Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Beaver Trappers


Fred Dablemont with the giant beavers ( 96 and 92 pounds) from the Big Piney River in  the winter of  1952  Likely both are state records.  

       At the University of Missouri, the science classes had the best of instructors. My college advisor was a mammology instructor by the name of Dr Campbell. The man came to despise me because of several things. Mostly it is because at the age of 18 I was too obnoxious. Instead of keeping my mouth shut, I corrected him on something in class, and talked too much about my experiences back home on the Big Piney River. 

       He resented the fact that for my mammology project I trapped small mammals along the Big Piney and came up with two mice, male and female, that had never been seen in the state.  They were known as brush deer mice, (Perimiscus Boyli) which had never been found in Missouri before. I spent the whole two week Christmas break in 68 camped out in an old shack on the Piney and caught 13 species of ground mammals.  

       Dr. Campbell gave me a C on the project!  A lot of that low grade was due to the fact that I had made another 100 dollars trapping some fur along the river with my grandfather out of an old wooden johnboat and he found out about it. When I sold the two live mice for 50 dollars more to the St. Louis Zoo, the man who took them was Marlin Perkins.  In 1969 he wasn’t that famous. I didn’t know him from Adam Cartwright. Mr. Perkins was tickled with the two rare mice…  he said the zoo was constructing a small mammal section where they would go. Until that time the brush mouse species had been found no closer to the Big Piney than Oklahoma.  

       I never did win over Dr. Campbell even after I promised him a free float-trip on the Piney.  I was writing a weekly column on nature and the outdoors for the Columbia Missourian newspaper, and he didn’t like that. I bragged a little too much about it, I reckon. And I should have kept my mouth closed about what all I knew from my 18 years on the Big Piney listening and learning from the old rivermen there and my grandfather.


    The straw that was piled on Dr. Campbell's back, (get it, ‘straw that broke the camels back’) was when he was talking about river furbearers once and he said that beavers only grew to 60 or 70 pounds, and didn’t live much past 10 years.

       Of course I couldn’t let that pass because my grandfather and his trapping partner, Bill Stalder, had caught two that were 96 and 92 pounds, weighed on feed store scales in  Houston, Missouri, which came from the lower Big Piney River just past the mouth of Arthur’s Creek, along a long bottomland field on the southwestern side of the river. In that long, flat field there had been acres of corn planted by a farmer for years. He was losing so much corn to beavers and other varmints, he came to my grandfather and offered to pay him well to thin out the corn stalk stealers.  I was told years later that the two big ones were a male and female, stocked in the river about eight or nine years before by the Missouri Conservation Commission, (a different agency than today’s imitation, the Missouri Department of Conservation). And the two beavers had delighted in growing old and fat on the abundance of corn, likely raising enough young’ins to populate a good section of the Missouri river itself.


       Grandpa Fred and Bill Stalder set drown-set steel traps, which did not hold an animal alive for hours along the river, it drowned them quickly.  It is complicated to explain that, but it amounted to a weighted wire going out into the water, which the trap could slide down, but not back up.  Beaver traps had to be strong, because beavers have a tapered foot and if they are big and strong, more than 40 or 50 pounds, they can pull their foot right out of a trap.  Those two trappers back in 1952 found those two giant beavers all right but they couldn’t hold them.  Old Bill Stalder had the answer… some bear traps!  He found four and about three weeks and a half dozen smaller beavers later, they caught the two big ones.  My grandfather told me years later they could hardly lift them into the boat they were so big.  Anyways, they were not world records.  The world record beaver weighed 110 pounds: caught from the Iron River in Wisconsin in 1921 and thought to be 20 years old. Many captive beavers have reached that age. I am sure they were among the top ten, and surely the biggest ever caught in the lower Midwest.  But who knows? 

       Dr. Campbell gave me a C in mammology, and I knew why. In my obnoxiousnous, I brought that 1952 photo of Bill and Grandpa with those two giant beavers to class for all to see and sort of stuck out my chest and said I told you so. And this is hard to believe, but Dr. Campbell told the whole class that those photos were phony, and had been re-touched up somehow. He said no beaver had ever reached 75 pounds. Let alone 96! Photos from 52…  touched up and phony? You can see those pictures on my website,

       More about beaver in next week’s column.  My email is  Write to…PO Box 22, Bolivar, Mo.65613

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Doggone Barn Bear


Caption… This black bear swam across the lake just to visit a Canada bait site, a daily replenished pile of fish guts.  At such a site, it was easy to get bear  photos.  But easier still in the evenings at a local Indian reservation dump, which usually attracted up to 6 or 8 bears. 

            I got a call this morning from a dairy farmer who says there is a bear hanging around his barn that sends his dairy cows into a panic, and they won’t even go into the barn to be milked.  He says he believes it is a female with a cub because he has seen the cub in past years.  I didn’t realize that a black bear would cause such wild-eyed panic amongst dairy cows, but he has a real problem if that panic causes a drop in milk production.

             There is a lot I could write about black bears in Missouri after interviewing the “bear biologist” who says there are twice as many bears in the Ozarks than there actually are.  She has good reason to exaggerate that number.  Last year, the MDC made only 10 thousand dollars selling 400 bear permits for 25 dollars each.  But they made 73-thousand dollars raking in 10 dollars each from 7300 hunters who merely APPLIED for one of those tags.  None of those seven thousand-plus applicants got their 10 dollars back, but 400 got to pay 25 dollars more to receive a tag allowing them to actually hunt a bear.  Only 8 of those 400 were successful.  I will write more about all that in a later column.  

            What a story there is about a conservation agent (game warden) calling a “bear biologist” in the middle of the night with a trapped bear in a cage, and the fight that ensued over whether or not it should be shot.  The agent wanted to take it to a national forest.  He was fired because of his insistence!  The biologist shot the bear in the cage and apparently sold the hide.  The entire thing was related to me by a Joplin policeman, somewhat amused by witnessing the whole thing.

            I have long begged the MDC to allow me to rent a good-sized venue in Springfield where I could debate some of their ‘biologists’ in front of a couple hundred outdoorsmen and country folks about subjects like CWD, bear and elk seasons, and the alarming decline in wild turkey numbers.  

            So here is what I am proposing…  I want to meet with them, as many of them as want to come, in a debate before turkey season.  I’m saying that I know more about wild turkey than they do!  How can they pass up a challenge like that???  What an opportunity to discredit me and prove that they know more about wild turkey than I do.  What an entertaining event that would be, allowing questions from the audience!!!???  

            My letter goes out to the MDC Director, Sara Pauley this week proposing such a debate, and an opportunity for Missouri turkey hunters to learn why the MDC will not act to stop the decline.  What I wouldn’t give to have Mrs. Pauley join the group.  She and I met for 4 hours a few years back and she had no idea what I was talking about.  I kept bringing up new proposals for and past history of MDC operations.  All I got from her were blank looks.

            I have proposed such a debate for years and there has never been a response.  With the crisis coming in wild turkey populations the past ten years, what would it hurt to answer some questions and hear some ideas?   I want to propose some solid ideas for bringing wild turkey numbers back.   Arrange that, Mrs. Pauley, a discussion which I will be a part of anywhere, anytime, just me against the best of your wild turkey biologists. And we’ll abide by your rules.  Please?!

            As to the bear around the dairy barn, you can so easily bait that bear with big quantities of popcorn well away from the barn. If that is a female with a cub, as it almost certainly is, she has a hibernation den not far away.  In the Ozarks, bears won’t hibernate long, but cubs are born in the dead of winter as the female hibernates, though that period may only be two or three weeks or so.  I would, and could, find that den and destroy it, so that in the future winters the bear would have to move away. That needs to be done. The bear could easily be baited, trapped and moved into the National Forest miles away where it would never return.   Or the farmer could send in ten non-refundable dollars to be considered for one of those 25-dollar tags.  He would have a one-in 200 chance to get drawn for a tag, at which time he could bait the bear like all other bear-harvesters do, and kill it.  That would help the MDC increase its annual revenue, and he could sell the hide and eat some of the awfullest-tasting meat a hunter will ever put in the freezer.

Arkansas black bear baited with popcorn
           As someone who hunted black bear in Canada with a camera, I could pass on some valuable information to you who want to hunt bear.  And I have a friend who has killed eight black bears in the Arkansas Ozarks with a bow.  I think my readers would enjoy his story and adventure, which I will put in a future column this summer.  A female bear with a cub nearly ended his hunting adventures forever.  What a hair-raising story that is.
A friend's AR black bear


            Of the five thousand I printed, I have a thousand of the publications remaining entitled,  “The Truth About the Missouri Department of Conservation.”  It is free if you will pay the postage.  Call 417 777 5227 to order one. My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

A Swimmin’ Minnow Does the Tricks

Nancy smith Lynn with a fat bass.  The lure at the top is the old swimming minnow


      I hired Nancy Smith Lynn a year or so ago to work with advertisers for my magazines. She owns a farm near Mt. Grove, Missouri and is a nice lady who does a whiz-band job of what she does for me, but she had never cast a lure. She thought she  could do it, but all ladies think they can learn to fish good… I just smile at that.  I took Nancy fishing last week when it was too cool, and too cloudy and not at all like I like for it to be when I go up a lake tributary looking for white bass. 


      I spent a few minutes showing Nancy how to cast a spinning outfit, figuring I would see a lot of lures in tree limbs that day, and I will be darn if she didn’t learn how to use it within minutes.  But the fishing in one of my favorite spots was lousy.  Then it got fair and we caught a couple, including Nancy’s first white bass. The fish was okay, but not huge, maybe 12 inches.  Big enough to filet and eat!  

      So I made a big thing of it… her catching her very first fish ever on something besides a cane pole and night crawler back when she was 10!  We bet a thousand dollars that I would catch a bigger fish than she would that day. Sort of funny it was, Nancy thinking that on her first trip she would out-fish a grizzled old veteran angler like me! 

      Fishing sort of went from slow to okay that afternoon!  In an hour or so it was medium-good and Nancy caught a 13-inch largemouth.  I told her that fish wouldn’t win any bet against me and what I would catch when I got serious about it. Then the sun broke out and it got well-good. I caught a 12-inch smallmouth…fought like the dickens in that current.  It hadn’t exactly become the kind of holy-mackerel-outstanding, like it has often been in that river.  But it was getting there.

      Here is where I would like to say that there are a thousand fishing lures in my basement, maybe 2 thousand I don’t know.   Because I am an outdoor writer lure companies have sent me free lures hoping I would write about what they sent me and from time to time I did.  I have a story about a lure that I was sent, which I used on a wind-blown lake in Kansas at an outdoor writers meeting, that is a humdinger of a tale but I’ll tell  that story about that lure later.  

      Hundreds of my lure collection, adorning that wall, are lures I have found combing the water-line on dozens of lakes for years and years.  One day in Canada I found ten oversized foot-long Muskie lures, two of them antiques, in one day.  $300 worth of fishing lures from Lake of the Woods sandbars.  


     Well, last week I tied an old lure on Nancy’s line that had been on that ‘wall of lures’ of mine for at least thirty-five years without getting wet.  It is called a Swimmin’ Minnow lure, likely made in the fifties. 


      I figured that old lure would give me the opportunity to catch the biggest bass, when all it did was made Nancy a semi-pro.  That little wiggling lure began to call fish like a dying rabbit calls in coyotes.  A white bass here, a largemouth there, and she don’t even offer to let me have it back!   Then she starts hollerin’ that she is gonna need a net and her light-action spinning rod is bent over like one of those peach-tree limbs I use to cut for my mother years back.  What a fighter he was, a 15-incher that won Nancy the thousand dollars we bet on the biggest fish.  I haven’t paid her yet; there are deductions, like boat gas, and rental of fishing gear.  

      But when it was over, that Swimmin’ Minnow lure had racked up about two-dozen white bass and a half-dozen largemouth, her rod bent more often than it was unbent.  Nancy is chompin’ at the bit to go again with one of the Ozarks finest fishing guides.  Heck, I ought to be the best; I started guiding my Dad when I was only ten.        And I took Joe and Kate Richardson on paid float trips when I was twelve years old and Mrs. Richardson caught the only six-pound smallmouth I have ever seen come from the Ozarks.  If that sounds like bragging just a little bit, it is. But it isn’t the big-time bragging that I often get into! Back then as a kid I got 50 cents an hour for guiding fishermen, and Nancy didn’t have to pay me nothing!  Next time I take her, it is gonna be a paid trip… 50-cents-an-hour and a thousand dollars on the biggest fish!

      In some future column I will tell more stories about fishing lures I have used, especially the old ones.  But that will have to wait.  Next trip out I intend to use some lures made in the 40’s and before, like the Flatfish, Tadpoly, and Lazy Ike.  But for the first 3 or 4 hours I intend to use a Swimmin’ Minnow.

      I write some stuff that newspapers can’t use, and take dozens of color photos that readers might like to see on what is known as a BlogSpot.  To read all of what I write and see the color photos, just get on a computer and put in larrydablemontoutdoors

      You can write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at   I’m not in my office much when I am gone, but my secretary is. Just tell her to tell me to call you. That phone number is 417-777-5227. To see my 12 books and 90 magazine issues, the website is just

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Road Skunks


Skunks are predators, mostly carnivorous but not totally. They can be a problem in a garden.

       I learned something about skunks recently.  I drove from my home to Bull Shoals Lake in North Arkansas last week, then up to Texas County and eventually back home to Lightnin’ Ridge here about 40 miles to the north of Springfield.  In doing so, I learned that we have more skunks in the two states than we have ever had.  There were dozens I saw dead along the highways, dozens and dozens.         I gave some thought to getting out and checking a dozen or so to figure the ratio of dead males to dead females, but really I already know that. It is skunk mating season.  Among all living things, males are more interested in mating than females, so likely 90 percent of those fairly flattened road-killed skunks were males.  There could be some females, which, like all females, were running from the males. 


       But folks, I have never seen anything like the dead skunks everywhere, and what it tells me is, that right now we have a bunch more skunks thanI have seen since I got my first driver’s license.  That is bad, because too many skunks in February always means a rabies outbreak in the summer.  If you live in the country like me, get your dogs vaccinated.  And knowing that skunks are chiefly nocturnal, remember that those you see in the daytime are either tremendously hungry, or run out of their dens by flood water, or quite possibly, addled by rabies.

       Another thing about having too many skunks is the problems faced by ground nesting birds like quail, woodcock , wild turkey and whippoorwills.  Skunks eat lots of things, but any of them would rather come across eggs than anything else. 

       If you have a wildlife camera, try this… hide 3 or four chicken eggs under a scattering of grass or hay out in the woods, and set up your camera to see how long they last there.  You might be surprised at what all comes along to eat them.  Skunks likely will be first, with raccoons and possums a close second.

       Years back, my dad and his brothers set deadfalls to kill skunks, and when they got one in a deadfall, the skunk almost never sprayed their scent.  Skunks spray that scent when they are threatened, up to 10 feet away.  And you know how far you can smell it, a mile away if the wind is right. Once he unloads a charge of that vile stuff, he needs a few days to rebuild it, so if you get sprayed good, you can kick him around good for perhaps a week. 


      In the twenties and early 30’s a skunk pelt brought up to three dollars.  Which color do you think brought the most money, an all-black fur mostly or a white pelt mostly?  Answer at the end of this column.

       You may not know this but a skunk can be bitten by a ten-foot rattlesnake and it will have no affect on it.  They are immune to all snake venom. But woe to the snake what bit one, his eyes are going to burn for awhile! To keep them away from chicken coops, gardens or your barn, put out a good scattering of mothballs.  They run from that smell.

        Only one creature is oblivious to the scent of a skunk, and that is a great-horned owl, it’s greatest enemy. They nail one from  above quite often and find skunk flesh to be very tasty apparently. Even barred owls will eat young ones.  It is strange, that thing with the owls, because skunk scent is hell on mammalian predator’s eyes, and owls have the biggest eyes of anything.


       I had a grown pet owl once that came  to me from an old trapper and he smelled a great deal like a skunk but he didn’t seem to know it.  If you don’t believe me on that, when you see a dead hoot owl along the highway get out and smell it!  At least 25 percent of them will smell like skunk!  Someday I will write more about Al, my pet owl. 

       I never had a pet skunk, but I knew a taxidermist in Iowa who had one which had it’s scent gland removed.  It ran at a cousin of mine once and bit him on the boot.  He told its owner that the short teeth of the skunk and the thick leather of his boot was the only thing that prevented her from having a 12- gauge discharged inside her house. 

       I recommend against having a pet skunk!  In fact, if you value ground-nesting birds, I recommend you learn to set deadfalls and kill every skunk you see.  Go ahead and run over any that you come across on the highway.  Lots of people have been doing that.  If you take him by surprise, he won’t have time to spray your car.  If he does spray your car, just wash it with tomato juice.  I have heard that works.


Answer to above question.  The more white on a skunk, the less the fur was worth back then.  A completely black fur was rare, but worth a dollar more.  Trappers and fur buyers referred to all-black skunk-pelts as star-blacks because there was so often a small white star on the forehead.

Say, listen folks, my friend Steve Johnson would like to get some more vendors for the big outdoorsman’s swap meet at the Noble Hill church on Saturday, March 18.  If you are interested,  and have anything you want to sell, I will get you a table there beside mine.  Just holler and I will send you a flyer that gives all info.  My office phone is… 417 777 5227 and Steve’s is…417 414 3128.