Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas Socks

Grandma and Grandpa McNew's family, including me, in the '50s

       I am going to give some money to needy families to buy presents for kids, not because I have to, but because I want to. It won’t be much because I don’t have a lot to give. It will be a greater reward for me than it will be for those few underprivileged kids. Thank goodness there aren’t so many poor kids today as there was when I was a boy! 

     If I was only rich, poor kids all over the Ozarks would get dolls and guns and holsters to play with!  But the average kids today get so much for Christmas that they really don't have the time to give much of it any attention except those little boxes they work with their thumbs. It's nothing like it was when I was a boy, when I use to have to walk 3 miles to school in the snow because the battery was dead on the old school bus and the driver had drunk too much eggnog the night before!!!

     But back then there was common sense and simplicity left in this world. For instance, I just lived for a new gun and holster and a cowboy hat at Christmas when I was five or six. Nowadays, if a little kid has a toy gun, somebody is scared to death he'll point it at someone and go "bang-bang", like I and thousands of other little boys born during the days of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers did.       

       Here we are in an age when no kid can have a toy gun and look what's happening. Maybe somebody is overlooking something. It might not be toy guns that created the monsters. And there will be more of them every year, because there are fewer manger scenes allowed in schools today and every kid has a black box and access to games where you kill people.


    My cousins and I built forts and took our toy guns out and played cowboys and outlaws all the time and none of us ever held up a convenience store or a bank when we grew up. The closest thing we did to criminalism was when me and the McNew boys went into the Brown Hill country school before the evening church services and drank all the chocolate milk in the new refrigerator!


By the time we were 11 or 12, we all carried Barlowe pocketknives we had got for Christmas, to school and back home each day, and yes, we all cut our fingers a time or two, but nothing that left a scar. If Grandpa gave us a Christmas present, it was maybe something he made. When I was the age of my grandson, I was tickled to get two good Christmas presents under the tree, and everything I got was used hard in my effort to catch bad guys and herd cattle like they did on the Saturday afternoon movies at the theatre in town.

     There wasn't much quantity to life for a kid in the Ozarks in the ‘50's and 60’s, but brother, did we have some quality. On Christmas day at Grandpa's house, all of us boy cousins (14 total) got together and had one heck of a time without toys because our folks wouldn't let us bring anything.  They had paid too much money for those gun-and -holster sets and cowboy hats to let one of those rowdy cousins get their hands on them. 

    We didn't need toys anyway when we got together on Christmas, we'd go down to the pond and throw dried persimmons at each other, then walnuts, then rocks. Finally we'd have the doggonedest dinner you ever saw in that little 4-room farm house and my Dad and Uncles would sit around and talk about somebody's pick-up motor or the best coon dog they remembered or something of that sort. By late afternoon, when Aunt Margie and Aunt Erma and Aunt Ruth and Aunt Mildred and Mom and Grandma all got the kitchen in order, we'd all come in and get our presents from beneath the tree from Grandma, which almost always was a pair of socks.  Then we'd watch our uncles open their presents, almost always a pair of socks or some brown cloth gloves.  

       Of course back in those days, there were lots of sock colors and designs so it wasn't like everything was the same.  There was some excitement in comparing whose socks looked the most different.  Then Grandma and Grandpa would open their presents and they'd get all sorts of good things. Lord knows there was so much they needed.  I remember thinking that the people who did the best at Christmas were grandparents, because their kids all had jobs and could buy good presents for them, and they had lots of kids.


       I am thinking there sure enough is a heaven somewhere and an old farmhouse where Christmas dinners are held with my uncles and aunt’s and grandparents who died years ago, and those cousins who have joined them in a grand reunion and a celebration of the birthday of Jesus.  Wouldn’t it be something if Christ himself could come on occasion to talk about his boyhood?  


      I can’t envision heaven. I don’t even try.  But that scenario would be wonderful, without the technology that is destroying this world now.  I miss my cousins.  It wouldn’t be so bad to have a big dinner together without the presence of or a thought to any darned computers. I know there can’t be violence in heaven but it would be nice to have a big pond with plenty of persimmons just for the good memories.  And maybe  some beautifully colored socks in packages beneath a decorated Ozark cedar tree.


Sunday, December 19, 2021

Christmas Cards for the Outdoor Family


       I found some really nice Christmas cards this past week at the local dollar store, although now, due to the way things are improving in our country it is now called the dollar-and-a-half-store.  They don’t have a sporting goods counter.  If they did, I’d never have to shop anywhere else.  

       I wanted some cards with ducks or deer on them, but those I found have wild birds on them, and a ‘Merry Christmas’ message inside instead of the ‘happy holidays’ message which is meant to not offend anyone. I wish I could send all you grizzled old veteran  outdoorsmen and other readers one of these cards, but I can’t afford the postage because so much of my December budget goes into shotgun shells and dog food. The cost of those shells has sky-rocketed but fortunately they haven’t hurt me much economically because I can’t find any. I hunted ducks last week with a half box of 12-gauge Sears Roebuck shells I found in my sock drawer, which  I had bought in the 70’s and had lost until I ran out of clean socks.

       Actually, the cards are only about ten cents apiece, which is a real bargain.  I am using them to send a notice to people who are getting one of my books or a magazine subscription as a Christmas gift from someone else.  There’ll be one of those Christmas cards inside their gift with a handwritten note telling them how lucky they are to have a relative or friend sending them a magazine subscription or one of my books as a Christmas gift, and reminding them they ought to send something real nice back if they have time.  

       Mrs. Wiggins, the executive secretary here at the Lightnin’ Ridge Publishing company’s main office, (and only office) really blasted me for getting those Christmas cards at a discount dollar store, saying that it will make people think we are cheap.   But I pointed out to her that no one getting those cards will know they are cheap, since the readers of my newspaper column are the kind of people who never would go to an economy type of store anyway.  People who read my books and magazines go to up-town places like Macy’s and J.C. Penney and Sears-Roebuck, where they would never see those economy Christmas cards.  After all they aren’t sold just anywhere.

And anyhow, no card with cardinals and redheaded woodpeckers is cheap looking! But even though I can’t send you one of these cards unless you buy one of my books, I want you to know that I hope you are about to have a very good, restful, peaceful and happy Christmas, with a wild goose casserole or a venison roast or maybe a half dozen quail cooked in that new crock-pot you got for your wife.  And I hope you can remember what Christmas originally was about. 

In the interest of keeping Christmas holy and peaceful and not wearing myself completely out, I will do my shopping at the Dollar General Store and another place like it called Fred’s Dollar-and-a-half Store, on the day before Christmas when so many items are placed on sale and the crowds seem to thin down a little and there are less chances of me acting like an atheist while caught in some gosh-awful traffic jam.  Most of the things I have done that I am most ashamed of have taken place in crowded stores or traffic jams.  I think God is proudest of me when I am relaxed and calm, out in the woods somewhere where there’s no one but me.  And I really do not think, when God created mankind, that he completely understood what we could become while Christmas shopping or dealing with Christmas traffic.  Certainly he never envisioned the morning after Thanksgiving at the local shopping mall, when men and women turn into wild-eyed creatures not at all resembling someone from a church choir.

Mrs. Wiggins, who will not get a Christmas present from me anyway because of the large Christmas bonus she always gets, has often suggested that by waiting until the day before Christmas, I might find the supply of goods limited.  I have pointed out to her that no store, wanting to make a  small fortune from shoppers, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, will let themselves run out of things.  What they do is, they sort of panic the day before Christmas because they have so much left over and they start slashing prices.  And that is how I got Gloria Jean that ten-dollar pair of earrings a few years back for only two dollars and fifty cents, and a sweater that said, “Merry Christmas” across the front of it for only five dollars! 

       But getting back to those really nice Christmas cards, you can get one sent to you if you call me and arrange to have me send one of my books to someone you don’t want to spend a lot of money on.  Perhaps I would change the wording on them from “Have a Merry Christmas” to something like,  “This is the season in which all men have been given hope… by the birth of a baby named Jesus, sent by God to show us all a better way!”

 When I was a small kid and the world was a slower, simpler place, that was what Christmas meant to most everyone in the Ozarks.

       Call me at 417 777 5227. Even if you don’t want a book. We can talk about global warming or what has happened to all the turkeys. You can email me at I still have a website too… And another thing, I am in bad need of new writers for my outdoor and Ozark magazines in 2022.




Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Beagles and Cottontails



    For most of two hours, the little beagle had struck trail after trail, and hotly pursued a half dozen cottontails in circles that wound around broom sedge, cedar thickets and patches of briar and sumac. 

    I found a brush pile with a log in the top of it and carefully situated myself atop the mass of branches, many of which sported long, sharp locust thorns.  I faced west and the little beagle pushed the cottontail toward me from the north. But the rabbit veered left and I caught a glimpse of him coming down a trail to the east of my brush pile, about to pass behind me.

   There was no way to turn, I could do little more than swing my 20 gauge with my right arm, lead him a little and squeeze off an awkward one-hand shot.  To my surprise, the cottontail tumbled, intercepted by a wide pattern at 25 yards.  There wasn't much recoil but I nearly lost my balance and pitched into the locust thorns.  My friend, who was watching, was laughing at my gyrations atop the brush pile, but he couldn't believe it when I retrieved the cottontail.

       It seems almost certain that when God was creating the animals of the earth, he made beagles right after he made cottontails.   Without the cottontail, what would a beagle have to live for? 

    Actually beagles developed for hunting purposes a few hundred years.  The ancestors of the modern beagle were brought to America between 1860 and 1870 but they were larger dogs, probably used more to trail deer than rabbits. In fact, even today there are two sizes of beagles recognized, the 13-inch dog, and the 15-inch dog. Taller beagles are still used in much of the south and southeast to trail deer. The shorter ones are popular in the Midwest where running deer with dogs is illegal but chasing rabbits is not.

    The shorter and slower the beagle, the better the results as a rabbit hound. The reason for that is ... a cottontail prefers not to leave his home area and he runs in a circle when pursued. Eventually, he'll come back around to the thicket or briar patch where he was originally scented and put to flight.  If he is hotly pursued, he runs harder and the circle is much larger and wider.  If he feels pushed, in danger of being caught, he'll look for hollow logs or holes in the ground. 

    Trailed slowly and methodically, the rabbit will hop along at a medium gait, and travel a much smaller circle. The advantages of hunting with a good beagle are obvious; you'll see more rabbits and you'll have a second chance at many, because the beagle continues the chase and the cottontail will meander and circle again over a new trail which will likely bring him near the waiting hunter again.

     If you hunt rabbits without a beagle, you will jump some ahead of you and never see them, simply because they hear you coming. With snow on the ground you can track cottontails but even then you'll see far fewer than you'll find with a beagle.  The little hound can track them with or without snow.  Hunters, who jump-shoot cottontails get hasty, close shots at rapidly fleeing rabbits and the back legs too often catch too much shot, ruining the hindquarters as far as table value. Rabbits taken by waiting hunters as they are trailed by beagles can be head shot. Some hunters take them with a .22 rifle when they hunt with dogs.

    But if you ask any beagle enthusiast, he'll tell you that finding more rabbits and getting better shots is not the main reason he hunts with a beagle.  It’s the music of the chase, and until you've heard a brace of beagles baying on the trail of cottontail, you haven't really heard music. It is a song of elation... of pure, free excitement, from a little hound that never stops to think that he is engaged in a chase of futility. He'll never catch a cottontail but he is rewarded by the hot scent of his quarry and enthralled with the job of untangling a twisting trail before it becomes cold. 

    The best thing about a beagle is...he doesn't need much training. He either has the nose and the ambition to trail or he doesn't. It seems that most of them figure out their purpose in life when they see their first rabbit.  He's the perfect hunting companion for someone who doesn't have the time or temperament to train a dog. And his own temperament is perfect for a family environment.   

    The beagle is gentle and calm at home, great with children.  But in the field he is in search of a trail to follow and that singleness of purpose makes him something to behold.  Still and all, to know a beagle you have to hear him and feel the excitement in his voice. You have to stand on a stump in a briar and broom sedge field and listen and watch and wait as the chase goes on.

   If it's too cold, with daytime temperatures under 20 degrees, rabbits will often hole up and move little. If the temperature gets above 30, but stays below 40, that's when hunting is best.  And it's good to have a little snow because cottontails are easier to see, moving through the cover against a white background.  But a beagle doesn’t have to see the rabbit.  His reward is inhaling the hot scent on the trail, and as he finds it, he sings that song of elation that men who hunt cottontails love to hear.  When there are two or three beagles together, it is a fascinating chorus, you want to hear again and again.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Gentlemanly Sort of Outdoorsman


Gloria Jean many long years ago

       Back about the end of October I spent a day and fishing with a lady.  I recommend that very thing for all you grizzled old veteran outdoorsmen, if you can find any ladies which will indeed go fishing with you.  Its kind of a nice change from your regular buddies.

Since the weather had been unseasonably warm for I suspected that the fishing would uncommonly good and I was right.  I took this lady I have known for some time on a fishing trip, up the river to some shoals I know about where the smallmouth and largemouth are congregating, gorging themselves in preparation for harder times which goes along with colder weather.  

       Knowing her as I do, I have never known this particular lady to use casting gear, which most bass fishermen in quest of lunkers are wont to do, because of her aversion to backlashes.  Instead, she likes to use a spin-casting outfit so I fixed her up a medium-light spinning rig with 6-pound line. I tied on a spinner bait worth about 3 dollars, and asked myself if I wanted this younger and far less experienced lady I was with to lose something worth that much to a rock on the bottom or a submerged log in swift water.  It seemed wise to tie on a more economical suspending Rogue, since I have several, and can acquire more at a local thrifty junk shop for fifty cents each.

       The suspending Rogue is a lure that doesn’t float, though it is made much like the floating Rapalas and Rebels shaped something like a long minnow.  It sinks down very slowly and stays up off the bottom, therefore making it more difficult to hang up.  I told her to fish it with jerks and twitches and try not to bother me with questions while I was landing any fish.  And shortly afterward I heard something splashing around behind me and I’ll be darned if she didn’t have a nice smallmouth on that doggone Rogue.  Who’d a thunk it?

       Sometimes you take someone who you figure isn’t going to distract you much from your fishing, and they start catching fish right and left, and that is pretty much what happened for awhile.  I figured eventually I would start hauling them in on my spinner bait, and about that time my lovely feminine guest sees the remains of an old rock building up on the hillside above us.  Suddenly she wants to see it a whole lot worse than she wants to catch fish.

       Women are like that.  They are always getting something romantic in their head about how some old barn or broken down cabin akin to a little home in the woods where someone once grew magnolias and roses and had a husband who looked like Clark Gable.  They get that from sitting around reading romance novels.

       Well, I guess it was the romantic side of me that caused me to agree to tie the boat to a sycamore root and help her up that steep bank trying to keep her from falling in the river, just so she could see that old shack and carry on about finding some pretty rock.  The whole thing amounted to me getting mud in my boat and skinning my elbow and losing a good thirty minutes of prime fishing time.  I displayed a gentlemanly nature and refused to complain.

       An hour later, after watching her little spinning rod bent double on another 16 or 17-inch bass, I took her lure and tied it on my line, and found another one in the tackle box for her to use.  

       That particular lady has always been awfully lucky.  On her honeymoon, she caught her limit of rainbow trout and mine too, before I landed one fish. Lucky for her I was there to bait her hook. But even luck can’t explain how that evening last month I expertly cast my lure around a log three or four times and caught nothing and she cast hers at it and didn’t even get close and a big largemouth inhaled it.  He fought all around the boat, jumping out of the water twice, still keeping the hooks in his mouth.  It was twenty inches long… I think maybe the biggest largemouth she ever caught. How she ever landed that thing I will never know.

       There are some good things about taking a younger woman fishing. But if she is anything like Gloria Jean, don’t let her back the trailer in the water.  Just have her go off somewhere and look for flowers while you get that done.

       I just wanted to let all you ladies who referred to me as a chauvinist just because I once said that female bass were easy to tell from the males because they are fatter when they get older and easier to fool, that my daughters think I am a fine example of what men ought to be.  Gloria Jean probably would prefer me to be a little more like Clark Gable, which I ain’t.  I guess I am a little more like John Wayne.


My website is


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Grouse hunting


Canadian Grouse


        If you don’t see one close up, I don’t know that you would describe the male ruffed grouse as a beautiful bird.  They are a little bit drab.


       They are a bird of thick undergrowth in heavy forests. Before the time of intense logging of pines all through the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks about 150 years ago, they thrived throughout these timbered hills.  But the ruffed grouse can’t live with people and agriculture.


       They aren’t wild and wary like the quail and the pheasant.  They are birds that were once called fool hens because they trusted people too much.  They often ran around on the shaded ground of the Ozark thickets right before the guns of hunters, or perhaps flew up into a nearby tree to look at them only a few yards away.

       I never saw a ruffed grouse in the Ozarks, but I love to hunt them in Canada in the fall. This past October, with the northern woods ablaze in color, Tinker Helseth and I headed down an old gravel road in my pickup, in Northwest Ontario, to find one of those trails local Indians have made to run their ATV’s back to small lakes where they trapped minnows to sell to bait shops.


       You can’t hunt grouse by just setting out through the woods in Canada.  A weasel can hardly get through those thickets!  Grouse can, but you can’t. But they love those trails because some clover and undergrowth buds are easily found there. 

    Gloria Jean and I, with my Labrador, Rambunctious, used to walk those trails. The Lab would find the birds just off the trails and he learned to circle them and flush them out into the open. The hunting was absolutely great, right out of some 1930's outdoor magazine. In three or four hours we always got a limit, even in those years when they went through the low part of their population cycles, which seems to occur every seven years.

But my Labrador that I have now just turned a year of age and I didn’t take him to Canada this year.  Next year perhaps, after he gets a lot of experience hunting ducks.


      Tinker and I never made it to the trails I wanted to walk.  Before we were a mile into the bush there was a ruffed grouse, feeding in the grass in the middle of the road. He just sat there, 50 yards away, so at Tinker’s urging I got out the shotgun, loaded it and walked toward the grouse.  I got to within 25 yards of the darn bird and he wouldn’t fly.  Walking into the heavy cover beside the road, he just disappeared.  So I walked in behind him, ready for him to fly.  He didn’t, he just disappeared.


      I killed 4 grouse that morning by hunting them like they were rabbits back home.  Only one grouse flew after he scurried into the underbrush and ran behind a rock. I shot at him and missed him!  I shot the others as they scurried along into thickets or as just as they sat there and looked at me.  One time I had to back up a few yards because he was so close and yet about to disappear into thick cover, logs and boulders.

    It reminded me of when I was a boy in the pool hall and I chastised Ol’ Jim for shooting two mallards with one shell as they sat on a farm pond.  I told him that wasn’t ‘sportin’!  He looked at me disgustedly and said, “I shoot pool for sport, boy… I shoot mallards for eatin’!

        I had a great time fishing and hunting back in Canada, but as far as grouse hunting, at least this last trip, I shot grouse for eatin’.  Tinker thought that is what we were out there for. But next year I intend to take my young Lab and walk those trails like I did with the pup’s great grandfather years ago.         


      You might enjoy seeing my photos of Canadian grouse hunting over the years on this website…


      Oh by the way, ruffed grouse are great eating, distinctively flavored. You just brown them in a buttered skillet, then cook them in a crockpot for hours, seasoned and simmered with mushroom and celery soup.

This is a little bit different.  Near Hermitage MO, there is a beautiful, tame fox with a collar on, obviously an escaped pet.  It looks nothing like a grey or red fox, undoubtedly a cross between perhaps a red fox and arctic fox. What a beauty it is.  I will put its photo on that blogspot of mine too.

       Fur farms raise these foxes, making a lot of money from the furs. They sometimes sell the kits (babies).  Game Wardens in the Hermitage area try to catch it but can’t.  They tell folks they are sure it has distemper, which is ridiculous.  Apparently they have never seen and animal with distemper! 


      Anyways, no one will ever catch the animal even though it is domesticated, without knowing how to lure it into a live trap. You can only do that with some know-how and effort, with some sardines and a very well concealed cage-type live trap.


       Next week I will tell you more about foxes, and why you cannot possibly make a pet out of any species of fox.       

       All my books and magazines can be seen on  They make economical Christmas gifts for those who like to read.                            

Monday, November 15, 2021

Known by many names


Sick doe


       I will end what I have been writing about what is known as “Chronic Wasting Disease” by saying that it should not be called that anymore, nor by any other of a half dozen common names used to describe it.  When found in deer and elk, it is ‘Spongiform Encephalopathy’, which occurs in several mammals, INCLUDING MAN.  You CAN get it from eating the meat of infected cattle, sheep, goats, elk or deer!


       If anyone dies from it, doctors or coroners can only tell they have it by finding what they call prions, in the brain or spinal fluid through an extensive autopsy.  Those who die from it are very often misdiagnosed as dying from some other disease, because prions are not looked for.  But I will repeat what I said in my last column… a study of brain samples of approximately 300 people who died from what was thought to be Alzheimer’s disease” showed that’s about 10 percent of them had prions in the brain.

       Let me add that doctors don’t know all the answers yet to this disease… but none of them will tell you that human’s cannot get it from eating diseased animal meat.  Thousands have died from eating cattle in England with spongiform encephalopathy, known commonly as ‘mad cow disease’.  If you talk to those who know the disease, they will tell you that there are variations in prions and that one variation may not be a problem for anything but animals.


       That was what game and fish departments once told hunters.  They wanted to convince them not to worry about getting the prions from elk and deer.  THAT CONCEPT IS BLATANTLY UNTRUE!  If you are making millions from selling elk and deer tags, you are scared to death that the truth will cut into your revenue.

I tell hunters “ don’t believe what I am telling you or what conservation departments have said in the past, just to study the disease as much as possible and do the things that protect you AFTER you have killed the deer.  I covered that in last week’s column.  You should have your deer checked after killing it, before you start gutting it and for certain, before you begin to process it.

         Do not eat any untested deer.  I would never take a deer to a processing plant, because they process hundreds of untested deer.  What if there were diseased deer processed before yours.  What if you get someone else’s deer meat mixed with yours.  Think it never happens in those places? If there ever was a higher chance of getting prions into your system it is through those “share your harvest programs”.  In a later column, I will tell you things about those venison distribution programs you do not know, and you need to know.  It is just as much a “get rid of everything but the antlers” program so trophy hunters can dump venison they do not want without breaking the law against wanton waste of wildlife.

       To get confirmation about much of what I say here, go to the Internet and read all you can about it.  You are going to be surprised that those who study it do not say what you are being told by those who want more deer tags to be sold each year.  And do you wonder why then, that there are no articles in newspapers about those who have died from the disease, like Mrs. Schroeder’s husband.  That’s Taboo for the news media.  You read in this column last week about the researchers who are trying to find out more about spongiform encephalopathy who have died from it.  You’ll read about that nowhere else!

    Now let me add that about 75 percent of the deer disease they want to call chronic wasting disease shows up in older bucks, almost never in young deer, and seldom in female deer.  That is why I urge you, if you kill a buck, to use good heavy up-to-the-elbow rubber gloves when you clean it and GET IT TESTED!

And never eat venison someone else gives you!  Read, study and know the truth.

Next week, hunting the ruffed grouse.


If you know folks who like to read about the outdoors, tell them about the new books and magazines on my website, and read past columns of mine on   You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at

Sunday, November 14, 2021

What IS the Truth About a Horrible Disease


       It is called spongiform encephalopathy and it amounts to little more than malformed proteins called prions, getting into the brain.  That’s what it is, period!!  You can call it chronic wasting disease, mad cow disease, scrapies, Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease… whatever.  But it is a malady involving those ‘prions’ in whatever variants there are, getting into the brain. 


       A few years ago, a little over 300 brain samples from people who had died and were diagnosed as Alzheimer disease victims.  There were prions found in more than 30 of those brain samples, meaning they had died of what the disease is called when found in humans--Creutzfeldt-Jacobs’ Disease…(which IS Spongiform Encephalopathy) and had been misdiagnosed. If you talk to the right people, especially those who are afraid they will lose lots of money if there is a scare among deer and elk hunters that it is a danger to humans, they will tell you that humans cannot get the disease from deer and elk, only from cattle. That is not true! I know seven people died of prion infestation in Arkansas in 2019 and one was a taxidermist.  He wasn’’t mounting cow heads!

        So I will repeat… the disease, whether the prions vary in shape or not, is Spongiform Encephopathy, and you sure as heck can get it from a deer that has it!  In research I have done on the disease, I have talked to people whose relatives have died from the prions in their brain, which they got from eating deer.  And if you talk to the conservation people hoping they don’t sell fewer deer tags because hunters learn the truth, they will tell you….Prove it!!  How do you know that person didn’t get the disease from sheep, cows, goats, antelope, or buffalo? 

        And no one CAN prove it… prions are prions. But what has happened in French and Italian Labs where they are studying the prions, might make any hunter cautious about eating deer meat.  Lab workers have died simply because they ran a prion-filled needle through rubber gloves into their fingers, and from that, developed spongiform encepalopathy and died from a prion infestation in their brains which developed.  One of the two died within a short time, but the other lab worker died of the disease thirteen years later.

       I had a sad conversation only a few years ago with a lady from Camdenton who told me that her husband died from the human name for Spongiform Encephalopathy, known as Cruetzfeldt-Jakobs disease. Her name was Carol Schroeder. Her husband’s death was due to the same horrible disease that biologists call ‘chronic wasting disease’ in deer and elk, determined by the Center for Disease Control in Atllanta Georgia. He had died in a St.Louis hospital in a quarantined room and that his body was taken to the crematory by police escort to be sure that if any accident occurred on the way his body would not be handled by unknowing first responders.  All that was set up and controlled by the CDC, not local doctors.

       “I never believed in assisted suicide,” she told me, but I would have given anything if it could have happened for my poor husband.” Mrs Schroeder told me.  “It took him two months to die and what he went through, what I saw as his brain deteriorated, I cannot even talk about it to this day.”  

       Deer hunters and those who eat venison, need to hear from Mrs. Schroeder and others who have witnessed Spongiform Encephalopathy, people like Bill Zippro from Joplin who lost his brother to the disease the year after his brother killed a big-antlered buck that didn’t seem to be wild. He thinks it had been released from a nearby pen-raised deer facility, after they saw it was sick and wanted to protect other deer in their operation. 

        If you want to hunt deer, do it.  I won’t! Not ever again. I have learned too much about the prions. I can’t say one way or another in any uncertain manner if deer hunters are in danger of getting the disease. I CAN give some sound, solid advice… NEVER eat venison that someone else has killed and butchered, and though it was an accepted thing to do for years past, DO NOT EAT DEER MEAT THAT COMES FROM THE ‘SHARE YOUR HARVEST PROGRAM which the MDC has carried forth for years and years. You cannot be sure there are no prions in that meat you receive.


       Have any deer tested BEFORE YOU GUT IT!   If you disregard that advice, DO NOT clean a deer shot in the spinal column or brain.  Don’t cut through any bone; just cut the meat off the carcass without causing any cuts or damage to the spinal column or any bone marrow.  And don’t even touch any deer that appears to be sick, or acting strangely.

       Next week, as deer season begins, I will write more about what I have learned through investigating this disease and what is being learned about it.  I will still have an article on grouse hunting soon, as I said I would last week, but right now I think some more info on deer and the prion disease needs to come forth.  You will not hear any of this anywhere else in the news media.  Many newspapers will not print this column, as the conservation departments do not approve of it.  It might result in fewer deer tags being sold.

        My fall magazines, one on the outdoors, and one on the history of the Ozarks, are finished… 82 pages, all color.  If you want to see past magazine issues and the eleven books I have written, go to my website, If you want to order any of them you should call me at 417 777 5227. Photos and past columns are found on

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Canada Goose—In Canada. (photos of trumpeter swans, grouse I got, and fish we caught)


     When I was in Nestor Falls, Northwest Ontario in October, I stayed about ten days. Besides fishing by myself, I spent some time with Tinker Helseth's son-in-law, Dallas Mosbeck, who like Tinker is a bush pilot and Lake of the Woods hunting and fishing guide. 


Dallas with his Canadian goose

  One morning I got up at 4:30 and went goose hunting with him about an hour north of the Canada border and an hour south of Nestor Falls.

    I have hunted geese for many years in Manitoba crop fields, but that country is a different world altogether. Most of northwest Ontario is heavy forest, but in the south part of that province there are quite a few fields interspersed amongst the expanse of trees and lakes, where permanent pasture and a few cropfields are found.
And with them, lots of geese.

To hunt Canada geese there, Dallas purchased blinds that lie flat on the ground, well camouflaged, with decoys all around them. I figure with those two blinds and likely two- dozen of the most realistic goose decoys I have ever seen, he likely has 500 dollars or so invested in goose hunting.  

realistic decoys

But it was a morning to remember, as every ten minutes or so a flock of 10 to 20 geese came gliding in over us, honking away, sometimes only 15 or 20 feet above us. Let me say right here that those coffin-like blinds are much better for sleeping than they are for shooting out of. I napped a little in the warm summer-like sunshine. 

      I also missed my share of easy shots because the geese can get the heck out of there in a hurry when you fling the lid on that blind open. But the limit is five geese and in three hours and twenty shells, which today cost about a dollar and a quarter apiece, Dallas and I brought down 6 geese that morning and it was a hunt to remember.  

     But he and I saw something amazing that morning when a young mallard flew past and from out of nowhere a peregrine falcon nailed him from above and drove him into the ground. There was high grass there and somehow the falcon lost the duck in the grass. He soared around diving and sweeping over the area, and eventually winged away. An hour later I walked over to see if the duck was dead and could not find him. But suddenly, from underneath a green clump of high pasture grass, the young drake, not even close to having his winter plumage sprang to flight as if he hadn’t been hurt.  

     I’d like to think he will soar over my decoys here on some Ozarks water, in full winter color, and I will have him for dinner, just like that peregrine falcon meant to do. The way I was shooting in Canada he might cost me two or three shells.

     I ate one of those geese last week… grilled breasts cut into small steaks with bacon, green peppers and onions on long wooden skewers… unbelievably good for supper. And let me assure you, if I didn’t like geese for supper I would never raise a gun barrel again to bring one down.

      I will only write one more column about my October trip to Canada, next week, writing about hunting ruffed grouse. But there was so much more from that stretch of time. My great grandfather was a French trapper from Ontario, and my great grandmother a Cree Indian woman. Maybe that’s why it draws me like it does. I love the place, so few people and so few problems. And because I love using a camera, I got some great photos of the wildlife, fish, birds and wild country. I have put many of those photos on my website, A pair of trumpeter swans put on a show for me. Take a look at their antics in my photos.

Trumpeter Swans putting on a fantastic display

Grouse I was hunting
Grouse I was hunting

I ended up getting three

Canadian goggle-eye are big

Dallas shows how big crappie get also
While fishing, a loon decided to join us

Thursday, October 28, 2021

An Underwater World




       What a wonderful time it is to be outdoors… as the temperature cools and all of nature seems painted by the Master Artist’s brush. Finally the darn spider webs are gone from woodland trails. If you find a place to walk through a real forest, unmarred by the hands of man, you cannot help but have your spirits lifted.          

    There isn’t a therapist in the world who can give a man answers to his problems which compare to those he can find alone, walking through a woodland in October, or drifting down a river, eyes and ears and nose tuned to a world where everything is as the creator made it.



       A few years back, I wrote about gigging in Ozark rivers, and mentioned seeing river redhorse suckers between 10 and 15 pounds as a boy.  Shortly afterward I received this letter from someone by the name of Brown.

-----“Like Ronald Reagan said ‘There you go again’! The state record red horse is just over 8 pounds. But you’ve seen 10-15 pounders? Ha ha ha ha ha!  Man are you full of it!… yuk yuk yuk.” ----

       Mr. Brown is convinced the book he has is the last word in the subject, but there are many of us who actually spent time on our rivers 60 years ago and saw much larger river redhorse.  In William L. Pflieger’s book, “The Fishes of Missouri,” he writes this about the river redhorse…, “length and weight in Missouri streams seldom exceeds 26.1 and 8.25 pounds now, but the present state fishing record is 17 pounds.”

Mr. Brown is guilty of what so many of our present-day biologists and overnight naturalists are guilty of… relying on whatever book they have read, and not spending enough time outdoors… not having been there. I have been there!!! I grew up using those books too, but also spending enough time outdoors to see and learn things on my own.  Natural history books are not always accurate, nor are present day wildlife biologists. For whatever reason, while we have smaller individuals of that species still fairly abundant in some rivers, those big, river redhorse suckers do not exist anymore.  But they did once, and believe me, there was a time when even larger specimens than that recorded 17-pounder swam in our Ozark rivers. My grandfather gigged many of those big ones, and I saw them… and ate them. Anyway, thanks for the letter Mr. Brown, I hope you have learned something today… yuk, yuk, yuk.


Anyone who wants to know about the outdoors has to spend a great deal of time in the woods and on the waters! When it comes to the outdoors and fish and wildlife, the books and the Internet are often wrong, as in this case.  There are five different redhorse sucker species in Ozark streams, and the largest is the river redhorse.  Who knows what happened to the river redhorse that we knew fifty or sixty years ago? They were a fish with average weights way above 8 pounds. Maybe it is the declining quality of our streams, maybe it is an inherited genetic defect, maybe it was over-harvesting. 

       William Pflieger was one of the best fisheries biologists Missouri ever had. He started working for the Missouri Conservation Commission in 1961, and first published his book in 1975.  He worked with some of the best, biologists Otto Fajen, Fred Vasey and George Fleener, to compile the information found in the book.  If you are interested in fish, it is a book you need to get ahold of.  That was a different state agency than we have today.  The name of the agency was different and the men who worked for them were different, and the goals were different as well.


In the night, beneath bright lights, the bottom of an Ozark river was once a fascinating world of many creatures, and seeing it was absolutely amazing.  I saw the rivers when the gravel hadn’t filled the deep eddies, and the big rocks and underwater caves could still be seen.  Back then, you didn’t see the slime and algae there is today.  Even golden redhorse, black redhorse suckers, and hog-molly suckers were so much bigger and more numerous back then. But too, there was just so much more life in those waters.  It is seeing that underwater world in that time which makes one realize how fish numbers are being reduced, from the largest to the very smallest.  If you saw the bottom of a river in the sixties, and you see the same substrate in the same place now, you absolutely will not believe what has happened to them.


I hope readers will visit my website, to see the outdoor books and magazines we produce.  And you should know that you can read this column each week on the computer under when your local newspaper has space problems and cannot run it.  We have a new book coming out soon, and you can learn about it by calling my office, 417 777 5227