Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Squirrel Seasons




    I was walking along a wooded ridgetop one fall when I was a kid, when a young fox squirrel fell from a limb above me and landed with a thud not more than ten feet from my shotgun barrel.  He didn't waste any time leaving but he would have been a goner if I had wanted to pull the trigger.  I just couldn't do it. As a matter of fact that may be the only time I had a chance to shoot a squirrel that I didn’t.  But dad had told me if I shot a squirrel from the rear, the shot from a shotgun would ruin most of the meat.


      The little rascal had hidden in that treetop well enough to keep me from seeing him but his curiosity had caused him to lose his balance and his dignity at the same time.  I shouldered my shotgun as he fled and let him escape.  As I walked down the trail he sat on the limb of a nearby oak and barked at me.  Or maybe it was his mate, wanting to chastise me for not shooting him.    I learned a great deal about hunting when I was a kid, chasing squirrels in the fall after school. If you grew up in the rural Midwest chances are good you too learned to hunt by searching the branches of an oak-hickory woodlot or creek bottom for squirrels. Squirrels are efficient teachers for young hunters.  And in the early fall, when green foliage is still as abundant as yellow leaves, squirrels have little trouble finding a place to hide.


    Autumn hunting is a challenge but it is made easier when squirrels are working the hickories. On a crisp, still morning in the Ozarks, you can hear the grating of teeth on hickory nuts and the sound of small bits of hickory hulls falling to the forest floor.  As the weather cools a bit more squirrels stay out later in the morning and come out earlier in the afternoon.  When it's hot, their activity is lessened. But find a supply of hickory nuts this time of year and you'll usually find squirrels. Bits and pieces of gnawed hickory nuts beneath the tree give away their presence.


   There are four methods of squirrel hunting that work all over the Ozarks.  The first one of course is 'still-hunting'. When I was a youngster I'd take my old Iver Johnson shotgun down to the Tweed bottoms just off the Big Piney River and walk an old wagon trail where gray squirrels were abundant.


       Occasionally I'd spot one by moving slowly along but when I'd reach a certain spot on a rocky hillside I'd find a big flat boulder and sit still enough to be taken for a part of the rock.  Within 10 minutes, gray squirrels would forget there was an intruder and begin moving about.  When one presented a good shot within 30 yards or so, the old shotgun would roar and the forest would be still again. 


    I learned if you stayed put, marking your downed quarry, that in 10 or 15 minutes things would return to normal again and squirrels would begin to scurry about. A still hunter could sometimes take three or four squirrels in less than an hour from one spot.  And there was always much more to see, as other wildlife passed through and birds flitted through the nearby branches. When things were slow I would lay back on that rock and go to sleep, dreaming of hunting moose and bear in Canada someday. Still-hunting had many rewards.  I learned so much out in the squirrel woods as a young boy, watching listening and exploring.


Right now and for the next 2 weeks, you will find a ton of walnuts under walnut trees everywhere.  It looks like a banner year around my place for them and acorns alike.  If you will call Hammons walnut company, 417 276  5181, they can tell you a place fairly close where you can sell walnuts for 20 dollars per hundred pounds.  Bryan Hammon told me that they have never paid more than 15 dollars per hundred and they are working on the idea of having landowners who don’t pick them up to allow folks to come on their land and get them.

I am out of duck load shotgun shells, and I may make enough money to buy a few boxes, with the walnuts here on Lightnin’ Ridge.


If you want to receive fall issues of my outdoor magazine, or the one about the Ozarks, let me know.  Just call 417 777 5227. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A 1961 Float Trip




       What were you doing the first weekend of October, 60 years ago? I remember that weekend well.  I was only a few days away from turning 13, and I had purchased a guide’s license at the courthouse for a dollar. But with Dad’s old wooden johnboat and grandpa’s hand-made sassafras paddle, I could take folks on a fishing trip down the Big Piney River and haul in 50 cents an hour. 


       Most of the time I could make more than that hunting golf balls at the golf course, off in the weeds or the timber, where the folks who weren’t real good at golfing often lost them. I could sell the good ones for a quarter apiece to Shorty Evans, who was rich, and most any day I could find 4 or 5 an hour. 


       But I always chose the river when I could and I built up a pretty good clientele of city fishermen, because my Uncle Norten, guiding on Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes, advertised for me.  But on the first weekend of October sixty years ago I took a local fellow by the name of Joe Richardson and his wife Kate,sd on a float trip down the Big Piney River. Joe was a fine person and he became a life-long friend and supporter when I grew up and became an outdoor writer! I took him and Mrs. Richardson on many float trips in the future, from which came other good stories.


       In a long deep shoal with big rocks and gently flowing water known as the Ink Stand, Kate caught the biggest smallmouth I have ever seen taken from an Ozark stream.  I believe that it was close to six-pounds.


       Like a good guide, I pulled the johnboat to the bank, and got out in waist-deep water and grabbed it when it tired a little. You should have seen the Piney back then. Today it flows about 60 percent of the water it carried then, and so many holes, including the Ink Stand, have filled in with sand and gravel. 


       Mrs Richardson gave me the lure she used that day, a Heddon River Runt, black with white rib-stripes.  On Saturday morning, October 2, I am going to place that lure and a photo of Mrs. Richardson and I (taken in 1961), in my Big Piney River ‘mini-museum’. We have set that up in the Houston Chamber of Commerce building along Highway 63 at the northeast corner of town.


        I have one of the old wooden johnboats my grandfather fashioned there on display, and the very first aluminum river-boat built in the Midwest, (serial number 0001).  It was made for the old Missouri Conservation Commission in 1952 by a man named Appleby, who founded the Lowe Boat Company at Lebanon, Mo. I can tell you quite a story about that boat!


      Inside we have an 8-foot display case with items used by old-time rivermen on the Piney a century and more ago and a few rare objects found along the Piney that bluff-dwellers used thousands of years ago. One of those is an ivory pendant, the only ivory artifact ever found in the Midwest.


       I will be there on Saturday morning by eleven a.m. and then go over to the Emmett Kelly Park at noon and bring the two boats with me.  The park is only a few hundred yards to the south, where, from noon to about 3 or 4 p.m. my old friend Wesley Lindaman and I will fry fish, complete with cole slaw and baked beans and a birthday cake. It is all in an open-air pavilion, where it is safer for those who are worried about Covid.


       BUT—I need to know who is coming, or I won’t know how much fish to bring. It will be fresh, Wesley and I are going to catch all the fish a few days before.  So please phone my office and tell me if you are coming, how many and when.  Or email me.  I need your name, where you are from and a phone number, in case inclement weather causes us to call it off. The phone number is 417-777-5227 and the email address is lightninridge47@gmail.com


       That is the day Houstonians are celebrating homecoming, and there is a lot going on, but anyone is welcome to our fish fry, no matter where you are from and there is no charge.  It is sort of a birthday party, and Wesley and I will fry fish for you when you get there. If you have never seen my magazines, I will have free copies for you to take home with you.  Hope to see lots of folks who read this column

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Need Money, Don’t Cut That Walnut Tree, Sell the Walnuts!


    I always figure the yellow leaves on the walnut trees tell me a lot about the upcoming fall.  This year that yellowing foliage on the walnuts here on Lightnin’ Ridge is really late.  Could be that is because we had so much rain in the middle of summer, but it has been very dry here since late August.  But usually the later the yellowing of walnut leaves point to a late fall and a mild winter.  I’ll bet we have a good colorful fall and it will come at the very last of October.  I think a mild winter is coming too.  And that will mean the mallards will come thru a little later.  Seems like there is always a problem with a mild winter.  But most folks would sacrifice early duck migrations for a mild winter.  But mild winters make for some good fishing up to the coming of spring.

     Speaking of walnut trees, big walnuts are being cut at an alarming pace now, because of their increasing value.  Likewise there is an increasing value in the walnuts, purchase in October by the Hammons Walnut Company headquartered in Stockton, Missouri.  I thought last years price of 15 dollars per hulled hundred pounds was really good. But I have been told that this year, starting October 1, walnut prices will be 20 dollars per hundred pounds after hulling subject to change later in the month.  Buying stations are set up all over the Ozarks. If you want to know the nearest one to you, call Hammons at 417 276  5181. I  think that here on my ridgetop, I could accumulate about a thousand pounds by October 1.  That would buy me a lot of duck hunting shells.  But I have a walnut thief living up on the corner of my property that can pick up a hundred pounds while I am still working on my  first fifty. She is half owner of Lightnin’ Ridge-- my daughter Christy!

     I know that when I wrote about how I am getting 10 free deer hunting permits from the Missouri Department of Conservation, plus 75 dollars processing money from them for each one, lots of  readers thought I was joking.  But you can find out if you are eligible by calling Alicia Burke, phone 573 522 0141.  You have to have at least 5 acres and I believe you need to apply before mid October. You can give some of the ten permits to friends or family members, and yes, you can charge them for hunting on YOUR LAND!  But you cannot sell the permits that are given to you free.

     I saw a television broadcast out of Springfield Mo where they were talking about foxes become numerous in their city.  They showed what was a red fox  that you might not have recognized as such. That fox hada horrible case of mange, and a “MDC media specialist” saying that the foxes would have to be ‘tested for mange”.  Country people would laugh at that.  That is like saying that a mallard would have to be tested to see if he was a duck.  That fox was so darn mangy he was living in misery, and he should have been destroyed.  Mange is easily spread to dogs and other mammals, and if officials in that city do not begin to eliminate those foxes, they will make veterinarians wealthy, just by treating pets that get it.  And though it isn’t common, humans can get mange too.  It is spread by mites.  Domestic animals can be treated and cured, but wild animals cannot, unless trapped and  treated that way.  If he is never treated, that wild fox, which has to live with microscopic mites burrowing into his skin, is doomed to awful misery before he dies.  If you see any animal with mange, have mercy on it and kill it.  Otherwise it’s misery will spread to other creatures.

     You might already know this, but in late September if you want to catch bass, you cannot use anything better than topwater lures, especially at dusk and dawn.  As water cools there are lots of ways to catch bass, but I wouldn’t know about that because I just can’t stop using topwater lures or buzz baits.  This week I will fish several different rivers that way, and you’ll be reading about those successes if I have one.  And I will tell you about catching perhaps the biggest smallmouth I ever hooked.  If it wasn’t the biggest ever, he was, as Dizzy Dean once said, “Amonst ‘em”.

     Let me remind you folks that if you want a copy of our Fall outdoor magazine or the Fall issue of our Ozark magazine then you should call my secretary, Ms. Wiggins, to get on the subscription list.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email lightninridge47@gmail.com.  Visit my website sometime, www.larrydablemont.com.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Duck With Baby Blue Wings




         Sometime in mid September Midwest states have a special two week teal season. Blue-winged teal are unusual ducks.  They come early; sometimes arriving in the Ozarks during the last week or so in August, and they continue to pass through well into September.  Truthfully, they are fairly easy to hunt because they decoy well to only a handful of decoys, and they are not nearly as wary as mallards.  On occasion, a small group of teal will sweep across the decoys and flare from a volley of shots, circle wide and come back for another pass.  I have stood against a tree stump on a mud flat and had them light only a matter of a few feet from me. 


     They aren't wary, but they make up for their lack of wariness with some speed.  Ornithologists say they don't fly much faster than other ducks, but I'd bet my chest waders they do. Lead one like you'd lead a mallard and you'll not even dust his tail-feathers.  A flock of teal is like a squadron of feathered jetfighters, there and gone almost before you can say 'here they come'.              

       Hunting them can amount to a lot of work, and they are tough to hit, but teal season is the forerunner to the duck season, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.... unless the fishing is really, really sensational in mid September!!  But then, you can do a little of both.  As I said last week, I think wood ducks should also be a part of this special season, and it ought to be set back a week or so perhaps.  Wood ducks aren’t much of a part of the waterfowl harvest in Missouri and Arkansas now.  Fifty years ago they stayed in the Ozarks until the first week or two of November.  Not now! They usually leave by the end of October or even a little earlier.  But in the special teal season, so many are killed by accident and left that could be taken home and eaten.  Waterfowlers today aren’t real good at duck identification and if only two wood ducks were allowed in the special teal season it would have absolutely no impact on their numbers.  It likely won’t happen.  Too many of the decision makers spend too much time in an office and too little time in the marshes and rivers.  Would you believe when I made my first duck hunts with my dad, it was illegal to shoot a wood duck.  Now they are reasonably healthy populations.  Hunting pressure on wood ducks is about 20 percent of the hunting pressure on mallards.  Teal also, are not heavily harvested, and are plentiful.  Both species are very very good to eat.  Just as good as a mallard.  And teal are twice as hard to hit.


         I wrote, a couple of weeks back, about receiving a letter from the Missouri Department of Conservation offering me ten free deer permits in order to check them for CWD.  Some readers thought I was joking about that. So I put the letter and forms on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com so anyone can see them.  I have no idea how many hunters were offered this, but they will pay anyone who is part of this 75 dollars for each deer killed to pay for processing.  You can apply for those ten free permits if you own five acres or more in a zone where chronic wasting disease has been found.  I can’t tell you where those zones are but if you call Alicia Burke, wildlife specialist at 573 522 0141 or apply online at… https://mdc.gov/cwdpermitapp….you can find out if you qualify!


         And I jokingly wrote that I was thinking about offering a couple or three of my free permits to some hunters for 20 dollars apiece.  I wouldn’t do that of course, but for those who own large acreages, it would not be illegal to do that.  There are no laws prohibiting a landowner from doing that.  I put that article on facebook and received a warning that I  was “encouraging criminal behavior”!  That is not criminal behavior; it is something no MDC laws prohibit.  You can rent a tree stand on your land for whatever someone will pay.  Facebook owes me an apology for suggesting I was encouraging criminal behavior.  I am sure I will hear from them soon. 


         By the way if you would like to try your hand at writing, send your stories to me before Sept 20 and we might use it in our fall magazine.  All articles must be typed. You can see my outdoor magazine, and my Ozark magazine and all my books on the computer at larrydablemont.com.  Contact me by writing to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or emailing lightninridge47@gmail.com