Friday, October 23, 2020

No Water, No Turkeys

This is the flathead catfish my grandpa caught the night I was born, in October

        It is amazing to me what a drought we have gone through for two months throughout the Ozarks, after the high water from heavy rains in the early summer. Seems like we are living in a day of feast or famine. Down on Norfork and Bull Shoals a couple of months back, I saw some very high water. But last week on Bull Shoals the lake was about 30 feet lower. It looked like they were draining it.

       Same thing up on Truman Lake. A few months ago, it was the highest it has ever been, but now it is as low as I ever saw it. BUT… low water on these reservoirs makes fish easier to find. I remember fishing Bull Shoals years back with a resort owner by the name of Jim Carr in October at night. We fished with big white spinners against bluffs, and let them drop down over ledges into deep water, where smallmouth bass and a few largemouth as well, seemed reluctant to let that spinner pass.

     Those were moonlit nights that were chilly but not cold. Right now as low as the lakes are, I would love to do that again. But it is harder now to start my day early in the morning and still be going strong at midnight. If anyone in Arkansas knows where Jim Carr is, tell him I said hello.

     And if you want to catch catfish now is the time to set trotlines. Truman Lake is a great body of water for that, and so is Norfork. I think Truman has as many catfish per acre, especially the big blues, as any lake in the Midwest. For a while, October’s flathead catfish will feed hungrily to fatten up for winter. On the night I was born in mid-October, many decades ago, my grandfather caught a 72-pound flathead catfish from the Gasconade River.

     Blue catfish and channel catfish can be caught on dead shad or blood bait or many other baits, but flathead are always taken on live sunfish or big chubs, good-sized live baits of any kind or occasionally nightcrawlers or crayfish that are put on a hook live. I have always wondered why that would be, but it is one of many things in nature that seems unexplainable. Of course there are always exceptions to that, but usually you will not catch flatheads on any bait that isn’t alive.


photographed in 2014 near my home, you could hear these old gobblers sound off in the spring until 2016. Now there are none.

     I have hunted wild turkeys in the fall since Rover was a pup. But no more! It is alarming to me that wild turkey flocks have declined so much over the past few years. If you are a hunter, the best thing you can do for wild turkeys is to pass up the fall turkey season. I urge you to do so.

      Right now we need all the turkeys we can get to survive through the winter. Any kind of fall harvest is too much. There aren’t many outdoorsmen who know how bad things are, and I think that our biologists in the Midwest may not have a clue. They keep saying it is due to a poor spring hatch, and that is only a small part of it. In Missouri, there has been no change whatsoever in the turkey seasons or bag limits through the many years of decline, and it is time for that. Consider this…. In 2014 there were 47 thousand gobblers killed in the spring, and 57 hundred killed in the fall. In the spring of 2019 there were only 38 thousand gobblers killed and only 19 hundred killed in the fall. I am afraid the MDC will watch them fade into oblivion before changing anything because they do not want to lose the revenue from turkey tag sales. BUT, with fewer turkeys there will be fewer tags sold.

     Back in 2010 I photographed seven mature toms feeding in my back lawn. In 2014 there were only three, and now there are none. There have been none since 2016. My game cameras last year on my back acreages caught the image of one gobbler last winter, and one hen. In places where wild turkey congregate along rivers in winter fields before spring, I remember seeing flocks of turkeys that would number from 40 to 80. Last winter I never found one flock in those numerous areas that would number more than 20. That folks is really a problem. If I could see any kind of rebound in those numbers the past 8 years it would be a little bit of encouragement, but all I have seen is a steady downtrend. Something needs to be done yesterday! Nothing is being done in Missouri, and I wonder why not. The MDC will never abolish the youth season, which accounts for more illegal kills than anything else. Missouri biologists, depending so much on their telecheck system, have no idea what the actual harvest is, because more and more each year, hunters who have never been violators are starting to just ignore reporting gobblers they take because the telecheck system is being used to target hunters. If you doubt that, read a letter from an enforcement agent on my computer site, Every deer and turkey hunter needs to read that letter. Myself, I will hunt gobblers in the spring with my camera, as I have been doing. But the photos I got so easily years ago are harder and harder to come by. If you have been a fall turkey hunter, I urge you to do something else this fall. Squirrel hunting is good and fall fishing can be fantastic.

      This week is the last week you can get a free copy of my Ozarks magazine in the mail. To do so you need to call or write and give me an address to send it to. Call my office at 417 777 5227 or email me at Or write to me at Box 22 Bolivar, Mo 65613. I have a website which you might want to see also…. Just

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Common Sense Climate Change


living off the land in the far north country of Canada... not another soul withing a hundred miles


Larry Dablemont column… 10-12-20


         My dad and I had lots of talks on river gravel bars; from the time I was a boy to the years after I had kids of my own.  I remember in particular, a time in the fall when I was home from college, talking about the education I was getting.  


         “An education ain’t worth much,” Dad told me, “if you don’t have common sense to go with it.  I’ve got to say that in what I have seen in my time, it is common sense that I’d value most.” 


         “But I would say too” he continued, “that a man who has both and uses them right is the man who’s ahead of all the rest.” 


         I have always hoped that men could see a little of both in what I write, and I have not written at all about this thing we call climate change.  I see it and I recognize it, but it is an ‘earth change’, and little more.  Maybe it is a progression that comes from greatly increasing numbers of humans and their livestock.  I suspect that is the case, and if so there is nothing we can do about it in congress or the Supreme Court, or even in church.


         A little common sense is needed, and very hard to find today.  But what is coming is coming!  Men might be able to stop a speeding meteor from hitting the earth with a speeding missile, but a slow, slow change that is eventually either catastrophic or of no consequence cannot be stopped.


          Humans WILL progress and repopulate.  There will in time be too many of us to say ‘let’s save our forests’, or ‘let’s save our rivers.’  Where men live in masses, there can’t be clean air or clean water.  Change won’t be in our hands, no matter how much that overused word is sought.


         There will never be less concrete and pavement in those places, unless a great catastrophe occurs, to bring human populations well down from what it is now. Men flock together in such huge cities, predominantly for material gain, greater knowledge, greater power.


         A few who live in remote spots where they are close to a natural world do so to have peace and freedom and a satisfaction from living with what they have, disdaining more money or more things. And they love not being part of the herd.  I grew up amongst some very poor people who lived that way. They believed that life was too short to waste on material things, which deteriorate. They believed heaven was a real place, and I saw a happiness and contentment then that most of the world today seems to have lost.  I think they and their time is far behind us, that philosophy of life forgotten.


         But… make no mistake… the earth IS changing. It is going too far to say that it is going to be unlivable if we don’t rid ourselves of fossil fuels.  Shooting one rat in the grain bin don’t do much good if you have 20 more beneath the barn you are oblivious to. 


         What if the sun is just edging a tiny bit closer to the earth? Or is it vice versa? How many people know the answer to that?  I grew up with old time Ozarkians who didn’t.  But they didn’t care one way or another, they just worried about why springs were drying up, or why the hoot owls were getting so thick or why the hens weren’t laying eggs… or when it was going to rain, or when the snow was  going to melt.  Life was simple, but life was good.  I know. I was there.


         As a naturalist, living with and studying the natural world for five decades, I see things that fascinate me that I cannot explain. I’ll write about that here too in future columns. I saw the time when the earth was a giant sponge, which soaked up and held the rain and melting snow, and now it has become a giant rock that holds no moisture. The rain falls and leaves in a hurry. Hasn’t anyone noticed the results of that… the floods that come?


         In recent years I have seen some Ozark rivers at the highest levels ever and then soon after at the lowest levels ever recorded. That cannot be reversed now.  But if we look for reasons that there is a gradual heating of the earth, we have to look at the millions of acres of concrete and pavement, which holds and increases the sun’s heat.  Is that possibly the reason that heat is melting the ice caps?  Who amongst the climate change experts, talks about that?


         What climate will become it will become, and we might as well live the life we have chosen and give it no more thought.  Tomorrow is not changeable now… maybe it never was.  But I don’t think it is wise to build back a house on sand where a hurricane raged.  Worse ones are to come. I don’t think it is wise to live where floods leveled the land, or in California where the fires will only get worse. But men will do that, they always have.


         That’s what I think, but what do I know? Maybe I have too much commons sense and too little education.  We cannot fight what great populations of men cause, but here in rural, Midwestern country, we can live without so many consequences.  Problem is, the people from New York and Chicago and California are going to flee what they have created, and they will come here, where they will want to create what they left.  More concrete and pavement is coming everywhere!  And when the sun is hot, you can’t live on concrete and pavement, even if there are no fossil fuels and the air is clean.


         As much as I love the Ozarks, if I were young right now I would go to the land of northern lights.  I have seen that land of northern Manitoba and Northwest Ontario, and Saskatchewan and Alberta.  It is land much like God made it. It is land where few men are found.  But people there are much like the Ozarkians I knew as a boy. It is a place where men will survive the catastrophe, which is coming. And it is someplace where a little global warming might be welcomed!!!



Monday, October 12, 2020

What To Do About Webworms



Larry Dablemont outdoor column 10-5-20

        A couple of years back, I talked about a surefire way to destroy fall webworms by using a long pole with a newspaper page or two taped to the end.  What I do is set fire to the paper, hold it up beneath the webs and burn the worms inside. 

         Shortly after my column came out, a Springfield-office media specialist for the Department of Conservation wrote that such a technique should never be used because it might ‘damage the tree’.  He recommended using chemicals. 

         Damage trees?!!!  What nonsense! The silliness of that amazes me. You couldn’t possible damage a tree with that flame beneath a web. Where there is a web, the leaves are mostly gone.  But actually fall webworms really never harm trees.  I have seen them so thick on persimmon trees you would think there would be irreparable harm but there never is. 


      I am only affected by those webworms which get into my hickory tree over my boat or pickup and leave millions of little round pellet droppings which result from the leaves they strip passing through their larval bodies.  Eventually the adult stage is a small white moth with little black dots on the wings.  That moth is commonly called a Mulberry moth, or Hyphantria.  It is the moth-larvae that is known as fall webworms. 

         They are not tent caterpillars; those are spring larvae from a different moth that build similar webs, but always at the end of branches… a different insect entirely.

        Anyway, if you have tent caterpillars you want to get rid of close to your home, just use a long pole and newspaper wrapped around the tip to burn them.  Despite what that office-bound suburbanite MDC media-specialist who gets his knowledge from the Internet wrote, it WILL NOT damage the tree.  Chemicals have been known however, to damage people.  MY ADVICE IS DON’T USE THEM!!


       The difference between outdoor writers of my time years back and the ‘outdoor communicators’ of today is that the old-time writers lived the life, did what they wrote about, and learned via study and observation from their own experiences rather than the internet or books.  I never knew a good outdoor writer (and I have known some great ones) who grew up in a suburb or city.  But then, the people who read what today’s ‘media specialists’ and ‘outdoor communicators’ write, too often believe everything they read. If only they knew.         

       There is much I see today written about nature and the outdoors that is very, very erroneous. Or as the old rivermen in the pool hall might have put it, in more colorful terms… it is a product involving the droppings of male cattle.  


      Ozark outdoorsman Don Lynch is a good friend of mine living down near Yellville, Arkansas who loves bird dogs and quail hunting. He is really upset about the burning of a tract of public land that is suppose to be an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s quail restoration area.  Last week they burned it off, completely eliminating the winter escape cover and any food the plants might offer. 


       “I don’t think they have any idea what they are doing.” He told me, “the hawks are going to have easy pickings this winter if any quail cross that burned over land.” 

         I think Don is right.  He says they have a big sign there saying, ‘Bring Back Bob’.  If you are interested in restoring a population of quail, you don’t burn land off in October, destroying the cover that will get them through the coming winter.

        Last year they burned it off in July,” he said,  “and I told them, for gosh sakes there are still nests coming off and young quail there… They were surprised to hear that.  They told me they wouldn’t do that anymore in the summer!” 

         I asked him if the burners were biologists and he said he had no idea what they called themselves.


Sometimes burning can be a tool for helping quail if done in March in order to bring back new spring growth for food and nesting which will begin in late April and May and continue into late summer.  But if you have some idea of helping quail, you sure as heck don’t burn off the plant life that will help them survive the winter.  By doing that, you only help predators, and high numbers of egg eaters and hawks are part of the reason quail have declined.  I hope to see the area Lynch has told me about, and take some pictures.  I’ll write more about quail in a future column.

      Retired Arkansas wildlife biologist Michael Widner, who grew up on an Ozark farm, wrote a book about quail that I wish those habitat burners working for them now, had read.  If you are a quail hunter or simply someone wanting to see their return in appreciable numbers, read his book.  To get a copy, call our office at 417 777 5227 or email me at  


 I also urge you to see my website,  And you can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.