old time stuff in the region, call my office (417-777-5227) and we’ll mail you one.


      Photos from the catfish trip on Norfork will be out soon in a picture story inside my outdoor magazine, fall issue.  You can call the same number to get that magazine also.


      I paid for that fishing trip with a certain amount of continuing pain between the third and fourth finger on my right hand, where I got spined by a fiddler-sized channel catfish.  Channel cat have those barbels on their sides behind the gills and they are sharp, with jagged spikes on the trailing edge.  You would think, as many times as I have been skewered with those, that I would have been more careful.  All catfishermen know that pain those barbels will inflict, and it continues.  No hornet, not even a scorpion can equal it.  Now there is a hole and a slight infection between my fingers and it won’t go away for a week.  There must be something to what old-timers say about a poison around those spines.  But it is also said that if you immediately take the slime from the body of the catfish and rub it on the wound it will subside the pain and hinder any infection.


      Here is a good place to change the subject. I wrote a column several years ago predicting that western fires would become more terrible and tragic as years passed. And I also said that immigrants who hate our country would use those fires as terrorist attacks.  Some more leftist-type readers made fun of that column, going so far as to ask newspapers to drop me as a columnist. 


      This week after a huge fire that caused death and destruction and the evacuation of tens of thousands out west, authorities arrested an illegal immigrant woman whom they caught setting fires out there.  You would think it can’t get worse, but it will!  The land of milk and honey is out of both! The hurricanes, the floods, the tornadoes, etc, etc, will all get worse.


      Some readers have asked my opinion on ‘climate change’ and I will write a little bit on that next week or the week after.  The climate is only part of the change that hurts people. People change may destroy the cities.  The biggest disaster may be just that, the coming “people change”!


      Mankind may not survive in the great increasing herds we live in if we attempt to reverse what we have done. If you have climbed out on a great long limb, you just can’t saw it off. I have written about seeing what we have done to the rivers here in the Ozarks.  If we can’t reverse that, what can we reverse?


      Some of my views as a naturalist that has lived close to the earth far from the gret herds inside concrete and pavement for a lot of years will be upcoming.  But so will the hunting and fishing and nostalgia columns readers also like.

I will use your letters in my magazines, whether you agree with me or not.  Just send them to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.


      I don’t live in that town, but it is where I go to get my mail, ten or so miles away.  However, if you email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com, I can read your letters out here in the woods.  Ain’t technology great?  That’s what Grandpa told me he said when they invented the Model T! Until one of them ran into his horse!!


Tuesday, September 8, 2020


Larry Dablemont outdoor column  9-4-20

       Some years back I took a pair of northerners on an Ozark float trip and in mid-afternoon dark clouds began to form to the west, with the ominous roll of thunder in the distance. I knew of a big, deep cave nearby with a dry floor, so I secured the boat in a protected spot and we carried our gear up to the cave.

       One of the men wanted to keep floating, thinking the storm might miss us, and confident that if it didn’t, we could be a least a mile or so downstream before it got to us.

I told him that when on the river in a coming storm, I live by the rule, “It is better to sit in a cave and wait for the storm than to sit in the storm and look for a cave!”  We spent about an hour and a half in the cave that afternoon listening to a raging electrical storm with heavy winds, rain and even some hail. When we left, the skies were clearing and the afternoon calm again.

       A strong fear of lightning is known as keraunophobia, which makes me a keraunophobic. I can endure the rain, and you can prepare somewhat for a tornado no matter where you are, but lightning is unpredictable and awesome in its power. People who ignore the danger of lightning often become part of the statistics.

       For instance, statistics show that lightning kills more people than hurricanes tornadoes or floods. Death from lightning does not always come from a direct strike; it can happen as a result of the spread of voltage through the ground or water.  People in boats on lakes or rivers are perhaps in the greatest danger from lightning, especially if the boat is metal. But there is also great danger to anyone holding a fishing rod or firearm, or anyone taking shelter beneath high trees.  A lightning bolt can be two miles long, and travel at speeds of 400,000 miles per hour, with 100 million volts of electricity and temperatures of 30,000 degrees.  I read that somewhere… I didn’t come up with it through any scientific investigation on my own.

       A half dozen times in my life outdoors I have been within 100 yards of powerful lightning bolts, and when I was a teenager I was flattened by a lightning strike beneath a river bluff as I was heading for its protective shelter. Authorities say that too many people wait for the main burst of the storm before taking shelter from lightning. Casualties seem to be greater during the weaker storms and at the beginning or end of heavier storms, suggesting that less caution is taken when it appears the danger hasn’t yet arrived, or has passed.

       So don’t fool around when you see a storm approaching. Get to the best shelter you can find and don’t “make a run for it” across an open lake or down a river. Lightning does have a good side. It converts nitrogen in the air to an oxide that falls to the earth with the rain and fixes nitrogen in the soil, without which, there would be no green growth.

       I often tell the story of my admiration for mark twain, who was born under the passing of Haley’s Comet, and then died about 80 years later when Haley’s Comet passed a second time, he passed away.  I would like to think he and I had much in common, except for the fact that he never was as good a duck hunter and smallmouth fisherman as I.  But on the night I was born, in a little farmhouse way out in the sticks near Yukon Missouri by the light of a kerosene lantern, a raging thunderstorm was going on and lightning hit the farmhouse just when I came into the world, killing a couple of chickens in the other room!  So, with my figuring that my life parallels Mark Twain’s as it does, I fear that I will leave this world riding a bolt of lightning.  When I see a dark cloud, I marvel that one has not already nailed me, and wonder if that brewing storm may be the one with my name on it.  Mark Twain didn’t have to worry like that because back then; no one had the slightest idea when Haley’s comet was coming back!!

If you aren’t a subscriber to my magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, you are missing some great reading.  Call me at 417 777 5227 and I will sign you up.  To see it and all of my books, (ten in all) visit my website if you haven’t already… www.larrydablemont.com.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com