Cooking our harvest, even easier to get “best taste” with these secret seasonings…I’m sharing ’em
Even my college grandkids like to cook with the “make me look good” ingredients
By Larry Whiteley
Spring is here and that means it’s time to get outside, fire up your backyard grill or smoker and enjoy outdoor cooking. Whether it’s beef, pork, chicken or wild game, you want the very best flavor you can possibly have from the meat you grill or smoke. Here are some products that come highly recommend by the Whiteley family that will have your family and friends thinking you are a gourmet chef.
I use the Hi Mountain Seasonings full line of rubs, marinades, seasonings and sauces that turn whatever I’m grilling outside – or cooking in the kitchen – into a master piece. Hi Mountain has been in business for 28 years and is based in Riverton, Wyoming surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains. They make high quality packaged jerky, meat processing products, seasonings and more for hunters, game processors and home chefs like me who enjoy grilling or smoking.
Hi Mountain makes seasonings for wild game, steaks, burgers and even fish, as well as other specialty seasonings, sauces and marinades. I have used their line of jerky, snack sticks and sausage kits on the venison I have harvested for years. My kids, grandkids and friends are all glad I do because they get to enjoy my work. Little do they know how easy it is for me with these “help-me” products. If time is a factor for you, Hi Mountain also now has their own delicious packaged jerky you can buy if you don’t want to make your own.
The wild turkey breast, pheasant and waterfowl I am lucky enough to harvest while hunting all get soaked in their brine mix before smoking, grilling or baking. You cannot believe how tender and flavorful it makes it. Like most of you, I love fried fish, but I also started using their fish brine mix. You won’t believe how good baked, grilled or smoked fish is using this product.
My son Daron loves grilling venison burgers and steaks on his Green Egg Grill using either the Zesty Western, Hickory, Buffalo Wing, Fiesta Salsa or Garlic Pepper burger seasonings. His favorite for grilling bacon wrapped filets is their Western Style steak rub. He also uses their rubs for brisket, prime rib, poultry, ribs and fish.
Even my grandkids, who share a house while they are away at college, are into using Hi Mountain products when they cook. My grandson’s favorite is using venison steaks to make delicious fajitas or their brine mix for grilled duck breast. My granddaughter likes their dip and dressing mixes too. You know kids, they never fib.
Go to www.himtnjerky.com to check out their great line-up of products and accessories. You can also click on their store locator tab to find a retailer near you that carries their products.
I could go on and on about Hi Mountain’s great products, but I’ve made myself hungry, so I am going to go fire up the grill. I’m thinking maybe grilled walleye and grilled venison tenderloins sounds pretty good. I really like this stuff.
Sensible gear to avoid bugs, mice, snakes makes camping lots more fun
Choices for a truck tent, comfy pad, pillow and the right sleeping bag
By Larry Whiteley
The beauty of nature can easily be missed if you’re not out there camping in our great outdoors. Even if it is cool, cold, rainy, snowy or a little warm, you can still enjoy the tradition of camping if you have the right equipment.
Many tents offer the necessary shelter from the elements, but only a few are suited for cooler weather as well as summer and even winter. My camping is done in a tent that’s different than the usual tent.
I use a Kodiak Canvass truck tent with heavy canvass walls that are worth their weight in gold during cooler weather, but their ventilation system makes it just as comfortable in warmer weather.
With my truck tent I don’t have to worry about finding just the right camping spot. I don’t have to worry about wild animals and crawling bugs coming inside with me either. Anywhere I can park I can put up my tent because it is designed to be set up in the bed of my truck. To me, it’s actually a whole lot easier to set up than a regular ground tent.
I have been through several thunderstorms while camping and it has never leaked. Other tents were collapsing from the wind while I relaxed in mine and read a good book. It stood up through it all. If I want to move to a different camping spot or head for home I just collapse it down into my truck bed, close my truck bed cover and I’m gone.
Everything else that I don’t need in the tent is kept inside my crew cab (or underneath it) so I am not crowded at all. It has plenty of room for my bags, my cooler and even a camp chair.
A good sleeping bag is another essential item. I also have one of the very innovative new Kodiak CanvassZ Top sleeping bags that are totally different than any other bag on the market and I love it. I don’t like being cold! It has a unique top flap that seals in my body heat and eliminates drafts.
The bag’s revolutionary design is unlike any other sleeping bag you have ever seen. It allows me to sleep in the position I am most comfortable and I can even sprawl out and keep under the covers. In warmer conditions, I fold back the top flap, or unzip and remove it.
The bags zippers are lined with anti-snag strips to eliminate frustrating snags and a full-length zipper baffle to reduce any heat loss. They also lock down so they don’t crawl open in the night like my other sleeping bags did. It doesn’t have cold spots like some of my old bags did either.
It even has a pillow pocket that helps keep my camp pillow in place and I don’t wake up looking for it. The wedge-shaped foot box provides extra space, so my toes don’t get scrunched, which is something else I love. A zipper at the foot of the bag also allows me to vent the bottom when I need to. You can even buy their Booster Quilt accessory which can increase the bag’s temperature rating by up to 30 degrees if you need it.
Rather than sleeping on some kind of pad in the bed of my truck I also have a Disc-O-Bed modular cot that is wider and longer than most cots and by far the best quality camping cot on the market. Being a veteran myself it’s nice to know its steel and canvass construction is U.S. military approved.
It comes in a travel bag and with their modular system it is real easy to set up as a single cot, make into a bunk bed or convert to a couch. The side pockets sure come in handy for keeping items I need. To top it off, I use their very comfortable Disc-Pad inflatable sleeping pad and I sleep like a baby. My wife and I also use it at home as spare beds when the grandkids stay over.
Take my word for it, if you have a truck and you enjoy camping, you need a Kodiak Canvass truck tent and sleeping bag, as well as a Disc-O-Bed for your camping adventures. I don’t work for either of these , but I sure do love their quality products and I am pretty sure you will too. Check them out at www.kodiakcanvass.com and www.discobed.com.
Wherever you go camping this year make sure you take along the right tent, cot and sleeping bag, they will greatly add to your enjoyable experience.
If you have never tried, why not go discover yourself?
Why not go make a memory?
Being disconnected for just a little while from computers, smart phones and TV, as well as escaping traffic, distractions and worry is really so very good for your soul.
These Boots are made for walking - "My Happy Feet!"
My hunting boots go to church with Me
So comfy, I have to Look Down to see if I have them on
Life has changed, I have started singing in the Shower…some Boots!
By Larry Whiteley
I couldn’t begin to count how many different pairs of hiking and hunting boots I have had in my lifetime. Since I have been enjoying the great outdoors for a lot of years, it has to be a bunch though. Most have now gone on to that great boot camp in the sky, passed down to kids and grandkids or donated to clothing banks.
In an effort to cut down on the number of boots I still have I decided to try and find a good boot that would work for all the hiking I still like to do, as well as serve double duty as my deer/turkey hunting boots.
You may not remember the song “These Boots Are Made for Walking” from the 60s by Frank Sinatra’s daughter Nancy, but it became the #1 song in half the countries in the world.
This article doesn’t have anything to do with that song except that when I started writing, it I kept singing it in my head. You don’t want to hear me singing it out loud that’s for sure. I did sing it in the shower a few times, but that is – as my grandkids say – TMI (too much information).
So anyway, I got online and started doing research on boots and came across a company that I had never heard of called LOWA. They’ve been around a while as they were founded in 1923. I was looking for a boot made in the USA and these were 100% handcrafted in Europe. Always a but, right? But they were really a nice looking boot, so I did more research on them and became really impressed with the quality put into their boots. LOWA supports many non-profit organizations that work to make the outdoors more accessible to everyone, so that was a plus in their favor. They also support the U.S. Biathlon Team, so that was another plus. I also liked the way they treat their suppliers and employees, so they got one more plus for that.
Like the song, the boot I ended up getting is a #1 seller too and is made for walking as well as hiking, hunting and every other outdoor activity you might enjoy. LOWA’s Renegade GTX® Mid has been the company’s best-selling boot for over 20 years.
I have been wearing a pair of these since spring turkey season last year and I do mean almost every day since. They are very comfortable and I absolutely love them. They are the lightest boots I have ever worn weighing at a little over 2 pounds total, plus they give great support, they’re cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather, as well as having a GORE-TEX® lining to keep my feet dry.
My wife heard me going on so much about how I love my LOWA’s, she decided she wanted a pair too. She got the Ladies Renegade GTX® Mid, but of course, in ladies colors. She loves her LOWA’s too, but she refuses to sing the song.
I like mine so well I decided I wanted a pair of LOWA’s in a high top boot and settled on the Zephyr GTX Hi TF® boots, which has all the same great features as my other LOWA boot. They were exactly what I was looking for.
They also only weigh a little over 2 pounds per pair, so I have to check sometimes to make sure I have them on. If feet could smile, mine would be every time I put them on. They feel more like I am wearing a tennis shoe than a boot. They’re good looking too and because they are so comfortable I sometimes wear them to church and around town. So I guess I should call them my hiking/hunting/casual wear boots.
I could go on and on about both my LOWA boots and my wife’s, but why don’t you just go to www.lowaboots.com and check them out for yourself. You can order online or find a dealer near you. Your feet will sure be glad you did and if you love being out in the great outdoors, there’s nothing much better than having happy feet.
Hey, that reminds me of the popular movie “Happy Feet” about the dancing penguin. Great! Now I’m going to be going around dancing and singing “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”
“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” — Fred Rogers By Larry Whiteley
In 2001, Roy Grimes was the Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. He was assigned the task of creating what eventually became the National Archery in the Schools Program better known as NASP®.
Roy designed it as an in-school program to aim at improving educational performance among students in grades 4th – 12th. Through the sport of archery he wanted them to learn focus, self-control, discipline, patience, and the life lessons required to be successful in the classroom and in life.
Since the program officially started in 2002 it has seen over 10 million kids all over America discover a great activity that doesn’t discriminate based on popularity, athletic skill, gender, size, or academic ability. It is open to any student. The biggest supporters are professional educators because they feel it improves school attendance, increases their confidence, improves behavior and gives them increased physical activity. In 2007 the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agreed to coordinate the Missouri Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP®). In those eleven years more than half a million Missouri students have participated. There are now 690 schools that participate. Over 200,000 students are learning the lifetime sport of archery and all MoNASP teaches as part of their school curriculum.
The MoNASP State Tournament is now the second largest state archery tournament in the nation and continues to grow. The Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (MCHF) once again partnered with MDC to host the tournament March 22 – 24 at the Branson Convention Center in Branson, MO. Proceeds from the event go to support MoNASP programs and conservation programs in Missouri.
This year there were over 3,300 students from 224 schools competing and many will be going on to compete at NASP national tournaments in Salt Lake City and Louisville with some continuing on to the world championships in July at Nashville.
There were also 94 students competing in the ASPIRE MoNASP Tournament which is for students who did not have a position at the state tournament due to space or they were students who weren’t able to shoot a state qualifying score this year.
Many of the over 15,000 spectators that came to watch the competition didn’t have a child or grandchild taking part in the tournament but they enjoyed watching and cheering on the kids. There were lots of other activities to enjoy over the 3 days of the event. Bass Pro Shops hosted an Indoor/Outdoor Days with catch and release fishing, archery activities, bounce houses, air guns and animals from the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium.
Russ and Diskey the Frisbee Stunt Dog Team were also there along with Mountain Man from Duck Dynasty. There were special shows by Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Presley’s Country Jubilee. The World’s Largest Sidewalk Sale was held at Tanger Outlet and The Landing. RVs, boats and ATVs and archery exhibitors were on display along with a Corvette Club Show. Adults enjoyed attending the Sip the Ozarks event and sampling Missouri wines, spirits and beer.
A big thank you goes to all the sponsors and those that volunteered their time to make this such a special event for these kids. All of the activities and students competing for their schools combined to make a great weekend for all who were there.
The MoNASP State Tournament was an opportunity for students to not just grow their target archery skills but also their character. It was an opportunity to be with family and friends as well as make new friends. At this moment in time they felt really special. As a friend of mine said, “It warms your heart and gives you hope for the future to see all the smiles on these kids’ faces.”
Thanks to Roy Grimes back in 2001 and all those involved today, thousands of kids’ lives have been changed forever because of the sport of archery.
For more information go to www.mochf.org and click on the MoNASP drop down.
A School that Changes the Lives of Kids from 5th grade on
Wolf School Program creates Conservationists
Inspiration, Passion, Empowerment is Learned Here
By Larry Whiteley
The amount of time kids spend outdoors in nature is at an all-time low. Time in front of a television, playing video games and time on smart phones is at an all-time high. A recent study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that, on average, children now spend only 12.6 minutes a day on outdoor activities compared with 10.4 waking hours being relatively motionless. The result is a childhood obesity rate that has soared due to a combined decline in creativity, concentration and social interaction skills in our kids.
Because of this we are also at risk of losing an entire generation’s appreciation for how nature works and how we need to take care of it for future generations. As Richard Louv said in his book Last Child in the Woods, “The child in nature is an endangered species and the health of children, and the health of the earth, are inseparable.”
10 years ago in Springfield, MO a group of people got together to try to change those statistics for the kids in their school system. The Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF) School was formed in partnership with the Springfield Public School System with support from the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Bass Pro Shops.
WOLF School is like any other public school, but kids choose to attend this one. Well over four hundred 4th grade students who have satisfactory attendance and behavior records apply each year, but only 46 students are chosen by a random drawing to attend as 5th graders. There is wish and hope competition. The school system provides transportation along with teachers Courtney Reece and Lauren Baer, who are passionate about the outdoors and conservation.
This outdoor learning school is operated by the school system, but the classroom is not in a normal school building. It is located in the John A. & Genny Morris Conservation Center in outdoor-themed classrooms that provide state-of-the-art facilities to help further learning with technology and an outdoor learning lab. It was all built for the school by noted conservationist, Johnny Morris.
Next door to the school is the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium. Kids also use it as a learning facility and sometimes you can find them telling visitors all about the fish and wildlife on display. The Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store is next door also and furnishes gear, know-how and support. Johnny Morris would probably tell you WOLF School and all the children it has touched is one of the best investments he has ever made.
Studies have shown that outdoor time boosts classroom performance and they grow up to be better stewards of the environment. The school inspires and educates the next generation of conservation leaders with a complete curriculum in the classroom. Every week, at least once or twice a week, students take what they’ve learned in the classroom and head out into the great outdoors to learn through hands-on exploration and field experiences.
They learn about the conservation of Missouri’s water, forests, caves, prairies, wetlands and glades. The kids get to experience hiking, fishing, snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking, stream surveying, river and stream ecology, woodworking, owl pellet dissection, hunting, shooting, game-calling, birding, caving, animal-handling, map and compass, orienteering and a whole lot more.
Misty Mitchell has been there from the beginning of WOLF School and serves as the staff liaison between Springfield Public Schools, Bass Pro Shops and Wonders of Wildlife. Misty says, “One of my favorite things about WOLF is how it absorbs the entire family. The students are taking and teaching their parents about the natural resources that WOLF visits during the school day. Parents are usually overwhelmed in the beginning as their student’s passion for learning increases by leaps and bounds.”
Teacher Courtney Reece echoed Misty’s words when she said, “My favorite thing about the program is that it doesn’t just affect students. It brings families together. Parents are overjoyed that their kids initiate family time because of the program.”
The school also has helped with teaching the kids from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Southwest Region Outdoor and Education Supervisor Warren Rose says, “We are pleased to offer teacher training, conservation education curriculums and outdoor skills activities for WOLF, but we also want other Missouri schools to know that we can provide the same thing to their school even if they don’t have a special classroom.”
Volunteers like Bob and Barb Kipfer are also an integral part of the school. The Kipfer’s not only come to the classroom to help teach the kids, they also open their land along Bull Creek in Christian County to be used as an outdoor classroom several times a year. I asked Bob his thoughts on these school programs and he said, “In a perfect world, all students would have as least some of the experiences that the WOLF program offers. We have the resources including volunteers, but needs change in our nation’s education system to expand the student’s horizons. It is, after all, the world that they will be inheriting.” I think the majority of teachers and parents would agree with Bob’s words.
The success of WOLF School has been credited with helping start a new off campus school for 5th graders called the Academy of Exploration at the Discovery Center of Springfield with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus. In addition, the school system has started the Health Science Academy at Mercy Hospital in Springfield for 8th graders interested in being a part of the health industry.
Over the last decade, over 400 students have graduated from WOLF school. Like Bob Kipfer, I am sure all those involved wish all kids, not just those in Springfield, could have the opportunity to attend schools like WOLF. If that ever happened it could change the lives of a lot of kids and it could also change the broken world we live in.
Maybe if more parents, grandparents, educators and politicians heard the story of Diana Summit we would see those changes happen. Diana always had a passion for science and was lucky enough to have caring teachers who invested their time to fuel that passion. It was through them that she heard about the WOLF School program.
She talked her family into letting her apply and she was accepted. Coming from an underprivileged home with no car and no money she had to catch a city bus, then walk in all kinds of weather to make it to school. Remember this is a 10-year old 5th grader. “WOLF was feeding something inside me that was so powerful that I had to be there. I had always loved school, but WOLF School was special and I was going to be there whatever the price,” said Diana.
Diana graduated from WOLF School with the 2008-2009 class and is now the first person in her family to graduate high school. She is currently enrolled at Missouri State University studying to be a veterinarian. Diana says, “When I look back at this time in my life I can clearly see how WOLF and Wonders of Wildlife really changed my life.”
How many more lives could be changed because of school programs like WOLF? How many families would grow closer together and stronger? How many kids would grow up to be our future conservationists? How many of these kids as adults would work to change our world for the better?
“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.”
Story-telling, memories, peaceful thinking – its magical
By Larry Whiteley
There’s something really special about time spent around a campfire. Smoke drifts away or gets in your face. Wood crackles and pops. Flames dance and flicker. Sparks float hypnotically upward into a dark night sky.
A campfire makes you feel better. It warms you to the bone. Magically it takes away stress and pressure no matter where it’s at. It could be deer or turkey camp, on the banks of a river or lake, on top of a mountain or down in a valley, during a camping trip or in your backyard. It really doesn’t matter because they’re all magical.
Around campfires, there are no TV’s or electronic gadgets. There are no smart phones (just turn them off). There are only friends and family, quiet and perfect solitude.
Campfires are for cooking food, lighting the night and keeping warm. They are for sharing memories of other times and other places, talking about loved ones and old friends who are no longer here, the big one that got away or missing the buck of a lifetime. We turn our backsides to the warmth of its flames, but still shiver as our eyes widen listening to someone tell ghost stories.
Campfires are where grandkids roast marshmallows and share time with their Papaw. They are a place to watch the flames dance as the worry of the work week melts away. They are a place for fish fry’s, cookouts and fellowship.
It’s easy to sit and watch the flames play for hours while someone tells stories or you just listen to night sounds. Flames of a campfire are soothing and always changing. As a campfire dies down to coals, the night slowly takes over and you know when it’s time to crawl into your sleeping bag, or your own bed, until morning comes.
To have a good campfire, you first have to know how to build one. Start by making a foundation of tinder using an old bird’s nest, dryer lint, pine needles and cones or fire cubes you can buy in your local outdoor store.
On top of the tinder crisscross small pieces of kindling like small twigs or thin pieces of wood scraps making sure there is plenty of room for air circulation.
Now light your tinder from below not on top to get both it and the kindling going.
Keep adding kindling until you start getting a bed of coals and then gradually add bigger pieces of wood while you still leave room for air circulation. Now sit back and enjoy your time around the campfire you built.
Heat from a campfire is also used to cook food. The warmth of the food feeds your body from the inside which is the only real way to keep your body temperature up.
Campfire cooking should be done over a fire that has hot coals rather than flames. Flames have less heat and more soot which blackens pots. Coals have a more even heat so food is cooked perfectly well. Food cooked over campfire coals just tastes better. It could be a shore lunch on a Canadian lake, grilled venison at deer camp or just hot dogs and s’mores in the backyard.
One of my favorite times around a campfire is in winter or early spring before the sun starts the day. While my wife still sleeps, I quietly head outside to build a campfire in the backyard fire pit. It doesn’t matter how cold it is and if it’s snowing that’s all the better, I still go. Flames reflecting off the snow are beautiful.
The best time is when the sky is still dark and millions of stars sprinkle the night sky. The wood sizzles and pops, the flames dance, the smell of wood smoke drifts through the air. It’s a quiet time. Not many people are up early like me. I warm myself by the fire and sip my coffee.
I think of my wife, my kids, my grandkids, my friends and how I am truly grateful for them. I think of my God and how much he has truly blessed me. I look up and thank him for the great outdoors that he created for us to enjoy and take care of.
I thank Him for time in a treestand watching sunrises through the trees and waiting for a deer to come by my secret hiding place. I thank Him that I am still thrilled to find a deer antler or a mushroom. I thank Him that a turkey gobble still gets my heart beating faster. I thank Him for the sounds of loons and elk bugles. I thank Him for time on the water, catching fish or just paddling. I thank Him for campsites and hiking trails.
My thoughts turn to all the outdoor memories I have made with my kids and grandkids. I sure hope there are many more to come before God calls me home. I stir the fire, watch the sparks and wipe away a tear. Smoke must have got in my eyes. Time around a campfire is something really special,
Sunset, sunrise, nature, people, life – joined by ancient mystical melody
Sacred, spiritual, mythical – outreach of Native American harmony
End of the day stress relief for modern America
By Larry Whiteley
I don’t remember the first time I heard the melodic sounds of a Native American flute, but the music still lingers in my soul. It is to most who hear it, an almost spiritual experience.
Legend has it that a woodpecker pecked holes in a cedar limb and gifted a young brave the first flute, but it wouldn’t play. He had to first humble himself before it would sing. Since the heart of the cedar had been removed from the flute, it was his duty as a flute player to replace it with his own heart when he played.
I love to read about the time when America’s Mountain Men traveled through the mountains and valleys of the west, hunting and trapping animals for their fur. It was a tough life, but I sometimes wish I had lived back then. They often heard the haunting sound of the flutes and called the mystical music “wind songs.”
The Native American flute is the only melodic wind instrument belonging to the people of this continent and the only instrument indigenous exclusively to America. The oldest Native American flute is the Beltrami Native American flute. It was collected by the Italian explorer, Giacomo Constantino Beltrami, while on a journey through present-day Minnesota in 1823.
Made mostly of cedar or river cane, they were used by many tribes for many different reasons. Some tribes used the flute for ceremonial purposes, in others, young braves would use it to try and win the hand of their hopeful bride to be. Mostly though, the flute was used to empty one’s self of all the things which could not be expressed in words. North American flute music is natural stress relief. In this crazy world we live in today, maybe we all need to learn to play a Native American flute or at least listen to their music to escape the craziness.
Since the first time I heard a Native American flute something within me wanted to know more about it. How are they made? What gives them their beautiful sound? Can a musically challenged person like myself learn to play one?
I consider flutes as not just a musical instrument, but also a work of art. Besides cedar and cane flutes they also make flutes of ash, maple, mahogany, blood wood, ebony, Alaskan yellow cedar and other woods from all over the world. Each has its own distinct sound and beauty when crafted by the hand of a master.
The flute is one of the easiest wind instruments to play. Minor tuning makes it easy because more notes go together than most contemporary instruments. A beginning flute player does not need to know conventional music when learning to play these instruments. It is a tool for self-expression. This simplicity allows non-trained individuals to be able to pick up the flute and make pleasing sounds within a matter of minutes. Master flute makers will tell you they have never sold a flute because a flute sells itself.
You don’t have to play songs on a flute that everyone knows. Simply play what is in your heart. Look to a sunset or sunrise, the valleys and mountains, the streams and lakes, the wildlife and wild flowers. The world of nature contains countless songs. Look there for inspiration and play what you feel.
Native American flutes and lessons may be available in your area. You can also go online and order a flute, an instruction book, listen to flute music or order accessories. These special Native American instruments, treated with care, will bring a lifetime of musical pleasure.
It is a beautiful early spring day. I sit on a special tree stump high on a hill overlooking a valley near the Mark Twain National Forest of southern Missouri. An eagle is flying in a bright blue sky.
I think of the Native Americans and how this was their land before the white man stole it from them. I think of how they took care of their land and tried to protect it from the white man’s onslaught. I think of how they honored the game when they took its life to feed their family. I think of how they didn’t waste any part of the animal and only took what they needed. They were the first conservationist’s. They fought only to protect what was theirs.
My flute in hand, I play from my heart. It is an escape from this crazy world for just a little while out in nature away from it all. As I play, I also think of the Mountain Men listening to the haunting, mystical sounds of “wind songs” in the distance, sweeping through the valley.
All students are equal, not based on popularity, athletic skill, gender, size, or academic ability
MoNASP State Tournament will run March 22 – 24, 2019 at Branson Convention Center in Branson, Missouri
By Larry Whiteley
In 2001, Roy Grimes was the Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. He was assigned the task of creating what eventually became the National Archery in the Schools Program better known as NASP®.
Roy designed it as an in-school program to aim at improving educational performance among students in grades 4 – 12. Through the sport of archery, he wanted them to learn focus, learn self-control, discipline, patience, and the life lessons required to be successful in the classroom and in life.
Since the program officially started in 2002, it has seen over 10 million kids all over America discover a great activity that doesn’t discriminate based on popularity, athletic skill, gender, size, or academic ability. The program is open to any student and the biggest supporters are professional educators, because student participation improves school attendance, increases student confidence, improves behavior and provides them with increased exercise in the form of physical activity.
In 2007, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agreed to coordinate the Missouri Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP). In these last eleven years, more than half a million Missouri students have participated. There are now 690 Missouri schools that participate and over 200,000 students that are learning the lifetime sport of archery and all the rest that MoNASP teaches as part of the school curriculum.
Last year, more than 3,100 Missouri kids from 140 schools competed in the state competition in Branson, MO and were watched by over 10,000 spectators. 1,490 of the kids that qualified, made the trip to Louisville, KY for the NASP National Championships. Some 129 Missouri students went on to the NASP World Tournament!
The MoNASP State Tournament is now the second largest state archery tournament in the nation and continues to grow. This year, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (MCHF) will again partner with MDC to host the tournament from March 22 – 24, 2019, at the Branson Convention Center in Branson, MO. This year they are expecting 3,700 students to compete with more than 15,000 spectators. Proceeds from the event support MoNASP programs and conservation programs in Missouri.
There will also be an ASPIRE MoNASP Tournament for students who do not have a position at the state tournament due to space. This group will also include students who weren’t able to shoot a state qualifying score this year.
Even if you don’t have a child or grandchild taking part in the tournament, it’s a great event to watch and cheer on these kids. Plus, there are lots of other activities you can also enjoy over the three days of the event. Bass Pro Shops will have their Indoor/Outdoor Days with catch and release fishing, archery activities, bounce houses, air guns and animals from the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium.
Russ and Diskey – the Frisbee Stunt Dog Team, will also be there along with Mountain Man from Duck Dynasty. There will be special shows by Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Presley’s Country Jubilee. The World’s Largest Sidewalk Sale will be held at Tanger and The Landing. RVs, boats, ATVs and archery exhibitors will be on display along with a Corvette Club Show. You can even attend the Sip the Ozarks event and sample Missouri wine, spirits and beer.
Business sponsorship opportunities are also still available and are a great way to help these kids and conservation too, as well as gain positive public exposure for the business.
For more information and to book hotel rooms, go to www.mochf.org and click on the MONASP drop down.
By Larry Whiteley
My grandson, Hunter, turned 21 his last birthday and my son, Daron, felt like it was time for him to have a really good concealed-carry pistol. He attends college in Kansas and also travels around the country fishing with the college bass fishing team. Mom and dad, as well as grandma and papaw, wanted him to be able to protect himself in this crazy old world we live in today.
Without letting Hunter know what we were planning, Daron started questioning him about what brand and style of pistol he would really like to have someday. Hunter is a “gun nut” like his dad and they both do a lot of research on guns and ammunition. He finally told his dad and me that he felt the conceal carry pistol he would like to have most was the Kimber Super Carry Ultra+ in .45 ACP.
I told him we would think about it, but if we decided to get it for him, it would be used as an incentive for getting his degree and would be given to him as a graduation gift.
Dad did his own research on the Kimber and told me he agreed with Hunter’s choice. Since the good Lord has blessed my wife and me, we really enjoy getting things for our kids and grandkids that they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. We don’t consider it spoiling them, but do consider it an investment in their lives. It is something we would not do if they weren’t the good people they are. We both agree it’s a lot better than having to bail them out of jail or pay for drug rehabilitation.
That all being said, I bought the Kimber and took it to my son for him to do all the testing of the pistol. To make sure the Kimber Super Ultra+ was really the conceal carry pistol we all wanted Hunter to have.
My son’s honest comments after handling, concealing and carrying it, plus taking it to the range:
* ”First of all the fit and balance is very good and praise God, it’s made in the USA.”
* “It is really a nice looking gun, not that he will care about that. He will be more concerned with how it shoots and how easy it is to carry.”
* “It does carry very comfortably no matter where you choose to conceal it.”
* “Overall I enjoyed shooting it and the accuracy was better than I expected.”
* “It is very balanced and I was really surprised with how little recoil I felt. The recoil did not affect my follow-up shots and my hand wasn’t sore after firing many rounds through it.”
* “The trigger pull was a little over four pounds and is adjustable, but I didn’t feel like I needed to change it and don’t think he will either.”
* “Accuracy was a lot better than I expected using a pistol with such a short barrel, but I felt the full size grip helped a lot with that.”
* “The side of the slide has a textured treatment that makes it very easy to grip.”
* “I do feel like the night sights could be a little brighter. We might even consider getting a Crimson Trace grip for it.”
* “I would like to see an extra magazine come with it so he could rotate them for carry purposes, but no problem buying another one for him.”
I think we all agree that the Kimber Super Ultra+ is going to be a great graduation present for a fine young man. He already found out we got it for him and Dad even let him see and handle it.
In all, this Kimber Super Ultra+ is only about 5 inches high, is less than 7 inches long and 1-1/4 inches wide, weighs a little over a pound with an empty 8-shot magazine. How’d they do it that light? It has an aluminum frame for portability, aluminum match grade trigger, keeps ultra-high quality with a stainless steel slide and 3-inch steel barrel with a twist rate of 16 (left hand). The grips are checkered and made from Micarta/laminated wood for being pretty. The trigger from the store is set at about 4-5 pounds. The retail price was $1,530, but they do go on sale from time to time. You can look it up on the web to find out more, but we liked it.
Hunter has already tried to talk mom and dad into letting him go ahead and carry it, but so far they are holding him to keeping up his grades and then they will see. The Kimber is a great incentive for doing that.
His sister Anna is also a student at the same college and has seen her brother’s pistol too. Guess what she is now wanting? She is looking at a couple of other Kimber models, but I think she really wants a Micro 9. Whatever she decides on, it will be a great investment in her life too.
In the meantime, when I was buying Hunter’s pistol, I also bought a 3-pack of Kimber’s Pepper Blaster II pepper spray. Their pepper solution is the most powerful concentrated version on the market and great for those who just don’t feel comfortable with a pistol. It will shoot up to 13 feet and disable an attacker for up to 45 minutes. For now, she is carrying one of the Pepper Blaster’s at school and I also gave one to her mom and grandma. Learn more about it at this video website: https://youtu.be/1b2ZRbZfWUQ.
Daron, Hunter and I all want are girls to be safe when we’re not there to protect them!
More information on the Super Ultra+ is available at www.kimberamerica.com.
I know most of your communication in today’s world is through social media and you don’t like to read something as long as this letter, but please do! One day all the gifts you get will be gone, but my Christmas letter to you will last forever.
As you continue your journey on this earth, always remember to keep God first, family second and all other things third. Let that be your guide and you will have a good life. You will make mistakes and you will have problems, but those things help develop your character. Having the morality to always to do what is right, not just what is convenient, is important.
Never get too old or too cool to give your parents and grandparents a hug and tell them you love them. If it were not for their sacrifices and guidance none of you would be the fine young people you have turned out to be. Someday you will have your own family. Always hug them and always tell them you love them.
I hope as you get older you will continue to discover the many wonders of nature like you have through these first years of your life. God created an amazing place for us get out and enjoy. It is worth much more than wealth and all the problems wealth can cause. It is also a wonderful place to escape and get away from the pressures of this crazy world we live in.
My wish for each of you is that God’s great outdoors in all its wonder will always be an inseparable part of who you are. May you always be amazed when you see a big buck sneaking through the woods near your secret hiding place, an eagle flying in a bright blue sky, the beauty created by magnificent sunrises and sunsets, the tapestry of colors in a fall woods, a field of wildflowers in spring, beautiful sights from a mountain trail and camping out under a million stars that light the dark night sky.
May you never get tired of the sounds of geese as they head south for the winter, a turkey’s gobble in the spring, the haunting sound of a loon or the majestic bugle of an elk, bird songs filling the air, ducks coming into your decoys and the sound of water as you quietly paddle a river or lake.
May the smell of decaying leaves in a deer woods and campfire smoke around a tent or in your own backyard always bring back memories of simpler times in special places. I hope that the tug of a fish on the end of your line will always thrill you more than anything you could ever buy in a store or online.
Hunter, I hope you always remember catching crawdads, your first turkey hunt with me and dad, time with your papaw in a tree stand, how proud dad and I were for you when you got your first deer and an unforgettable fishing trip with me and dad.
Anna, I hope you always remember you and your papaw riding the ATV and singing songs, your first turkey, your first deer and the day I handed you my camera. You loved taking pictures of wildflowers, butterflies and other neat stuff and still do.
Ty and Sam, I hope you always remember riding ATVs, fishing in the Northwood’s and at the Missouri cabin. Grandma and I loved the trips we made to Wisconsin bringing you bows, BB guns, pellet guns, deer rifles, hunting clothes and fishing equipment. I sometimes wish you didn’t live so far away so we could have made even more outdoor memories together.
Always remember all the outdoor memories we have made together and that you have made with mom, dad and each other. I hope for each of you, that your future spouse will love the outdoors, or learn to, and together you will teach your kids and grandkids to go make memories.
I know you are all busy and even though my buddy Ty calls me the “old man,” I am still ready to go make a few more outdoor memories with my grandkids. Call me, text me, Instagram me or whatever you do. You could even write me a letter.
Don’t ever forget that Grandma and I are always here for you when you need us.
Multicoated Optics for Max Light Transmission in all conditions
Etched glass reticles, in red or green, are illuminated to deliver optimal shot placement
Easy-to-use Elevation and Windage Adjustments
Durable, Handsome, Affordable
By Larry Whitely
I was asked to do a review on the Sightmark Core TX 4-16×44 MR rifle scope, but I was a little hesitant since I definitely do not consider myself to be any kind of optics expert. I do however know someone that I feel is.
My son Daron does research and tests all kinds of outdoor products for our company, so he was more than happy to help his dad out in testing and reviewing this scope product. He loves doing this kind of thing, so he was smiling as he put it on one of his rifles and we took it to the range.
The other scopes he normally uses are fairly expensive models from some well-known companies. After looking through the Sightmark Scope, his first comment was, “Dad, this scope is clear as, or clearer, than my other scopes.” When he asked me how much it retailed for and I told him less than $300, he didn’t believe me until I showed him the MSRP in their catalog.
Here are some of his comments after putting the Sightmark Core TX 4-16×44 MR through some pretty extensive testing that made his Dad proud:
This scope is definitely worth more than what it sells for
The eye box is the perfect size and the eye relief is excellent
The lighted reticle is nice and performs very well in low light conditions
I really like the elevation and windage turrets
It has great looks that make it look like a lot more expensive scope
With practice I could shoot 500 to 700 yards easily with it.
He does say he recommends using their better scope rings. My optics expert son really liked the Sightmark Core TX 4-16×44 MR and says he would recommend it to anyone, including me, for long range tactical shooting as well as hunting.
The “MR” stands for Marksman Reticle.
In fact, after putting it through numerous rounds at the range, he liked it so well he left it on his rifle and took it deer hunting the following week. He said he needed to do more testing. Go figure.
Go to www.sightmark.com and check out all the other great scopes and shooting products they offer.
To learn just a bit more about these brand new affordable scopes, click the picture below to visit with Sightmark:
I sit on a river gravel bar letting the sun soak its warmth deep into my bones. It’s only December, but it’s already been a long winter and it felt good. Birds were singing. Like me, they were tired of the cold too and were celebrating with song. The sound of flowing water blended with their chorus.
As my mind wanders, I poke around in rocks of all sizes and shapes that surround me. How long had they been there? Where had they come from? How did the holes get in some of the rocks? What are the fossils in some of them?
Did you know rocks are like clouds? If you look real close you see things in them. This one looks like the state of Texas, this one like a heart. Here’s one that looks like Dolly Parton. Sometimes your mind sees crazy things when you sit alone on a gravel bar on a mild winter’s day.
I stack all the “holey” rocks I find in a pile. Some will be slipped on to a length of wire and hung in trees around the house to serve as weather rocks. When you want to know what the weather is you just look outside at the rocks. If they are wet it’s raining, if they are white it’s snowing, if they are moving it’s very, very windy. Others will be used to make things like mobiles, refrigerator magnets handles for drawers, necklaces, bracelets, and whatever else my mind comes up with.
The rocks are dull shades of black, gray, tan, brown and white. Some sparkle when the light hits them just right. Most are worn smooth from being tumbled through the water. The flat, smooth rocks are what I am looking for now. These are “skipping” rocks.
I stand, stretch, and position my feet just right, look out at the water and with a sidearm motion send the first “skipping” rock flying across the water. Six skips! Not bad, but I can do better. Four skips! That was a bad throw. My feet must have slipped. Eight skips! That’s better. As I continue to try and beat my record, I think about how I taught my sons to skip rocks and they now teach their sons to be champion rock skippers. All kids need to learn how to skip rocks.
I bend down to pick up another “skipping” rock and I see it. The sun is shining on it like a beacon guiding me to it. I kneel down, lift it from the gravel and hold it gently in my hand like a precious jewel. “An arrowhead, I found an arrowhead!”
I shout silently to myself.
As I turn it in my hand I think about the hands of the Native American who made it. How old was he? How long ago did he make it? What tribe was he from? Where did they live in this valley? What was it like back then? Was this used to take a rabbit or deer to help feed his family? This was a special moment. This was serendipity.
According to Webster serendipity means to find something you were not looking for. Now, I would have never known that if not for a lady I know that is a big fan of Webster and knows the meaning of words I have never even heard of. The moment she said the word and gave me its meaning, I knew I had experienced serendipity several times in my life. The arrowhead was just another time I found something I was not looking for – serendipity.
On another unusually mild winter day several years ago, I was riding my ATV down an old logging road when a squirrel ran across in front of me. I followed the path of the squirrel as he ran through the woods. My eyes stopped at the sight of something white sticking up through the brown leaves. I hit the brakes on the ATV and backed up. What is that? Probably a limb or just some kind of fungus I thought.
Normally I would have just rode on, but this day I walked toward the white shape to find out what it was. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it was the shed antler of an 8-point buck. As I held it enjoying its beauty, I thought about how unique the antlers of a whitetail buck really are. Like finger prints, no two are alike. Since then, I have learned where and how to look for shed antlers and have found many of them. However, I will always remember the first one and the day I found something I wasn’t looking for – serendipity!
I also remember hiking in the woods one winter. Spring woods are filled with wild flowers and budding leaves.
Fall woods offer a kaleidoscope of color and summer woods are ticks and chiggers and snakes.
Winter woods are quieter with the faint musky smell of decaying leaves.
Trees and bushes are bare allowing you to see things that might have gone unnoticed any other time.
You might see icicles hanging off a rock bluff sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight, a bleached out turtle shell, unusually shaped trees, animal tracks or even the animal that made them.
On this particular day, I suddenly realized I was walking along an old road bed. Trees had grown up in its path but if you looked hard enough you could still see where others had gone many years ago. As I walked, I wondered who had used this road. Was it loggers, lead miners, soldiers, or people who lived here?
I kept following the old road until it crossed a dry creek bed. There, lying half buried in the gravel was the metal rim off a wagon wheel. Here, at this place, a long time ago, they tried to cross this creek and the wagon wheel must have broken. In my mind’s eye, I could see it happening. The wood of the wheel had long returned to the earth but the rusted metal rim remained to be found by me when I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!
One spring, I was hiking to a special little waterfall deep in the woods that I liked to go to. I had been there many times but this time I went a little different way than normal. As I followed the sounds of the water I came by a big flat rock and sitting upright on the rock, was a soda pop bottle that dated back to the 1940’s.
Like me, someone else enjoyed coming to the little waterfall. The bottle they had been drinking from had remained where they had set it for over 60 years. I came along and found it even though I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!
I hope there are many more serendipity’s to come in my life and in yours. Those special places, special people, special times and special things that come along when you are not looking for them – serendipity!
Decoys, Calls and Dry Gear to Bring Home the Birds
Get a Waterfowl Shotgun that is Dependable
By Larry Whiteley
Waterfowl season is here or almost here depending on where you live. If you are addicted to waterfowl hunting like my family, here are some of the products my family and I use and depend on. You might want to go to your favorite outdoor store or hop online to check them out for yourself.
No matter how good you are at waterfowl calling, if your decoys are old and beat up they probably don’t look like the real thing and if waterfowl don’t feel comfortable with what they see they will probably flair off and not come within range.
The life-like detail and quality of Avian-X decoys is amazing. Because of the marine grade foam they use in their new Top Flight Foam Filled Fusion Mallard decoys we got for this year they are never going to leak even if I accidentally shot one. Yes, I will admit that has happened.
We also have their Topflight Pintails with weight forward swim keel design and they look so real they even fool me but so do all their other decoys. During teal season we used their teal decoys and had a great season. You don’t have to worry about chipping their decoys when you bang them around either and that’s a big bonus.
There are plenty of other species in lots of poses for you to choose from besides those we use. I guarantee that you are never going to regret using Avian-X decoys. www.avian-x.com
If you haven’t already done it, you need to clean your calls and inspect the reed. If you intend to buy new duck calls and haven’t done that yet either I highly suggest getting the best you can buy. The difference it will make in your success is worth the expense.
Our personal favorites are Zink Calls Power Hen PH-1 Open Water Single Reed especially for windy days, Zink’s Green Top Rocker because of its top end volume yet we can still do soft chatters, and their Nothing But Green Single Reed Acrylic call when we want to make sounds of multiple hens plus it has a huge range of tones but they have plenty of other calls for you to choose from.
Find a place outdoors where you can practice calling at normal volume levels and record yourself, comparing your calling to recordings of live ducks. When you practice, call as if you are working a flock of ducks and just ignore your wife and neighbors yelling at you. www.zinkcalls.com
Waterfowl season is nearly always cold, nasty and wet so you need a really good rain suit. We are kind of partial to Frogg Toggs so all the guys wear their Pilot II Guide rain suit during waterfowl season. We also wear their Co-PilotInsulated Puff Jacket zipped into the rain jacket to give us an extra layer of warmth during those duck days with cold rains, snow and sleet. My 18-year old waterfowl hunting granddaughter uses their women’s Pro Action rain suit.
All of us wear their Grand Refuge 2.0 camo chest waders except my granddaughter and she wears the Grand Refuge 2.0 Jr. Both have a liner system you can zip in and out according to weather conditions and lots of other great features.
When we are hunting and don’t need waders we wear their men’s and women’s lightweight Grand Prairie Mudd boots. www.froggtoggs.com
When I bought our waterfowl shotguns I wanted the best, most reliable guns I could get for us without spending a whole lot of money. It’s just pretty hard to beat Benelli and it’s nice to know they will still be downing waterfowl for many years to come as we pass them down from generation to generation.
We use the Super Black Eagle II semi automatic which has now been replaced by the Super Black Eagle III and the SuperNova pump. www.benelliusa.com
Comfortable, quality clothing and dependable equipment mixed in with a bunch of water and lots of waterfowl can make your hunting trips a lot more successful and enjoyable.
Smell like the woods, Know Where You Are and Want To Go, Bring the Deer to You – Here’s How
Deer Down, Time for Venison Jerky – Here’s How
By Larry Whiteley
Deer hunting season is here if you are a bow or crossbow hunter and the firearms season will be here before you know it. I hope you are properly outfitted so you can enjoy your time and be successful in your pursuit of the white-tailed deer.
Here are some of the products my family and I use and depend on when deer hunting that you might like too. Don’t just take my word for it though. Go online or to your favorite outdoor store and check them out.
Most rainwear is not quiet and even slight movement’s causes sounds that can spook deer. The folks at Frogg Toggs solved that problem with their new Dead Silence rainwear. They took brushed camo material and made the quietest, driest, yet breathable jacket, bibs and hoodie I have ever owned in my 50 some years of hunting. I actually use it even when there is no chance of rain.
I really like all the pockets that help me put things I need where I can get to them. I don’t like being cold out in the deer woods so I just zip in their insulated Co-Pilot Puff Jacket and stay comfortably warm waiting for a deer to come by my secret hiding place. www.froggtoggs.com
I have been wearing their clothing and using their OZ Chamber Bag since archery season opened this year and I also spray exposed skin and equipment then re-spray everything once I am in the stand to keep myself scent free. I have not been busted and have had plenty of opportunities to take deer but it’s still early and I am being picky.
Just in case you didn’t know it, deer have 297 million scent receptors in their nose and they even have a scent gland in their mouth as well as 2 large scent processing areas in their brain. If you’re not doing everything you possibly can to eliminate your scent you will get busted no matter how good you are. www.ScentLok.com
I don’t know about you but the number one thing that causes me to squirm around and move too much in my stand or blind is my butt getting uncomfortable.
This year I’m using a cushion called Fat Boy made by Hunt Comfort that is made with Gel Core. I can’t explain how it works but I do know it does and that’s all I care about. My butt is very happy! I’m also using it in my office chair as I write this and in my truck for long trips. www.huntcomfort.com
HUNTER SAFETY SYSTEMS
According to statistics, nearly one out of every three hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will fall at some point during their hunting days. That scared me after I read that so I now use their Ultra-Lite Flex safety harness and their Lifeline that keeps me safe going up and down my stands.
I also will not allow any of my family members that hunt to ever get in a tree stand again without both of these lifesaving items. I hope for your sake and your loved one’s that you will do the same. www.huntersafetysystem.com
Bucks make scrapes in clearings or fairly open areas like old logging roads, power line cuts, field edges and edges of timber clearings. So, I make mock scrapes using their products for early season and right before the rut in these same areas but where they are in good range of my stand, blind or game camera.
I make the scrape by clearing out debris in about a 2 foot area under an overhanging tree branch about head high to a buck because they lick and chew branches at a scrape and won’t make the scrape without them. I then put a small amount of their product on the licking branch and the ground. If there is a place I really want to put a scrape but it doesn’t have a limb at the right height I just use their Vine and make my own. Believe me folks making your own scrapes really works in helping bring in the bucks. www.scrapefix.com
onX HUNT MAPS
I have this app downloaded on my smart phone, tablet and computer. Boy does it help with my deer hunting. It gives me maps for all fifty states, with detailed public and private boundaries, landowner names and even hunting districts. I can even put tracks to and from my stands. I can’t believe that even when my network is nonexistent, which is often, my GPS in my phone still works offline. You sure get a lot of helpful information with this app.
You can go online and sign up for a 7-day free trial to see if you agree with me. It is one useful tool to put in your deer hunting arsenal. www.onxmaps.com
When it comes to field dressing a deer I have their Swing Blade series of knives and I highly recommend them. I don’t know who came up with this idea but with a push of a button the Swing Blade changes from a drop point skinner to the best gutting tool I’ve ever used.
They have a jillion styles of knives to choose from and I really like those that come with replaceable blades so I don’t have to sharpen them. Plus if you process your own deer they’ve got everything you need for that too. www.outdooredge.com
HI MOUNTAIN SEASONINGS
If you eat a lot of venison like we do, these folks have a great selection of all kinds of seasonings for grilling your deer steaks and burgers, making deer fajitas and tacos, marinating your venison and more. I use a lot of their jerky and snack stick kits in several different flavors. My grandkids at college and their friends love it when I make up a big batch for them the deer we harvest.
If you don’t have the time to make your own jerky they are now also offering jerky bagged and ready to eat. www.himtnjerky.com
Wisconsin grandkids loved to find “Beautiful” rocks and holy rocks
A floating leaf in the current, watch it, discover an unmatchable journey
Listen…the sound of creek gurgle and babble, they play Nature’s music
Learn the outdoors from the same place through all seasons…a mesmerizing experience that never ends.
By Larry Whiteley
I close the book I was reading, lean back and watch the autumn leaves flutter through the air before landing on the glassy surface of the creek.
My eyes pick out a single leaf still clinging to the tree above me. It moves with the gentle breeze until a gust of wind causes it to relax its grip and start its dance to the water. The water slightly ripples when it lands and it just sits there for a moment as if resting. Then the current grabs it and it floats away. I watch as long as I can then wonder how far it will travel until it reaches its final resting place.
With the leaf gone, my eyes turn to the beauty of the trees reflecting in the water. My ears listen to the soothing sounds of flowing water. My mind wanders back to all the memories that have been made at this special place on this special creek.
It’s called Bull Creek. It starts as a gurgling spring and winds its way for many miles through the hills and valleys of the Missouri Ozarks. It meanders along under rusted bridges, past limestone bluffs, old cemeteries, open fields, and a cabin on the bluff above the creek.
Near the cabin, rushing water had carved out a deep hole, perfect for fishing, swimming, and snorkeling. It is here I now sit, book in hand and staring at the water, thinking about all the memories.
Here is where one grandson and a granddaughter caught their first fish. Now they’re grown and it won’t be long before they are taking their kids to catch their first fish.
Spring rains would always flood the banks. The awesome power of spring runoff was something to behold and fear. Spring also meant dogwoods, redbuds and wildflowers reflecting in the blue water. I would always listen for sounds of peeper frogs and kingfishers announcing that spring was here.
As early summer arrived, it was time to take the annual first swim of the year in this cold, spring-fed creek. The grandkids tradition was to push their PaPaw in and then laugh as I came up screaming and gasping for air. They always thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t.
As summer continued, this special place played host to family, friends, and neighbors. Fishing continued, air mattresses dotted the water and lawn chairs lined the banks.
Saving tadpoles trapped in little pools of water and moving them safely to the creek was a favorite grandkid activity. Catching crawdads was enjoyed by young and old alike. Those “rotten” grandkids would laugh again when PaPaw would get pinched by an upset crawdad.
The clear waters of Bull Creek made snorkeling a popular thing to do for everyone who visited. The underwater world is fascinating!
Bluegill would swim right up to your face or nibble at you as you floated along in the water. Bass and hog suckers didn’t want any thing to do with these homosapiens that had invaded their home and would skitter along ahead. Sunfish usually guarded their nest or hid back under a rock ledge. A multitude of colorful baitfish would swim around in schools, continually battling the swift water.
I remember the time I snorkeled under the water and took some real lobster claws and placed them where they stuck out under a rock ledge so they would look like the granddaddy of all crawdads lurking under a rock. I then watched as my neighbor Bob snorkeled closer and closer to where I had hidden them. I still laugh when I think about the look on his face when he came up out of the water.
If you were really lucky or unlucky depending on your fear of snakes, you might even get the opportunity to swim along with a 4-foot long water snake. No, it wasn’t a fake snake and no, I am not scared of snakes. At least as long as I knew they weren’t poisonous.
I was a little nervous once though, when I dangled a crappie jig in front of this same snake and he struck at it and caught the hook in his mouth. I didn’t have much experience unhooking a writhing, very mad, water snake, and was sure thankful the line broke before I had to figure it out.
When it was hot outside and you had the creek all to yourself, there was nothing cooler or more relaxing than heading to the creek, sitting a lawn chair in the water under the shade of a big old tree and reading a good book. I could usually get through a couple of chapters before the rippling water lulled me to sleep.
As summer gave way to fall, I still enjoyed taking a book to the creek. If grandkids came down we fished or had rock-skipping contests. When our Wisconsin grandkids came, they liked to find rocks with holes in them, or “beautiful” rocks, on the gravel bar.
This was the time of year when you might surprise a pair of wood ducks as they paddled along in the water, catch a glimpse of a whitetail deer or wild turkey at the waters edge, or even see a beaver busily working on his winter home.
Trips became infrequent when winter arrived. Sometimes I would wrap up warm and go there to see the frozen water along the banks. I was always hopeful I would see an eagle perched in a tree or flying overhead. If the day was not too cold, I would sit down, enjoy the peaceful serenity and think about all the things that took place there.
As the grandkids got older they stopped coming. This special place had lost its magic to them. They would rather go boating on big lakes or do other things. Now they’re off to college.
Grandma and I got older too, so we eventually sold the cabin on the bluff to a young couple with twin 6-year old girls. Now they make their own memories. I still come back once in a while to enjoy this special place on the creek.
The leaves continue to fall and now cover the water like a multi-colored blanket. I stand, put my book under my arm, wipe the tears from my eyes and soak in the beauty one more time before turning to get in my truck and go back home to grandma.
Everyone needs a special place to go make memories.
This youth program exists in 80 countries and the United States, do your kids know about it?
Program includes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education
Kids build life skills…honesty, responsibility, decision-making, teamwork, self-discipline, self-confidence, problem solving
By Larry Whiteley
You will probably never hear this story being told on CNN, CBS or NBC national news. You probably won’t ever read a story about this in USA Today or other big national newspapers or magazines. We see, hear and read about shootings, protests and demonstrations. We hear or read about experts telling us that young people should never see or touch a firearm.
Why don’t they also tell the story about more than 400,000 young men and women in 47 states participating safely and successfully each year in the 4-H Shooting Sports Program led by 20,000 certified volunteer instructors? Do a Google search and you will find very little coverage about this except for home town newspapers talking about local kids being involved. When I searched I could find no national news stories about it. That’s a shame.
The story they should be telling is that this is much more than a bunch of kids, 8 to 18 years old, shooting rifles, shotguns, muzzle loading rifles, handguns, archery and learning about hunting. Boy’s and girl’s learn marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles and ethics of hunting, and much more. These are not kids that spend most of their time on their smart phones, playing video games or watching TV. These are not kids into drugs or stealing.
Since it was founded many years ago, 4-H Shooting Sports has served millions of young Americans. Their mission states, “To assist youth in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills, and forming attitudes so they may become self-directing, productive and contributing members of society.”
Through the program, participants learn safe marksmanship and archery skills from an early age. State-level 4-H clubs offer programs for individual training as well as team competition shooting. There is also the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championship Event each summer which hosts shotgun, air rifle, air pistol, small-bore rifle, small-bore pistol, compound archery, recurve archery, muzzle-loading rifle and hunting skills events. The opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the competition kind, remind you of the Olympics.
If you know anything about 4-H, you probably think of growing crops, raising and showing livestock and competing for blue ribbons at the county fair. You might not know that 4-H and related programs exist in 80 countries around the world. It is the largest youth development organization in the United States with nearly six million members, but of that number, only 17 percent of kids involved actually live on farms as most people would probably think. The majority come from suburban and urban communities.
It’s not just about shooting. The objectives of the program center on building life skills that include decision-making, teamwork, self-discipline, self-confidence and problem solving. The program also works to promote the highest standards of safety and sportsmanship, along with an appreciation and understanding of natural resources.
The Shooting Sports curriculum uses the resources of land-grant universities, Cooperative Extension agents and certified 4-H leaders, instructors and trainers. The adult instructors involved try to provide a positive relationship with the students. A national or state certified instructor teaches each discipline.
They also tie in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education along with shooting sports and hunting training programs. Instructors are given STEM activities they can relate to a part of the kids training in shooting.
All volunteers go through a background check and have archery and gun safety training, along with 4-H classes on youth development. It’s all designed to provide a partnership with a caring adult and a safe environment for youth to learn how to move forward, working on their own.
If you’re interested in becoming involved with the 4-H Shooting Sports Program, you can go to your state 4-H website. You can also go to the national shooting sports website and find a state contact for each of the states involved.
The National 4-H program treats Shooting Sports just like any of their other programs, whether it’s livestock or foods and nutrition or computers or woodworking. The goal is to get kids into a positive setting where they can have fun learning and develop lifelong skills while working closely with an adult, other than a parent, who really cares and takes interest in them.
If the national media ever did decide to tell this great story, I would suggest to them that they interview Jon Zinnel and Hannah Persell. Both Jon and Hannah started in the program at a young age and competed for many years in the National Championships.
Jon, who now works for Vista Outdoors, is a past 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador. Hannah is serving as a Shooting Sports Ambassador while she attends the University of Missouri where she is majoring in Agri Business.
Ambassadors represent 4-H and 4-H Shooting Sports for public relations purposes at special events such as donor/sponsor functions and with the general public. They also serve as spokespersons for the Shooting Sports program.
Hannah would not hesitate to tell the national media, “Participating in the Shooting Sports has given me confidence, communication skills, patience, the drive to succeed in life and made me into a hard worker.” All qualities that American companies are looking for in employees they hire.
Jon would say to the national media and anyone else, “The 4-H Shooting Sports Program is something the kids never forget and the skills they learn stay with them and benefit them the rest of their lives.”
In today’s broken world, it’s a great story that needs to be told.
Deer can Scent us Humans from Far, Far Away. Reasons why are part of this story.
Modern Secret for Seeing More Deer
When to Use Cover Scent
Why Deer can Smell Us
By Larry Whiteley
My wife has what you might call a “sensitive nose”. She smells odors a lot of times and I don’t. When I get in her vehicle it smells like a rose garden or an ocean breeze because she has these little scent things clipped to her visor and air vents. If I ran into any of my hunting or fishing buddies after riding with her, they would probably smell me and look at me kind of weird.
When she rides in my truck, she can tell if I ate a bowl of beans the day before or if my friend that smokes cigars has been in the truck with me, or if I left a pair of dirty socks under the back seat.
She knows I don’t like my hunting/fishing/camping truck smelling like a flower so she bought me one of those little pine trees to hang from my rearview mirror. I would rather not smell anything than have fake smelling things in my truck, so I started searching the internet for a solution that would make us both happy.
During my search, I clicked on www.scentlok.com and learned about their OZ20 small ozone generator unit. It plugs into the dash of your car or truck and doesn’t cover up smells, it gets rid of them so you smell nothing. I ordered one, plugged it in and turned it on when I parked the truck for the night and the next morning turned it off and let it air out. No smells!
It’s as simple as that. Without going into all the technical reasons as to how this thing works, other than saying it destroys organic scent-containing molecules, I can tell you it definitely does. My wife is happy and that’s good because as the old saying goes, “When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
To make her even happier and so I don’t have to smell flowers or ocean breezes around the house, I also got ScentLok’s® OZ100 ozone generator unit for small rooms and OZ500 ozone generator for big rooms and just plug them into a wall outlet when we are leaving. We come back to a scent free house. She especially likes me to use the small unit in the bathroom after I have been in it. I can’t understand why!
While I was on ScentLok’s® website, I also read about their hunting clothing and accessories with their Carbon Alloy™technology that helps keep you free of scent in the deer woods. It also has NeverWet™ technology that repels water, mud, blood & other liquids. I ordered their full season Taktix jacket and pant combo with lots of pockets, and in my favorite camo pattern, True Timber Kanati. The jacket also has an NRA approved conceal carry chest pocket to carry my pistol. In this crazy world we live in you never know when you might need it, even in the deer woods.
After every 30 to 40 hours of hunting in them, I just need to reactivate the carbon by throwing them in the dryer. If they’re not muddy or bloody I don’t need to wash them. They will be stored in the ScentLok® OZ Chamber 8K Bag, which I also ordered, that includes the OZ500 generator and plug it in to keep them scent free for the next hunt.
Now even though I will be doing all this, I still need to make sure I am not wearing the clothing I hunt with while in my truck or on my ATV to where I park, and then on to my stand. I still need to use scent cover sprays on any clothing that is not ScentLok®. Also use the cover spray on my pack, gun, bow or any other equipment, plus the deer stand or blind. You better do the same if you don’t want to get busted by the amazing nose of a deer.
Deer have up to 297 million scent receptors in their nose. In comparison, dogs have 220 million and humans have just 5 million scent receptors. I think my wife has around 10 million at least. Not only do deer have a huge number of scent receptors in their nose, they also have a secondary scent gland called the vomer nasal organ that is located in their mouth.
Above that, deer also have 2 large scent-processing areas in their brains. These processing areas are 9 times larger than a human’s scent processing area. So a sniff test of yourself or your clothing is nothing compared to what a deer can do.
Us deer hunters need to remember that no matter how much scouting we have done or how many food plots we have planted. Our best chance of taking a deer this year is making no scents.
Be Ready and Be Prepared for Undivided Outdoor Fun
The ONE THING I carry everywhere I go, maybe not what you Might Expect
Cold or Hot weather, How I stay Comfortable
By Larry Whiteley
We all want to know what the weather is going to be like if we have outdoor plans for the day. So we check our local forecast on TV, computer, smart phone or even smart watch and notice it’s going to be partly cloudy with a chance of rain.
But what does it mean when they say a chance of rain? Is it going to rain or not? Should you cancel your camping plans, hiking adventure or fishing trip?
Your local weatherman or lady will tell you that summer is the most challenging time of year for them to forecast what will happen. There is typically plenty of moisture and instability during summer that helps bring scattered showers and thunderstorms, particularly in the South and Midwest.
The things that cause rain development can be really hard to pinpoint in the summer. Rather than distinct warm and cold fronts, summer thunderstorms just sometimes flare up for many different reasons. Because of this, the warmer months are difficult for forecasters to provide a yes or no answer for rain where you are going to be.
If there’s a 30 percent chance of rain, that means there’s a 70 percent chance of dry weather where you’re going and you don’t know for sure it’s even going to happen. So you think those odds sound pretty good and are certainly not a reason to cancel any plans. Then, when the fishing, camping or hiking begins, so does the rain. You’re wet, your family and friends are wet, and no one is happy.
That’s exactly why, no matter what time of year it is, I always have rain gear with me. I keep my frogg toggs® Java Toadz™ lightweight rain suit rolled up into a stuff sack and under the seat of my truck. It is in easy reach just in case one of those pop-up showers hits just as I am ready to go into a meeting, church, or getting ready to go into my favorite outdoor store to do some important shopping.
It is also an important part of my gear no matter what kind of outdoor adventure I am going on. When I am packing to go camping I take it out of the truck and put it with all my camping gear. If I am going hiking it is always in my pack. I don’t go fishing without putting it in my tackle bag just so a little rain doesn’t stop me from catching fish. The fish don’t care if it’s raining and they don’t stop biting because of it. I just keep fishing in my rain suit unless, of course, it starts lightning and then I am off the water.
Since my Java Toadz™ is camo pattern, I even keep it with me in my game pouch when I am on early season dove hunts and all my other gear during the early teal season. During spring turkey hunts, it’s in my turkey vest. During deer season, it’s always in my hunting pack. To me, it is as essential as just about any outdoor gear I have. A pop-up shower or thunderstorm is not going to keep me from enjoying the great outdoors.
Now at the risk of sounding like a commercial for frogg toggs®, I have to tell you I also have their camo Pilot II™ Guide rain suit that I wear when fishing in early spring or fall, which is exactly when chances are best for rain most of the day.
On winter fishing trips and during waterfowl season, I wear their Co-Pilot™ Insulated Puff Jacket zipped into the Pilot II™ rain jacket to give me the extra layer of warmth during those cold rains, snow and sleet.
Frogg toggs® has just come out with a new rain suit for deer hunters called Dead Silence™. This suit is what all deer hunters want when out there waiting on that buck of a lifetime. I love deer hunting, so I didn’t hesitate to order one for this season. Besides being quiet and very waterproof, it has all kinds of hand warmer pockets, plus zippered pockets for valuables like your wallet, cell phone or radio, and other gear you need to keep safe and dry. The fabric breathes, so I won’t get too hot, but it also won’t let the cold air in. Plus, I can even zip in my Co-Pilot™ Puff Jacket that I also wear with my Pilot II™ rain jacket mentioned earlier.
No, I am not on the frogg toggs® Pro Staff and they don’t pay me for writing about them, but I do believe in their affordable, quality products designed for folks like you and me for any outdoor activity when there is a chance of rain. Go to their website at www.froggtoggs.com.
Some 300-500 hunters are KILLED ANNUALLY in tree stand accidents
Some 6,000 hunters sustain permanent injuries ANNUALLY
FACT: 1 out of every 3 hunters who use tree stands will fall during their hunting career
By Larry Whiteley
Did that headline scare you? I hope so because I wanted to get your full attention. For your sake and your family I want you to read every word of this article.
There’s nothing quite like sitting in your stand watching as the sun starts gradually peeking through the trees is there? Bird songs welcome the morning and squirrels start their chatter. Sometimes you’re rewarded with a fox or bobcat sneaking through the woods. It’s a special time to be high in a tree watching and waiting for a deer to come by your secret hiding place. If they do, that’s a bonus.
You may not want to hear this, but this could be your last year to sit in a tree stand. When you hear or read “hunting accident” the first thing that probably comes to mind is an accidental shooting. However, according to Tree Stand Safety Awareness (TSSA), tree stand accidents are the number one cause of serious injury and death to deer hunters.
It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 hunters who use tree stands will be involved in a fall sometime in their hunting careers. Did you understand that? 1 out of 3!
Tree stand accident injuries can be fatal and those that do survive can be permanently disabled. Some 300-500 hunters are killed annually in tree stand accidents and about 6,000 more sustain permanent injuries, according to a study by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA).
Could this be the year you are one of those statistics? I certainly hope not, but the odds are not in your favor. I know you probably think it could never happen to you, but you are wrong. Go online and search for “tree stand accidents”. Read all the stories about people just like you who fell from a tree stand and it changed their life forever.
Read about Mike Callahan who is one of the few lucky ones who can still hunt. Except now he hunts from a wheelchair with the assistance of a friend. He finds flat areas in the woods or a field to roll onto, and behind camouflage material, rests his crossbow or shotgun onto a shooter’s rest. He aims it with a bar controlled by his teeth and activates the trigger with an air tube.
Also read about Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. He was checking a tree stand on his property in Missouri when the bottom fell as he attempted to clip on his safety harness. He dropped 20 feet, crushing his pelvis and coming very close to bleeding to death. Had it not been for his cellphone and good cell reception, he admits he would have died.
Also read the stories from spouses, family members and friends talking about how life has changed for them since their loved one was paralyzed or died. You see, you are not the only one that would be affected if you fell from a tree stand.
How can you prevent this from being your last deer season? Wear a safety harness with a lifeline before you climb into any kind of stand. You can still fall, but you won’t fall to the ground because you are safely attached to the tree at all times with the lifeline.
Survey’s also show a lot of hunters own one or both of these devices, but don’t always use them. The day you don’t have them both on is probably the day the accident will happen. You have to use both the safety vest and the lifeline.
86% of tree stand accidents don’t happen while you are sitting or standing, they occur while ascending or descending the tree or getting into or out of the stand. I don’t care if you hunt from a hanging stand, a ladder stand or a climber, it can happen to you in an instant.
I started doing research several months ago for this article and it scared me so bad that I went out and bought a Hunter Safety Systems Ultra-Lite Flex safety harness and lifeline for myself and for everyone in my family that deer hunts. AND, they have all been told they are never to get in a tree stand again without using them.
Go online right now or to your favorite outdoor store and buy the best safety harness and lifeline you can buy. Then go home and practice using it over and over until you are totally comfortable with it. Make it second nature to put it on every time you go out hunting.
I hope I have scared you enough that you will never again get in a tree stand without a safety vest and a lifeline. Do it for yourself and do it for your family. It will help insure that it will not be your last deer season and that you will be around to watch birds singing, squirrels chattering, sunrise through the trees and wildlife sneaking through the woods…for many years to come.
Check out Hunter Safety Systems full lineup of products to keep you safe in the deer woods at http://www.huntersafetysystem.com/.
Shade, Shelter, Habitat, Leaves and Natural Fertilizer
Fond Memories from Days Long Ago, some Thoughts for Days Ahead
Let’s ALL Learn More About Trees
By Larry Whiteley
I was on my way to our cabin when I saw it. I am sure I’ve seen it lots of other times. It was just a glimpse as I drove by. Why did it bother me so much then? It was just a bulldozer knocking over a tree. That happens all the time in today’s world. We have to have more convenience stores, banks and shopping centers, don’t we?
People have always cleared fields of trees. They did it to grow crops or raise cattle so they could feed their families. The trees were used for firewood to keep them warm. Now, they push over trees and just burn them to get rid of them. When the shopping centers are completed, people take their families there to feed them or shop.
What really amazes me is to see developers clear the land of trees for a new housing complex and then name the streets after them. Then, people that buy the houses go to the local home improvement store or nursery to spend hundreds of dollars on small trees to plant in their yards that will take years to grow as big as those that were once there.
As I kept driving, I tried to think about what I needed to get done when I got to my cabin surrounded by the woods of the Mark Twain National Forest. I tried to listen to what the guy on the radio was saying. It didn’t do any good. I kept seeing the bulldozer pushing over the tree. Why couldn’t I get it out of my mind? It was just a tree.
Maybe it bothered me so much this time because I’m getting older and wiser. Well, older anyway. My mind took me back to when I was a kid growing up on the farm. I would spend all day wandering around in the woods. The trees hid me from all the Indians that were after me. I dodged their arrows as I ran from tree to tree. My imagination entertained me back then. I didn’t need TV, video games or a smart phone. Thank God my kids grew up enjoying the woods. Now my grandkids are discovering the wonder of the woods, climbing trees and carving initials.
Other days, I would climb up into the comforting arms of a tree and soak in the wonder of the woods or just daydream. I can still remember the odd shape, a weird knot, the feel of the bark on certain trees. I wonder if some of those trees are still there. I wonder if my initials are still carved in them.
As I got older, I would head to the woods with my dog Bo and my little single shot .22, bought with money I had earned. I still have that gun and the memories of knowing I only had one shot so I couldn’t miss when that squirrel ran out on a limb. We didn’t have a lot of extra money to be buying more .22 shells and that squirrel was supper.
I still enjoy hiking in the woods. I love the kaleidoscope of fall colors. I still climb trees, but now it’s to sit in a treestand waiting for a deer to walk by. My granddaughter poses for pictures on a grapevine swing. My grandson loves to hunt squirrels and deer now too. I smile as I watch them and I remember.
What was it that the guy on the radio just said? “And he created the heavens and the earth.” He created all the trees too didn’t he?
It shouldn’t be bothering me about seeing that tree pushed down. After all, I cut down trees too, don’t I? Their wood keeps our cabin warm during the cold of winter. They are also magically transformed into hiking sticks, candle holders, lamps, coat racks and lots of other things in my workshop.
I am wise enough to know that if your home is shaded by trees, your air conditioner won’t run as much and you’ll save money on electricity. You might even be able to open your windows and enjoy a fresh breeze. Cleaning the gutter, picking up limbs and raking leaves is a small price to pay.
Even my 10-year old grandson can tell you that the more trees you cut down, the less oxygen you have. Oxygen – you know the stuff that helps you breathe. I read somewhere that a single tree is valued at over $13,000 during its lifetime for the oxygen it provides. Multiply that times the number of trees in your yard, if you have trees in your yard.
Trees are also important to the wildlife that use them. Birds and squirrels build nests, turkeys roost in their tops, deer rub their bark, woodpeckers peck. Wildlife feeds on the nuts, berries and insects they provide.
Fish and other aquatic species also rely on trees for shade along their watery homes. When they die and fall into the water they provide fish habitat and safety from predators.
I pull into my cabin and a song is playing on the radio. As I listen, I’m not upset anymore. The words roll over in my mind as I look around at all the trees. “He grew the tree that he knew would be used to make the old rugged cross.” You see, that was the most important tree of all.
Like Coffee? Get Camping Much? You Might Need This.
Portable TOUGH Coffee Maker that Takes Any K-Cup.
My Search is Over!
By Larry Whiteley
A recent Harvard School of Public Health study showed 54% of Americans drink coffee and you can count me into that percentage.
I enjoy my coffee as I sit at my desk in the early morning hours writing articles and piloting radio shows. It helps keep my mind clear as I craft the words I need to write.
A thermos of coffee warms my hands while sitting in a treestand waiting for a deer to come by my hiding place or in a blind waiting to hear a booming gobble as the sun starts peeking over the hills.
Steam rises from my coffee as I sit in the boat, in the darkness, listening to the water lapping against the sides and watching the colorful morning sunrise reflecting in the water.
I sip coffee as I sit around the campfire by myself in the morning darkness, watching the flames dance, and listening to owl’s talking to each other.
I have always made my coffee at home and took it with me in a thermos or insulated mug on my outdoor adventures. Sometimes I just stop by the local convenience store, but they don’t always have the flavor of coffee I like. Besides, according to the same Harvard study I mentioned earlier, the average price for a brewed cup of coffee is a $1.38 and I’m kind of a frugal guy, but my wife says a better word is “cheap”.
I knew I couldn’t take my single-cup coffee maker with the fancy name “out there” because it would have broken in no time with water and coffee all over everything.
So, I have been searching for a coffee maker that I could take with me on fishing, hunting and camping trips where I was staying in an RV, cabin, lodge or motel. It’s been a long search for years, as I enjoy making my own coffee instead of the usual watered-down variety you get in some places.
In my search, I found out that most public and private campgrounds across America now have campsites with electrical hook-ups. So I can brew my favorite coffee even when I’m camping out if I could just find the right coffee maker.
To be able to travel with it, I knew I wanted it to be like the old saying goes “strong as an ox,” as well as impact-resistant, durable, spill-proof and portable, and if it had its own travel bag that would hold everything needed, that would be nice too. I also wanted to be able to use it on my kitchen cabinet at home or take it out to my workshop when I wanted. Ask for the sky! Why not?
During my continued search, I was surprised to come across a coffee maker called “OXX,” just like the saying, but with an extra “X”. I then did more research and found that in the wagon-based settlement of the American West before the railroad, a team of oxen were preferred over horses to plow fields, bust sod, remove boulders, stumps and other heavy tasks because they were stronger and tougher than horses.
The OXX COFFEEBOXX was designed for construction workers who needed something strong and tough enough to make coffee on their wild jobsites. A lot of construction workers also enjoy all the outdoors has to offer and they soon discovered, since it was tough enough for work, they could also use it for all their outdoor adventures. AND, it was everything I was searching for.
They also offer single cup “Workhorse Coffee” which is very good. I like the “Dark & Bold,” but I have tried the “All Day Smooth” and the “2X Caffeine,” and I like them too. But if you still have to have your own brand, any coffee pod will work in the OXX and they even have reusable pods for your favorite ground coffee.
Now if someone would just come up with a small, reasonably priced, portable power unit I could plug my OXX COFFEEBOXX in and brew my favorite cup of coffee when I am completely off the grid and deep in the wilderness, I would be one happy man.
Go to www.oxx.com and check out the “strong as an ox” OXX COFFEEBOXX.
Stockton Lake white crappie are large, plentiful, fun to catch and tasty!
Answering the Call
Learning about Life, Love, Fishermen and Jesus
Stone Creek Lodge, Stockton Lake…a Place to Visit
Great Fishing Trips, Vacation Fun…Creating a Legacy and Passion for Sharing
By Larry Whiteley
As a young man Kris Nelson loved to go fishing every chance he had. He fished in all the lakes and streams of southwest Missouri near his hometown of Willard. While other young men were playing sports or doing things they shouldn’t, Kris was fishing.
When he graduated from high school he worked and saved his money, then got into buying houses, fixing them up and selling them for a profit. His success gave him the time and money to go fishing.
In 2008, when the housing market went bust, Kris lost virtually everything and had to go out and find a job. Through it all though he still found a way to go do what he loved. Fishing helped him through the tough times.
While working at a factory job in Springfield, a friend told him, “Kris, what are you doing here? This is not for you. Your heart is in fishing.” Not long after, he found out about a job in Florida as a fishing guide, so he sold his boat and off he went to follow his dream.
In 2011 after a few years of guiding and even being captain of a charter fishing boat, Kris decided it was time to go back home to the Missouri Ozarks.
Shortly after getting back from Florida he was fly fishing for trout below the dam on Lake Taneycomo and having great success, when another fisherman who wasn’t having the same success came up to him. He wanted to know if he would show him how he was catching them. Kris patiently helped and then smiled as the man started reeling in fish.
It turned out the man was in Branson with some friends and he asked Kris if he would guide him and his buddy’s the next day, and they would pay him. Since he needed the money, Kris agreed, but he didn’t have a boat, so he rented one from Lilley’s Landing and Resort. The day was a success and the fishermen were happy.
That got Kris to thinking that maybe there were other fishermen willing to pay him for guiding them on Lake Taneycomo. Unable to afford a boat to guide, a good friend named Justin Hayden loaned him his boat and Kris’s guide business was off and running.
He eventually saved enough money to buy his own boat and began expanding his guiding business to Stockton Lake and Pomme de Terre Lake, as well as Lake Taneycomo. He called his business, “Tandem Fly Outfitters.”
About that time, another very special thing happened in Kris’s life. His cousin set him up on a blind date with a beautiful girl named Amanda and he was totally hooked.
Another chapter in the life of Kris and Amanda began in 2017. He was doing so many guide trips on Stockton, he started renting a room at Stone Creek Lodge. That way, he wouldn’t have to drive back and forth to Branson each day. The owner of the lodge had noticed how Kris’s guide business was thriving and approached him about buying the lodge.
Amanda had to drive back and forth a lot so she could be with Kris when he wasn’t guiding, so the two talked it over and decided to take a big step and buy it. To make it all even more special, three days after writing up a contract on the lodge, they found out Amanda was pregnant and they are now the proud parents of a pretty girl named Lilly.
Today you will find Amanda and Lilly running the lodge, snack shop and tackle store, while Kris is out on the water making sure their customers are having a good time and catching lots of fish. When the day’s work is done, you will usually find Kris walking around their property with one arm around Amanda, holding Lilly in his other arm and smiling.
I have fished both Taneycomo and Pomme de Terre with this young man and, to be honest with you, I have been with guides all over the U.S. and Canada, but I have never had a better fishing guide. He is knowledgeable and wise far beyond his age. You will catch fish and you will catch a lot of them. I would not hesitate in recommending Kris Nelson to anyone wanting to experience a great fishing trip.
God has been good to Kris Nelson and, in his wonderful Ozarks accent, he is quick to give Him all the credit and praise for what has happened in his life. I would just bet his favorite bible verse is Matthew 4:19. Look it up and you will understand what I mean.
After reading this, I think you will probably agree that the amazing life of Kris Nelson, his family and their business, all makes this a really great fish story.
To book a trip with Kris go to his Facebook page @Tandem Fly Outfitters or call the lodge at 417-276-1700.
I Draw My Bow…that Green Arrow, “Oh Yea, My Story Takes a Turn
By Larry Whiteley
The old gobbler is searching for me.
I’ve done a good job making him think I’m a hen.
He’s literally tripping over his beard as he comes in looking for love.
His bronze feathers shine in the light of the early morning sun and the red, white and blue of his head stands out against the emerging spring greenery.
I give a soft putt with my mouth call and he comes in a little closer. To show me how handsome he is, he puffs out his body and spreads his tail feathers.
My heart is pounding out of my chest as I stare down the barrel of my 12 gauge and slowly move to click off the safety. Suddenly there is a buzzing in my ear.
What is that? The biggest gobbler I have ever seen disappears as I reach across my body to shut off the alarm clock.
My wife sleeps peacefully as I lay there for a moment trying to get the cobwebs and thoughts of turkeys out of my head. My feet hit the floor and my morning daily work week ritual begins. It’s off to the kitchen to put on the coffee, a quick visit to the bathroom and then turn on the TV to catch the weather forecast. When I drink too many liquids before going to bed, the order of events sometimes changes. It can’t be because I’m getting older.
It’s back to the kitchen to pour my first cup of coffee, check the thermometer in the kitchen window and back to the TV just in time to see the local weather girl.
After thirty minutes of exercising, it’s on to the bathroom again to shave, shower, brush my teeth, and get rid of the first cup of coffee. Back to the kitchen I go again for my second cup of coffee.
Now it’s shirt, pants, socks, shoes and I’m dressed for work. I grab my briefcase and head for the kitchen again to fix my lunch. Before I head out the door to my truck, it’s usually one more visit to the bathroom to get rid of the second cup of coffee.
As I wash my hands, I look in the mirror and wonder if it really is because I’m getting older.
I stop by the bedroom to tell my wife I love her and then it’s out the door and another morning routine has ended.
As I start my truck, back out of the garage and head down the driveway, I wonder if I am the only one who does things in the same way, at the same time every morning. I think not.
As I drive my eyes are always on the watch for deer at the forest edge. Maybe I’ll see that fox pouncing on a mouse in the field again. That is if the red-tailed hawk doesn’t beat him to it. Man, six road-kill skunks at the side of the road within two miles. That has to be a record! Around this curve is where I nearly always see turkeys. There they are: Six hens, a gobbler, and two Jake’s. I wonder if that’s the gobbler in my dream?
I’m sitting at a stoplight waiting for the green arrow and I see geese flying in a V-formation heading north. I wonder why we seem to notice them more when they’re heading south for the winter rather than north for the summer. I want to roll down my window and yell at the lady next to me, “Hey, look at the geese flying north! Do you know why they fly in a V-formation?” She would think I was a crazy man, so I think I’m better off keeping them to myself.
Did I hear a goose honk? No, that’s the guy behind me, telling me the light’s not going to get any greener. I make my turn and he passes me. Is he pointing at the geese in the sky too? If he is, it’s the wrong finger.
I exit on to the interstate highway filled with cars and trucks driven by people who have just finished their daily morning routine and are now off to work like I am. It’s only a few miles before I will exit again, but this is a special time to me. Unlike those around me, I don’t have the radio on listening to loud music or talk shows. This is my time for day dreaming.
My day-dreaming each morning takes me to many places far from the busy highway. Sometimes I’m on my way to our cabin. I’m watching all the hummingbirds swarming like bees around the feeder or I’m down at the creek and I’m fighting a big smallmouth.
Other times, I’m heading north to the hunting cabin. You can’t believe all the morel mushrooms and deer sheds I’ve found in my day dreams. I’ve also drawn my bow back on the biggest buck I’ve ever seen.
Day dreams have also taken me back to the mountains of Colorado, Montana, and Idaho. I’ve also been to the mighty oceans, walked the sandy beaches with my wife and battled saltwater fish.
My day dreaming this day was of a special grandson and playing in the waterfall at the cabin, using toy road graders to make roads in the gravel bar, and fishing with him in the creek. Someday dreams come from your imagination, others from fond memories.
The clicking sound of my turn signal interrupts my day dream and brings me back to reality. One more stoplight and I’ll be at work. I pull into the parking lot, shut off the engine and take a deep breath. No time for day dreams here.
At the end of the work day I will get back in my truck and head back down the same roads and I will day dream again on my way home. Day dreaming is my escape from worrying about the price of gas, work that needs to be done, or our inept politicians in Washington.
Yes, I’m a dreamer. Always have been, always will be. I enjoy my day dreaming and tonight, I look forward to where my night dreams will take me. Maybe I’ll get that old gobbler this time.
Vision Clarity, Eye Protection, Seeing All Things Better
About Sunglasses, Don’t Leave Home without These – Learn Why
My Old Eyes Have Been Opened! …By a Company that CARES.
By Larry Whiteley
I have owned a lot of sunglasses in my lifetime.
Most of them were inexpensive, made in China sunglasses that didn’t protect my eyes from harmful UV rays and sure didn’t help me see any better.
That all changed last year when my grandson who fishes on the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team won a certificate for a free pair of Costa sunglasses in a tournament.
He kept telling me, “PaPaw you can’t believe how comfortable and how much better they are when it comes to seeing fish.”
He was right!
I would have never believed that a pair of Costa sunglasses could make such a difference in not only my ability to see fish, but everything outdoors has a totally different perspective when I look through them.
I like them so much I even got a camouflage, non-reflective pair to wear when I go hunting.
Costa makes it simple and easy to find the right pair of sunglasses that match your outdoor activities, whether it’s fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, boating, driving or anything else. Each lens color has a different purpose to keep specific spectrums of light out of your eyes and focus on certain conditions that will enhance your clarity and visibility. Made in both glass and polycarbonate, every lens is polarized and gives you 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection.
Best of all, they are made right here in the USA.
I could go on and on about Costa sunglasses, but instead I invite you to go to www.costadelmar.com. Click on this link, then go learn all about the different styles and find a retailer near you to go try them out for yourself.
My Costa’s are much more than the best quality sunglasses I have ever owned.
Costa is not a company that just cares about their bottom line. They care about our world’s environment and they are actively involved in doing something about it.
Through their Kick Plastic campaign, Costa is working with organizations to reduce the impact of plastic on our environment. Even Costa frames are made of a bio-based resin rather than petroleum-based plastics. Almost all plastic that has ever been produced is still around. We use millions of tons of plastic just once and then throw it away.
The equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.
By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight).
Sadly, in today’s world, one in four ocean fish tested have plastic in them.
Costa is actively taking their Kick Plastic campaign across the country to educate people on what is happening to our environment. Costa is inviting all of us to challenge ourselves to Kick Plastic!
Costa is proud to be a long-term supporter of OCEARCH, an At-Sea Lab led by explorers and researchers who generate critical data and put science on the side of sharks.
You may not live near an ocean, but you should be concerned that 190 sharks are killed every minute.
Sharks are the lifeblood of our oceans, and they’re disappearing.
If the oceans lose their top predator, the entire ocean ecosystem is in trouble.
The Costa+OCEARCH Collection features new sunglasses and gear, inspired by the sharks that keep our oceans balanced. Your purchase of these products helps fund future OCEARCH expeditions and their mission to protect sharks. You can also help spread the message at #DONTFEARTHEFIN.
Costa sees sport fishing itself as conservation and is on a mission to protect the world’s waters by promoting sport fishing.
In the waters of the impoverished nation of Guyana’s unspoiled rain forest in South America, Costa found a place where sport fishing could preserve the country’s natural resources and culture.
Costa appreciated their efforts not to pillage their natural resources and was especially interested in the opportunity to bring in fly fishermen and give them a chance at catching the world’s largest freshwater fish, the Arapaima.
Arapaima grow up to ten feet long and can weigh over 800 pounds, they are known as living fossils.
Today fly fisherman all over the world are coming and helping tourism in Guyana to grow.
Because of this, schools are receiving more resources, the country’s infrastructure has improved and their natural resources have been protected.
Costa hopes this success will continue to grow throughout Guyana and spread to other countries.
Commercial overharvesting and other factors have all but wiped out the Bluefin Tuna population from the waters around Bimini and Cat Cay islands to off the coast of Florida.
Now, Costa through their Bluefin-on-the-Line program, along with the legendary Merritt family, is on a quest to revive an island, a sport, and a legacy by bringing back the Bluefin Tuna.
There are getting to be more companies like Costa who are giving back for conservation and our environment.
We need these companies, we need more of them and we need to support them by buying their products.
We have been having high temperatures in the teens and single digit temperatures at night here in Missouri and that doesn’t count the wind chill index.
In my old age I don’t like being cold so I’ve been day dreaming a lot lately about going fishing some place where it’s nice and warm. But, I’m not thinking about warm beaches, blue oceans and saltwater fishing. I’m thinking about calling my friend Joe Henry, the Executive Director of Tourism at Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods, and booking an ice fishing trip to “The Walleye Capital of the World”.
As I write this on a Sunday morning in southwest Missouri the temperature in Baudette, MN, is minus 29 and the high is going to be minus 18. Plus they have a wind chill warning. So you’re probably saying “You got to be crazy Whiteley because there is no way you can be warm fishing in temperatures like that.”
When someone who has never been ice fishing thinks about it they imagine sitting outside over a hole in the ice bundled up in so much clothing you can barely move and still being cold. At Lake of the Woods people from all over the country come to experience ice fishing because instead of fishing in the cold you fish in the warm.
After you check-in to your toasty warm resort you get into heated track rig transportation. They take you across ice up to several feet thick to your personal ice fishing house that has been placed where the guides know the fish are. The ice fishing holes have already been drilled for you and your fishing equipment and bait are waiting. Once inside your insulated ice fishing house you will be taking off some of your clothes because the thermostat is set at a very comfortable 70 degrees.
Now the fun begins! You pull up your seat, grab your fishing rod and lower your bait into the hole. It usually doesn’t take very long before you feel a tug on your line and set the hook. Usually a delicious walleye comes up through the hole but it could also be an equally delicious sauger, yellow perch or crappie. You could even be surprised with a huge northern pike.
Joe tells me that you might hope that tug on your line is an eelpout. A member of the cod family and also called burbot, it is affectionately known as “Poor Man’s Lobster” because of its firm flesh, high fat content and mild, buttery taste. Take the backstrap and tail meat from the fish, boil it in either salt water or 7UP and then dip it in melted butter just like you would lobster. It’s an ugly fish with a large belly and eel-like tail but locals say their true beauty is in the eating.
Ice guides will come around and check on you and at the end of the day they will pick you up in the warm track rig and transport you and all your fish back to the warmth of the lodge. They even clean your fish and the resort will cook them up for you if you would like.
You might want to even catch a transport back out on the ice to check out the famous Igloo Bar at Zippel Bay Resort. This popular spot offers a big screen TV, a full bar and limited hot food menu. For a small fee you can even ice fish in the bar.
For a really special experience consider staying in one of the sleeper fish houses with a furnace and cook stove fueled by propane as well as comfy bunk beds. Joe says, “It’s like ice camping but in the warmth and with all of the amenities. Spending a few nights on the ice i
s cozy and good for the soul. It is so neat stepping outside of the fish house on a clear night and seeing stars and the Milky Way like they have never been seen before. The sky is absolutely awe inspiring and if you’re lucky, you might even see the northern lights.”
I think a sleeper fish house is what I want to do. Imagine with me catching fish all day, cooking them up on the stove, enjoying the night sky, getting a good warm night’s sleep out on the ice, and then getting up the next morning in my underwear and catching more fish. Now I am sure you don’t want to think about that last image so O.K., I’ll wear a bath robe.
This beautiful area of Minnesota offers great fishing year round with anglers traveling thousands of miles to fish these waters. Besides the fish already mentioned you can also catch smallmouth bass, muskie, lake sturgeon, lake trout, lake whitefish, tulibee, as well as white suckers and redhorse which is another story for another time.
I was at an Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference at Sportsman’s Lodge in Baudette, MN back in September of last year and all of us writers and even our wives caught lots of walleye, sauger and even lake sturgeon while fishing the Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River that runs by the lodge.
The warm winter ice fishing though sounds like something really special that needs to be added to my “bucket list” so I am going to call Joe at (800) 382-FISH (3474) as soon as I finish this article and book a warm ice fishing trip to Lake of the Woods, Minnesota.
After looking at all the pictures Joe sent me of him with fish it is obvious he has a really tough job. I might just have to ask him if he needs a good Lake of the Woods Assistant Director of Tourism to help him out with all those fish.
If you want to try warm ice fishing or the great fishing at other times of the year you can go to their web site at www.LakeoftheWoodsMN.com for more information.
Fishing Games for the Young…and the Elder Kids Too
Keep Warm in Chilly Weather, Clothes to Last Forever
By Larry Whiteley
I work with many outdoor companies throughout the year to test their products in the field and on the water. Here are some of those companies I have worked with, and will be working with again in 2018, that I am proud to recommend their products for Christmas gifts or a gift you give yourself.
Hi Mountain Seasonings
With Hi Mountain’s jerky seasonings and kits, I have made many different flavors of delicious, easy-to-make venison, fish and turkey jerky, as well as snack sticks. My grandson’s roommates at college and people at my church, will attest to how good they are. In 2018, I will be doing more on their other great products to help you discover all the ways you can better prepare your fish and game. I’m getting hungry just writing about it. Their products are available at your local grocery, outdoor store, or go to www.himtnjerky.com.
Costa sunglasses are by far the best eye shades I have ever owned and I look really good in them, although some might argue that point. I use their Tuna Alley for driving and fishing, and their Fantail for hunting. You can check out their great selection of sunglasses at www.costadelmar.com, plus find out all the many ways Costa is involved in doing things to protect our environment. One of those is using bio-based resins in their sunglasses, instead of plastics as part of their “Kick Plastic” initiative to protect our planets waters from all the plastic products that pollute them.
95% of professional bass anglers use the HydroWave system because it takes catching bass to the next level. When it is turned on, it sends out vibrations to a fish’s lateral line, that causes them to feel there are smaller fish around and other fish are feeding on them. Their natural competitive instinct drives them to want to feed as well. It is something that you have to see to believe. They also have units for crappie, walleye, catfish etc. My grandson, Hunter, uses it fishing for the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team and he says, “This is a game changer for every angler.” He has qualified for the college national championship in 2018 and he believes HydroWave can help him win it. Learn about how to use it from Kevin VanDam at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Qc1hy88VD8. Check it out for yourself at www.thmarine.com.
I hate mosquitoes and mosquitoes hate ThermaCell products. Their portable repeller units, lanterns, and torches are all powered by a tiny butane cartridge. Heat is generated and a small mat saturated with a natural repellent is inserted on top of the metal grill the heat disperses the repellent from the mat into the air, creating a 15 ft. x 15 ft. zone of protection around you. Mosquitoes and other flying critters don’t want anything to do with it. It is so much better, and healthier, and easier to use, than those messy sprays and lotions. Learn more about how and why they work by going to www.thermacell.com. I hate ticks too, and if you have them in your yard and on your dogs you might also want to check out their easy to use Tick Control Tubes. I love ThermaCELL!!!
Rapala Pro Series Video Game
I received an e-mail from Bob Ringer on behalf of Rapala back in October wanting to know if I would like to test Rapala’s new Xbox One/PS4 fishing video game. I suggested sending it to my 20-year old grandson, who also writes and does social media for us, so he and his college roommates could give it a real test.
After a few weeks of trying the game here are some of their comments: “This is the best fishing game that I have played. It’s a good way to beat the winter blues when the boat has been winterized and it’s too cold to get out. The selection of lures and different kinds of fish you can catch is awesome. This is better than any fishing video game out there.”
Not much more I can say except, it’s a lot less expensive than most video games. Do an internet search to watch samples and teasers of the game, see You-Tube reviews and find places to buy it. Amazon carries it and has offers for free delivery.
The year was 1897, the place was Seattle, Washington. C.C. Filson Co. started making quality, durable, clothing for local miners, prospectors, lumbermen, hunters and anglers. Filson’s philosophy has never changed in over 120 years: “Make sure it’s the absolute best.”
My Filson work shirt shown underneath the Christmas tree is the most durable, best quality shirt I have ever owned. I wear it for everything from cutting firewood in the fall to layering underneath a jacket in the cold of winter. It’s even my favorite shirt to wear to church on Sunday’s. Two other things I like about Filson products are – they are made in the U.S.A. and they help support outdoor organizations with the mission of sustaining and promoting outdoor recreation. Take my word for it and go to www.filson.com if you want the very best.
I will be doing testing on a lot more products in 2018 and writing about them. Frogg Toggs rain suits and waders will be one of them. Go to www.froggtoggs.com and check them out. While you’re there you can save up to 35% on your order, but be sure you do it by December 15th.
Have a Merry Christmas and don’t forget the reason for the season!
Every deer camp has its cast of camp characters. Individuals with their own special uniqueness, but when blended together like spices and seasonings in a recipe, make deer camp so special.
My deer camp has Dean. He is a bundle of energy and wise cracks that hunts deer and moose and elk, but is afraid of a little mouse. His mouse-phobia has brought great joy to all the rest of us camp characters. We’ve never seen anyone get out of a sleeping bag as fast as when a stuffed mouse “accidentally” got in the sleeping bag with him. I will also never forget how high he climbed and the look of horror on his face when he thought the noise in the old wood stove was a rat instead of the bird it turned out to be.
You could call Dean our “camp coordinator.” He makes sure the camp cabin is properly stocked and clean, collects the dues, buys groceries, and helps hang stands. His most notable contribution is the annual Saturday night “boil”, a grand feast of shrimp, kielbasa, mushrooms, broccoli, potatoes and corn on the cob boiled together in a big pot and dumped on the table for hungry hunters. He always cooks too much, but taking home a bag full of “boil” is part of deer camp.
Dean is constant movement, washing dishes, emptying trash, picking up the cabin, bringing firewood in for the night, setting the alarm clock, and asking everyone where they will hunt the next day. His energy is endless and he is always the last one in bed. The rest of us wouldn’t want him to know it, but we don’t know what we would do without him.
He may put up a front for being a fun-loving tough guy, but I know the real Dean. He’s the guy who takes his young son Conrad on a youth turkey hunt and cries when he gets his first gobbler. He’s the guy who helped my son when he first came to camp and took time to guide him on a successful turkey hunt one spring. He is also the guy who caused the lump in my throat when he showed up unexpected at my mother’s funeral.
Conrad is the youngest of our deer camp characters and like his dad, he’s a bundle of energy and constant movement. I love his imagination. Computers, television and video games keep a lot of kids from developing an imagination in today’s world. What a shame! When I was a kid, my imagination took me to the mountains where I trapped beaver and muskrats and fought wild Indians and grizzly bears. I don’t know where Conrad’s imagination takes him, but it will help shape his life, along with mom and dad (and maybe some deer camp characters), into the man he will be.
Our deer camp characters even include a celebrity, although I don’t think he really considers himself one. Jerry co-hosts an outdoor TV show, is a member of a pro hunting team, and has hunted and fished around the world with country music stars, NASCAR legends and even generals. I’m sure if you asked him, he would say “I’m just an old country boy who has been lucky enough to get to do some things I never dreamed would be possible.” I think he would tell you being in deer camp with the rest of us deer camp characters and his son Flint or daughter Chase is one of his favorite places to be.
Then there’s John or “J.B.” as we call him. Deer camp wouldn’t be the same without J.B., his Wisconsin accent and holey underwear.
Through his wise cracks and jokes, he doesn’t fool me. He has a heart of gold. There’s nothing fake about J.B. He is who he is. He’ll never change and I’m glad because I wouldn’t want him any other way.
Ed is a business executive, who is under a lot of pressure and stress so he looks forward to deer camp with the rest of us characters. He enjoys his time in the woods not caring whether he gets a deer or not. Ed was with Dean when Conrad got his first turkey and he too shed a tear. He delights in the hunting success of Daron and Flint and Chase. I will never forget my son’s face when Ed passed on to him, one of his still very good and very expensive bows. Like some of the rest of the characters, Ed’s an old softy too!
Mike adds his own uniqueness to the mix. He’s the consummate outdoorsman, serious about his hunting with the knowledge to back it up. Slow to smile, he was the object of probably one of deer camp’s best practical jokes. Mike had taken a nice buck and brought it into camp with the adhesive tag around its antlers. Where he is from that’s the way they tagged them, but in our state they must be tagged around the leg. Dean told him the rule and that he better switch the tag to the leg or it could be illegal. Of course, this was next to impossible without tearing up the tag. Dean and I left to check our deer at the local fire station and set up a mock arrest of Mike for “mis-tagging” a deer. Although Dean and I weren’t there, those that were said the firemen played it perfectly. They even took a picture of a very serious looking Mike posed with his illegal deer thinking he was about to lose his hunting license, rifle and deer because he tagged his deer wrong. I’m sure Mike will find a way to get even.
The last member of our camp characters is a very special young man, my son Daron. I am so thankful that Jerry got me in as a member of deer camp many years ago. If he hadn’t, I’m not sure Daron would ever have gotten to take as many deer as he’s harvested over the years and especially wouldn’t have had the chance to take some of the quality bucks that now hang on his wall. Unlike most of us, he doesn’t drink, chew, smoke or cuss, but he sure enjoys being around all the deer camp characters and they all think the world of him. Deer camp has brought us closer together as father and son, and created memories that will last a lifetime.
I forgot to mention one camp character and that’s me. I’m the “old man” of deer camp, the one who cooks the annual opening morning breakfast and helps Dean with his “boil”. I’m the one who is content to harvest doe’s to help fill our quota. Most years I tag out as early as possible so I can use my ATV to help others get their deer out of the woods or help with deer drives. I look forward to deer camp every year. It is important to me to be with the rest of the deer camp characters. It’s more special for me because there are fewer deer camps left for me than the others.
Deer camps are not just about filling your deer tags. They’re about wood ducks whistling through the trees or the ka-honk of a goose high overhead. They’re about a wild turkey, a coyote or a bobcat happening by your secret hiding place. They’re about two fawns playing chase underneath your tree stand, squirrels rustling in the leaves, birds flittering through the tree tops, sunrises and sunsets. They’re about sitting around the campfire or the old wood stove and telling stories and jokes.
Most of all deer camp is about sharing these special moments in time with your fellow deer camp characters. That’s when we wish we all had more time.
This story is a chapter in a book called “Seasons” Larry Whiteley has been working on for 20 years. Some day he swears he’s going to finish that book.
When I take my truck full of venison to the food pantry it is usually close to Thanksgiving and again near Christmas. At these special times of the year, it is a blessing to know the venison I am delivering is going to help someone in need. Please join me.
Donate All or Part of your Deer
4,280 Hunters Donated 198,277 Pounds of Venison in 2016
SHARE THE HARVEST Program is Sponsored and Coordinated
By Larry Whiteley
There are thousands of struggling, needy people here in Missouri (and everywhere). Even with government assistance, it’s sometimes hard to have enough food to put on the table and feed their families. If you end up taking more deer than you can use or you’re trying to control your buck to doe ratio, here’s a great way you can help these people. Many states across the country have a program to help the hungry.
In Missouri, for example, the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) administer a program called “Share the Harvest.” It is available to deer hunters like you so you can donate any extra venison you might have to help feed those families through food banks and food pantries.
There were 4,280 hunters that donated 198,277 pounds of venison last year. That’s a lot of high-quality, naturally lean protein for people who don’t get near enough of that in their diet. Since the program started back in 1992, over 3.6 million pounds have been donated by deer hunters just like you.
To participate, you will need to take your deer to an approved meat processor and let them know how much venison you wish to donate. To find an approved processor in your area go to www.huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-share-harvest or call the MDC at 573-751-4115 or CFM at 573-634-2322. It can be as little as a couple of pounds of venison burger to as much as a whole deer.
The processor will then package the meat to be picked up by a sponsoring organization who in turn takes it to a designated food bank or food pantry in your area for distribution to those people who pass their guidelines for receiving the meat.
When you donate a whole deer, the cost of processing is your responsibility, but CFM reimburses processors a pre-determined amount for each whole deer donated when funds are available. That helps the processor to reduce his processing fee to you. Some processors have other money available from local groups so that processing fees are free or at a reduced cost. This program is usually for whole deer donations only.
Sponsors of this cost-reduction program are the Missouri Department of Conservation, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Missouri Chapter Whitetails Unlimited, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Deer Hunters Assoc., United Bow Hunters of Missouri and Missouri Food Banks Association as well as numerous local sponsors.
Volunteering to help local organizations is another way you can be involved. You simply donate your time and vehicle to pick up and deliver the venison to the designated distribution organization. I have been involved in both, donating deer to Share the Harvest and also delivering deer for Share the Harvest in southwest Missouri for over 20 years.
When I take my truck full of venison to the food pantry it is usually close to Thanksgiving and again near Christmas. At these special times of the year, it is a blessing to know the venison I am delivering is going to help someone in need.
To me this great program would not be possible without the generosity of Missouri deer hunters.
They spend a lot of time and money in pursuit of the white-tailed deer and then to turn around and donate all or part of their venison to those less fortunate than themselves is truly exceptional.
Mountain Colors, Ornaments for your Heart and Soul
The Smell of Pouring Thermos Coffee on the Mountain
By Larry Whiteley
The fall air is crisp as I start my journey up Dogwood Mountain. It’s really a big hill, but I named it that because I love the mountains.
Here in the Ozarks area of southern Missouri we don’t have mountains like out west, just big hills. The Dogwood part of its name comes from the hundreds of trees with their showy white blossoms that bring beauty to the “mountain” in the spring.
For a moment, I listen to the soothing sounds of water as it tumbles down Dogwood Mountain Falls and then glance over my shoulder as the sun starts peeking over the trees behind me. The curtain is rising and I’m not in my seat.
My pace quickens as I head up the trail that follows the falls, then turn onto another trail that winds its way to the top of the top. My leg muscles burn as I climb over rocky areas in the trail, but I continue on to the top.
Finally, I see it. To some people it may just be an old stump where someone cut down a tree a long time ago, but to me it’s like an old friend waiting at the end of the trail, waiting for me to come sit awhile. I hurriedly remove my backpack, take out my thermos and pour a cup of coffee. It’s stump sitting time again.
From my stump, I see a thin haze over the stream that winds through the valley below. There’s a hint of smoke in the air from the cabins and homes in the distance. Crows call to each other high on a ridge and a fox squirrel scurries through nearby treetops breaking the silence.
I know that somewhere below, turkeys have flown down from their roosts and are feeding in the fields. A doe and her yearling have probably joined the turkeys as a buck watches them from his hiding place. The kingfisher squawks as he flies through the mist over the creek. He’s probably fussing at a heron that’s fishing for breakfast or a busy beaver.
The sun rises higher and the show begins.
The gray of the morning is suddenly changed to a kaleidoscope of color. My eyes feast upon the bronze of the oaks, yellow of the maples, red of the dogwoods, and green of the cedars and pines. The blue of the sky and the white of the fluffy fall clouds add their special touch to nature’s painting.
It’s too bad more folks don’t take time for stump sitting. In today’s hurried, pressured, fast-paced world, stump sitting can be an escape for just a little while.
Good stump sitting time only comes in autumn.
Somehow, stump sitting helps you forget about all your worries and work that needs to be done. You are drawn to simply concentrate on this magnificent moment in time.
The sun is high now and good stump sitting time is gone. I finish off the last of the coffee, put the lid on the thermos and put it away in my pack, take a deep breath and start back down. A few yards down the trail I stop and look back at the stump.
Maybe tomorrow will be good stump sitting time again, but there’s always next year. My old friend will be there waiting for me.
Major new destination in heart of the Missouri Ozarks is now open.
Imagine Understanding How Life on Earth Works for Animals, Birds and Fish…that’s what You Get Here.
This Museum is about Adventure and Exploration
By Larry Whiteley
I was recently invited to attend a media event at the new, not-for-profit, 350,000 square foot, Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium located right next door to the giant Bass Pro Shops retail store in Springfield, Missouri.
I am not someone who is easily impressed, but this place is something you need to put at the top of your list of things to go see. Having been in several museums and aquariums across America, believe me, nothing comes even close to this. It is bigger than the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
There are over 35,000 live fish. There are mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, along with thousands of state-of-the-art taxidermy mounts.
During the tour, it was kind of fun to watch the media members staring in amazement, which caused them to stumble into each other as we went from one exhibit to the next. I continually heard people saying “WOW,” which I thought was rather appropriate.
The Ocean Aquarium Adventure is just what it says – an adventure. There are over 1.5 million gallons of aquariums containing over 800 species of freshwater and saltwater fish. You walk through an aquatic trail system where you see fish in the habitat they live in and learn why we need to protect the system that makes them possible.
The 300,000 gallon circular ocean habitat area simulates like you are underwater, as do the underwater tunnel. Some areas have bubbles in the aquarium wall that you stick your head in and it feels like you are right in the water with the fish.
In the Wildlife Galleries area we walked over a mile of trails and I was just amazed at the attention to detail. The 4D dioramas of big game and other mammals allowed us to see up close plus hear, smell and even feel the temperature of the environment where these animals live in the wild.
These are places around the world that most of us will never get to see in person. It was a whole lot better than anything I have ever seen on TV nature shows. Like the Ocean Aquarium Adventure, the Wildlife Galleries area is definitely going to entertain the whole family. It too will also educate you on why we need to protect the habitat where these animals live.
We learned about our most important wildlife conservationists throughout history, and the contributions and sacrifices they made for the benefit of all of us.
I was especially touched by the tribute to Native Americans as the first conservationists. Did I mention you travel through a herd of Buffalo to get to it?
It amazed me – all the attention to details the artist and craftsmen had put into this magnificent attraction. Every wall has hand-painted murals which make it one of the finest art galleries I have ever seen. Even the rocks, trees and foliage are hand-crafted. They match the season and habitat of the animal in the scene. Some animals look like they are walking right out of the wall.
We also visited the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, International Game Fish Hall of Fame, King of Bucks Collection, and the Boone & Crockett National Collection of record wildlife mounts all within the Wonders of Wildlife.
After you have enjoyed WOW, you can go next door to the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store which, by the way, has been the #1 tourist attraction in Missouri for many years. Besides the biggest selection of outdoor gear under one roof in the world, it also features the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum and the National Archery Hall of Fame. It too has even more aquariums, wildlife mounts and displays.
The visionary behind it all is noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris. The Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium is his gift to America to inspire people of all ages to engage with the natural world. It is also his way of repaying the blessings he has received from a life lived enjoying the outdoors.
“Wonders of Wildlife is an inspirational journey around the world that celebrates the role of hunters and anglers as America’s true conservation heroes,” said Morris. “We proudly invite families and sportsmen to come share the wonder with an unforgettable experience meant to inspire generations of future conservationists.”
Being a humble man, he is quick to give credit to all the workers whose talents brought his dream to and to the hundreds of conservation leaders across America for their input on what the WOW messages should be.
I saw a sign somewhere on our media tour that said, “The Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium honors the adventurers, explorers, outdoorsmen and conservationists who helped discover, develop and preserve the nation we love”.
It does that and a whole lot more!
This is something you will never forget and a place you will want to go back to again and again.
Go to www.wondersofwildlife.org for more information and then make the trip to the Conservation Capital of the World in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks to see it for yourself.
August has been unusually mild and wonderfully cool and comfortable here in Missouri. Some mornings call for a light jacket and pants instead of shorts and t-shirt. It has felt more like late September or early October. I didn’t hear anyone complain about the weather.
Most years, September can still be hot, muggy and buggy here in Missouri, but this year the weatherman is telling us to continue to expect even cooler weather than we had in August. Here in southwest Missouri they are even predicting some nights in the 40s. Lake water temperatures have already dropped into the low 70s in some places.
After Labor Day the summer crowds will be gone from our local lakes and rivers, and the waters will be quieter and more enjoyable. Because of this cooler weather, fish are starting to become more active and fattening up for the long winter months ahead. It’s a great time to stock the freezer with fish to enjoy on the cold days to come.
If you don’t fish, it’s a great time to paddle around the lake or go float a river. Maybe stop for a rest on the bank or gravel bar and build a campfire to sit around to relax and enjoy the flickering flames.
The cooler weather has also got the squirrels busy storing nuts sooner than usual. The whitetail deer coats are changing from reddish brown to gray.
If you’re a hunter it’s time to get ready or go hunting. Dove hunting opened September 1st and teal season opens September 9th.
Deer and turkey archery season opens September 15th. Firearms turkey goes from October 1st to the 31st. If you’re one of the lucky ones that head west to hunt, the majestic elk are waiting, so are the mule deer and pronghorn antelope.
This cooler weather will also make all your preparations for the hunting seasons a lot more tolerable than usual too. Now you can make sure you can get those deer stands up and blinds set, get in more bow practice, make sure your rifle or shotgun is properly sighted, and get all your gear inventoried and ready.
If you are not a hunter but love to camp don’t put away your camping gear yet. Campgrounds are a lot less crowded than summer days. Sometimes you may even have the whole place to yourself.
The cooler September weather this year is also great for hiking the multitude of trails Missouri has to offer so get out there and enjoy. There’s no better way to get the exercise we all need and enjoy nature’s beauty at the same time.
Birds tell us that fall is at hand long before our human senses detect it. At wetlands and marshes throughout the state, shorebirds are already beginning to head to more exotic places than here.
Bird watching trips might offer the opportunity to see migratory birds that you don’t normally see at any other time of year in Missouri.
The bug-eating Purple Martin’s are growing restless and some are already bound for their winter home in Brazil. Hummingbird feeders are suddenly abuzz with hummers energizing for their long flight south.
Other winged creatures sensing the cooler weather are also on the move. Bats flutter and dive through the early night sky consuming the last of the insect crop. What few Monarch butterflies we still get coming through Missouri are getting ready to begin their incredible journey to Mexico or have already left.
The buckeye tree has already lost most of its leaves, but a few buckeyes might still cling to the bare branches. I was always told a buckeye in your pocket brings you good luck. Maybe I need to make sure I have one in my pocket for deer season.
Papaw and persimmon trees have fruited and will soon be ripening for the enjoyment of the wildlife, and those of us humans who still enjoy them too. Acorns are also falling to the ground, much to the delight of the squirrels, chipmunks, deer, turkey and other critters.
The leaves of poison ivy and Virginia Creeper vines have begun to turn a crimson red. So have the leaves of our Missouri State tree, the Dogwood. The rest of the trees will soon follow with their special colors to give us the glorious fall kaleidoscope of colors that awaits us in October.
All of these are signs that summer is almost gone and come September 22nd it officially is. Now, let’s just hope the weatherman’s predictions are accurate and we can get out in this year’s cooler September weather and enjoy Missouri’s great outdoors.
By Larry Whiteley
When I was younger I used to dream of having a cabin in the woods. A simple cabin nestled among cedars and hardwoods somewhere in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri.
My grandma used to tell me if I dreamed long enough and worked hard enough my dreams would come true. Grandma was right and 20 years ago my wife and I found and bought that cabin. It was only 5 acres, but surrounded by the thousands of acres of the Mark Twain National Forest.
The small cabin sits upon a rock bluff overlooking a creek and waterfall. Just like my dreams, it is surrounded by cedars and hardwoods and a scattering of pines. The trees keep it hidden from view of the few cars that travel the gravel road, and offer shade and protection from the summer’s sun and cold winds of winter.
A little wood stove sits in a corner and warms the cabin on winter days. Antique snowshoes hang on both sides of moose antlers. Deer, pheasant, ducks, trout, bass, and a big muskie hang on the walls. Fox, beaver and raccoon pelts further add to the setting. Each has a special memory and a story.
Deer antlers, turtle shells, feathers, buckeyes, rocks, bird nests and other nature things can be found everywhere you look. Most have been picked up by grandkids while on cabin adventures. They are mixed in with old duck decoys, along with the jars, dishes and other antiques that are my wife’s special touch.
Most noticeable though are all the pictures of our kids and grandkids hung with loving care and sitting on shelves. Pictures of them with turkey, deer, fish or just having a good time at the cabin. Grandkid pictures when they were just babies as well as pictures of them as young adults.
Looking out our windows we see birds of all kinds coming to the feeders. April thru October is hummingbird time and I don’t mean just a few. Hundreds at a time are a sight that thrills everyone who visits.
The deck is a great place to watch squirrels playing in the woods, butterflies landing on wild flowers, or bats diving for insects in a summer’s night sky. You can hear the waterfall as it cascades down Dogwood Mountain, listen to the sounds of the creek as it flows across the riffles, and hear the kingfisher swooping above the water or crows calling up the valley.
The fire pit is where grandkids roasted marshmallows and shared time with PaPaw. It’s a place to watch the flames dance and flicker as the worry and stress melts away. It’s a place for fish fry’s, cookouts and fellowship.
A big barn and a small barn store the ATVs and other things. They are also great for making things and places for grandkids to play when it’s raining.
Grandkids loved going fishing, hunting squirrels, swimming, snorkeling, catching crawdads, skipping rocks, playing in the gravel or waterfall, finding feathers, wading in the creek and riding ATV’s.
Good neighbors like Bob and Barb, Wayne and Jane, Annie and Winnie, Doug and Kim, Judge John, Sheila and Willie love the valley too. With them we have shared hiking trails, ATV rides, campfires and pieces of our lives.
Spring at the cabin is redbuds, dogwoods and wildflowers, along with the sound of peeper frogs and whip-poor-wills. Summer is fishing, swimming, relaxing or playing in the creek. Fall brings a kaleidoscope of color, hunting season, looking for buckeyes, hiking, and cutting wood for the cold months ahead. Winter is books by the fire, making new hiking trails, and hiking in the snow.
The 20 years of owning the cabin have passed in a hurry and things have changed.
Kids have grown up and are busy with their own lives now and don’t come to the cabin anymore and won’t after we are gone. The older grandkids don’t come either except for deer season. They would rather go to the lake than the creek. Younger grandkids live a long drive away. All of them will all always have memories of the cabin.
Grandma and I are getting older now too and it’s time for another change. As long as we live we will still have the memories and the pictures. It will be hard to say goodbye to the cabin but it’s time to find someone else who has dreamed of owning a cabin in the woods.
I wipe tears from my eyes as I finish writing this. Remember that a cabin is more than just a cabin. It is a living structure with a soul of memories and dreams. It is a place to get away, to share with others and to share fragments of one’s life with nature.
If you dream of owning a cabin in the woods, e-mail Larry at email@example.com
By Larry Whiteley
When most people think of snorkeling they think of sandy beaches, blue saltwater and coral reefs, but Missouri’s freshwater streams and lakes can also be a fascinating snorkeling adventure.
We don’t usually think of our local fresh bodies of water as a place to grab your mask, fins and snorkel for an adventure but after you read this I think you will change your mind. You would be amazed at the opportunities that are available for snorkelers in Missouri and all you have to do is go find them.
The marine life can be as diverse as that found in saltwater, just maybe not quite as colorful. There are many species of fish to be seen as well as turtles, snakes, crawdads (crayfish, crawfish or whatever you want to call them), hellgrammites and other forms of tiny aquatic life.
My wife and I have had a cabin in the Missouri Ozarks for over 20 years.
The clear water of a creek that runs through our land makes snorkeling a popular thing to do for everyone who visits on a hot summer day.
Bluegills swim right up to your face or nibble at you as you float along in the water. Bass and hog suckers don’t want anything to do with these homosapiens that have invaded their home and skitter along ahead. Colorful sunfish and goggle eye usually guard their nest or hide back under a rock ledge. Multitudes of baitfish swim around in schools continually battling the swift water. Colorful darters hide among the rocks.
If you’re lucky, you might see a turtle or a huge crawdad. There was the time I took some real lobster claws and placed them where they stuck out under a rock ledge making them look like the granddaddy of all crawdads was there. I then watched as my neighbor snorkeled closer and closer to where I had hidden them. Cost of the lobster claws – $35. Cost of the camera to take my neighbor’s picture as he came up out of the water – $250. Look on my neighbors face – priceless!
If visitors are really lucky or unlucky, depending on your fear of snakes, they might get to swim along with a 4-foot-long water snake. No, it’s not a fake snake and no I’m not scared of snakes. At least as long as I know it’s not poisonous.
I was a little nervous once though when I dangled a crappie jig in front of this same snake and he struck at it catching the hook in his mouth. I haven’t had a whole lot of experience unhooking a writhing, very mad water snake, and was thankful the line broke before I had to figure it out. I guess he forgave me, because he now lets me swim along underwater with him. He does look at me funny some times and he would probably stick his tongue out at me if there wasn’t a crappie jig in the way.
I think what people enjoy the most while snorkeling in the creek is underwater fishing. We use either a small kid’s rod and reel combo or a tiny ice fishing spinning combo baited with a worm or crawdad. You float along with your mask and snorkel watching fish take your bait. Then you set the hook and reel in the fish, all underwater. I think the adults love it as much as the kids. Now how many of you can say you caught a fish while underwater with the fish?
Another thing we do is have someone stand on the bank and cast different artificial baits into areas where fish are holding and then we snorkel underwater to watch how fish react to the different baits. Doing so has helped us all become better fishermen.
Snorkeling around with an underwater camera or a smart phone in a waterproof bag is another thing we enjoy doing. It is amazing the fantastic photos you can take underwater in freshwater.
So what are you waiting for? It’s July, it’s very hot and it’s a whole lot cooler when you’re snorkeling. Plus it’s a whole lot of fun!
I love to find hidden treasure, but not the gold or silver kind.
Hidden treasure for me is finding jewels of rarely fished small waters. By small waters, I mean privately owned farm ponds, strip pits, businesses with water retention ponds, and even golf course water hazards. Places a lot of people don’t even pay attention to or don’t even know they are there.
Many city parks departments and state fisheries departments stock small waters for public fishing, but a lot of these get very little fishing pressure.
There are thousands of these hidden small water treasures across America and are great places to catch fish in uncrowded conditions. Most are full of bass, crappie, perch, hybrid bluegill and catfish. All you have to do is search them out.
They are perfect for just walking the bank, launching a small johnboat, canoe, kayak or float tube. If you only have a few hours to fish, they are great! You can pretty well count on certain areas holding fish every time you go.
Unless they are public waters though, they are private and accessible only by permission from the landowner or the person in charge. You can try calling, but it is much better to get permission in person. Be courteous and thankful. You might also offer to share your catch if they allow you to keep fish.
My best tip for catching fish on small waters is to make as little noise or vibration as possible. In small bodies of water fish can see you. In fact, vibrations travel farther in small waters, so even if they can’t see you, they can tell someone is near the edge of the water. If fishing from the bank, walk up quietly and stay out of sight. It’s a good idea to even wear camouflage clothing.
Look for channels, humps, brush piles, lay down trees, weed beds, moss, cattails, lily pads, logs and tree stumps — anything that offers habitat for feeding fish.
For catfish, go with all the normal stinky catfish baits, as well as worms and I also like using shrimp bait. If it’s crappie you’re after, jigs and minnows are always good, but I have also caught some really big crappie in small water on crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
Perch jerkin’ is always fun and even more so if you go with ultra-light equipment. If the small waters happen to be stocked with hand size hybrid bluegill, you are in for a real fight and a great time.
For baits, look around for natural baits the fish are already feeding on. Catch some of these natural baits and impale them on a hook or match them as close as possible with artificial baits you have in your tackle box.
The crown jewel in the hidden treasure of small waters is the largemouth bass. America’s most sought after fish can grow very large in small waters, as long as the forage is right. So don’t let the size of a lake fool you into thinking there are no big bass in it.
Remember, George Perry’s world record bass came from Montgomery Lake in Georgia which is little more than a muddy slough — the silted-in remnants of an oxbow off the Ocmulgee River that continues to flow just a few yards away. Studded with cypress knees and shaded by Spanish moss, it is narrow enough to cast completely across.
Dixon Lake, a small city lake located in Escondido, California, is well known for several potential world record bass. One was caught and released and another was found dead.
I personally believe that the next world record largemouth bass could very well come from small waters like a pond, small lake or strip pit. It might just be your state’s record bass, but you would settle for that wouldn’t you?
With spinnerbaits and crankbaits, I can make a lot of casts and cover a lot of water. Plastic worms are good too, and use frog baits through the moss and lily pads. If I am fishing at night there’s nothing like the heart-stopping moment when a big bass hits a topwater bait.
After you are done fishing for the day, make sure you leave the property more clean than when you arrived. Now, go find the person that gave you permission and thank them for a great day, and offer to share your catch if you kept fish. Ask if you can come again, is it OK to bring a family member or two…and should you contact them each time?
Now, clutch them to your chest and love them like a wealthy uncle because yea verily I say unto you, these places are small treasures worth their weight in gold. Well, clutching them to your chest and loving them may be a little much, but make sure you let the property owners know you appreciate them.
Do everything you can do to insure you can keep coming back. Lastly, keep your small waters to yourself and don’t tell any of your fishing buddies where you found your hidden treasure.
The bright orange sun slowly begins sinking to the earth. It’s been a long, hectic day at work and I step outside to begin winding down. I love watching sunsets and sunrises.
A lone whip-poor-will calls from the nearby woods testing the silence and is answered by another down in the valley. Tall fluffy clouds gather on the horizon. The bottom layer lights up in varying shades of pink and orange like a painter mixing colors on his palette. Frogs begin their night time chorus and bats are diving for insects in the fading night sky.
As the darkness slowly settles I see it. A tiny twinkling orb. First one and then another until suddenly the summer night is bombarded by a myriad of twinkling lights. I sit down on the front porch to watch the performance.
Gazing at the slowly pulsating lights, I travel back 60 years to grandma and grandpa’s farm. As the adults sit around talking, we kids ran about capturing these jewel green sparks that pierced the dark and put them in Mason jars with holes punched in the lids. It was a magical time racing about filling your jar. Our eyes twinkled as much as the stars and laughter pierced the silent night. I wonder how many other adults are outside like me right now and feel the stirring pleasures of childhood.
My mind also wanders to a special time one summer at our cabin. An approaching storm was playing music on our wind chimes awakening me from a deep sleep. The alarm clock by the bed told my sleepy head it was 2:30 a.m. as my feet hit the floor to go check out what was happening. I walked through the dark cabin and looked out the windows into the night.
The blinking lights of fireflies were everywhere. This night though, they seemed much bigger than normal tiny fireflies. It was almost as if the window I was looking out was a big magnifying glass and I was seeing the insects much bigger than they really are.
I stood there in wide-eyed amazement as I watched them. They were high in the trees, they were down by the creek, they were up by the road, and they were way down in the valley. How could I see them that far away? Maybe the sky was just darker than usual that night causing their lights to shine brighter. Maybe they were brighter because they were really trying hard to impress their lady friends. At the time I didn’t really care what the answer was, I was just enjoying the show.
As the storm approached closer, lightning lit up the dark sky. It wasn’t streaks of lightning though; it was more like burst of light. It was like there were now gigantic lightning bugs joining in with the smaller ones to add to this special night.
I don’t know how long I sit there watching, but eventually the rains came, the lights went out, and I went back to bed. I lay there listening to the rain on the roof and grateful the storm had awakened me. I drifted off to sleep thinking of fire lies.
The neighbor’s dog barks and my wandering mind takes me back to my front porch again.I’m thinking how I took a nail and punched holes in the lid and put them on jars for my kids. I hope they too have good memories of summer nights and twinkling lights. Grandkids are now learning to enjoy this age-old mysterious performance, but instead of jars they use plastic firefly houses. Kids need fireflies more than they need television and computers and so do adults.
As if saying goodnight, the tiny sparks blinked off one by one. I get up from the porch and head for the garage. I’m looking for a 60-year old Mason jar with holes in the lid.
I know there are lots of Father’s Day gift lists out there and you’re probably being bombarded with all kinds of ads and people telling you what to get. Take a little time to read this though, and it could be the best Father’s Day that dad has ever had.
Father’s Day gifts don’t have to be expensive. They can be a gift you made or had made that is humorous, puts a smile on their face or brings back fond memories.
Here are some ideas any outdoor dad would love to get for Father’s Day because they are all gifts that come from the heart.
Have a wall or desk calendar made using those pictures for their office or workshop. You can even add important dates like birthdays and anniversaries.
Pictures can also be put on mugs for their coffee, mouse pads for their computer desk, key rings for their truck, aprons for fish fry’s or grilling, luggage tags for trips, playing cards for deer camp, t-shirts and sweatshirts to wear proudly, and phone covers they carry with them all the time.
You can also take a cedar or barn wood board and paint “Gone Fishing”, “Hunting Camp”, “I’d Rather Be Canoeing”, “Fishing Guide for Hire”, or maybe “Hunting and Fishing Stories Told Here”. Every time they look at it they will remember you made it for them.
Those same boards, but maybe a little longer, can be made into hat or coat racks using dowel rods and putting an old shotgun shell over it. Half cedar logs also work for this. You can also use pieces of deer antlers, old door knobs or tree limbs.
Another idea is to take old used shotgun shells, as well as rifle or pistol shells, and turn them into lamp or ceiling fan chain pulls. Drill through the spent primer and insert a chain cut to the length you want. Fill the shotgun shell with BB’s and close the end. For the spent rifle or pistol shell, you also drill out the primer and feed the chain through the hole. Then insert a bullet back into the open end.
If dad likes to hike or just go for walks, make him a customized hiking stick. I usually wander through the woods until I find a young tree that will never get very big because of overcrowding. Cedar and hickory are my favorites because they are usually straighter and have more character to them. I have even dug up cedars so I can use the root ball for the top of the stick to make it really unique.
Cut to length to fit your dad, sand off rough spots and round the top of the stick. Next, drill a hole below where his hand would be and run a piece of leather or rope through the hole to use as a strap. If you really want to make it special carve his name or something special into his hiking stick.
Other unique things you can make him from cedar limbs include paper clip and pen holders, lamps, towel holders and the list goes on and limited only by your imagination.
If dad enjoys feeding and watching birds in the backyard make him a really neat bird house. Go online and you can find hundreds of bird house plans to go by as well as plans for making a lot of these things. Since I have made all the items I have written about, if you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to help.
Any of these would make a great Father’s Day gift I am sure dad would love to have because you made it for him. However, if you are limited by skills or creativity, I am betting there is something else he would like to have more than anything.
Call him and say, “Dad for your Father’s Day present I want to take you fishing” or “Dad for Father’s Day, let’s go camping together just you and me”. It could also be hiking, canoeing, going to the shooting range or a multitude of other outdoor activities. Even just sitting around a campfire in the woods, near the water or in the backyard would be a great gift.
Sure they will appreciate the store bought gifts or gifts you made, but most dads’ spell love T.I.M.E. What is most important to them is time with just you or the whole family out enjoying our great outdoors and making memories.
Many years ago during a beautiful spring in the Missouri Ozarks, a good friend of mine, Bob Nelson, invited me to go fishing with him for a fish he called “Jack Salmon”. I had never heard of such a fish so I went along mainly out of curiosity.
He took me north to Stockton Lake and a creek called Turnback. We walked up creek and found this fish with the funny name as they headed upstream to spawn. Casting spinner rigs and spoons the fight was a whole lot of fun in the swift water. We caught our limit and the fish weren’t the only thing hooked that day.
Just when I thought this special day was over and it couldn’t get any better, it did. Bob fileted the fish, started a campfire on a gravel bar, pulled a cast iron skillet from his truck, added some lard, cut up some potatoes and onions, opened a can of beans, covered the filets with cornmeal and cooked up a meal I still remember over 40 years later.
Unless you are as old I am, if you tell someone you are going fishing for Jack Salmon they will probably look at you kind of funny. Today most of us know them as the delicious, fun-to-catch walleye.
When you talk about walleye most fishermen think of the legendary fishing in the Dakota’s, Minnesota, Wisconsin and several of our northeastern states. They might also think of the fabulous walleye fishing on Greer’s Ferry Lake in Arkansas or Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee.
And I, like many of you, have made several trips to fish legendary Canadian lakes for walleye. The next time I go, I’m going to ask them if they have ever heard of a Jack Salmon.
Sometimes I wonder why I ever go out of state after walleye. We have some really good walleye fishing right here at home. In fact, the Missouri state record is 21.1 pounds, caught in 1988 at Bull Shoals Lake by Gerry Partlow. That’s bigger than 90% of the famous walleye states I just mentioned.
Walleye are native to some areas of Missouri and in some waters they naturally reproduce. However, in most of our large and small lakes, and reservoirs as well, as some streams and rivers they have to be stocked to keep up with fishing pressure. The Missouri Department of Conservation started stocking walleyes in the 1970s and now stock 1.2 million a year all over the state.
Lakes that receive walleye stockings include Bilby, Bull Shoals, Jacomo, Lake of the Ozarks, Longview, Long Branch, Mozingo, Norfork, Pomme de Terre, Smithville, Stockton, Table Rock, and Truman. The Mississippi, Black and Current Rivers are also known for good walleye fishing.
During the spring, walleyes will run up rivers and streams that flow into or out of a lake to spawn. Just like they were doing the day Bob Nelson took me fishing for Jack Salmon. They can also be found in areas of lakes with gravel or rip rap where they will also spawn.
Wherever you go walleye fishing in Missouri, make sure you check the season, length and possession limits of the water you are fishing because they can vary.
If you are new to walleye fishing, just realize it won’t be easy. If you’re willing to go without a little sleep, that’s good. Walleye feed actively at night. If you don’t mind bad weather, that’s good too. Walleye will sometimes bite the best when the weather isn’t best.
There are other times you can catch walleye. Early morning, low-light conditions from a half hour before to a few hours after sunrise are also good. I have better luck though, fishing a couple of hours before sunset to right up until dark sets in.
A dark, cloudy day is usually always good because the fish will sometimes feed all day. If it is a bright sunny day they will be at 20 feet or more trying to get away from the sunlight that penetrates the water.
Spoons, crankbaits and plain jigs, or jigs tipped with a minnow or nightcrawler, are good most of the time. Nightcrawlers and leeches work well on slip-sinker rigs. Trolling at 1 to 1.5 mph can also be effective.
Last year on Stockton Lake, my grandson Hunter, granddaughter Anna and I, did exceptionally well catching walleye. We used 1/8 ounce Roadrunners with gray shad bodies and hammered willow leaf silver blades. My son, Daron, caught his walleye with a crappie spinnerbait.
Walleye are usually not going to hit your bait hard. When they take it, you might just feel a hesitation or a little bump and think your bait just ran into something. That hesitation or bump just might be a Missouri Jack Salmon and you better set the hook.
To learn more about Jack Salmon, I mean walleye fishing, in Missouri, go to the Missouri Department of Conservation web site and search for walleye.
I know it’s a long time until fall, but if you don’t have your own land to hunt or know somebody that will let you hunt on their land, or have a deer hunting lease; now is the time to start looking for a place to deer hunt.
Go talk to school bus drivers and even the kids that ride the bus. Odds are that while they have traveled to and from school, they have seen lots of deer and can tell you exactly where and when they saw them, plus how big the bucks were.
You can also go to the local post office, as well as UPS and FedEx offices, and talk to delivery drivers. These people are out and about every day and I am willing to bet they are seeing deer. Highway department workers are another option.
Once you have identified areas with lots of deer sightings, contact the local Farm Bureau, Department of Natural Resources or Conservation Department office and ask if there have been any complaints of deer damage by crop farmers in those areas.
If there were, go knock on doors and politely ask if they would allow you to hunt their property to help control the population of deer causing their problem.Crop farmers will be more likely to allow you on their land than a beef or dairy farmer. Deer can also do a lot of damage to tree farmers.
Nationwide, deer cause more than $120 million annually in crop damage. So if the farmers don’t hunt or have family that hunt, they should be very receptive to you asking permission. If the husband is a little reluctant, his wife might not be, and especially if deer are enjoying dining on her flower or vegetable garden.
If he lets you, clutch him to your chest like a wealthy uncle, because verily I say to you, he is worth his weight in gold. I’m just kidding. Don’t clutch him to your chest, but do shake his hand and thank her too.
If there are no farms where the deer are being observed, go to the local county offices and check the tax records to find out who owns the land. It may be rugged, hilly land that the owner can’t use, but the deer sure do.
Now here is another crazy idea for you. We see them all the time, but how many of us ever think to use deer crossing signs to find a place to deer hunt?
These signs are always put up at locations of numerous car and deer collisions to warn people to slow down and watch for deer. That means deer consistently cross at that location so much that they have to put up the sign. Find out who owns the land on both sides of the road and seek permission to hunt.
Always ask in person. Phone calls are impersonal. Make a favorable first impression. Dress neatly and be polite. Let the land owner know that you are safety minded and responsible. Respect their land. Do not drive in fields, litter or damage property. Honor any of their special requests. Offer to share your venison and even help them around the farm. Follow up with a thank you card or gift at Christmas and you should have a place to hunt for many years to come.
Now, if all that doesn’t work it probably means finding somewhere to hunt on public land. That can be good too if you find the right place. Your state wildlife agency should be able to provide information on areas with the best opportunity for deer. Other sources include National Wildlife Refuges, the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Large timber companies sometimes allow hunters to purchase passes to hunt company owned land. Even some military bases and federal installations now allow hunting opportunities.
All of this can take a lot of time and effort. That’s why you need to start right now and not wait until September. The sooner you find a place to hunt the more time you will have to scout, hang stands, put out game cameras and all the other things you will need to do and have them done long before deer season begins.
Learn to use the internet effectively to help you find a place to hunt and provide contact information. You can also find more deer hunting tips like this on www.sharetheoutdoors.com that can help you become a better hunter on the deer hunting land you worked so hard to find.
Bob and Barb Kipfer were honored with the 2017 Conservationist of the Year Award by the Conservation Federation of Missouri at their annual awards banquet held March 10th in Jefferson City, MO.
Bob, a military veteran, and his wife Barb are both retired medical professionals who live in Springfield, MO but spend a majority of their time at their property in Christian County they purchased in 1995.
The property has been a certified Tree Farm since 2008 but they began implementing a Forest Stewardship Plan soon after purchasing the property and they value their woods for their protection of water quality in the Bull Creek watershed and work to assure that protection continues. They were named State Tree Farmers of the Year in 2015, are members of the Forest and Woodland Association of Missouri, Missouri Forest Keepers Network and hosted a Missouri Tree Farm Conference.
They have also used their forest for harvesting of selected trees, timber stand improvement, cedar cutting and prescribed fire for restoration of two glades.
In addition, they have allowed a Charity Firewood Harvest of over 100 pickup loads which was delivered to families in need who heat with wood but had no source.
One of their first big projects was working with the Missouri Department of Conservation on stream bank stabilization. They allowed MDC to try different approaches to stabilize the stream.
They have also personally planted over 6 acres of trees as riparian corridors and are worked with other Bull Creek landowners to protect the Bull Creek watershed, hold Earth Day events and more.
Both are active participant’s in stream monitoring with the Bull Creek Stream Team and they have hosted Missouri State Universities Kyle Kosovich in a Gravel Deposition study for his Master thesis.
Bob and Barb love to teach others and are very active with the Springfield Public Schools WOLF program in weekly classroom sessions at the school as well as hosting the WOLF kids at their property for educational classes several times yearly.
For 3 days last June they led classroom sessions at the Branson H.S. Ecology Class on invasive species, native plants/wildflowers, trees, Lepidoptera, Missouri black bears and skull identification.
Bob also does Henry Rowe Schoolcraft reenactments for schools and groups in which he describes Schoolcraft’s observations of the pre-settlement Ozarks landscape and the wildlife he encountered. He will also be doing reenactments of Schoolcraft for the upcoming Schoolcraft Bicentennial.
They have hosted MDC tours, Boy Scout activities, wildlife studies of plant and animal species, bear studies by the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Mycological Society forays, Missouri Naturalist and Missouri Native Plant Society field trips for plant and wildflower identification, and Greater Ozarks Audubon Warbler migration study.
They are also active members of the Springfield Plateau Missouri Master Naturalist and write an educational blog www.Springfieldmn.blogspot.com with over 1,000 informative postings.
Barb Kipfer is passionate invasive species eradicator and vigorously attacks any multi-flora rose, garlic mustard, Sericea lespedeza, Johnson grass or any other non-native species with vigor.
The Kipfer’s have also restored warm season native grass fields on their property, worked with the MDC on hog trapping, and work at endangered species protection.
They collect native butterflies, raise moths, and volunteer at special events for the Butterfly House at the Springfield Botanical Gardens as well as host an annual mothing event at their property.
Even though they do not hunt themselves they allow hunting to help control the deer population so it does not exceed the habitat’s carrying capacity.
Bob and Barb Kipfer are two people with hearts as big as the outdoors they love and a passion for conserving, preserving and educating. They are excellent role models for other Missourians to do all they can to educate, conserve and protect.