Monday, February 20, 2023

Speckle Geese and Red Wolves


       I was out in the woods about a week ago and I heard a familiar sound high overhead, the call of wild geese.  There are not a lot of people who hear specklebelly geese and recognize the fact that they are not snow geese or Canada’s.  But specklebellies almost never stop over in the Ozarks.  They pass over way up high in V formations, headed for northern Canada prairies where they nest. 


       In October they will come back, sailing toward Louisiana on a north wind.  I have never hunted them except in Louisiana, but they come into decoys well, and they are as good to eat as mallards.  I am going back to hunt them again this fall if I can.  Greater numbers of those geese are found in the pacific flyway, where hunters kill a quarter million of them each fall.

       Specklebellies are also known as White-front geese, and few know how they got that name.  Look at the photo of them on my blogspot and see if you can figure it out.  Answer at the end of this column.  The photo and many others can be seen on the internet, click on www.larrydablemontoutdoors.  


    Rummaging through hundreds of old photos of my grandfather, I found a photo of him with an 80-pound red wolf he trapped in the 1930’s.  They were once plentiful in the Ozarks of Missouri, and Arkansas, but the last one I know of was killed in northwest Arkansas in 1973.  But wildlife authorities think there are about 20 of them in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Louisiana and Texas. But I suspect there are also a few in the mountains of eastern Oklahoma.


The Fish and Wildlife
service have red collars on ten of them and so they are not yet extinct.  Some red wolf males are over 100 pounds in weight, but few will go more than 85 pounds.  They do not interbreed with coyotes but females will cross with large dogs.  When my grandfather caught that stock killer along the Big Piney, there were perhaps a few thousand Red Wolves.   I heard them howl when I was young and their howl is very similar to the howl of the timber wolves I have heard in Canada.  It is nothing close to the howl of coyotes.

        I think Ozarkians might really like the story and photos of my grandfather that will be in my spring magazine. I wrote about predictions he made when we camped in Big Piney caves and put in some photos going back to 1910. I thought he was crazy back then, but now I am seeing them come to pass.  To get a copy of that new magazine, call Gloria at 417-777-5227.

       When I first started my magazines, the Lightning Ridge Outdoor Journal and eventually the Lightning Ridge Journal of the Ozarks, we had a huge number of subscribers.  Today, most of the folks who loved reading them are passed on, and it seems a new generation has little interest.  That is part of the reason our last issue will be coming out in the fall.  BUT—we have a hundred back issues and readers who will miss it can get some of those back issues and be able to read great stories for years to come.  Those back issues, all of them, can be seen on the internet at  If you would like anything on our web site, contact our office. We can provide cheaper prices. Some of those have been sold out, but not many.  We even have dozens of copies of the very first outdoor journal from about 25 years ago.  In keeping with the way my dad did things when selling an old car or johnboat, “We are asking ten dollars apiece for those old magazines,but would take half that!”


In the future I will just write newspaper columns that are free for any newspaper wanting to use them.  At present there are about 40 papers in Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas which use these.  But if you want to see the wildlife and outdoor photos I take each week you will have to go to that website I gave above, larrydablemontoutdoors.  And frankly, if your newspaper doesn’t use all the columns, (some are too controversial) go to that site to read them.


Right now I am so excited about that Big Piney Museum we are building south of Houston Mo that I can hardly contain myself.  I just go out and do cartwheels on a regular basis.  More about it and the people helping make it a reality in a future column.  Lots of progress recently.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@


P.S. White front geese got that name from the white patches right behind the bill.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Otter Toilets Reveal So Much



            This should make you laugh… a letter I got from Butch Stone, a grizzled old veteran outdoorsman from the Ozarks who makes his own bows and arrows and hunts successfully with them.  He says… 

“I came across a bunch of young people, seining below a low water crossing. Four big Mo, conservation trucks. Of course I asked what was going on, and the spokesman told me, ‘we’re doing a study on why the crayfish and fresh water salamanders are disappearing from the Ozark streams?

So I told him…Why don’t you check the otter toilets on the sand bar behind you and see what they been eating? No one did, it was too simple an answer for them?”


            I wish they would send some employees to help landowners along the river to fence off river bottom land so that cattle can be kept be kept out of the river. Nothing would save salamanders and aquatic creatures like that work. There is an easy way to do that which costs ranchers nothing, all paid for by the government.  I have visited river bottoms where owners did that, but they have to do it first in order to get their money back.  Few can afford that, although I have a neighbor who did it and he is there to show what can be done and tell anyone who will listen what an advantage it has been to him.  Drilled wells now water his cattle, and his land along the river is fenced off,  planted in trees and native grasses  But again, he paid for it all and the Soil Conservation Center reimbursed him.  Come see it, he and I will show it to you. That could be done all along the best of our Ozark rivers but the Conservation department will not get involved. Money is the reason given, but so much money is wasted on things of little importance.  Those of us who live on and with the land know exactly why salamanders and crawdads are decreasing. Why in the heck does nothing get done about it?


Wild turkey are also decreasing, and the answers to that decline are so easy to see and address, but the MDC will not even face the problem because they feel it will cost them money.  I’ll address that solution when we get closer to the turkey season.  And we have the figures to show what a money-maker the elk and bear seasons are for the MDC.  You won’t believe it!!


            You don’t need to launch a study to learn about the eventual extinction of the night birds, whippoorwills and their relatives.  Some university had better set up some type of program to try to raise them in captivity or in 30 years we’ll be talking about them like we do the passenger pigeon today. Missourians who live in towns and cities don’t hear them at night anyway, so there is no concern amongst the suburbanites, but to the few of us who live in the woods, it is a great loss.  Thirty years ago there were always some of them in my woods to hear at night, but in recent years, none.  When I camp in the summer on various rivers, they are seldom heard.


            There is a lot to be said for research, but wondering why small streams are losing salamanders… come on man! Research needs to be done with some common sense!  I can give you five answers to the reason streams are losing creatures which once lived in those waters in good numbers.  But nothing can be done about it with biologists like that Butch encountered, who take pages of figures back to some city office cubicle, and they should know that. Why spend money where there is no way to change anything? I would like to see that money spent on working with landowners to actually better our streams.  In that act of making the water quality better along creeks and rivers, the creatures living in the water can be helped.

            Funny thing is, I could go out and contact landowners as nothing more than an average citizen and talk them into those bottomland projects that the U.S. government will pay for.  Why can’t the MDC, with the millions they have, do the same?  Heck, they can get me to do it for no pay.  This would be so simple to do.  MDC though has no interest, even if I volunteer to do it for them.


            I got a call from a lady in one of the MDC offices who told me she is disgusted because in March their office like many others, has to spend the last of budgeted money for fear of having their budget cut for the upcoming year.  She said they have to go out and spend it on things like an ATV which will never be used.  She said that it will likely be available a time or two for private use by one of the offices supervisors on their days off, then sold at auction in the MDC’s equipment auction the next year.  Her words were, “We waste so damn much money”!!


            I know there are folks who look forward to our Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet organized this year by my old friend Steve Johnson.  Steve says we need more vendors, so if you want a table to sell your old hunting and fishing gear, or anything else, call him at 417-414-3128.  The event will be in the Noble Hills Church gym on March 18.  Admission is free and I will be there with all my hunting and fishing gear which I am getting to old to use.  I will also be giving away magazine and selling my books for a big discount.  I hope to see many of the readers of this column. The church is located along highway 13 just a few miles to the north of Springfield.  Breakfast and lunch available and the money made from that will be used for sending youth to a summer Church Camp.


Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613  or email me at  To see my websites on the Internet just type in my name.


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

A Man Who Made Predictions


         A real life naturalist is a man who has lived his life in the woods knows and sees and feels things that he knows the modern world will not understand  Men who call themselves ‘Master Naturalists’ in this day and time are to be laughed at. There are lots of those.

         But real naturalists from an early time, like Muir and Miner and Burroughs, seem to be those who will never be again.  They were taken seriously once, but not now. The ones I knew are either very old or dead. Henry David Thoreau once wrote “In  wildness was the saving of mankind.” He was right!

         My grandfather was such a naturalist, a man who lived his life in the woods and the river.  He told me in 1960 that things we saw then would cease to exist in 100 years, and that humans of that time would be gone, replaced by weaker, more intelligent humans who would make a world unlivable because of ambition and greed. Always wanting more. 

         How he could know that a full, flowing creek filled with fish and crawdads that we stood beside back then would be dry when he died, I cannot explain, but it was, to never hold water again!

         He saw things coming that I thought at the time were a figment of a confused old man’s tormented mind.  Of course I won’t see 2060 and I fear that the natural outdoor world may not either.

         What bothers me most is seeing the most undesirable part of the woods and waters become so strong, existing in such high numbers.  And we are not just looking at introduced and invasive species. Some were never introduced and still they have mushroomed in numbers, species which are detrimental to the land; insects, algae, plants, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals…! 

         Here now we have great and increasing armadillos, black vultures, cormorants, carp, starlings, possums, raccoons, black snakes, crows and hawks, even eagles in numbers far above what they should be. 

         I could fill this whole page with numbers of detrimental species, and that includes insects by the dozens like the emerald ash borers that are now destroying the ash trees in the Midwest.  There are introduced plants like kudzu, many of them growing and thriving in the wild.  But even without the old-time ‘seng hunters, ginseng is disappearing from the Midwest, as are so many beneficial plants.

         There are more species destined for extinction.  Whipporwills and Chuck-wills-widows and woodcock are likely to become extinct in 20 to 30 years, and quail and turkey may follow.  But the last two species can be propagated and brought back in domestication.  I cannot see a way that the former three can.  The subspecies of huge river redhorse, often between 12 and 16 pounds, which was seen in the fifties, is gone forever and soon the Ozark hellbender will be.  I doubt there are more than a few dozen of the latter remaining in any Ozark stream. They are concentrated in a few places, not along any river they use to inhabit.  Eels seem to be gone in the Ozark waters too.

         But as my grandfather told me, the biggest change coming is in men. He said the type of man to come in this world will not need or want what we valued in 1960.

         I heard him say much that I felt was just sillyness back then when we camped on gravel bars along the river, or in caves in the winter and on stormy nights of the summer, He told me more men had lived in a long ago time in those caves where we often slept, than in farms and towns throughout the Ozarks in the past 100 years.  “The human of that time is nothing like the humans of today.” He told me one night as we camped in the old Mineral Springs cave. 

          “We’ll be as different from them men to come as we are from them who lived in this cave in times gone,” he said, and I remember every word.  He told me that the humans to come would be worse than any we could envision, and that God would not tolerate it long if he really existed and cared about what he had created on this earth. Grandpa told me that as men increased, the earth would decline and it would culminate in the death of perhaps 99 out of 100 men, so the earth could build back to what it was.

         He also spoke about the horrible disease that had killed so many in the Ozarks in 1918.  He said that in World War I more men had died from that Spanish disease than from bullets and mustard gas.  But he said that before I died I would see a worse disease.  He believed that someday planes would fly up with the stars and our enemies would use them to drop germs and bombs on our nation that would kill most of those in crowded cities.  He said that in a far away time, survivors would live in caves along the river again.

         He often talked of the war to come within our nation, brought in by our enemies who hated this country and it’s God-fearing ways. 

         I knew that my grandfather was uneducated and what we call bipolar today.   He worshipped God one day and thought he might be an atheist another time. Maybe the war made him that way.  He lapsed into horrible depression and sadness at times, and had days when he was the happiest man I ever saw.  But he told me that the water would someday not flow much in the river and he said that big rocks below our boat, some the size of automobiles, would disappear in another time, I really thought Grandpa was going crazy. Nothing could move those rocks.  Today I can show you where they were and no one will ever see them again.  Sounds strange doesn’t it? 

         Today I see a lot of what he predicted coming to pass. It haunts me that I remember his words so well.  But I have never talked of his predictions. It is much like he said… we will lose the good, and gain the bad.  The carp will replace the redhorse, the vulture will be in great numbers, the quail nearly gone. You can read about his life and what he told me back then, about things that I have seen come true. 

         And you can read about hellbenders and how smallmouth might be extinct.  I see the change of smallmouth species beginning and I will tell you why. That will all be in my spring magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal.  

To contact me, write to P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at



    We had outdoor swap meets at the Brighton, MO Assembly of God Church for about 10 years, until a new preacher refused to let us use the gym, even though in those ten years we raised about 3,000 dollars for the church youth programs.
---GOOD NEWS. the Noble Baptist Church down the road to the south of Brighton, just a few miles north of Springfield on Hwy 13, has agreed to host another Outdoorsmans Swap Meet on Saturday, March 18. My good friend Steve Johnson is in charge and reserving table space for folks. Admission is free! I will be there with some of my LIghtnin' Ridge employees, selling my books and giving away free magazines (priced in stores at 8 dollars each). I hope many of my readers will come and meet with me. If you have outdoor gear to sell, reserve a table now. see the brochure attached.