Friday, June 11, 2021

The Outlawed Camera


photos like this, showing what loggers are doing to den trees on public areas, may not be legal anymore without paying for a permit to MDC


      People have been contacting me asking if I had heard about the Missouri Department of Conservation declaring that people who take photographs inside public areas they manage must buy a permit to do so.  I have to look into that, but I can’t imagine that they would do that, telling photographers to pay in order to take pictures inside areas owned by the citizens of the state of Missouri.  I take lots of photos of course, and in recent times have been photographing the forest devastation which comes from rape of these areas by logging companies.  Those companies contract to pay the MDC to remove millions and millions of board feet of lumber from the areas which Missourians own.  The loggers make hundreds of thousands of dollars stripping the timber, then pay a percentage of that profit to the MDC, which desires money more than anything else, including the beauty and wildlife of a natural area.

      They have destroyed some of the most beautiful public areas in their charge, many of them given to them by people now deceased, who wanted their lands preserved.

      I take a bunch of photos of those places they have destroyed, and they know that I intend to publish the photos in a book I am writing about them.  So maybe the photos I have taken is part of the reason they want to have photography outlawed, and a required, and an expensive permit will take care of that.  But it won’t stop me, because such a move is unenforceable and denies people their constitutional rights.  

      If they don’t know that, they will find it out, with lawsuits they may have to answer to.  But here is what I envision happening when I come walking out of the woods on areas all Missourian owns, with my camera, and find a pair of agents waiting in their brand new 50 thousand dollar MDC owned pick-up, from which they do their work. The conversation might go something like this…


AGENT… I see you have your camera with you; do you have your photography permit?

ME… Oh no sir, I did not want to leave it or my pistol in my vehicle to be stolen so I just brought them with me on my hike.  But this expensive camera cannot take photos unless it has a card in it and you can see that there is none inside it. My pistol has no bullets in it, so I won’t be tempted to shoot any copperheads, which your laws also protect.

AGENT… Well where is that camera card, you no-account violator?

ME… Well sir it is lost maybe, or possibly in my pocket or my billfold which you have no business finding unless you have a search warrant.  But then, should you confiscate it, you would see photos I took here and there, of birds and wildlife and wildflowers. I took all of them on my own place, or so I will proclaim in court. And those of destroyed trees and slash and erosion, I took on private land, which I will also tell the judge, or my lawyer will!

AGENT… You are lying, you no good violating photographer.

ME… Well, the only way you will ever know is if you wander out into the tick and snake infested woodlands and catch me in the act… and that is a long way from that air-conditioned pick-up which you seldom get more than a few feet from.  And if you actually were to leave your pick-up you are going to find out that trying to force Missouri citizens to pay to take photos on public land they own is one of the most ridiculous money-grubbing attempts the MDC has ever taken, and it may possibly cost them a lot of money when someone who can pay an expensive lawyer decides to sue them.  You guys probably don’t remember this, but the last time the MDC was sued, they had to pay one of those lawyers and his clients a million dollars. So go get your search warrant, and I will wait here until you get back and confiscate that camera card…. if you can find it.

    Now of course, should some agent be reading this, or the desk-sitters in Jefferson City hear about it, I will soon be going to the MDC managed Niangua Area and taking photos.  I will gladly tell you when that will be, and perhaps take other photographers with me.  


      Of course, this column cannot be used by most newspapers in Missouri, because the MDC has them bullied into printing nothing they do not approve of.  But if you do read this, go to the newspaper where you saw it and thank them for printing what the MDC does not approve of, and let me know what you think of this.  The address is P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  The email address is  Our office phone is 417-777-5227

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Are You Coming to Lightnin' Ridge Saturday for the sale and fish fry??


If you are coming to eat at the noon fish-fry, please let us know… or call 417 777 5227


List of things to be sold at lightnin’ ridge sale on sat. june 5, 9 to 3.


About 24 two by fours and some other lumber

2 metal entry doors, one with windows, one without

New in-box browning pump 12 gauge

Ford 8NTractor---AND  mower…. 5 by 5 adjustable, start on its own with battery- pull behind any tractor, even small ones.  Cost 4 grand when new.

Garden tractor-mower

2 clothes dryers

1 clothes washer

2 warm morning gas heaters.

1 gas range

1 electric range

rear seats for a buick suv

used tires and wheels

small dog kennel carriers

irrigation water pump and long hoses

antique outboard motors.

Fishing lures and rods and reels

New minkota trolling motor

Several of Norten Dablemont’s hand made paddles.

Wind tunnel vaccum

Kirby vacuum and attachments

Rocker recliner

Refrigerator –freezer

Game smoker

Hot water heater

Number of 8-foot 2 x4’s

Duck decoys

Large powerful squirrel cage fan

Dozens of men’s large shirts

Almost New front-tine garden tiller

Dozens of old 1 inch wide band saw blades 11 ft long

Wildlife art

Tables full of odds and ends


One thing you all should remember… if I become famous as one of the fbi’s ten most wanted, some of the fishing lures I have used might become valuable!!!


As I remember more items I want to sell, I will post them on facebook






I often listened to old timers who fished the river talk about various ways to tempt big bass, or to catch a limit of goggle-eye.  The river was so much different then, so clear and clean.  The big deep holes, now most of them filling in with silt and gravel, and becoming slick-bottomed with algae and slime, had flathead catfish that commonly weighed from 30 to 40 pounds. 


There were huge soft-shelled turtles, hellbenders nearly two feet long, and occasionally an eel.  You could gig red-horse suckers on occasion that exceeded ten pounds, and the river was full of pan-sized green sunfish that would make a great meal when you were camping on a gravel bar and had an iron skillet with you.


I remember hearing about a method of fishing that worked in any clear, deep creek or river.  Old Bill Stalder and Jim Splechter talked about it, and I never knew for sure if it really worked. 


They said that when they were younger they would take a glass gallon jar, fill it with big shiner minnows, at least a dozen or so, then tie a heavy string around the neck, make a dozen holes in the lid and close the jar with it, letting it sink in a deep hole somewhere below a shoal. 


They said they would put a two or three treble hooks on the jar, tied well with the same kind of trotline string, and that big old bass, or catfish or goggle-eye, would be attracted to those minnow, flashing and struggling in that jar.  The jar even magnified their size, and it drove fish crazy, seeing them like that and not being able to get them. 


Ol’ Bill and Ol’ Jim both swore that you could fish alongside that jar and catch fish that were attracted to the shiners inside, and whipped into a feeding frenzy by their frustration. They said that sometimes, big fish would just grab one of those hooks on the jar and you could occasionally haul one in like that. It didn’t sound like something a fisherman ought to do, so I never tried it, though I tried most everything else back when I was a kid.

Then I was really surprised, while looking through my collection of old outdoor magazines, to find an article about that same kind of tactic in a 1940 publication, entitled ‘bumble-jugging’. It was written by a fishermen who claimed he came across two boys who had filled a big jar with bees, and as he watched they weighted it with a big rock, sunk it in the creek with the lid sealed, and began to catch fish right and left with bobbers and minnows fished around the jug filled with buzzing bees.


He explained how the boys got the bees in the jar, and claimed that in time a huge walleye grabbed a hook on the jar.  They landed it, but broke the jar on a rock beside them, and they got stung in the process. 


If there are any readers out there who ever actually seen, or tried, the jar-fishing that Ol’ Bill so adamantly insisted was a bona-fide method of fishing, I would certainly like to hear from you. But I can’t see it working with bees. At any rate I am thinking of running that whole bee-fishing story from the ‘40’s in one of my upcoming outdoor magazines.


I know that no one is going to believe this, but I know how anyone who is young and strong can spend his time outdoors, with no boss, completely on his own, and make a small fortune.  This is no joke.  I will write about this unbelievable opportunity in the summer issue of my magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal.  I am not young enough or strong enough to do it, and I have a good outdoor occupation already, but this is a way for a pair of young men to make around 100 thousand dollars a year, working outdoors. You won’t believe it, but it is all there for anyone who wants to work, and it is all above board and legal.


I am hoping my July 5 fish fry here on Lightnin’ Ridge will be a success, but if the rains continue as they have all through May, we might have to postpone it.  If you would like to attend, or find out if it is going to be postponed, please call my office, 417-777-5227.  We need to have an estimate of how much fish to have ready to fry.  Information about the daylong get-together can be found on my blogpot…


You can email me at

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Woodpecker and The Walleye



    Rain crows came back to Lightning Ridge last week, and now the spring ensemble of birds is complete. There are a lot of species to see now, and an individual of one common species, acts way out of character.  A red-bellied woodpecker has been drinking sugar water from the oriole feeder and seems to really love the grape jelly we have out for the colorful orioles.  I think it is just one individual, and he has taken a liking to sweet stuff.  If you have seen any woodpeckers do the same thing, let me know.  


    Doves feed beneath the feeders in large numbers and nest all around us. Several species of colorful grosbeaks come and go. I believe that over a thirty-year period I have witnessed about 40 species of birds here.  The rarest involve one sighting of a road-runner and one sighting of a rare ‘pygmy’ brown-headed nuthatch that is not supposed to be within 300 miles of here.  On my pond, a few hundred feet from my porch, there has been a dozen species of waterfowl and water birds that you might expect to see around a pond, and a couple you would never expect to visit it.


    My pond provides fishing right out my back door, but Don Lewallen has the most phenomenal fishing I have ever seen just a hundred yards from HIS back door.  Don owns the Three Oaks Resort, which sets on a high ridge overlooking Norfork Lake just a little ways from the Arkansas-Missouri line. His boat dock sits over 50 feet of water, down a steep mountainside.  You go down there and back via tram, a cart on a track.  At night underwater lights attract baitfish, primarily threadfin shad.  And with those come crappie, bass, walleye, stripers, white bass, bluegill… you name it. 


      I paid him a visit the other evening and fished ‘til about midnight and caught four nice walleye, the biggest 21-inches long.  He has seen some caught there about twice that size. Down by the bright green LED light, which is about ten feet under the middle of the dock, we watched huge fish swim around looking for an easy meal.  Using the same small spoon, I caught walleye and nothing else… while Don caught 4 stripers, and one crappie.  He lost the crappie at the surface, and it was easily a 16- to 18-inch fish. While usually you   catch more crappie than any other species in the spring, that one was the only one there.  For an hour we could watch him swim around below us and he would come close to three pounds, I think.  Finally Don hooked him and I thought we were going to see a big black crappie, but he got loose. 


    One of the stripers Don caught, was about 8 pounds.  Some of his guests have landed much bigger stripers from his dock, up to 20 pounds.  He has owned the resort for ten years, and has some stories of strange things he has seen happen there in the years of night fishing.  I am telling those stories in my summer outdoors magazine which will come out in June.  There isn’t enough space here to tell it all.


  This column I write goes to many newspapers, in Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas.  Quite a few of them cannot print what the Missouri Department of Conservation does not want known.  I can respect that.  Newspapers cannot print columns which cost them advertising money.  I am going to write about what is happening to wild turkeys in the Midwest and tell you the truth about what needs to be done, and the MDC won’t approve of what I am going to say.  So I will write it as an independent ‘letter to the editor’ and send it out next week, hoping newspapers will use it with a disclaimer that will keep MDC people from knocking on their door.  It will also be printed in the summer issue of my Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Magazine and in my computer blogspot which you can read at  Men like me, who spend more time outdoors than in an office, will tell you that in most of the Ozarks, wild gobblers are a third of what they were ten years ago. What I am going to write has information from a retired old-time wild turkey biologist, and you will need to hear what he says. I know a solution to bringing wild turkeys back, and it is not in line with what state game agencies want to do.    Let your newspaper know you would like to read it… next week.


I am looking forward to my 20th anniversary celebration of Lightnin' Ridge Publishing Company, and we will have a big fish-fry here on this isolated ridge top on Saturday, June 5 which you are invited to.  We will also have a big sale on that day with more than 1000 items for sale.  If you are interested in attending, get directions, a list of sale items and other info by calling my office at 417-777-5227 or email me at  Of course you can always write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo.65613












Wednesday, May 19, 2021

In a Small Creek




         It isn’t much of a creek in the summer, but miles above where it flows into an Ozark lake, you can find it bank full in the spring.  There are lots of those kinds of creeks in the Ozarks.  They don’t have spectacular bluffs but there are rocky outcroppings along the deep-water sides and out from those there are some deep holes even in the dry season. 


         They are isolated; with difficult shoals this time of year when the water is high, which become shallow riffles after a month of little rain.  But they are peaceful, lonely little waters where you can pretend it is 100 years ago.  No canoe renters are found along them, no beer cans, no hollering. 


         So the other day I gets to thinking that I might find a few nice bass in some of those creek eddies, now about right to float with the water conditions we have.  I put my shortest johnboat in at a low water bridge, fixin’ to float a few hours and take some pictures and cast a few spinner-baits and come out at a farm crossing maybe 3 or 4 miles down the creek.


         Did I get a surprise when I got there!  The normally murky waters found in the spring were crystal clear, and you don’t fish anything above an eighth of an ounce in spring-water, which is what I seemed to be floating through.  So I put up the spinner bait and went to my light spinning gear and a 3-inch long Rapala and in the next 2 hours I did indeed have a great time catching a few little bass about 12 or 13 inches long, bending that light rod like they were lunkers.


         Then I came to a hole maybe 2 miles above the lake and made a cast whilst enjoy the sight of two old geese trying to get 4 goslings to hide from me.  The little ones were about the size of mallards, with longer necks of course, still a little bit downy and yellow colored.  Momma goose slid down beside a log and flattened out with her head on the ground, and shortly the gander and the goslings did the same.  I took some photos, leaving my lure out several feet from my boat.  In the middle of my photography, there was a commotion on the water where my lure had been and something took it under, nearly jerking my rod and reel out of my boat. 


         I grabbed it, and my light rod just bent over with the weight of the fish.  What a fight it was, and I won.  I pulled a 15-inch white bass into the boat, a female with a bulging belly, five inches across.  I looked down into the clear hole I had drifted into and I could see a dozen more of them, swirling around in a mass of ready-to-spawn white bass.  I backed the boat up quietly, got out on the bank and started catching them, working that little topwater lure on the surface, nailing a hard-fighting white bass on about every third cast. 



        At one time I caught five of them on five consecutive casts.  As it grew later in the day, after stringing my limit of the hard- fighting white bass, I caught another 20 or so and released them.  About a third of them were males, and there were plenty of big hefty females.  Cleaning them later I found that some of the females had not deposited their eggs but were reabsorbing them. That seems to be a normal occurrence in the spring.


         Everything I caught was above 12 inches and I landed some that were 16 inches long. You really can’t say that the hardest fighting fish for its size is a smallmouth, though they are what I would rather fish for than anything else.  You catch a sixteen-inch white bass and the struggle to land it, and the length of the fight, will equal that of a 16-inch smallmouth, especially in flowing current. 


         The white bass that day were situated in two holes that were about 8 or 9 feet deep, with a little bit of flow.  They likely spawned that night or in nights to come.  At night, I am sure more of them arrived because I went back the next day and caught 30 or 40 more of them. 


         White bass will easily move up a tributary but it is done at night in clear water, and they can swim over a shoal in only four inches of water. I have watched them spawn in clear shoals at night and it is something to see, the water glistening with silver bodies, turning sideways in flowing water, releasing eggs by the thousands, with males beside them fertilizing those eggs, which then roll in the current over the gravels.


         Their migration in large streams can go for miles and miles.  I am sure the ones I found in that small creek had traveled 8 or 10 miles to spawn. There were good shoals downstream for spawning, but it seems that where they were, was something perfect for them.  How long will there be white bass there? I think they will be up that creek for another couple of weeks, some coming and some going, if the rain doesn’t keep the creek too high and muddy. 


         But I doubt if I get back there.  I am going down into Arkansas soon to fish for other species.  You might say I have other fish to fry.


I have a new book out this week for those who are interested.  E-mail me at or call my office to find out how to get a copy.  The number is 417-777-5227.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

An Enticing Skirt, A Deadly Blade



It was two o’clock in the afternoon before we got to the lake, and it was up a few feet, as I expected it to be. The water was a little murky, but there was still a foot or so of visibility in it. That’s about perfect for a big spinner-bait. If you fish small spinners and light line, clear water is fine, but if you are after a brawling, broad-sided bass, and the spinner blade is about the size of a spoon you use to serve mashed potatoes with, a little bit of murkiness in the water is fine.


I pulled a yellow and white skirt with two large gold willow-leaf spinners out of my tackle box, and I put a trailer hook on the main hook. I added a strip of white pork rind on the main hook below the trailer, so the trailer hook wouldn’t come off, and it made the whole thing look even more delectable.  When you get through with that you have about three-quarters of an ounce of lure to cast.  With that I was using an Ambassadeur 4500 casting reel and 14-pound line, on a medium-heavy graphite rod.  Of course, such a rig isn’t meant for enjoying the resistance of small fish. You are hoping to attract a largemouth of lunker proportions, and this time of year you are looking for him in brushy water, back up in a cove which is full of timber, attractive to bass feeling the coming of spring, and feeling hungrier as the water temperature rises.


And of course, I caught five bass in the first hour from 12- to 15- inches long. Those bass would have been great fun on a spinning outfit with eight-pound line but in the brush we were fishing, that kind of gear is too light. They were out away from the bank in six or eight feet of water, and to get to them, I was hanging up on occasion, then working to get that lure loose.


It happens that way when you fish a spinner-bait the size of a bird’s nest in that kind of water. You don’t just cast it and retrieve it. You vibrate that blade, you lift it and you drop it and you let it fall and flutter into water where there are logs and limbs.  You keep it moving, try to tantalize a bass, get him to rise up from the brushpile hideout where he lurks and come after that spinner bait. You use your rod tip, you feel your lure through places where you can’t actually see what is there.  I don’t know what a bass thinks that spinner-bait is, but you make him like the idea of eating it, by causing the blade to throb and the skirt to undulate. You make it look alive, like something with a fishy taste to it.


There are all kinds of spinner-baits today, and blades of a variety of colors and shapes. Apparently my gold willow leaf variety was what they wanted that day. I had just retrieved the lure from an underwater limb, and made another cast ahead of me, when between two upright trees, I felt it hit another limb.   I lifted it quickly and felt it stop and give just a little. Then in a split second I saw it move, away and down. I set the hook hard and the bass, only eight or ten feet from the boat, didn’t give an inch. Finally I had attracted a bass worthy of the gear I was using. He just stripped a foot or so of line against my drag, then came back below me, arcing the rod like a catfish on a cane pole.  It was fun… at times like that I remember why I like to fish for bass. 


No, it isn’t quite along the lines of dueling a four-pound smallmouth in a current below a river shoal, but a big bass with a mouth that will easily hold a softball, and a belly wide and heavy with eggs, will make you forget there is any work left undone at home. I fought him, and I won. Many times I have hooked bass of that size and they have won the struggle, but that time it was my turn. I hefted him, actually a ‘her’ and we took a couple of pictures. I released her later, in a small private lake near my home where she will soon spawn. The bass was a little better than 21 inches long, and I think maybe 8 pounds. You can guess it’s weight by going to my website ( and looking at the photo. 


The lake was a place of solitude that day in midweek.  There wasn’t a boat to be seen, maybe because of rain and cool weather. Right now you can begin to catch bass on topwater lures, but the best topwater time will come later in the summer.  This is spinner-bait time and if you want to know what it is like to catch a big bass, a spinner-bait is the lure to use.


With the turkey season over, it is obvious that we have a major problem in the Ozarks with declining numbers of wild gobblers. Some of the letters I received in past days are from hunters who believe it is time to do something about hunting seasons and bag limits. No, now is not the time for that, two or three years ago was the time for that!  More about the tremendous problem of disappearing wild turkeys next week.



Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or e-mail me at 


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Brown Headed Bad Guys


         I put my pellet rifle out on the back porch last week, so I could kill two or three birds coming to the back yard bird feeders. Bet that causes some eyebrows to rise!


         The birds I shoot are brown-headed cowbirds. The reason I want these birds gone is because the hen of the species will go to open bird’s nests like those of cardinals, robins and doves and many others, kick out the eggs that are there and lay her own eggs.  Then whatever birds have made that nest will incubate and feed the cowbird fledglings.  So I eradicate all of the cowbirds that I can and I suggest you do the same.


         Migrating wild birds are here at Lightnin’ Ridge now; orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, blue grosbeaks and others.   All will nest here, including the yellow-billed cuckoo (rain-crow) which is still two or three weeks from arriving.  The only other thing I shoot at my place is black snakes, which climb trees, and invade bird houses and hollow trees to eat bird eggs or young birds.  Sure, if you have a barn or shed with mice, black snakes will help eradicate them.  But they will eat more baby birds and rabbits than mice, and they never pass up a turkey nest either. They are overpopulated almost everywhere unless they are controlled.  And that is the secret to “managing” any kind of situation.  Each person in charge of acreage in the country has to decide what they want.  If you want rabbits, quail, ground-nesting birds like meadowlarks, whippoorwills, killdeer, etc. you can’t have high populations of skunks and possums, black snakes, armadillos and raccoons.  Armadillos, not native to the Ozarks, should be eradicated any way possible.  But I can hear the suburban “master naturalists” protesting.  No, controlling those species I just mentioned does not mean eliminating them.  There will always be some of them, just not overpopulations. 


         What a mess we have now with raccoons.  They get diseases like distemper, which kills them slowly, and they still are very overpopulated all throughout the Midwest.  No coon hunters any more, and few trappers.  I am sure that if you are talking about ‘wildlife management’ you are not in agreement with the furbearer situation.  Good grief, coyotes are at all time highs and so are bobcats. 


         I got a Bachlelor of Science degree from the University of Missouri’s School of Agriculture in ‘Wildlife Management’.  I remember a time when management of wildlife actually was practiced, and a goal of wildlife departments.  Today that term is meaningless.  Young biologists do not come from rural settings today.  Many never hunted in their youths, have only the knowledge gained in classrooms.  And they are taught by instructors who do not have a country background either. My degree and the books were a small percentage of what I learned about the outdoors.  I grew up in the outdoors. 


         Endangered species is becoming a silly term. Do you think Eagles are endangered today?!! Cottontail rabbits are more endangered than eagles!  Whipporwills are more endangered than ospreys.  But who knows that in our state conservation agencies. What I have said about blacksnakes and cowbirds will cause some of the experts who live in the cities and talk conservation in city offices, will wince at what I say. 


         Here in the woods where I live, I heard a whippoorwill for the first time in ten years this week.  Whippoorwills and cottontails and quail are all at precarious populations, each perhaps ten percent of the number I saw in the 70’s.  ‘Wildlife Management’ nowadays amounts to figuring out where the money is, and for Game and Fish Departments and Conservation Departments, you can’t make money out of quail, rabbits or whippoorwills, so the attitude is…we can’t help them… and don’t you dare shoot a hawk or raccoon!


          If I get caught shooting a brown-headed cowbird or a blacksnake, by some conservation agent who doesn’t know the difference between a turkey egg and a goose egg,  I would have to pay a fine.  But come up on my wooded ridgetop and see all the birds I have here, including quail!


         And there are skunks and weasels and black snakes too.  It’s just that here, my degree in wildlife ‘management’ has caused me to ‘manage’ them.  I may do some more managing today if those cowbirds show up beneath the feeder.


         You can see Lightnin’ Ridge for yourself on Saturday, June 5 when we have a huge  (they always call yard sales ‘huge’) sale here and a noon-time fish-fry and dinner to go with it. You can hike the trails with me at 11:00 or on your own anytime you want. This place will show you what the Ozarks looked like years ago.  There are some 300 year-old trees here and lots of wild creatures I ‘manage’. If you come, the dinner is five dollars per person. 


         I am getting rid of a lot of my fishing and hunting gear and equipment, a brand new browning pump shotgun, a ford tractor and mower and tons of stuff which I may give away at the end of the day if it isn’t sold.  I have a map of how to get to this place, a high ridge overlooking the Pomme de Terre river valley about 10 miles north of Bolivar Missouri, and with that map a list of what we are selling to the highest bidders.  If you want to come, contact me to have that list and the map mailed to you.  I can do that if you send me your address or email address.  Mine is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or  I hope to meet a lot of you readers that day.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Bass in the Evening

      Usually by the first of May all over the Ozarks, top-water fishing for bass becomes the best way to fish, at least for me.  So I found me a nice little cove with water about the perfect color, and a little stream flowing in at the end. It looked to be a good place to fish a top-water lure, late in the evening, and I meant to try it.   There was a nice little rock cliff not far away, some timber sticking up out of the water nearby, and no one there but me.

      I had something swirl the water behind the lure once, but for a half hour or more I didn’t get much other action than that.  But I ain’t one to give up!  And then, the lure landed just right in a spot next to a fairly good-sized sycamore sapling out a couple of feet from the bank, and a bass sucked it under.    

      There wasn’t much commotion, nothing like the demolishing,  ‘jump out of the water” attack you sometimes see from a marauding bass looking for an easy meal later in   the summer.  This one just pulled it down and took off with it, and I set the hook when he did.  All I had to do was keep the bass out of all that brush, and I had casting gear with line strong enough to do that.

      The fish lunged and struggled and broke water once, but it wasn’t a fight he was going to win.  Eventually I brought him up alongside the boat and got my thumb in his mouth and wished someone was along to take a picture.  A good photograph could have made that bass look five pounds or better, if it was taken right.  And honestly, he was almost four and a half pounds, give or take perhaps a half-pound.   I have no doubt at all he was almost four and a quarter pounds.

      But I turned him loose, and fished awhile longer, as the dusk came on and the water was calm and the evening was still.  I caught another bass which also fought hard, but wasn’t half as big.  I put that one in my live well, because it was a Kentucky bass.  It would be eaten soon, and that would make me feel a little better about using all that high priced gas just to go fishing.

      It was getting dark back at the little gravel road where I left my pick-up, and when I backed my trailer down into the water to load the boat, two ladies drove up and prepared to catch some catfish.  They seemed very pleasant and they were both very nice looking ladies, or so they seemed to be in the late evening light, which has a tendency to make us all better looking.  As I grow older, I notice that older ladies are nice-looking now than they use to be!  Many of them though, seem to be harder to get along with.

      “You know,” one of them said as I prepared to leave, “you look a little like that guy who writes the outdoor column in our newspaper.”

      I came close to telling them I was, maybe even bragging a little bit about my fishing ability, but thank gosh I didn’t.  The other one made a nasty comment about that column I wrote some time back, the one about how you can tell a female bass from a male bass by their disposition, and how big their bellies are in the spring. It was something I meant to be humorous and light-hearted.  It was plain she didn’t much cotton to my kind of humor.  So I told them my name was Bill Smith, and I was a little shorter and younger and more sensitive than that no-account newspaper columnist.

      “I’d like to run into him just once,” one of them said, “I’d tell him a thing or two about his ideas concerning women.”  It was a precarious situation.  Somehow, I had let one of them get between me and the pickup, so I groped around in the live well and hauled out that Kentucky bass and asked if they’d like to have him.  It quickly diffused the situation, and they were all smiles. 

      I told them I thought it probably was a male bass, and deserved to be filleted and fried.  And then I got out of there in a hurry.  But they don’t realize that if either of them had just said they liked that column and got a good laugh out of it, I might have hung around awhile and helped them catch a few catfish.  So you see ladies, it pays to have a sense of humor!  


      While I am at it, we are going to have a big sale and fish fry here on Lightnin’ Ridge on Saturday, June 5.  You might want to join us then so put that date on your calendar.  I will tell more about that in weeks to come. Anyone can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at  I am looking for good stories for the summer issue of my outdoor magazine.


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Two Gobblers




I started guiding turkey hunters in the early 1980’s, an offshoot of growing up guiding fishermen on the river. An outdoor writer has to learn to supplement his income when he is raising a family, and I found out there was a lot of money to be made taking turkey hunters on two or three day trips, camping somewhere in the mountains of Arkansas and showing them an experience like they had never had.


The hunters I took were wealthy, most of them lawyers or doctors, men who made a lot of money and didn’t have enough time to experience the outdoors on their own. In those days when I lived in Arkansas, I made much of my income guiding those kinds of outdoorsmen on float-fishing trips, fall duck hunting trips or turkey hunting trips in the spring. They paid well, and a few were a pain in the neck. But most were great people.


One of those was an Oklahoma neurosurgeon, Dr. David Fell, and he was a super guy. He was a real joy to hunt with because even though he had never killed a gobbler, he didn’t seem to be that concerned if he didn’t get one. Truly, he enjoyed being outdoors. He joined me in Texas County in Missouri many years ago to hunt gobblers in the morning and float the Big Piney River where I had grown up in the afternoon, fishing for bass and goggle-eye. Back then there were probably 3 times as many gobblers in the woods as there are today, and the morning of opening day found us with several gobblers sounding off around us.


One in particular was gobbling constantly, but slow to move. Within an hour, a mature gobbler came by us within easy range, but he never gobbled at all. Dr. Fell was so consumed with the one we were hearing that he didn’t even see the other. In two hours, that noisy gobbler had moved from 200 yards away to about 75 yards, but though we could hear him, we couldn’t yet see him in the underbrush. I kept hearing another hunter on another ridge, trying to call the gobbler we were working. He was using a diaphragm call, and he was too loud, way too anxious with it… doing too much calling. Still, I think the gobbler might have been quicker to come to my call without the competition.


Finally the old tom was within forty yards, strutting in full view and Dr. Fell dropped him. He was elated. Within minutes, the other hunter showed up to admire the fallen gobbler. He was about 14 or 15 years old, the eldest son of one of my old school mates. They lived on a small tract of land nearby.


  Dr. Fell was so tickled with his gobbler he headed back to Oklahoma anxious to show it off to his friends. I intended to spend the night on the river and hunt a little the next morning. But I kept thinking about that kid, so about dark I drove out to his home and gave him one of the calls that I make, a little western cedar box that it only takes ten minutes with a hot glue gun. I showed him how to use it and told him to quit using that diaphragm. “Save it for turkey calling contests,” I told him with a laugh. He looked puzzled.


I started to leave, but I just couldn’t. I knew he hadn’t ever killed a gobbler in the spring, though he said he had killed a couple of young turkeys in the fall, illegally. So I asked him if he’d like to go with me in the morning. His face brightened like the sun had come back up.


There isn’t enough room here to tell the whole story, but the next morning about 30 minutes after we set up on a wooded ridge-top, I called in a nice gobbler, and the boy killed it. Oh yes, it would have been mine had I not brought him along. And maybe, if you are a young turkey hunter, you may not understand this, but if you are a grizzled old veteran hunter, you will… If I had killed either of those two gobblers in those two spring mornings, I wouldn’t have been nearly as happy as I was, driving back to my home in Arkansas without one.


I had another hunter to take to the Ouachita Mountains in a day or so, and I got paid well for a gobbler he killed just a few miles from the Fourche River. Still, the kid who never paid me a dime for that morning so many years ago gave me just as much as anyone ever did. I remember him lugging that big gobbler toward the porch of that old farmhouse, and some of his brothers and sisters waiting there for the school bus, jumping up and down with excitement. I can still see him, turning toward me with a grin as wide as that gobblers beard was long, and saying “Thanks Mister Dablemont!”


He’s a grown man now… I don’t know where. But I hope he takes some kid turkey hunting on occasion. And I’ll bet my best turkey call that he does.



Thursday, April 15, 2021

Memories of Long Ago Gobblers




Shot with a camera, died of old age.


       I won’t kill a gobbler this year because I don’t like seeing the declining wild turkey numbers throughout the Ozarks. So while I probably will not shoot any of them this year with my shotgun, I will call some up that I can shoot with my camera.  I have killed so many over the years in three states, that I just don’t care about killing any more.  There are enough great memories.


       Fifteen years ago, I took my good friend Dennis Whiteside, (who is an accomplished river guide and all around outdoorsman,) on his first   turkey hunt.  Dennis had never hunted turkeys because he always fished too much in the spring to give it any serious attention.  But he knew where to come when he wanted to learn about it. Shucks, it was me that taught him how to paddle a boat, though he won’t own up to it. 


       I recall that we went out on opening morning and just at first light I called up a gobbler which stopped and strutted in front of us for an hour, about 60 yards away, and then left with a hen.  Then we called up another one an hour later, which gobbled and strutted about 70 yards away, only to be ran off by another tom, which also went a different direction. 


       At 9 o’clock in the morning, Dennis complained about how it seemed I was really good at calling gobblers in to just outside of gun range, but not so good at calling them in to killing distance.  I was offended, of course, and reminded him that if it wasn’t for me he would still be fishing with a cane pole and paddling on both sides of the boat.  That really made him mad, and he said that if it wasn’t for him I’d still be fishing with worms for shade perch, and the two of us almost came to a point of shouting insults at each other. 


       But, we realized that yelling at each other in the turkey woods is counter-productive, and in about an hour, I sat him down in a brushpile and called up four big strutting gobblers. He was so well hidden he couldn’t see to shoot, but eventually one of them walked off a ways and Dennis got his first gobbler ever, a big red-headed tom with an eleven-inch beard and spurs about a quarter of an inch shorter than he has been telling everyone they were.  As a fisherman, he has developed some bad habits, and I don’t think the gobbler would have weighed forty pounds either!


       Those were the days!  For every gobbler we have in the Ozarks today, there were four or five back then.  Why in the world do we not have restrictions on seasons and limits now to help them come back some? I guess it has to do with money.  Hunters like me who hunt with a camera don’t buy turkey tags. And those who would balk at changes in limits and seasons might not want to pay as much for tags.  But if wild gobblers continue the decline I have seen over the last ten years, those who quit hunting them will stop buying tags too.



       I have had some calls about this Saturday’s trip to the wilderness area on Truman Lake where we might even hear a wild gobbler.  Some callers want to know if we will find mushrooms.  I can’t guarantee that but I believe we will. I have found quite few after last weeks rain. Regardless, I will teach people HOW to find them.  We will be hiking through one of the largest forests in the Ozarks.  Then at mid-day we will have a fish fry.  We still have some room so if you want to go you should call me on my office phone and leave a message.  It is 417 777 5227.  The day-long trip will leave from Wheatland Missouri that morning and there is a nice motel there.



If you want to get bargains on fishing lures, rods, reels etc. I want to tell you about a couple of places to visit.  Angler’s Tackle Box, owned by Mark Irwin, is located just to the east of Rogersville, Mo. Mark has hundreds of lures for 2 dollars each… top brands that appear to be to be brand new.  Some of them are 8 or 10 dollars in most outdoor stores.  His variety of fishing lures is outstanding.  I bought a half dozen Rapala lures there for 2 dollars each and a half dozen crankbaits for the same. He also has some antique lures, used motors etc.


       Then I found a place halfway between Clinton and Warsaw called Steve’s Rod and Reel Repair.  Steve is disabled and his shop is inside an antique store called Ginny’s Red Barn. It contains new and used rods by the hundreds and every kind of reel you could ever want to see.  The prices are so good that I bought a couple myself.  He has a lot of antique fishing gear too.  If you want to find bargains on rods and reels, or have your own gear repaired, go by and see him sometime.  You won’t believe his prices on high quality rods with reels to match, hundreds and hundred of each.


       Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar Mo. 65613 or email me at