Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Bad News for Turkeys

 


Dan's captive turkeys, growing poults in mid summer.  


         An old man in the rural part of St. Clair County successfully worked to keep wild turkeys plentiful on his place. For 15 years he did a heck of a job!  His name was Dan Besser. He bought some incubators and raided several wild turkey nests each spring, hatching the eggs and raising the turkey poults in a pen inside a barn. 

         Dan knew that if he left a couple of eggs inside the nest and took only four or five, the hen turkey would continue to lay eggs in the nest.  It is a fact that wild turkey hens will lay lots more eggs if the nest is destroyed.  An Arkansas biologist told me years ago he had known of hens laying one egg a day for most of a month and a half, when the nest was raided.  Hens have been known to hatch eggs at all weeks of the summer, but it is also a fact that some poults that hatch in late summer are often too small to survive the winter. Likely, poults hatched in August have such a high mortality rate that few ever see the next spring.  

         Dan knew a lot about wild turkeys and he usually could find a couple of nests and therefore incubate 8 or 10 eggs or so.  The survival rate was good, as he knew when to rotate the eggs and when to moisten them.  Most hatched, and by the time the poults were feeding around his house and sheds on their own, Dan was trying to keep them in protective pens at night. 

         He’d release them at the appropriate age and they would stay close, roosting in his trees.  By September they were wild birds. Most young birds he hatched lived into the following spring. 

 The old man's efforts produced gobblers like these twelve years ago.  There are  none today


        Dan allowed no fall hunting and marked them with a loose, colored collar around the neck so he could tell how many survived and recognize them. He said that usually the survival rate to adult birds was a little better than half.  Some would say he should never take wild eggs but that can be a real boon to the wild turkeys. Laws making it illegal to do so are not all that wise, because Dan Besser had plenty of wild turkeys. Many farmers have learned to do that.          Ten or twelve years ago I would stay in a small cabin of his, on Panther Creek and I eventually bought his place.  We turned his 50 acres and cabins into a retreat for poorer churches that wanted to help underprivileged kids.  In those times, I would get up before dawn, drink a cup of coffee on the porch looking over Panther Creek and hear 4 or 5 gobblers up and down the creek as they came off the roost.  Today there are none there... None!  Dan passed away and they began to decline.   

         There are no biologists today who would even try what he did.  They should try something, but they do not.  Now they have decided to allow all-day hunting.  There is a reason the really competent professional turkey biologists I met as a boy would not consider all day hunting.  Biologists of today are young, come from suburban backgrounds and are poorly educated.  

         They may be inept, as one I interviewed had no idea whether young poults were precocial or altricial, but if they were the best they could be, they would have to follow the puppeteers who tell them what to do, thinking first of how much revenue the wild turkey can produce.

         The harvest figures that become lower, as hunting numbers soar, is something that in time will cause hunters to stop buying tags. I grew up in a time of great turkey hunters who knew the birds as if they themselves were biologists.  There were the old-timers like Clyde Trout and Nolan Hutcheson and others whose names are forgotten.  But those men were in on the first restocking and resurrection of wild turkeys in the Ozarks when they were next to extinct in the 40’s and 50’s.  

         I wrote about them in my book, “The Greatest Wild Gobblers, Lessons Learned from Old-Timers and Old Toms.”  I hope you will read that book.  I would recommend it to the Conservation Department’s turkey experts.  You can find that book along with 10 others I have published, on the website, www.larrydablemont.com.  

         Wouldn’t it be something if the MDC would accept my invitation to a debate, just me against all the experts they could muster, at some venue in the Ozarks where outdoorsmen could come and ask questions.  I have asked them to accept that challenge for years, but they never answer.  Maybe some newspaper will help organize that someday.

         Check my other computer site from time to time, www.larrydablemontoutdoors You can email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com or write to me at P.O Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  Let me reiterate that I do not live in that town, but out in the woods miles away.  You can come and visit me if the crick isn’t up, but the road up to here is a rash of rocks and potholes so don’t bring your really good vehicle.  I recommend a good mule! 

         



Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A Befuddled MDC Agent

 



         I encourage old time turkey hunters to refrain from buying a turkey tag this spring and hunt them as I do…with a camera.  I just don’t want to kill any more gobblers.  I have killed them for 56 years, sometimes six or seven a year, and that is enough. I never want to go through cleaning and cooking another one.

         Did you know that there are laws in various states that make it illegal to have a wild turkey in your freezer after sometime in May?  The silliness continues!

         Years ago, I announced in my newspaper column that I would be having a wild game dinner and fish fry at a local church and that I would deep fry a gobbler that I had killed that spring. The big event was to take place in early June. A Missouri game warden called to tell me I would not be able to do that because it was illegal to have one after a certain day in May. 

         I was already a heinous violator for having it that long in my freezer. I told the warden I intended to proceed with my plans. He could come to our dinner, take a bite of the turkey and tell me if it was wild or tame.  He said a test on the meat could tell him that. Likely he had one of them DNA testers. So I asked him if it was legal to keep a cooked wild turkey in my freezer, like leftovers. He said he would have to find out by calling the front office and he would get back to me. He called back to say that it was indeed unlawful to have an uncooked wild turkey in one’s freezer, but it was likely going to be a problem fining me for having a cooked wild turkey in my freezer. I assume that perhaps you can’t get an accurate DNA test from a cooked turkey.

         I decided to have some fun out of that local game warden, so I went out and got a store-bought turkey and boiled it for about ten minutes. Then I called him and told him I needed him to call the front office and ask them how long a wild turkey needed to be boiled to be considered cooked. I got around to telling him that it had already been boiled for ten minutes and had turned fairly pink. I invited him to come to my basement freezer with a search warrant to take a look at the turkey. Cooking it that little while, I felt, should make the gobbler legal for the church dinner, which was to be held a good two weeks after the wild-turkey-in-the-freezer deadline. The question is, how long does one need to boil a turkey to call it a cooked turkey? When I asked him that, the game warden uttered an expletive and hung up.

         That’s a true story!  

         Our Wild Game Dinner at the church came off without a hitch. The game warden didn’t come.  He missed a really good fried turkey.

         

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fewer Wild Gobblers… More Hunters

 

Two gobblers feeding on corn in front of a youth blind

     The decline in wild turkey numbers over the past ten years is due to many things.  The main cause takes place next weekend, the youth season, what one hunter has referred to the weekend best used to teach youngsters to lie and break game laws.  I spend more time outdoors during the winter than any of the states young biologists and I can tell you that in some areas, gobbler numbers are down as much as 60 to 70 percent over what they were 20 years ago.  In some areas the decline is only 30 to 40   percent.  In those areas, private landowners do not allow hunting.  To accomplish that, those landowners keep youth hunting off their land, and they own enough land to keep down hunting pressure.  You can’t do much with less than 140 acres with a good part of it timbered.

     What I think is ahead for the wild turkey is the same situation you see now with quail, a base number of turkeys that does not increase much.  The Department of Conservation could do so much with a shorter, delayed spring season, a fall season cut in half or eliminated, reduced limits from two birds to one, and a youth season at the conclusion of the regular spring season instead of early April.  Right now, they fail to realize there is a change in what the wild turkey is…the fact that mating seasons are quite a bit later than they were in the 70’s and 80’s.  They also fail to realize that there has never been a poacher’s tool greater than the youth season. If a father wants to teach his kids to hunt, if he wants to spend valuable time with his children, tell me why a youth season in May, after the end of the regular season, is not just as good as the one we now have. 

     Those who complain the loudest about doing that, are the ones who use the youth season to kill an easy additional gobbler.  Youth seasons so often consist of elaborate blinds where corn has been scattered all through the winter.  You’ll see some fathers doing things right, but too many use that early season, as it is said, “To teach their youngsters to lie and break laws.” Some southern states are doing things to change spring turkey hunting in ways to help bring back gobbler numbers.  Why does it not become a priority of the Missouri department?  One answer… MONEY!

     Without the records to tell me, I will bet you will find, this spring, more hunters buying tags than ever, but low numbers of killed gobblers which may be more inaccurate than ever.  It takes little to figure, if ten hunters in the 80s killed 3.2 gobblers, and ten hunters in 2024 kill .6 gobblers, something needs to change.  That is a figure the MDC should make known… but they won’t.

 

Lightnin’ Ridge  Publishing Company will print a book for a 90 -year old man who was, for most of four decades an employee of the Missouri Conservation Commission, and then an employee of the Missouri Department of Conservation.  The  1/8-cent sales tax made the latter agency a bureaucracy that cannot be regulated.  He calls the MDC a mafia, a state within a state.  When you read what he saw and experienced, you will have a hard time ever believing anything that bureaucracy tells us.  He is not someone without the knowledge, he was a high-ranking employee.  No newspaper or television station would allow what he says to reach public ears.  You   can read the book of this honest man and make your own decisions.

He tells me the female MDC director is about to be replaced and doesn’t want to go.  I interviewed her once for 4 hours, and can tell you that amongst the inefficient directors the MDC has had, she is the worst.  But as for a replacement, he or she will be as bad, a puppet controlled by that ‘mafia’ as Mister _____ calls it.  You will know who he is later this year when one of the most revealing books ever written about that state agency is made available to all.

 

     I have to go to court next week to counter charges made by the local Wal-Mart because of what I have written about them and the local police. Being a writer who tells the truth is a dangerous occupation. Come support me at that if you believe in the first amendment.  Or read about it on the website below, along with other columns

I write, and see photos I take, like those two gobblers I shot this week. All on www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com  my mailing address is P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613   the email address is lightninridge47@gmail.com. You can call my office, 417-777-5227

 

Friday, March 22, 2024

THE GREEN GROUNDHOG

 



      Mont Cleary was not well-liked. Folks said he had killed a man in the 40’s after a poker game on the river by pushing him over a bluff.

      Argis Blackfern was a good old boy that everyone in the pool hall liked and had fun with. Argis, who was known as Argie to everyone, was mentally slow, but happy. I think he was the one who ate a whole jar of mayonnaise after Rube Wallace bet him a dollar he couldn’t do it in less than a minute. 

      Argie’s old mother came to the pool hall once madder’n hell because Argie had come home in his socks!  Mont Cleary had taken his boots in a bet of some sort.  They were nearly wore-out boots, as I recall it, who would want ‘em?  Mont did just because he could laugh about Argie walking around in socks with holes in them.  

      You might remember me writing about how Argie came into the pool hall once limping badly. Someone asked him why he was limping and Argie replied that he had gravel in his boot. When asked why he hadn’t removed it, Argie replied that “he jest hadn’t had the time.”

      Well as it came to be, that worthless Cleary had won five dollars from Argie in a bet and was laughing about it. The unbalanced young man never had much money and the whole thing angered Doc Dykes and Jerald Jeffries, two of the more intellectually-advanced members of the front bench regulars in dad’s pool hall.  

      Argie had come in one Saturday evening in the spring, telling a story about how he had seen a beaver run under his mom’s barn. Ol’ Mont bet him five dollars it wasn’t a beaver, so on a bright Sunday evening he and two or three of his ne’er-do-well buddies went out to Mrs. Blackfern’s barn with Argie.  They found a pair of groundhogs feeding out around the jonquils and emerging clover. Mont yukked it up about how he had won five dollars from Argie and it angered Doc and Jerald enough that they cooked up a plan.

      The following Saturday, Jerald gave Argie a hundred dollar bill and told him to wait ‘til Mont got there and swear that he had seen a bright green groundhog emerge from under his mom’s barn on St. Patrick’s Day.

      Things pretty much went according to plan after that.  Doc Dykes hoorahed the story of the green beaver. Mont joined him of course, as Doc bet Argie100 dollars that there was no such thing there at the barn. As he had been instructed to do, the  befuddled Argie said little and took out that hundred-dollar bill, and Doc produced his. Jerald was to hold the money.

      Mont was suckered badly that day, begging to add his 100 dollars to the bet as all the front bench regulars whooped it up and slapped their knees and laughed derisively. Now Jerald held three 100-dollar bills and Doc and Mont decided that when they took Argie’s 100, they would split it 50-50. But if Argie could in fact produce a green woodchuck sighting, he got the whole 300.

      The trap was set. I don’t think it could have gone any better. Argie just kept his mouth shut and Doc and Jerald said that if, before church the next morning there was no green groundhog to be seen, Argie lost the bet and Mont and Doc would be 50 dollars richer. 

      Doc of course, was the brains of the deception and he couldn’t have prayed for it to go better. On Friday, Jim Splechter and Ol’ Bill Stalder went out and live-trapped a groundhog under the widow Blackfern’s barn. They spent a considerable time there, having coffee and a slice or two of her oven-baked sweet-tater pie and flirting with the old widow. That gave a young groundhog time to emerge from beneath the barn to go in the trap to get the carrot it was baited with. And he was caught!

      On Saturday, the week after St. Patrick’s Day, Ol’ Bill handed over the live-trap cage and after a good spraying with bright green paint, they had the green whistle-pig that would cost Mont Cleary a hundred dollars.

      Sometimes though, perfect plans go awry and when Doc and Jerald and Mont and Argie and a half-dozen of the pool hall’s front bench regulars went out on Sunday morning to witness a green groundhog…he had escaped from the pen inside the barn. Doc and Jerald had forgotten that there are two things woodchucks can do…dig and chew!

      How much of a barn floor can a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck wants to chuck wood under his pen?

He was gone! Mont was ecstatic as they walked out of the barn with Argie’s head held low and Jerald fishing in his pocket for the 300 dollars, of which he only had two.

      And then came the miracle still talked about today. It was Ol’ Jess Wolf who saw it and exclaimed, “Looky Yonder!”  And there, well below the barn in the creek bottom, feeding amongst and patch of clover 400 yards away, was a bright green groundhog.

      There almost was a fight, as Mont figured things out, but there were too many there for Mont to whip, so he just resolved that he had been tricked and cheated, flamboozled and deceived!

      Doc got his 100 dollars back and Argie got Mont’s 100 dollars, probably the most money he ever had at one time. The groundhog eventually got the green paint to wear off, I guess. One of the front bench regulars said that they saw him before it did, on the other side of the crick downstream a ways in Morley Ryker’s field.  Morley’s son hunted groundhogs in the summer and the family ate them. They all chuckled when thought of Morley’s son shootin’ and bringin’ home a somewhat-green groundhog.

      But I’ll bet a hundred dollar bill that none of that family would eat a green groundhog!  It’d be sort of like shooting a sacred white buffalo! 

Monday, March 11, 2024

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 liitle but not much. The water was just a little murky, but there was still a few feet 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 you are looking for him in brushy water, back up in a cove which is full of timber, or  maybe in that cove halfway out to the main lake.

 

And of course, I caught five bass in the first hour from 12- to 15- inches long. That is better than nothing, but I am one of   those  lunker-busters.  I want a hog… a slab-sided frog eater! Smaller 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 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 last week.  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. A hog!


 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 largemouth 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 last week it was my turn.  I hefted him, actually a ‘her’ and my partner took a couple of pictures.   The bass was a little better than 21 inches long, and you can guess it’s weight by going to my website (www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com) and looking at the photo.

 

The lake was a place of solitude that day in midweek.  There wasn’t a boat to be seen, not an unnatural sound to be heard.  I don’t fish lakes which are heavy on development, and I don’t fish on weekends because there are too many boats on the water, often because of the tournament crowds.  I like being out there alone when I can be, where you can’t see anything but water and woods around you. And with  those conditions, every now and then…


Read more of my outdoor news and columns on larrydablemontoutdoors.  Email  me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.  Our river trip on the Big Piney will be April 20 and the Truman Lake pontoon trip will be April 27.  Call and talk too my secretary, Ms. Wiggins, if you want to go along, or get more information.  The office phone is 417  777 5227. 


 

 

Friday, March 8, 2024

Hot Dog, Jerry’s Coming!!

 


 

  

          Jerry McCoy, who is one of the best north Arkansas guides, especially for White River trout, will be at our swap meet on Saturday with all kinds of antique and modern fishing gear and antique lures.  He is an expert on old fishing lures and old gear, and he buys a lot of those. He has written some great articles for my magazine, “The Lightnin’ Ridge outdoor journal. But he can tell you the value of old lures, reels, rods, creels, any kind of old time fishing equipment.    He is a magnetic personality and you will enjoy talking to him, a man who has 60 years of fishing experience on the lakes and rives of Arkansas.  I can’t wait to see him again, one of my favorite fishing partners.

            That Swap meet is 9 to 2 on Saturday, the 9th, at the Noble Hills Church Gymnasium about 5 miles or so north of Springfield Mo on highway 13.  It is free to who who come, but it costs 10 dollars to get a table or two to sell your wares.  I do hope that you will be able to come because I am speaking at 11 a.m. about how I almost became the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service during the Bill and Hillary Clinton presidential administration.  Last time I did that, only four people showed up.  This time I am hoping to have twice that many. The $10 vendors pay and any donations goes to the church youth to help them pay for a summer camp they want to attend.  I will also be selling my 12 autographed books, and individual copies of nearly 100 outdoor magazines I have published over the last 20 years.

            If you have something to sell too, bring your own folding tables, no more than two, 6 or 8 footers.   If you have an interest, call Steve Johnson or me. His phone number is 417-414-3128. We have been assured that President Trump will visit if he doesn’t have anything else to do.  And many other celebrities will be there!

            If you want to come and only have one or two items, like an old-time shotgun or deer rifle or squirrel gun, you can leave it at my table with a price on it and I will sell it for you.  I am an amazing salesman! It has been said of me that I could sell mushroom seeds to a garden center.  I once sold spaghetti plants to Pizza Hut.

 


            On a more serious note, I will have two interpretive trips this spring. One will be a float trip on t he Piney River near Licking Mo The time will likely be early April whenever water conditions are right.  I once was a National Park Service naturalist on the Buffalo River doing such float trips involving up to 40 people at a time.  We stopped often to identify the trees and furbearers and birds, we seined fish, taught people how to fish with casting and spinning gear, how to paddle a boat or canoe, and had a big dinner on a shaded gravel bar with a fish fry as the big attraction.  I hope to have several guides for those who need one… the main attraction will be 80 year old river guide Charlie Curran who guided fishermen on the Piney when I was born.

            We will also have another trip for up to 15 people back into the wildest area of Truman Lake I know of.  We will go there on my pontoon boats, have a mid-day fish fry, and hike into some timbered regions of the lake, then ride around just before sunset to see eagles and migrating spring birds, which should include Canadian loons.  If you are interested, contact me to get on the list and we will notify you a week or so before the date we set.  There is no charge for either trip.

 

My office phone is 417 777 5227.  Write to me at P.O. Box 22 Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  Read more on the computer at larrydablemontoutdoors, or email me…lightninridge47@gmail.com.  There is no ‘g’ on the end of lightnin.

 

 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

I Need Help

 


       I need help. Not for me, but for three children and their father in north Arkansas…  David, the father, has done some work for me and he is a very intelligent man, a hard worker about as down on his luck as anyone I have ever seen.  He has been beset by the law and justice of Boone County if you want to call it that.  David’s wife and mother of his kids is not with them. He moved from a town in Ohio to a country setting at Lead Hill Arkansas, seeking a better life for them.  He got a job there and traded a kayak for an old car. Times were difficult, so he didn’t have the money to get the car licensed and buy any insurance.  His kids, now from 9 too 13 years of age needed to be fed so David took a chance and drove to a food pantry in nearby Yellville.  Coming back the only cop from Diamond City spied him, a real dandy of a lawman, confiscated his car and wrote him out a fine he had no chance to pay.  The old beat up car was towed, confiscated and sold.  David saw it being driven around a month later, after being told it had been destroyed.  Lying is fine if you are part of the justice system.

       So I called the court in Harrison and told the story of how, could David get his license back, I could help him get a car and he could make a couple hundred dollars per week working for me on weekends.  I was speaking with a ‘judge’s aid’ by the name of Mrs. Wright, who seemed soooo sympathetic, telling me that the lady judge would be very sympathetic to helping those three kids.  She told me to be in court the next Thursday at 10 a.m. and in only minutes, before regular court started, we would see how much money I would have to pay to get fines cleared and get David a drivers license.

    Keep in mind that David works for hourly wages.  He rides a motorbike to work a mile from home in any type of weather, cold, snow, rain, whatever.  But they are as poor as they can get, and Mrs. Wright was sure anxious to help.  Apparently the judge wasn’t!

       That Thursday I drove 2 and a half hours, arrived early to find that Mrs. Wright, for some reason, was gone, couldn’t be called, wasn’t going to be back.  Mrs. Judge had no intention of talking to me, hadn’t even heard of me, or David, and couldn’t care less about three kids.  That wasn’t her job!  Her job was whackin’ victims who appeared before her, guilty or not.  In front of a judge anywhere, offenders are guilty if they cannot pay a lawyer!  But I was told that MAYBE about two o’clock she might see me.  Maybe you can see why I lost my temper.  But the ladies at the desk couldn’t help, and a little banty rooster court helper told me to get out quick or he would take me to jail without charge.

       That’s what the north Arkansas justice system is all about…David and those three kids are of no importance.  Who is, unless they have money?  David can’t afford a lawyer and it takes a lawyer to get him a driver’s license and the kind of money it takes to make a living in north Arkansas.  Lawyers help those who can pay a lot of money.  If anyone has any ideas, let me know.  If we can get him a driver’s license I am willing to help him get a car, and pay the judge and lawyers in Harrison whatever fines they demand.  All they have to do is listen to the problem as Mrs. Wright did and just help someone. And if you get a chance, you might call Mrs. Wright and ask her why she wasn’t at work that day, when I drove 5 hours to do what that judge could do in 5 minutes.

       If anyone knows one good lawyer who might work a couple of hours to help those three kids without being paid, tell me who he is.  I have been around those three children. They are respectful, obedient and intelligent kids.  I want to help them, but I have no idea what to do now.

Friday, March 1, 2024

A Sad Season

 




       All through the fall hunting season, those of us who love to hunt waterfowl prayed for rain.  The one thing you need for great duck hunting is plenty of water, and we just didn't have it. So I have decided to go duck hunting this spring, when the ducks start heading back to the north.  I’m going to hunt them with my camera.         

       Shucks, if you like to watch ducks work the decoys and respond to your call, why do you have to have a shotgun with you?  I can take home a whole flock with my camera, and never miss. Another thing I will do this spring, before the hunting season, is shoot some turkey gobblers… again with a camera. As our wild turkey numbers decline drastically, more of us old-time gobbler getters should turn to that.  You bag more wild turkeys with a camera, and you don’t have to clean one. Then at the local grocery store, a turkey that is ready for the smoker costs a fraction of what a turkey tag does.

        All in all, I think I'll put this last hunting season in the "ones to forget" file.  Outdoor writers who hunt and fish often have wonderful opportunities and, therefore, some very good trips. We write about those trips and very often keep quiet about the others. But we all have outings we'd like to forget, The duck season of 2023-24 was like that for me.


       There have been plenty of disastrous hunting trips for me, but it may be, the all-time most embarrassing situation took place 25 years ago when my Uncle Norten and I went duck hunting on the Sac River. I've hunted rivers since I was shorter than my shotgun.  We do that often via a floating blind. We've floated hundreds and hundreds of miles in a johnboat concealed with a blind of limbs and camouflage, hunting everything from deer and turkey to ducks and squirrels. 

       In all those combined years, no Dablemont ever let his boat get away from him until that December.  It happened because we stopped on a gravel bar so my uncle could go up into the timber to visit a man about a dog! 

       I stayed with the boat, adding some more foliage to the blind. Then I pulled the johnboat up on the bank and sat down against a log to wait, my back to the river. I dozed off a little in the warm sunshine and my uncle returned and called my attention to the fact that our boat was floating out into mid-stream, heading away with the current. We followed down the bank knowing full well it wouldn't come back, despite my pleading. It drifted into a log on the other side, and sat there with our guns and gear, in water ten feet deep or better.

       We were in big trouble. Fortunately there was a farmhouse on a ridge behind us. Getting there in chest waders was something of an ordeal, but I did it and the farmer said he had an old boat and paddle he'd loan me. The ground was frozen, so he drove the boat fairly close to the river in an old farm truck. I used his boat to paddle across to retrieve mine, and an hour later, we headed downstream again. The farmer had a lot of questions, of course, and I answered them in a somewhat deceptive manner in order to make him think I wasn't some sort of greenhorn, and then I thanked him and told him my name was Joe Smith. He said there was a fellow who wrote a newspaper column who looked a lot like me, and I said I had been told that before.  My uncle accepted full blame. He said he should have never left me in charge of the boat!

       Let me remind readers of this column that there are other stories and columns I write each week which you can read on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors, via computer.  I am posting one this week about a father with three children. They need help. They are located in north Arkansas and I can’t tell their story in newspapers.  Please go to that computer spot and read about them.  

       The outdoorsman’s swap meet at the Noble Hills church a few miles north of Springfield on Hwy 13, will be Saturday, March 9.  If you want to come and set up a table to sell old fishing and hunting and outdoor gear, call me at 417-777 5227. You can also email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.

       


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Too Many

 

       



       I have noticed that there are more skunks in the Ozarks than I have ever seen before, and I want to remind readers that skunks often get rabies, likely carriers of that disease second only to bats.  If you see one during the day, or have one around your home that acts strange any time of the day, shoot it. A skunk killed instantly will not spray its scent.   Don’t take a chance by ignoring them!  Killing skunks will not harm species numbers. From what I see now, there are likely twice as many skunks across the Ozarks as there should be, many more than what is a normal population. 

       I think I wrote about black vultures years ago and their migrations northward.  I notice that people in the Conservation Department are just now talking about what a problem they might become.  Those birds should be shot on sight, and you can only do it with a rifle, because they are very wary, not often approachable with a shotgun.  The problem is, there are so many armchair naturalists out there who are incensed about shooting any wild creature.  They have no idea what Ozarks ecology is and what species like skunks, armadillos, black vultures, cormorants, coyotes and other species can do to that ecology.  

       Invasive species never, ever fit in the Ozarks, and many times native species go wildly out of control as well, like raccoons, beaver, possums and now skunks.  And you never talk to people about the connection of armadillos to the dreaded leprosy disease. In the southeast, humans are contracting leprosy because of that animal.

       I hear constantly from snake defenders who do not want poisonous snakes killed and are upset because I recommend it.  I was a contract naturalist who studied wild areas in the Arkansas Mountains and undammed rivers.  In those areas, I did not kill any snakes, and I came across many timber rattlers, copperheads and cottonmouths.  But if I find them out of that wild habitat, around where humans were found, I kill all I come across.  Last February, Sonya Cansler, who lives near Bull Shoals Lake, enjoyed the several different days of unseasonable 80-degree temperatures, so she went on a walk. On the second day of that month, sat down on a log and was bitten on the hip by a large copperhead. Do you realize that if she killed it, she could have been cited for breaking a Missouri Department of Conservation law?  

       I will have her story in our summer magazine.  She called the MDC and was told that the venom of a copperhead had never killed anyone. Folks need to know that is simply untrue statement.  The MDC put out a color publication about snakes years ago that stated that no one has ever died from a copperhead bite.  At Missouri’s Sam A Baker State Park, a man got the publication and believed it.  A day or so later a copperhead got in his tent and he picked it up.  It bit him and he did not seek medical attention.  He died from the venom a day later. The same year, I think, another man died from a cottonmouth bite. 

       If anyone is bitten and seeks medical attention as Ms. Cansler did, there are antivenin injections today that will save your life.  As a park naturalist for the State of Arkansas and later on the Buffalo River as a naturalist for the National Park Service, I made it a point to interview many elderly people born in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.  I was surprised that many told of people they knew from the past era they lived in, who died or lost limbs from the bite of a copperhead.  It was a time when medical attention for snakebite, didn’t exist. The venom kills if there is a sufficient amount injected.

       In this day of young biologists who grew up in cities, there is much information given out by them that is not correct; that assertion about copperheads being one of them.  The ineptness of people being hired for jobs they have little knowledge about is the reason for many incorrect statements which are taken as the gospel.  See it for yourself in the proliferation of otters, stocked with no forethought.  That is also the reason that wild turkeys have declined in the past years to about 40 percent of what we once had.  Young, city bred biologists in Missouri claim we have 1200 or so bears in the Missouri when the number is likely half that.  But whatever today’s conservation departments say is never questioned by the public nor the news media.  

       That is wrong!! But I can’t see any change coming.  If the people of the Ozarks believe the MDC’s false information about poisonous snakes, there will be more deaths from copperhead bites and cottonmouth bites in the future.  Ms. Cansler didn’t believe what she was told, and she recovered.  In that magazine story, she will tell you what she went through.

       Read about the progress on the Big Piney River museum and nature center, which I believe will open in May, and the big Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet in March on my facebook page. You can email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com, or write to me at P.O.  Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 656132.  If you want a table at that swap meet, call me at 417-777-5227,  spaces are filling up fast.

 

 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Caves, and a Swap Meet



 

      A strange thing is happening out in    California, where people are starting to live in caves.  If you remember, I wrote about my grandfather and I staying in caves on the Big Piney River in the sixties.  We found all kinds of arrowheads and pieces of clay pots, and even an ivory artifact in one.  I wrote about him telling me that someday people would live in caves again. 


      Undoubtably, if you consider the thousand of years behind and before us, millions of humans lived in those caves, likely as many as there are humans living in houses today. As a state park naturalist in Arkansas in the 70’s I once talked to an elderly lady who was born in a cave near Devil’s Den State Park.  It had been walled up by her father in the late 1800’s and her family lived there while they built a log cabin.  

      There are hundreds of caves on the Big Piney and Gasconade Rivers, and my grandfather showed me some that were nearly impossible to find. He had spent many nights in them, running the river in years past as a winter trapper. Grandpa and I stayed overnight in some of them, but there was one he wouldn’t enter because he said in a dream that he had met and talked with people who lived in them thousands of years ago.      


       My cousins and I explored many of those caves when we were young.  There is one in particular which has the 3 foot long jawbone of some kind of creature embedded in a cave wall.  

      My grandfather’s predictions often came true.  He told me that about a hundred years from the first atom bomb dropped in Japan, there would be one explode in the United States.  He also talked of the horrible 1918 disease that killed so many, and he said I would see it come back someday to kill many many more people.         

       Grandpa told me to never live in a city and to be independent enough to live without the conveniences of those things most men would die without.  He hated electricity, called television evil and despised what he often referred to as ‘frigidaires’. He said that men were sacrificing their freedom and the quality of their lives to own such things.

      He talked on occasion of our enemies living amongst us and killing thousands and thousands of people in one day!  I really thought he was a little bit crazy at times.  I realize today that he was extremely bi-polar, but back then no one knew what it was.  Now I remember some things he said then that seemed ridiculous and today they are coming to pass.

      But what I most remember as we sat in a Big Piney cave before a warming fire as a storm raged outside, is how he said that someday men would live there again.  And now, the news that in California, thousands of homeless people are living in caves, once again.  I hope that is the last of grandpa’s predictions that comes true.I am going to float the Piney again this year and spend a couple of nights in one of the caves where he and I sat before a fire and listened to the storm as it passed.


*.         *.         *.         *.         *.         *.         *.               

 

            For about ten years or so, we had an annual Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet in the Brighton Assembly of God Church gymnasium on a Saturday in March. With that, we always raised a few hundred dollars for their youth program. Each year, hundreds would attend the free get-together. About four or five years ago that church got a new pastor, and he put an end to the annual get-together for whatever reason. 

      We  found another church which welcomed the event but the  Covid pandemic ended that idea.  Now we are going to revive the Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet on Saturday, March 9 at the Noble Hills church that is located on Highway 13 about 5 or 6 miles to the north of Springfield. The whole thing is being organized by outdoorsman Steve Johnson.  Steve and I once did an outdoor radio program for station KWTO in Springfield, and we made a fishing trip together a few times, so I know him well and promised I would help.  We need vendors to set up their tables there and bring outdoor items for sale.  

      In a few weeks I will tell you some of what you can find there.  But for now, call Steve to reserve a table before the space is all gone.  His number is 417 414 3128. My number is 417 777 5227 if you need any help or information I can provide. I am going to be there selling my outdoor books and talking to readers of this column, and am anxiously looking forward to it.

      My email address is lightninridge47@gmail.com.  The word ‘lightnin’ has no ‘g’ on the end of it.  You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Prayer Duck. and new MDC controversy

 


       When I am hunting and fishing now I am almost always alone and I have conversations with myself. Some say that when someone does that, it is an indication that they are crazier than a pet coon, but I ain’t.  Crazy people ask themselves questions.  I don’t do that.  I did sometimes when I was younger, but I could never answer any of the questions I would ask myself so I gave that up.

       I often take a notebook out in the woods with me and write something while sitting up against a tree waiting for a squirrel, or while sitting in my boat when the fish aren’t biting. When I walk in the woods or paddle downs the river, I sing songs beneath my breath, quite often making up my own songs or poems. So here is what happened folks and I swear it is the truth.

       I was walking along a crop field at the lake waiting for some ducks to come into my decoys.  It was late afternoon and there had been no ducks all day so I went out in that field to look for arrowheads.  I find a lot that way, most of ‘em broken.  I just never have been lucky like some people.

       As I walked, I worked on a poem… “Lord please give me just one mallard drake.  I’d druther have that than a chocolate fudge cake.”

        Let me say here that I am bad addicted to sweet stuff, and I would almost never put something ahead of a chocolate fudge cake or peekan pie, or a donut with icing on it. Or a strawberry cheesecake! Geez, do I love strawberry cheesecake! But that is neither here nor there… as I continue to search for arrowheads and work on the song I am singing.   

       “ Dear Lord, you ain’t never granted me much luck, (going back to those broken arrowheads) but I’d thank you anyway if I just got a duck. One big old greenhead is all I need, just let one fly by at an extra slow speed.”

       What I am praying for is not just a shot at one, but an easy one I can hit, and take home and eat. I really like grilled breast steaks off a mallard duck, with banana cream pie afterward. 

Still walking I get really stumped with a verse I come up with. If any one out there knows a word that rhymes with mallard, I would sure like to know what it is. So here is verse three…

       “So Lord I ain’t asking for much but a green-head mallard, 

even a small one, skinny and squallard,”

       And I was going to continue with verse 4, 5, 6 and 7, but folks I will say this with my hand on my grandma’s Bible and no fingers crossed…honest as I can be or ever was! Just after that last verse, looking at the ground trying to think of a word to rhyme with aggrevated, sitting between a row of Milo stubble, right in front of my front boot… there was a beautiful green-headed plastic mallard drake decoy!!!  Kinda makes the skin stand up on the back of your neck, don’t it?

       I am not going to say it was an act of God, but what would you call it?  I have always thought the Creator has a sense of humor.  But then, I have a lot of duck decoys like that one.  I wonder if I should have asked for a goose!

 

Now for something very very serious.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has just entered into an 18 million dollar contract with a private company to restore the Schell Osage waterfowl area.  An engineer for MDC told me about this.  Apparently there were no bids taken for this project.  This needs to be investigated, but it will not be.  The MDC has all the equipment, millions of dollars of it, and the personnel to do this themselves.  A few years ago they built a private waterfowl hunting marsh along the Sac River for a judge, on his land.  It is a great hunting marsh for him and his friends.  Read more about this and see photos of the historic Schell-Osage Area  on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors. It is quite a story.  I wrote and article about it years ago for a national magazine. The story about what is happening cannot be printed in many newspapers because of MDC disapproval of the facts being given to the public. Something is bad wrong here.  Eighteen million dollars would build a dozen such waterfowl marshes and hunting areas!  How long can a state agency get by doing this?

Contact me via lightninridge47@gmail.com to learn more.  I am forming an organization we have named Common Sense Conservationist.  I would like to have you join us.

By the way we are having a new Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet on Saturday, March 9th.  Get info on that at the above website.