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 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.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Getting’ Here Late

        On the first day of January I went looking for ducks on some of the many ponds and ranch lakes in my region of the Ozarks. As one old-timer in the pool hall once said about honest politicians on the ballot… “They wa’nt none!”

       I have never seen a time in 32 years of living here, that there have been no ducks here in late November and early December. Until this year! That is something of a catastrophe to me and other duck hunters who hunt in the Ozark section of the state.

       Usually gadwalls start showing up here in the southern zone about a week before Thanksgiving, which is a week or so after the wood-ducks leave. Mallards usually right on the pale yellow heels of gadwalls, a week and a half behind them. I love to hunt the rivers of the Ozarks for ducks but the awful drought we have had made it next to impossible to float most of the stretches I like because of low water.  What a fouled up fall and winter we have had.

       Then the intense cold hit the Midwest in early January and the ducks came to the Ozarks, finally.  But almost everything was froze-up, a duck-hunting term that means there ain’t nowhere to hunt.   But experience has taught me that shoals and flowing riffles on the river never freeze, and there is food there for ducks.  I went to the closest shoal on a nearby river and there they were, about a hundred mallards and gadwalls and even a few green-wing teal.  The thing I have learned to do is, go in and flush them and throw out a few decoys and wait, because quite often the flocks will return in an hour or so.  But really, you don’t need the decoys and you don’t need a duck call.  Without using either, I waited in the weeds high on the bank and they began returning, a flock of 20, then 6 or 8, then in scattered pairs.

         You should have seen the shots I made on a pair of mallard drakes!  Finally about 2 months after the start of duck season in the Ozarks, I got some mallards for supper.  And later I dropped a drake gadwall too, which is an algae-eating duck not nearly as good to eat as mallards or teal.

       That last greenhead came back up over me and fell in the weeds behind me.  Both were stone dead.  I hate to cripple a duck, which is what happens if you don’t lead them well.  You might deduce from that, that I am a good shot, which I sometimes am.  I never write about the sometimes that I are not, which is far too often.

       I know there are those readers who feel sorry for the ducks I brought home that day, but you have to realize that each winter, duck steaks grilled on a spit with onions and green peppers is a big part of my diet.  My daughter, who is a doctor, told me that in order to stay healthy, I have to eat a dozen or so before February is over because it is good for me.  Not necessarily the duck meat is good for me, but the exercise I get building blinds, struggling through the water in hip boots or waders, and trying to get a fire built when I trip and get a boot full of cold water.

       At School of the Ozarks College a lady botany professor, Dr. Alice Allen Nightingale often talked to me about plant evolution being a slow change, which she believed, was only God continuing His creation.  I think I see that in nature often in other wild things.  Ducks are a good example.  How they have changed since I was a boy hunting them on the Big Piney. I will go into that in a later column, but the change I see is tremendous in waterfowl.


       Here is another question for readers, which I will answer in the next column.  What is the fastest flying duck, with speeds clocked at about 70 miles per hour?

       Answering last weeks question about the skunk’s greatest predator… it is the great-horned owl. Birds do not have any developed sense of smell so I guess that is understandable. But why it doesn’t affect an owl’s eyes I cannot understand. I once had a pet owl and its eyes were huge.  If anything else gets skunk scent in the eyes, it is torment.

        I have written more about skunks and owls on my Internet site… larrydablemontoutdoors.  Go there if you are interested.  And I will finish the duck story in next week’s column and tell you how the Missouri Department of Conservation is giving 18 million dollars to a private company to try to refurbish one duck marsh!   Unbelievable story! Email me at or call me at 417-777-5227.  I usually get in from duck hunting about dark.

Of Owls and Skunks



       Great horned owls are one of the deadliest Ozark predators because they hunt at night with special wing feathers that keep the sound of their wings completely silent.  For some reason they obviously have a sense of smell that is nonexistent in most winged predators, which allows the owl not to be affected by skunk scent.  Since that spray burns the eyes of men and dogs, many wonder why it doesn’t seem to affect owl eyes.


         In the 1930’s and early 40’s, my grandfather’s chickens were often killed by great horned owls. Since the chickens were important to his family, he would cut the top out of two or three cedars nearby and set traps on the bare wood of the trimmed top.  He would put a squirrel or wood rat on the trap, and run a wire up to it.  Owls who fell to that trap would be on the ground at daybreak, held by the trap and wire.  For many years he and other farmers and trappers would get a fifty-cent bounty for each pair of owl feet they brought in.  Very often, those owls would smell like skunks!



A black skunk caught on game cam in Georgia

        In the ‘30’s, the pelts of skunks that my grandfather’s sons (my dad and uncles) caught in deadfalls brought a dollar or two at St. Louis fur houses.  But when they came across a ‘star-black’, which was a totally black skunk except for a small white patch on the forehead, the pelt was worth about twice as much.  So my grandfather tried using shoe polish on the white backs of ordinary skunks to make them more valuable.  Fur house buyers saw right through that, and had a good laugh the first time he tried it.


         Skunks are easy prey for the owls because they are not a very smart animal and are an easy target.  They hunt by scent and can’t see very well.  I had a pet great horned owl when I was a kid and they aren’t all that intelligent either.  I have written many articles about my experience with him.  No bird of prey makes a good pet… except crows.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Two With One Shot


       The last few days of deer season are tough. Those final days for me occur at the close of the ‘muzzle-loader season” when whitetail deer are almost finished with the ‘rut’ and bucks  are returning to normalcy, not acting so much like the sex-crazed idiots they are in October and November.

       In January, deer gather together and ‘yard up’ and lean toward being nocturnal.  When you find them they are apt to be in heavy cover during the day, coming out at night to feed and move from one spot to another, then finding cover for bedding down, just at daylight.

       My daughter Christy went with me to see if my old muzzle-loader would really kill a deer, and that tendency of deer to ‘group up’ displayed itself.    That cold morning we were walking slowly down an old fenceline in the middle of the woods and I saw about 10 or 12 whitetails coming toward us about to cross the fence.  Two or three jumped over it, and I drew a bead on a doe, and fired.  

       The old rifle belched smoke and fire and she dropped in her tracks about 40 yards from us.  Then came the surprise… a second deer had also been hit, and it too was dead, right behind her.  That .54 caliber slug had hit each deer through the heart.  I hadn’t seen the second one, but they had to be standing perfectly side by side.  Christy had already used her tag by then, but the second deer was not wasted.  A friend of mine tagged it.  Both were the best of venison, each one a three-year old doe.  Amazingly there was a hillside behind them where I dug out the slug and I have it on a shelf in my office.

       Killing 2 gobblers at once happens on occasion but I never knew of killing two deer with one shot.  Anyway, I have a witness, my daughter tells the absolute truth, no matter how often I have asked her to exaggerate just a little.  Strange things happen in the woods, and over the years we have both witnessed a lot of them.

       During the muzzle-loader season, which just ended, I came across a totally black skunk scurrying about in the woods in mid-morning as they sometimes do in the dead of winter when food is scarcer. It was pure black, with just a white patch on its forehead. Long before I was born, my grandfather was a river trapper after mink, beaver, raccoon and muskrat.  His young sons ran dry-land deadfall lines. Those produced feral cats, possums and skunks. Killed by a deadfall, a skunk almost never released its scent. In the thirties and early forties, a trapper could get a dollar or so for a possum hide.  A skunk with the white stripe was worth about 2 dollars, but any skunk that was totally black was worth twice that.  


      At fur houses they called those rare individuals ‘star-blacks’ because they always had a little white star on the forehead.  None of the trappers in the pool hall ever had seen a complete total black skunk without that little white star.  I thought I had finally found one that day in the woods but not so.  When he finally turned I saw a little white star not much bigger than a silver dollar.  If I had anything but my muzzle-loader I would have been tempted to shoot him, knowing how many ground nests he will destroy this spring; quail, woodcock, meadowlarks and others, including the wild turkey.  And I would have skinned him out and have the hide tanned. I would like to have put his unusual pelt in my upcoming museum. Star black skunks only made up about 1 out of 50 skunk-hides at fur houses long ago.

    There is only one predator that will kill and eat a skunk with no concern for the skunk scent it will be blasted with. I will bet that only one out of 50 readers will know what that deadly predator is.  I’ll give you the answer in next week’s column… with a humorous story about my grandfather’s attempts to sell more of those star-black skunks in the 1930’s. 

       Please read other columns I write on the Internet at www.larrydablemontoutdoors.  Much that I write cannot be printed by some of the 40 newspapers or so that use this column so I put them on that website.  I want you to see a photo I took recently that is one of the most amazing pictures I ever got.  It will be on that website and you won’t believe it.

       I will also have some new information about my “Big Piney” museum that I hope to open in the spring.  You can see some of our recent progress. We are about to put a roof on it when it warms up a little. I intend to open it about the first of June, and it will be free for everyone to enjoy, no charge!

Big Piney River Museum Progress


workers finishing the walls of the Big Piney River Museum, a mile and a half south of Houston on hwy 63.  Hopefully this free museum and nature center will be ready to open in early summer.  When the weather breaks we will begin building the roof and finishing the inside.  The building is 28 by 48.

Not Just A Cloud

    One evening in December as I was driving just to the west of the Big Piney River valley I said, “Lord, thanks for this nice weather.  I don’t know whether I should work on my museum or go fishing tomorrow.”  Then I topped a ridge and there was this cloud before me.  This is not a photo shop creation, it is a real cloud to the east of the Piney.  What does it look like to you?  To me it looks like a bass jumping out of the water, trying to throw a lure from its mouth.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024


The Pool Hall Kid

              Doc Dykes was a frequent visitor to the pool hall in 1963.  He was quiet and good humored, plagued with petit-mal seizures on occasion.  Doc Dykes was a chiropractor, and likely as educated a man as our pool hall ever seen.  Well dressed, he always wore a long grey overcoat, and usually a dress shirt and tie beneath it. Occasionally he played a game of snooker and was fairly good at it. 

            He was likely in his forties, while most of the “front bench regulars” were over sixty.  While the older men, some of them world war one veterans, were men of remarkable wisdom, Doc Dykes was highly intelligent and everyone knew it.  On the last night of 1963, the eve of a new year 60 years ago, the pool hall was full, the front bench crowded and all five tables going with pool and snooker players.  It was loud, with the clack of billiard balls and laughter throughout and cigarette smoke hanging above the lighted tables. Up front, as usual, the old timers were discussing important things, like trotlining, shotguns and coonhounds, chewing tobacco and acting like it was just another night and tomorrow just another day.


           I loved that pool hall and the men in it.  I believe I would be content to have never left it, to be the ‘House Man’ there until today.  But Dad would sell the pool hall in just a month or so and at sixteen years of age, I would only visit from then on.  Dad and Mom were home that night with the Hartmans and the Sheltons, about to see the New Year in with a card party, cake and coffee.  In the pool hall, I was in charge, for the fourth year.  


           I would someday own a pool hall of my own, I figured, and then I would continue to be a Piney River hunting and fishing guide, as I had been for years.  I really figured I would quit high school soon and get started early.  After two tries at passing my drivers test in October I had finally succeeded in November.  Roy Fisher was going to sell me my own car soon, a 1954 Chevy from his junkyard for 50 dollars.  It was a lot of money but I had already saved 12 dollars.

            Doc Dykes came in dug out his billfold to show me something I had never seen before… a crisp new 100-dollar-bill.  The fellows playing snooker on the front table all came over to look at it, and most of the old men on the front bench did too.  Doc said a client of his had given it to him for a Christmas gift.  I stood there thinking what I could do with one of them; buy that car and two or three boxes of shotgun shells and maybe one of those new red Ambassador fishing reels everyone was talking about.

            Doc held everyone’s attention when he told us that there were several places in the country where the government could print ten thousand of those hundred dollar bills in an hour.  He said that if the government wanted to they could give every man and woman over 21 in America, a hundred and of them!  That would be a hundred thousand dollars for every one in the pool hall, except me of course. Satch Hinkle, one of the snooker players who wasn’t often one not to give his opinion, piped up and said that if he got that much money he would spend all his time playing snooker or fishing on the Piney.


           Smiling, Doc Dykes said the pool hall would be closed if Farrel Dablemont had a hundred thousand dollars and the Piney would be so over-ran with fishermen who had quit their jobs there would be no place for another boat. Ol Bill Stalder, a plumber, said Doc was right.  “I’ll be dang if I’d be fixin’ the pipes under some ol’ ladies sink if I had that kind of money.  And they’d have to close the feed mill. Who’d go work there for ol’ man Amelon if they had any money?”


           It took a while for it to dawn on me but Doc was right.  They could print enough of those hunnerd dollar billsfor everyone allright, but if they did it would destroy our country. “By dang, I would love to get all that money,” said Junior Blair, “But Doc is right; if we all got that much who would ever work again.  There wouldn’t be a grocery store nor a hardware store open nowhere.  My ol’ lady wouldn’t even sweep the floor… she’d just throw out the supper dishes ever’ night and go buy some new ones.”  That brought a laugh but Doc pointed out that in little time there would be no dishes to buy, because who would be making new ones if they were too rich to work?


          Churchill Hoyt said he sure as heck wouldn’t raise no more hogs, and Charlie Watson, with that high-pitched laugh of his, said if the gov’amint would give him just half of a hunnerd thousand he’d give his milk cows to anyone who wanted them.

The banter went on for awhile with several of the men going on about what they would do if they got that much government money each year. And what they wouldn’t have to do ever again. Doc pointed out that thousands of very rich people in the cities would starve and men would be killing each other not for money, which they had plenty of, but for a loaf of bread, which they couldn’t get unless they could make it.

I have more to say about the coming of 1924 in next week’s column.  

Thursday, January 4, 2024

The Lemming’s Solution


Grandpa Fred Dablemont hand planing and making sassafras paddles at his little home with no running water or electricity (until his death in 1970). Everything in that house was hand made by Grandpa.

      All through the history of the earth, (and I am talking about tens of thousands of years back) there has been ‘climate change’ on earth. If you want to call it that…  I don’t. 

      There was a time when the temperature of the Ozarks never got above 32 degrees.  That was when there was a glacier pushing down over us from the north.  In what we now call the Middle East, biblical lands, there are now deserts where there were once lakes.  It is just the way the earth is, constantly affected by change of some sort.  

      There are those who want to deny ‘climate change’, but it is obvious that it is a fact.  But it is a far cry from what the politicians say it is!  I call it, ‘earth change’ because having lived as long as I have, I see things happening that have nothing to do with climate.  Lowering water tables across the Midwest has nothing to do with temperatures or carbon emissions. The more of us there is, the more we take the lower it gets. 

       The fact that rivers in the Ozarks now flow about 40 percent less water than they did 80 years ago has nothing to do with modern climate change.  Springs that gushed water in the 1950’s, which I drank from as a boy, dried up years ago and have never flowed since.  I swam in small Ozark creeks each summer that will never hold a foot of water through the spring season ever again, and none in the summer.  Such things are permanent until the population of the earth declines, no matter what politicians blame or try to change.  More people, greater problems.

       There is an old farm well on my place that held water for the family that lived beside it in the 30’s and 40’s.   Why is it dry?  It is not because of carbon emissions.  It is earth change, which comes about because where once in a whole county there were five hundred people with 500 cows and a 500 hogs and a thousand chickens. In the same county now there are five hundred thousand people, and giant hog farms with tens of thousands of hogs, tens of thousands of cattle, and as for chickens… there may be one poultry farm with 25,000 chickens and one a few miles away with 25,000 turkeys.

      I am not lamenting how things are. It is what it is.  Who amongst us will NOT acknowledge what we have today living in the Ozarks.  But remember this… we will have ten percent or more added cement and pavement in the nation and in the Ozarks this coming year and each year thereafter.  Could that cause greater heat from the sun than before?   So what shall we expect to happen? Cooler temperatures, fewer storms, tornadoes, hurricanes?  But what the heck, we have to have more concrete and pavement and new homes.

      You can vote for whatever leadership you want, but there is no answer in politics, because the problem lies in one thing…Populations of men and their animals.  There is o answer… what is coming is coming.  In 1950, my grandfather was overtaken by the knowledge that there were 150 million people in our nation.  Today we are getting close to 400 million.  In a hundred years this nation will likely have a billion people. The diversity we applaud will create wars amongst the diverse, in huge cities.  Maybe the Ozarks will be a refuge!

      On a gravel bar in the mid 50’s Grandpa told me some things he thought would happen.  I couldn’t get his prophesies printed in today’s newspapers but he was fascinated what he had read about some little animals on islands that would swim out into the ocean when they became overpopulated.  Lemmings, he called them, telling me of what he had read…  looking for a better place to live, all about to drown.

       He was as happy as anyone I have ever known, in his handmade cabin with no running water or electricity.  He said, “Live your life depending on no man, needing nothing or no one but yourself and God.”

      I am sure that oil and vehicles are not this country’s greatest problem.  If they are replaced with electricity, the problems that will create are catastrophic too, but the politicians cannot foresee that.  Our survival depends on one thing and nothing else… population declines here and all over the world!  It will not happen until something comes that is like what happened to the dinosaurs, and there isn’t a darn thing mankind can do about it.  I just wish we didn’t deserve it.  If there is a population adjustment in the near future I hope it isn’t me, or you, or us.

      You have to see the photo I got last week. Unbelievable! That and other columns I have written can be seen on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors.  Contact information can be found there.  I am spending this week in the woods hunting with my muzzle-loader.  Read about that next week.