Friday, September 30, 2022

Lightnin' Ridge Outdoor Journal AND Journal of the Ozarks Magazine

(covers below)

    By mid October The Lightnin' Ridge Outdoor Journal//Journal of the Ozarks Magazine will be sent to subscribers. In order to save printing costs, subscribers will get both magazines in one that's 120 pages.

    The subscription cost is $8 per issue.... $16 for two, $24 for three.  At this time, we are only offering three.  In order to receive the Fall/Winter issue at this price, we must receive your order by October 12th.  After that we will have to charge $10 for the Fall issue to pay for the extra postage.  

    You can send a check to LROJ, P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613.  Or if you'd rather pay by card, you can call our office at 417-777-5227.

    Our many thanks to our subscribers.  

Larry and Gloria Dablemont

Monday, September 26, 2022

Before I Got Old…


I was 22 years old when I hunted with a compound bow for the first time.  Ben Pearson himself gave it to me when I visited a plant of his in Pine Bluff Arkansas.  Sure enough, like the rest of them back then in the seventies I was married and had two little girls.  I can darn near still pull it to a full draw… but not quite


            In Dad and Grandpa McNew’s country pool hall, the old timer’s they called the front bench regulars were the same age then that I am now.  I recognize the similarities in them that I now figure is normal for me and others in their seventies.  Out of 15 or 20 of those men who fit into the category of ‘old-timers’, there were men who still coon-hunted, trapped and paddled down the piney.  Then there were some who could have, but didn’t.  

            That was a puzzlement for me, a thirteen-year-old kid back then who always wanted to and could have, but had the problem of what Dad would allow. I didn’t always have enough money either when it came to buying ammo, and many of the old timers had that problem too. And of course there were those who would have been out in the woods or on the river as they had always been, but age gave them a bad back or a ruint knee or an ‘ol lady’ who wouldn’t let them waste the money.  None of those fellows called their wives a ‘wife’. Along the front bench in various conversations they were collectively called ‘my ol’ lady’.  Like “ I went to church yest’iday with my ol’ lady,” or …”My ol’ lady made some biscuits this mornin’ thet you could have used to hunt rabbits with.”  

            A few of those men still had a great affection for their wives, like my grandpa.  Some were single and didn’t like women.  Some were single and did like women but couldn’t find any who liked them, and some were married and liked all the women but the ones they were married to.  But several of those old timers were healthy enough to hunt coons all night and climb up and down Ozark hills until daylight and still come in and milk cows or fix fences. Those men got along with their old ladies better.  I noted also that those men were the ones who didn’t smoke or chew or drink alcohol.  So I never did any of those things either and I sure enough can hunt coons all night if I just had a good coon dog.  You get to where you don’t want to do that as bad though.  Maybe it has to do with fur falling to such low prices.  A friend of mine who use to love to hunt ducks wouldn’t go with me last year because he said he wasn’t as mad at ‘em as he once was. Older hunters don’t need that explained.

            As I said, when it came to wandering around in the woods trying to find a covey of quail or a rabbit or a squirrel or duck sitting on the creek, there were those back then who still could but wouldn’t, and there were those who still wanted to but couldn’t and those who still did it but wondered why at the end of the day, when they couldn’t hardly get their boots off or put wood in the stove.  I am starting to fit into that last category.  Skinning and frying a squirrel becomes more of a job than fixing a baloney sandwich.

              Deer hunting is something old timers did ‘til they couldn’t drive into the woods and carry a rifle.  Leaning against a tree was no problem if you had brung along a cushion.  Ol Bill killed a nice buck when he was really old…just a few months before he went to glory.  His wife was still alive I think.  I heard a comment or two back in that day about how some of the fellows on the front bench feared that situation, dying before their wives did.  A man whose wife died before he did always came into the pool hall smelling better, with what hair he had left neatly combed.

            But bow hunters were all young… looked upon in that day as a little bit dumber because of their age.  Most bow hunters were in their twenties, worked at the local factory and got married just out of high school and had two or three kids before they killed their first buck.  Arthritis kept old men from bow hunting, not so much a greater amount of intelligence.  I killed my first buck with a bow when I was in my early twenties, married and had two little girls.  So I guess you could say I was pretty close to normal.

            I was told when I was in the pool hall to someday marry a young girl who was beautiful and not nearly as smart as I was.   That advice has stood the test of time.  My first wife, Gloria Jean, was indeed beautiful, and still is today!  But she has, over the years, become a tremendous amount smarter!!  She believed things when she was 18 that I can’t convince her of now.

            When I graduated from high school, Ol’ Bill told me something I never forgot.  He said “Son, I never got past the third grade but as educated as you are, I know something you won’t know for a long, long time.  I know how fast 50 years goes by.”  

            Well if I didn’t know that then, I know it now.” And I have learned what they all found out at or before my age… fishin’ becomes a lot more easier than huntin’.  I sure do like fishin’ more and more each year!

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Spotted Bass



         A couple of weeks ago a friend and I found a stretch of the Sac River we wanted to fish and a strange thing happened… we caught five incredibly large spotted bass on topwater lures. Often called Kentucky bass, they seldom are larger than 2 and 1/2 pounds in average waters of the Ozarks, even at four or five years of age.   One of those last week was the largest I have ever caught… right at eighteen inches, and close to four pounds, as fat as it was.  The others were fifteen to seventeen inches, really large spotted bass. You can see several photos of those fish on the computer at


         If you know fish, you can glance at a spotted bass and recognize it immediately.  If you aren’t sure you can tell one by a raspy, rough patch on its tongue.  Smallmouth and largemouth have smooth tongues.  The spotted bass gets its name from rows of spots on the lower section of the belly.


         I keep all spotted bass and eat them because they compete with the smallmouth, native to Ozark streams.  They diminish the smallmouth by eating the exact same prey, and living in the exact same habitat.  And they cross with the smallmouth, producing the resulting fish that some bass-fishermen call a ‘mean-mouth’, a genetically inferior fish according to some fisheries biologists.  Who knows if that hybrid can reproduce? I don’t know but if they can’t, but if they do not, bass numbers would decline. At any rate, I think that perhaps in a few decades spotted bass will crowd out smallmouth and maybe largemouth too.


         We have fished areas of the Sac River often, and caught hundreds of spotted bass and largemouth, but only one smallmouth was ever taken by a fisherman from my boat, and it was a four-pounder.  Where he came from I will never be able to figure out.

In earlier times, before the Stockton Lake dam, smallmouth did thrive in the upper half of the Sac River and I know from reading old outdoor magazines that spotted bass were heavily stocked in the river in the 1930’s, long before the lake was constructed.  They were not a native fish in any Ozark river.  But they are thick now, and found in most Ozark reservoirs.    The only place where they are known to be found as native fish is in a small pocket in east Arkansas along the Mississippi River.

         Reading fish scales under a microscope tells you the age of a fish and I think the bigger spotted bass I caught was likely eight to ten years old.   The others were all surely over five years old. I hate it that they are so detrimental to smallmouth, and in years to come, some rivers and lakes that have smallmouth may see the two fish hybridize to a point where you no longer see smallmouth at all.  I don’t know, only time will tell.  But I can say this, if the spotted bass continues to be as aggressive and easy to catch, and can grow to the sizes we caught last week, few anglers will complain about them. 


         They are much better eating than the smallmouth and seldom have the yellow grubs constantly found in the meat of the smallmouth.   So it is a not-so-unpleasant problem if they do crowd out the smallmouth.  It is just that us Ozark fishermen who are older are entrenched in the belief that no fish can equal the brownies we chase and release.  My advice has always been to keep all the spotted bass you catch and release the smallmouth. I will say this, the spotted bass, or Kentuckies if you want to call them that, put up a fight equal to the same sized brownies.  And they love topwater lures.


If you have ever read my magazines, you will know I publish one on the Ozarks and one on the outdoors. I have done so for 20 years.   Our fall magazine is an experiment I think all subscribers will like.  We have combined the two, and what we send out in October will be a magazine of about 120 pages; the first half on the outdoors… hunting fishing, nature, etc, and the second half on the Ozarks people and history.  The cost is $8 per magazine ($16 for two, $24 for three), due to the increases from printers, but then it is twice as large as it has always been.  If you want that fall magazine, you need to order before the end of October because after October the postage is about two dollars higher.  We need subscribers now to pay the cost of the printing, so if you want that new magazine send eight dollars to Lightnin’ Ridge Magazine, Box 22, Bolivar , Mo. 65613.  Or you can get the magazine via credit card just by calling our office, 417-777-5227.  I will return your money if you aren’t satisfied with the publication.  See the magazines we have published over the years and all my books (12 total) on my website--

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Making Scents of Things


Hunting from a tree is not nearly as uncomfortable if you occasionally see a deer

         I use to bowhunt a lot, when it was an October season.  Never did bowhunt in September, nor will I, ever. Warm weather keeps me a fisherman.  First frost makes me look for a tree stand and put on my camouflaged cap. I remember a little opening along an oak-hickory ridge where a secluded persimmon grove is nestled.  It's in an old field where Ozark settlers once had a homestead, overgrown and small and ringed with big oaks.  I once saw wild turkeys while I hunted there in the fall.  Not anymore, they are going the way of ruffed grouse that were once found in Ozark forests. 

         That special place is on the lake and I get there by boat.  Occasionally I sit there waiting for deer in October and wonder why I didn't go fishing instead.  Bass fishing is often very good while I am bowhunting, or so I perceive it to be.  But there have been times when I am fishing in the fall, and can’t catch a thing.  That’s when I look past the end of some cove and remember an old tree stand a ways back from the lake and envision the track of a big buck deer that went past it just after a recent rain.

    The thing that makes bass fishing and turkey hunting so much easier than deer hunting is scent.  A bass doesn't care how a spinner-bait smells and a wild turkey couldn't smell a midsummer outhouse if he roosted on it.  A turkey doesn't need to smell, he can see a bee on blossom 100 yards away.  Wild turkeys can hear extremely well and see extremely well but I don’t think he can smell worth a darn.  Maybe that is why they are now down to numbers that is less than half what there were 20 or 30 years ago. 

         A deer can hear well and if the wind is right, he can tell you what kind of cheese you have on your sandwich from a half mile away.  And that is the problem for me.  I have mastered everything that has to do with the outdoors except the art of using scent.  Most experts will tell you they know everything.  Not me!  I know almost everything but there's that one problem I have worked on for years and I still can't it figure it out.  I'm afraid every deer in the woods can smell me and they act accordingly.  It isn't that I'm not familiar with all the tricks.  I have put my hunting clothes in a bag of dirt and moss and leaves like some of my bowhunting friends do and I soak a pair of rubber boots with deer scent before I go into the woods.

    Everything the good bowhunters do, I do... but I spend too much time deerless. This scent thing befuddles me, I think, because I can't smell a thing myself.  I've got eyes like a hawk, if not like a turkey, and I can hear a squirrel gnawing on a nut way off in the distance.   I can hear people talking about how bad I smell during the deer season from 15 or 20 feet away. 


         Years ago a friend of mine invented and marketed a doe-in-heat scent which is carried by bubbles on air currents.  When I first heard of him sitting in a tree stand blowing bubbles from a bottle and a bubble wand, I near about rolled on the floor I laughed so hard.  And then he killed a buck a week or so into the bow season that had antlers as wide as the handlebars on a Harley-Davidson.

    I've got to do something, but I don't know what. My bubble blowing friend isn't going to give me many more bottles of those bubbles and I don't have any friends that will let me come to their house between now and Christmas because the scent of a 'doe-in-heat' stays with you even better than Dial soap.  I have one hunting shirt still buried out there in the leaves at the edge of woods because I was trying to give it an earthy smell and now I can't find it.

             One veteran old bow hunter says I should switch to a more natural scent, like corn.  He says that he puts several piles of corn around his tree stand and the scent of the corn draws deer like nothing else.  You have to keep replenishing it because the deer and turkey keep eating it, but it works better than anything else.  Of course the local game warden might consider that baiting, but it wouldn't be if you were just depending on the ‘scent’ of the corn to draw the deer rather than the flavor of it.  And besides that, if putting out something good to eat is taking an unfair advantage of a deer, what the heck do you call putting out the scent of a doe in heat?  How many men do you know who would rather smell a steak dinner than "Evening in Paris" on some beautiful ladies neck?

            Next weeks column is about catching some unusual fish of abnormal size just a couple of days back.  And now that I think about it, the smell of fish shouldn’t scare a deer.  Maybe I have come up with something.


Thursday, September 8, 2022

Hot Weather Hunting





Well, there went August. When I woke up the other morning it was September.  Now it is dove season, and one of the very best months to fish lies ahead.  I am more interested in the fishing. Dove hunting is fairly easy, and it isn’t high on my list of things to do. But I will do it anyway, because I am a grizzled old veteran outdoor writer and that kind of thing is expected of me.  I will do it closer to the first week of October than early September.  I know you hear young inexperienced outdoor writers talk about how hard doves are to hit, but not for me.  I got to where I can sneak up on a bunch of them and get four or five before they fly with only one or two shells.


I got to be such a good shot by practicing when I was young.  In the fall I’d go out and shoot at butterflies with my B.B. gun.  When you get to where you can hit a butterfly with a B.B. gun, you won’t have any trouble hitting doves with a ten-gauge shotgun about half the time.   No, I am just joking here.  I never owned a B.B. gun or a 10-guage!


I am going dove hunting when it is cool a few weeks from now because there will be many more doves migrated from those now in South Dakota I saw a few days back. I intend to take my young Labrador out and see if he will retrieve one.  If my Lab takes to dove hunting, he will likely be a good retriever by the time duck season gets here.  Most all the dove hunters will be out on opening day and within a week there won’t be hardly any of them left... hunters that is.  Right now there are 10 or 15 doves coming to my pond in the evening, but I have seen  more than 100 in October.


You need harvested grain fields for good dove hunting, or a small pond like mine used as a water hole where they come to water in the evening before they go to roost. And you don’t need to be sweating and swatting at mosquitos. I like hunting those water holes late in the season for two reasons.  Usually if you have a young Lab and you can drop a dove or two in the water, it is really good for them.  And again, there are more birds.

Dove hunting is sometimes hard on dogs in the early season because of the heat and humidity, and dove feathers come off in their mouths and they don’t like that.  A Lab hates dove feathers.  You can see why if you ever put a freshly shot dove in your mouth.  You can’t hardly get those feathers out of your throat.  I only did that once when I was young, trying to see why my Lab didn’t want to retrieve them.


On the Ozark river where I spent my boyhood years, there were few crop fields or feed-lots, and so I didn’t ever hunt doves. 


       Oh yes, I had hunted everything else you could find on the Big Piney, ducks, squirrels, rabbits and quail… but Grandma McNew would have disowned me if I had shot a dove.  She watched pairs of mourning doves raise young ones on their farm all summer long and she referred to doves as ‘birds of peace’.  She referred to dove hunters as something else, and none of the papers I write for would print what she called them.


 My dog and I will be a great deal happier in a couple of weeks when the teal season opens, if only there is some cooler weather by then, and flights of those biscuit-sized early migrating ducks to be found.  But that’s another column.