When grilling a steak from a deer, I think about that morning in the deer woods, it is special.
Cooking a wild turkey in my smoker, my mind travels back to a spring morning, a beautiful sunrise, the gobbles.
Saying grace before meals, among other things, is a way to remember God and share special blessings with your family and friends.
By Larry Whiteley
When I was growing up on the farm, saying grace was something we did before a meal. Our food back then came from my grandmother’s garden or wild plants around the farm. She gathered eggs from the chickens she raised. On special occasions, she would kill one and fry it up. Grandpa raised hogs and butchered them himself. He cured the meat in a smokehouse and milked the cows by hand. Almost everything for every meal came from that old farm. It was important to thank God for what He had provided us.
Today when our family gathers for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, one of us says grace as we all hold hands and bow our heads. We don’t always do that at other meals when we are all together.
Saying grace before meals, among other things, is a way to remember God, not our credit card, provided the meal. Even if you are not a believer, saying grace recognizes the people whose hard work brought food to your holiday table, daily meals at home or eating out: farmers, grocery store clerks, friends, relatives or restaurant chefs. If you are a non-believer, I would be happy to tell you about a true story that can change your life.
Several times I have been asked to say grace at luncheon meetings, banquets, or church. As a believer, it is an honor to do that. I always hope that what I say will touch the hearts of those listening and get their eyes on God instead of the depressing evening news or what they are seeing or reading on their smartphones.
I will admit that I don’t say grace before every meal. At home, it’s just my wife and me. We usually don’t. When I go through McDonald’s for a biscuit sandwich to eat on my way fishing, I don’t. When I stop by Arby’s for a roast beef sandwich after a morning hunt, I don’t. I should be thanking God before every meal, but I don’t, even though I should. I don’t know anyone that does.
It is much easier to say grace over the game I have harvested or fish I have caught and prepared for a meal. Maybe that’s because I have a close connection to them, as grandma and grandpa had on that old farm. It is hard to have that feeling with pizza out of a box, roasted chicken in a plastic container, a hamburger and fries in a sack, or store-bought groceries.
When grilling a steak from a deer, I think about that morning in the deer woods. I remember the beautiful sunrise peeking up over the hill. I remember the frosted field, the crows calling, the birds fluttering through the trees, the squirrels running around looking for nuts, and the bobcat walking by.
I remember when that deer first appeared. The deer never even knew I was there in the tree. I remember kneeling beside it, laying my hand on it, and thanking the deer for giving its life to feed my family. I remember looking up and thanking God for my time in his creation. I remember field-dressing it and thinking this deer would feed the crows, turkey vultures, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and other animals. When I eat any part of that deer, I say grace.
If I am cooking a wild turkey breast in my smoker, my mind travels back to a spring morning and another beautiful sunrise. Birds were singing while crows were talking to each other as always. Everything was green, and wildflowers were blooming everywhere. I heard turkey wings flapping when they flew down from their roost. My hen decoys were poised and ready in front of my hiding place. My Jake decoy was near the hens and close enough to make a gobbler want to come in and kick his butt for trying to mess with his ladies.
A gobble came from over the slight rise to my left. I gave a soft purr with the mouth call I hoped would say to him, “Come on in. I am ready for you.”
He answered me with a booming gobble. My heart rate increased dramatically. I never made another call because he quickly appeared over the rise. He fanned his tail feathers and puffed out his chest. It was his way of saying, “Look how handsome I am.”
Then he saw the Jake decoy. He immediately went over and attacked it knocking it to the ground. The gobbler stood there over the battered fake Jake and strutted out for the ladies again. When he came out of his strutting display, my shotgun boomed. He flopped around for a minute or two. The hens disappeared over the rise. It took one gobble, two struts, and a gobbler was on the ground. It is not always that easy, believe me.
I smooth its bronze feathers in the early morning sun and thank it for feeding my family. The gobblers fan, beard, and spurs hang on my wall with others. The smoked turkey breast is another reminder of a great day in the turkey woods. There was no hesitation in saying grace when I sat down to eat it or the morel mushrooms I found that day.
It is the same with fish I catch. I don’t lay my hand on them and thank them for giving their life to feed my family like I do turkey and deer. But when I fry, grill, or smoke the fish I caught, I remember when I caught them. I see the sun or the moon reflecting on the water. I see the eagle sitting in a tree. I see the deer at the water’s edge. I hear the water lapping against the boat or rippling down the stream. I hear my lure hit the water.
When I am out on a camping trip, I feel close to God. My meal may not be fish or game, but I try to say grace over my camp meal if it’s just a hot dog grilled on a stick. As I sit around the campfire, watching the flames flicker and dance with nature all around me, I look up and say thank you.
When I take the life of a game animal or fish, I don’t take that lightly. I remind myself it is through the gifts He gave me to be a hunter and a fisherman that I was able to take the game or catch the fish. I will always be thankful to God for the great outdoors He created for me to enjoy my camping, hunting and fishing. I will always try to remember to say grace before a camp meal and before I enjoy eating the wild game or fish that I have prepared at home for a meal. Saying grace is the least I can do for all God has done for me.
It was the morning of July 4th. A truck with three men pulls into the marina. Their families were still sleeping at the lodge where they were all staying. They get out of the truck and tease each other about who will catch the most fish while unloading their fishing gear. A brilliant orange sunrise lit up the eastern sky as they headed down the ramp to the dock.
The pontoon boat pulled away from the dock. An American flag hung from the bow blowing gently in the breeze. A family of three generations of soldiers celebrated Independence Day by going out crappie fishing. The father was a veteran of the Vietnam War, the son had been in the Gulf War, and the grandson had recently returned from Afghanistan.
They laughed, they smiled, they caught crappie. Between reeling in fish, they talked about vacations they had been on together. They spoke of their beloved family deer camp. They talked about other fishing trips they had been on. They talked about kids, grandkids, and military buddies. Many stories were shared, but none about war and the things they had all seen and been through. They kept all that to themselves.
They talked about the dad, the grandfather, and the great grandfather who had been one of the “Greatest Generation.” The father smiled and spoke about how much he would have loved being there. Fishing and family were important to him. They all kind of felt he was with them that morning and how proud he would have been of each of them for serving their country.
Being a soldier ran deep in this family. Other generations of family members fought in the Korean War, World War I, and even the Civil War. Serving their country was in their blood. It was not something that was expected of you. It was something you wanted to do. It was something you did.
They all stopped fishing to watch two eagles sitting in a nest at the top of a tree. Seeing this iconic symbol of America meant as much to them as the flag waving on the front of the boat. One of the eagles flew from the nest and started circling over the water. It was out fishing too. As it circled in the bright blue sky, it made the distinctive eagle sound which is said to be unlike any other sound in nature. They all knew that an eagle call represents a call to action. Native Americans believe the sound of an eagle gives you courage and life force to overcome your obstacles and fight against your challenge. They had all done that.
The eagle and its mate also reminded them that they had family back at the lodge waiting for them to come to pick them up so they could have a picnic out on the water. They put away their fishing gear and raised the anchor. As the boat idled into the marina, they could see their wives, kids, and grandkids. It reminded all of them of the time when their families were waiting for them when they came home from war. It also reminded them of how blessed they were to make it back home to their families when so many of their buddies did not.
They loaded up food and family and went back out on the water. The flag still waved on the front of the boat. As they motored across the lake, boats pulling water skiers and kids on tubes were everywhere. So were the jet skis. Other families were out having fun on this Independence Day. Most had no idea why we as Americans celebrate this day. No one realized that three generations of soldiers had just passed them on the water. Men like them fought to protect our country’s independence. Men and women like them continue to serve and fight for our country and the freedom of other countries worldwide.
As the pontoon boat continued across the crowded lake, the eagle flew over and circled them again. The kids loved seeing and hearing the eagle. They kept following the eagle until it led them into a quiet, shaded cove away from the crowds, and then it landed in a tree. It was almost like the eagle knew these men were three generations of soldiers and had led them to this place. The other eagle flew in and joined its mate and the families.
They unloaded water toys for the younger kids, a Mickey Mouse fishing rod for the 6-year-old, lawn chairs, and a cooler full of food and drinks. The father started a campfire and got the skillet ready. The other men filleted crappie and threw what was left of each fish out on the water for the eagles, to say thank you. Everyone loved watching the eagles circle the fish while making their sound and then dive down to the water for their special treat. Crappie sizzled in the cast iron skillet as the women got the rest of the food together.
When everything was ready to eat, they circled together as a family, held each other’s hands, and bowed their heads as the father/grandfather led them in prayer. He said, “God, thank you for this special time on this special day. Thank you for the nature you created for all of us to enjoy and care for. Thank you to men like my dad, my son, and my grandson who fought for this nation that was founded upon “In God We Trust.” It saddens me to see our country the way it is becoming. I pray that this nation will turn from its wicked ways and turn back to you. Thank you for the many blessings you have given this family. Amen!”
As they were eating, the 6-year-old told everyone that the eagles were praying too. “What do you mean,” said his dad. “I peeked at the eagles while papaw was praying,” the boy said. They both had their heads bowed while papaw prayed and then raised their heads when he was done and made that sound again.” Everyone looked up at the eagles and smiled. Some looked back at them again and wondered.
The afternoon was filled with talking about memories and making memories. Sitting in the shade, playing in the water, skipping rocks, and much more. The 6-year-old and his grandpa walked up the bank and found a good place for a 6-year-old to fish. Grandpa dug up a worm and put it on the little boy’s hook, then helped him cast it over by a log lying in the water. The bobber went under, and grandpa helped him reel in a little fish. It didn’t matter to the boy what size it was. He had to take it back and show everyone. Another fisherman joined the family that day.
A beautiful sunset lit up the western sky. A great day was coming to an end. They had all caught crappie and had a fun-filled afternoon as a family. They were getting ready to pull up the anchor when the fireworks started across the lake. The flag still waved on the front of the boat with the fireworks as a backdrop. The eagles saw them too. The soldiers all stood at once and saluted the flag. The rest of the family joined them, put their hand over their heart, and all started singing “God Bless America.” The 6-year-old looked up to see his dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa saluting the flag, so he did too. His great-grandpa looked down and saw him. He knew that someday his great-grandson would also hear the call of an eagle.
The Great Spirit of fishing starts young, if you're a lucky little girl.
When do women outfish men? Chilly air and morning fog make little difference.
Is it luck when you catch a limit…and you are the only woman around?
When we talk to ourselves when fishing, are we talking to the fish too? A higher power?
Annie shares her experiences and connections on the water…and more.
By Larry Whiteley
It’s early morning on the river in Trout Park. The sun is beginning to peek through the forested hills. Annie is at the river’s edge, waiting with rod in hand. She is visiting with the men on both sides of her. It’s a cool morning. Annie is the only woman to brave the chill. The fishermen and one fisherwoman talk about the early spring weather and how they are glad that winter is over.
The rising sun reveals a beautiful fog rising from the water. The siren sounds to signal the anglers they can now start fishing. Annie’s lure is the first one to hit the water. In minutes, she is smiling and bringing a trout to her net. She puts it on a stringer and makes another cast. A few turns of the reel handle, and another trout takes her lure. This one is bigger and pulling line from her reel. It leaps from the water, and Annie shrieks with joy. After a few more jumps, she scoops it up with her net. She admires its beauty, puts it on the stringer and makes another cast. An hour later, she has her daily limit.
Several other fishermen who hadn’t been quite as successful came over to congratulate her. One of them asked what kind of lure she was using. She looked at him, smiled and said, “Honey, it’s not the lure that’s catching the fish. It’s this 75-year-old woman using it.” She laughed too, wished them luck and headed for her car. After she put her fish in the cooler, she looked up to the sky and thanked God for this particular time in the outdoors that He created. She also thanked Him for watching over her all these years.
Looking back at the river, she saw an eagle perched in a tree across from where she had been fishing. She remembered her favorite bible verse – “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” She looked back at the eagle, smiled again and said to herself, “God sent an eagle to watch over me today!”
When she got home, she couldn’t get the eagle out of her mind, so she sat down to read about eagles. One of the things it said was that Native American Indians believe an eagle delivers their prayers to the Great Spirit. They hold an eagle feather aloft as a custom while saying a prayer. To them, the eagle meant strength, wisdom and courage. Annie has needed all those things throughout her life. A tear flowed down her cheek.
Annie was raised in the church and grew up loving the great outdoors. In San Mateo, California, she was born, where her dad worked for United Airlines. He was also an avid hunter and fisherman. Her mom liked to fish too and taught Annie that if you catch them, you clean them.
She loved it when they would travel north to see her grandparents in Ahwahnee, California. Her granddad was a friend of the famous photographer Ansel Adams, who rose to prominence as a photographer of the American West, notably Yosemite National Park, using his iconic black-and-white images to promote the conservation of wilderness areas.
Her granddad won awards for his photography. She remembers him having a darkroom in their house where he developed the pictures he took while out enjoying nature. Yosemite National Park was just 5 miles from Ahwahnee. The waterfalls, towering granite monoliths, deep valleys and ancient giant sequoias were a big part of her young life. Annie gives credit to her parents and grandparents for her love of the outdoors.
Annie was 9-years old when her dad was transferred by United Airlines to Kansas City, Missouri. Later they bought a home at Lake Waukomis, a town with a great fishing lake. That continued to fuel her love for fishing. One night she set some baited lines off a dock for catfish. She got up early the following day and found she had caught three nice catfish. She knew how to scale and clean other fish but had no idea how to clean a slimy ole’ catfish. So she took them into the bedroom where her dad was still asleep to ask him to help. “He sure wasn’t pleased about it,” said Annie.
They would travel down to Lebanon, Missouri, to visit her Grandma Effie on her mom’s side in the summers. Like most of her family, Grandma Effie was an outdoorsy person too. She took care of a 4-acre garden and still fished. During the depression, she did it to survive, but now she did it for fun and food.
Her Uncle Dale lived next to her grandma. He loved fly fishing and would take Annie along with him. After he caught a fish, he would hand Annie the rod and let her reel it in. “I never got into fly fishing like Uncle Dale,” says Annie. “I just thought, why would I want to cast five times to a fish when I could cast one time and catch it with a regular fishing rod and reel?”
When Annie graduated high school, her dad took her on a Canadian fishing trip with six other men. For seven days they caught and ate walleye. A few years later, her dad was transferred back to California with United Airlines. Her mom got sick, and her dad couldn’t take off work, so it was up to 18-year-old Annie to find them a place to live in San Mateo. She did.
Not long after that, Annie got married. She and her husband Bob lived in the state of Washington, and she traveled with him to Australia and other places. He passed away, but Annie won’t talk about that. After all those years, it still hurts too much. Annie says, “I was blessed with a strong father and a strong husband who said I could do anything, and through God, I can.”
Annie eventually re-married to another man named Bob, who loved to fish as much as she did. They lived in Warsaw, Missouri, in a lakefront home on Lake of the Ozarks for 28 years. He had his own bass boat, and he got Annie an aluminum fishing boat with a bright yellow life jacket just for her. The yellow life jacket was so if he or neighbors came out looking for her (when she stayed out fishing too long), they could find her a lot easier. She still remembers the elk hunt he took her on and the beautiful Colorado Mountains.
She went fishing without him one day and caught a 13-pound hybrid bass. When she got it on the boat, she started crying. He asked her why she was crying. Through sniffles and tears, she said, “I always had this idea that if I ever caught a bass bigger than 5 or 6 pounds, God would take me home to heaven, so I am sitting here waiting to go.” Her husband said, “I guess God’s not done with you yet because you’re still here.”
After her second husband passed away, she never re-married. She moved to Blytheville, Arkansas and worked at a co-generation plant. When her dad passed away, she moved back to Springfield, Missouri, to take care of her mom. “With God, we can do anything,” says Annie. “He put us here to help one another.”
On May 11, 2011, nearby Joplin, Missouri, was hit by an F5 tornado. The town was devastated. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris started a fundraiser to benefit the disaster victims. They held an auction, and one of the items was a fishing trip with fishing legend Jimmy Houston on a private lake at his ranch in Oklahoma. Her bid won the trip for two. She invited the husband of a friend, who was always helping her, to go along. He was as excited as Annie. They caught well over 100 bass. “Jimmy and his wife Chris are wonderful people and could not have been more hospitable,” says Annie. “It was a sweltering day, and I got a little overheated. Chris went in and got her mamma’s fishing hat and put it on my head to shade me and cool me down. Jimmy and I still text back and forth all the time.”
Like Chris Houston, Annie has a special feeling for our Native Americans. She says her Grandma Effie always said they had Cherokee blood in them, but they have never been able to find absolute proof of that. That belief has been a big part of family stories for many years. A portion of the Cherokee Trail of Tears runs through her cousin’s property near Lebanon, Missouri. She has walked in the footsteps of the Cherokee on parts of the trail. She, like me, believes that this was their land, and we stole it from them. They were not the savages; the white man was. They were trying to protect their land and families.
Annie loves her fishing and says she will go anytime, anywhere. But, NASCAR racing comes in a close second. She got the racing bug watching dirt track races near her lake home in Missouri. She was at the race track when Dale Earnhardt died in a crash. She was always a fan of Rusty Wallace because he is a Missouri boy. She has met Tony Stewart several times and also met Richard Petty. I am not sure that I have ever seen her not wearing the Martin Truex Jr. jacket he autographed for her.
She also has agape or unconditional love for her two dogs that rule her life. Sammy is a Shitzu Poodle that adopted Annie in a Walmart parking lot. Callie is a 6-year-old Bushon that was someone’s throwaway dog. Her compassion, though, is not just for her dogs. She also once took a lady into her home that was a throwaway and needed Annie. We will never know how many other people Annie has helped.
Not one to sit around unless it is by a peaceful river, Annie is not accepting growing old. In less than a year, she has walked over 3,006,000 steps enjoying nature. Like she tells people, “You have to stay active mind and body. If not, you rot. You got to enjoy what God gives you. The fresh air in the outdoors has helped keep me well.”
At one time, Annie said she had completed her bucket list with all the places she had been and things she had done. She changed her mind and decided she still wanted to go fishing in Alaska and travel to Florida to walk on a beach looking for seashells.
A few weeks ago, Annie told a few friends sitting at a table in her church that she was leaving to go to Florida the next day. She needed a few days by herself. She was going to check another thing on her bucket list and walk a certain beach on her birthday looking for seashells. One of the men at the table stood up and walked over to Annie. He told her that was the same beach his wife loved to visit. He also said to her that was where he, their kids, and grandkids had gone to leave some of her ashes. He told Annie to say hi to her while she was there. As she stood there crying, Annie told him she would. She also told him she would bring him back a sea shell from that beach.
Over the trip, one of her friends texted her several times to check on her. She had gotten there safely and enjoyed herself but was not finding any seashells. With only a half-day left before heading home, she ate lunch at a seafood restaurant. A woman came up to her, and they started talking. In their conversation, Annie told her she couldn’t find any seashells and the story of why she wanted to find one to take back home for her friend. The woman smiled and told her to go to a certain place on the beach, and she would see what she was looking for.
Annie finished her lunch and headed to where the lady had told her. She walked and walked. A little ocean kelp weed had washed up on the beach, but that was it. She still couldn’t find any seashells. She was about to give up and get ready to head back home when something caught her eye in the kelp. It was a kelp seed pod shaped like a heart. Annie picked it up and stood there crying, looking up to heaven. She talked to the man’s wife. Annie told her what a good man he was and that he and her family missed her. Then she said that she was taking this special heart-shaped seed pod back to him from her. Annie had found what she was looking for where the woman in the restaurant told her she would.
As Annie started to walk away, she looked down and saw something else in the kelp. She thought it was some kid’s ball they had lost, but it was another seed pod. To Annie, it was a sign that God wanted her to keep on rollin’ and had a lot more living to do. She got into her car and headed home.
The Sunday after getting back, she got to church and went directly to her table of friends. The man stood to welcome her. Annie tried to tell him her amazing story without crying but couldn’t. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and tears came to the man’s eyes when she told him what had happened. Then she put the heart-shaped seed pod in his hand, and he hugged her.
Those blessed to know Annie and call her a friend will tell you that Annie has a heart as big as the outdoors she loves. As the Cherokee people would say, “ageyn gvdodi equa adanvdo“ which means, “Annie is a “woman with a big heart.”
Have you been to the grocery store lately? I went with my wife the other day and was totally shocked. Usually, I don’t pay much attention to what she spends on groceries. Since it was just the two of us, I always figured it couldn’t cost too much. The grocery cart was not anywhere near full, and it was almost $200. It would have been a lot more, but they were out of some of the things she needed.
We would have also spent even more money than we did if I had been willing to pay $14 for a small bottle of pancake syrup that I used to like when it cost $8, or $12 for a box of granola bars I always took hunting and fishing with me when they cost $7. Those are only a few examples. Meat prices had gone up more than anything. The only thing I was looking for that had not increased in price was my favorite Guatemalan coffee beans that I grind myself and enjoy every morning. They had plenty of it, so I bought a bag, and I didn’t even need it. I told my wife to buy a bag or two every time she went grocery shopping as long as the price remained the same, and before they didn’t have any of it on the shelves anymore. She is more than willing to do that because she knows how cranky I get when I don’t have my coffee.
On the way home from the grocery store, I already had my coffee, but I was cranky anyway because of our grocery shopping experience. She just rolled her eyes and humored me as I went on about Washington politicians, government waste, supposed shortages, price gouging, disruptions in the global supply chain, adverse weather, rising fuel and energy prices, and a few other things I said about certain politicians that aren’t printable. I don’t know how some families make it. I don’t know how my wife made it listening to me go on about everything all the way home. I think she was glad we didn’t have to stop and get gas because that would have really set me off.
Since there weren’t that many groceries, it didn’t take very long for me to bring them into the house. I offered to help put them up, but she declined my help and told me to go cool off for a while. Well, that’s not exactly what she said but what she did say is not printable here either. I have a feeling she won’t want me to go grocery shopping with her again. I am also betting I will never know what she spends to feed us again. That is probably a good thing.
I went to my man cave, and she was glad I did. I was glad I did, too, because I was here, surrounded by my deer, duck, pheasant, turkey and fish mounts, that a brilliant idea came to me. To save my wife and me a lot of money, I needed to go hunting and fishing more! That way, I would bring home more fish and game to put in our freezer to help offset the cost of groceries. My kind of grocery shopping would be done outdoors in nature, rather than in a building surrounded by crowds of people pushing carts around and spending too much money.
I am retired and have accumulated a vast amount of the outdoor gear I would need. I reasoned that there really wouldn’t be much cost to do this kind of grocery shopping. The only cost would be a license and tags, plus gas to get where I was going. I could even stay out several days doing grocery shopping. My wife would really like that. I could just take my tent along and camp where I didn’t have to pay a fee. That would save on gas too.
As for food, I could bring the deer jerky and summer sausage I make for snacking. I could fry up fish from the freezer or some of what I caught for my meals. Grilling a deer steak would be really good too. I could also fry up potatoes since they aren’t costly. I could even boil up a pot of my Guatemalan coffee over a campfire. Isn’t this idea sounding good?
For my grocery shopping, I should be able to tag two deer and two turkey hunting. The turkeys won’t give us much meat, but they will be good in soups or cooked in my smoker or deep fryer. The deer I would skin and process myself to save money. It would mostly be made into venison burgers since my wife likes those. I enjoy the steaks, jerky and summer sausage. I like deer heart too. She definitely will not eat that.
As for more grocery shopping, there are ducks during the open season, and I should be able to bring home plenty. Maybe I can develop a good recipe for baked duck and wild rice she would like. I forgot about dove season. I might get her to try a grilled bacon-wrapped dove. Did I mention that I have to cook all the wild game at home because my wife won’t? That’s just another reason she will like this idea.
She likes to eat fish, so she will definitely approve of grocery shopping via fishing. This is where the meat could really pile up in the freezer and save us money. If I can catch my limit of several fish species every day while shopping, can you imagine how many fish I would have in the freezer even if I make sure I don’t go over my possession limits? I can fry them, bake them, grill them, can them, and smoke them. I can also go grabbing and gigging for sucker fish. I love fried suckers, and so does my wife.
When the frogging season is open, I could go fishing during the day and get a limit of frogs at night. I love frog legs. I could even catch crawdads and boil them up. They say fried snake tastes like chicken, so I might even try that too. I don’t think I will be able to get her to try any of that. While I’m doing all my grocery shopping out there, I can also gather wild mushrooms, berries and nuts. I’m telling you, my idea of grocery shopping could really work.
In the little time I would be home and not out grocery shopping, I would care for our garden. We would also have a good supply of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables to go along with the fish and game and everything I bring home from my grocery shopping. This idea of mine is sounding better and better. Now all I need to do is convince my wife how much money I can save us with my kind of grocery shopping. Wish me luck on that.
Inspiration abounds in spring – beautiful sunrise sunshine, birds, bees, fresh tree buds, and it seems, at least to me, there might be angels everywhere.
Anticipation and fun to look forward to – limits of crappie, white bass, walleye, suckers and tasty fish fry’s.
Special hunting treats – spring gobblers, fresh morel mushrooms, slow-cooked savory venison steaks. Thank you, Lord.
By Larry Whiteley
Circle the first day of spring on your calendar. Put that date in your smartphone and computer calendar with a special alert. Or, you can tell Alexa, Google Assistant, or whatever you use, to remind you of the first day of spring.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, on that exact date, you got up that morning and saw a beautiful sunrise coming through leafed-out trees with a chorus of angels singing “Hallelujah”? Birds are singing with the angels, peeper frogs are peeping, butterflies are everywhere, turkeys are gobbling and wildflowers are blooming. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Since we are daydreaming here anyway, let’s say your boss calls and tells you he knows how much you enjoy spring, so he wants you to take the week off with pay and go fishing. Did I hear the angels singing again?
As I write this, it is a March day. I pause to look out my window at icicles hanging from bare tree limbs. The ground is white, the birds aren’t singing and neither are the angels. The squirrels are shivering and their teeth are chattering. I put another log on the fire. My fishing gear is organized, re-stocked and ready. It sits in the corner of the garage waiting for spring and so am I.
I think I will quit daydreaming for a while and go inventory my turkey gear. Then, when my wife leaves to go grocery shopping, I might practice my turkey calls. I can’t practice when she’s home or she would tell me to go outside to make my yelps, purrs and cackles. Then the neighbors will yell at me and tell me to quit making those noises. I don’t want to go outside anyway. It’s cold out there!
Until she leaves, I guess I will just sit here and try not to think about the cold, windy March weather outside my door. Instead, I will daydream about spring. Wonderful, glorious spring. To me, spring is God’s gift to all of us after a long, cold winter that we don’t think is ever going to end.
To some people, the first sign of spring is a robin in their yard, leaves starting to bud out, or flowers beginning to bloom. To me, the first sign of spring is the mating call of the peeper frog. A single peeper frog is no bigger than your fingernail and couldn’t be heard if you were standing right next to it. But, when hundreds of them blend their clear, birdlike “peeps” into a chorus trying to woo a suitable mate, its music to my ears.
Other signs of spring to me are migratory birds joining year-round residents at our bird feeders and filling the air with their sounds of courtship. Joining them are the drab goldfinches of winter magically changing into the bright yellow of spring. More signs of spring are a bee buzzing around, a spider spinning his web on a bush or a lizard rustling in the leaves causing my heart to skip a beat thinking it’s a snake. There’s also a clean, fresh smell to the air.
Where I live buckeye trees are the first to leaf out. Serviceberry is the first tree to start showing off its blooms. They are followed by the white of the dogwood and the purplish tint of the redbud trees. Wildflowers begin popping through the dead leaves and so do morel mushrooms. While looking for mushrooms I never know when I will find a shed antler from a big buck and that’s a bonus. All the sights, sounds, smells and early season activities always remind me that we humans weren’t the only ones waiting for spring.
Spring to me also means limits of crappie, white bass, walleye, suckers and fish fry’s. It’s matching the hatches on a trout stream. It’s big bass and battling smallmouth. Spring is floating a river, hitting the hiking trails and getting my camping gear together for my first camping trip of the year.
Spring is also my beloved turkey hunting time. My heart always beats faster as a big old gobbler comes into my calls. I’ve spent a lot of years sitting with my back against a tree waiting for the sun to come up and the woods to come alive with the sounds of birds, chattering squirrels and flapping turkey wings. I’d like to have a dollar for every yelp, purr and cluck I’ve made on my calls.
More times than I’d like to count I did everything right and the gobbler wouldn’t respond or come in. There have been times, too, that I did everything right and then scratched an itch or blinked an eye and the gobbler caught my movement. There have also been magical times when my calls were answered by a gobble from really close by. My neck hairs bristle, my heart rate cranks up and the ache in my butt disappears. I point my gun where I expect the gobbler to appear and cluck on my mouth call. Suddenly a crinkly head appears and God smiles down on me. I smooth his bronze feathers, feel his bristly beard, admire his spurs and look up and say thank you once again for my special time in the turkey woods.
The great thing about spring is walking through the woods in search of the delicious wild morel mushroom. They are a special spring treat to me. I wash them off then slice them and sauté in butter until they’re soft and tender. Then I heap them on venison steaks or wild turkey breasts and enjoy their delicate flavor. Besides sautéing,
I also like to bread and fry them. They make great pizza toppings and I like adding them to my wife’s spaghetti. I also put them in soups, stews and sauces. If I am lucky enough to have more fresh morels than I can eat I just dehydrate them for later use. Okay, I have to quit thinking about morels. It’s making me really hungry. I wish my wife would get home with the groceries.
If only Punxsutawney Phil hadn’t seen his shadow a few weeks ago spring might already be here. But he did, so that means we have a few more weeks to wait. It turns out groundhogs aren’t the best for predicting when spring will arrive anyway. A study, probably government-funded with our tax dollars, looked at Groundhog Day predictions from the past 30 years and found that they were only right about 37% of the time.
Regardless, here in the middle of America, March will continue to seem like the longest month of the year. It drags on and on. April gets here and it, at first, teases us into thinking winter is over and spring is finally here. Then cold winds slap us in the face again. Please, God, I want winter to be over! I promise I will be good. Spring is coming, isn’t it?
Summer or Winter, there is one place to add to your Bucket List!
In Winter, the Switzerland Alpines can be found in Gaylord, Michigan – snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and river rafting peace and quiet
In Summer, relax and unwind with camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, surf-boarding, wake-boarding…the list is long!
All year round, enjoy the forests, fields, the peace of sinkhole lakes, rivers and creeks – all offer adventure and opportunity
By Larry Whiteley
Are you thinking you would like to go somewhere this year where you can get away from all the politics, COVID and the division that’s going on in America? Do you want to go to a place where you can really enjoy all the great outdoors has to offer and not have to worry about any of that other stuff? No matter what season of the year you want to go, I have just the place for you.
When you get there you will feel like you are in an alpine village in Switzerland, but instead, you will be in the small town of Gaylord located in beautiful Northern Lower Michigan. Gaylord and the surrounding Otsego county area is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can just relax and unwind from all that’s going on in the world or you can choose to enjoy a plethora of outdoor adventures.
If it’s water you seek for your adventure, Otsego County has over 90 inland lakes and the headwaters to five major rivers start here. The sinkhole lakes in the Pigeon River Country State Forest is also something you have to experience to believe. If you’re a fisherman, this is truly paradise. You can catch tiger Muskie, northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout just about any season of the year. Choose from open water, hard water or flowing water. Otsego Lake, the county’s largest lake, offers the opportunity to try and catch huge sturgeon which can grow to over 7-feet long and weigh up to 200-pounds. During winter Otsego Lake is known for its great ice fishing.
Depending on the season you can also enjoy canoeing, kayaking, boating, wakeboarding, wake surfing, water skiing, tubing, swimming or just relaxing on a sandy beach. There are plenty of rental places for whatever fun you want to try and several sporting goods stores where you can purchase your fishing license or anything else you might want for any season.
If hiking or biking is your passion there are 282 miles of trails in and around Gaylord for any age or skill level. The trails wind through meadows, along lakes and streams, and they climb the hills. When you get to the end of the trail, your reward is the view of the valley below. If you come to Gaylord in the spring, wild birds will be singing their songs, trees will be leafing out, and the mating song of peeper frogs fill the air. You’ll see butterflies fluttering around the wildflowers that include Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bloodroot, Marsh Marigolds, and many others are everywhere. Bring an empty sack with you just in case you find some delicious Morel mushrooms during your journey. You and your family might also be thrilled to see a baby rabbit, a young black bear or a newborn fawn.
The Gaylord area is also known for its enjoyably mild summers, so now you know it’s not too hot to be on one of those many trails in the area. Sunsets and sunrises are magical during this time of year. If you visit during the fall season, you will never forget it. This area is known as one of the best places in America to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage. A kaleidoscope of colors awaits you. Brilliant displays of red, orange and yellow are everywhere and if you are on the trails or on the water, these are among great places to enjoy the view. It’s also a fun time to visit the local farmer’s markets and pumpkin farms.
Come during the winter season and truly experience a winter wonderland. The trails now become fantastic for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Snowmobiling is also a popular wintertime activity. If you come during the winter season you have to try rafting on the scenic Sturgeon River. It’s another adventure you do not want to miss. Your whole family would also love taking a sleigh ride. You can also enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing at either Otsego Resort or Treetops Resort. Both also offer golf in the other seasons on renowned championship golf courses. There are 17 other golf courses in the county making it a mecca for golfers. If you enjoy camping there are lots of places to pitch a tent or park your RV. There’s also plenty of cabins, resorts, hotels, motels and even a dude ranch to choose from.
There are plenty of things to do between all your outdoor adventures. Gaylord has that small-town charm but still offers plenty of dining and shopping opportunities. While you’re shopping, be sure and purchase some of their famous and delicious chocolate-covered potato chips to take home with you. There’s also another trail you might like and it is right in Gaylord. It’s the Craft Tap and Beer trail leading to craft and micro-breweries throughout the town for your tasting pleasure. Don’t miss taking a trip to the city park to see the elk herd that the city takes care of for locals and visitors’ enjoyment. The Call of the Wild Museum is also a great place to visit. To really appreciate any place you travel to across America it makes it even more special if you know the history of the area so I also suggest you visit the Otsego County Historical Society.
If I have painted a good enough picture with my words to get you thinking you might just like to travel to Gaylord and Otsego County, then I encourage you to get on your computer and visit https://www.gaylordmichigan.net/. Watch the videos, enjoy the pictures, and read about all there is to see and do. My hope is you will pick a season and go experience this beautiful part of America. I am willing to bet you will love it so much you will return again to sample another season and then another season and then another season. Gaylord, Michigan, and Otsego County will stay with you forever in your memories. It is an outdoor paradise for all seasons.
Larry Whiteley to be inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
Conservationist & Outdoor Journalist, U.S. Navy Veteran.
Host of the Great Ozark Outdoors from 1976 to the present.
Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years.
By Dave Barus
You might say that Larry Whiteley is a common and uncommon, outdoors Christian man. You would be correct, but there is so much more. He shares his life with others in a special way. With listening, honest caring and effective suggestions.
Larry Whiteley is a 1964 graduate of Nixa High School. A military veteran during our country’s time of need, he served in the U.S. Navy. Whiteley has hosted an outdoor broadcast show through The Great Ozarks Outdoors, Inc., his family corporation, since 1976. That includes 30 years for the award-winning Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Radio, carried by more than 1,200 radio stations – including those as part of the American Armed Forces Radio Network.
He also was the Corporate Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years. Additionally, his voice was the one carried over every Bass Pro Shops store in America, as it welcomed customers, noted the latest sale and gave outdoor tips. He also was a crucial part of conservation and kid’s outdoor education programs.
To date, Whiteley has voiced more than 18,000 radio shows and written more than 5,000 articles communicating the great outdoors to people worldwide. He still writes for newspapers and magazines, including Hook & Barrel, Outdoor Guide, Show Me, CrappieNOW, ShareTheOutdoors.com, and Missouri Conservation Federation.
Whiteley, a winner of numerous awards through several outdoors associations, also is an inductee of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Through all this activity, Larry Whiteley, the gifted communicator that is everyone’s friend, has remained a humble man at every turn. Never looking for credit at any time, Larry is always encouraging others to step in and get going. With an ear-to-ear grin, he is a human spark plug for inspiring others.
Missouri Sports Hall of Fame CEO & Executive Director Jerald Andrews unveiled the Class of 2022 in early December. The inductees will be honored on Sunday, February 6 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. A reception presented by Reliable Toyota will begin at 4 p.m. that day, with the evening program to follow at 5 p.m. Associate sponsors are Advertising Plus, Bryan Properties, Great Southern Bank, Hiland Dairy Foods and Hillyard, Inc.
Hats off, and hearty congratulations to Larry Whiteley!
He could still hear the sounds of bombs exploding, the whir of helicopter blades...
By Larry Whiteley
When he came back from war over 55 years ago, he never wanted to touch another gun. He never wanted to smell gunsmoke in the air. He never wanted to see blood staining the ground again. Family and friends knew he had served in the military but never told anyone his stories. They all knew it was best not to ask. But, they were still there in his heart and mind. It was partly because of how they were treated when they came home, but mostly because he didn’t want to remember.
Sometimes though, he could still hear the sounds of bombs exploding, the whir of helicopter blades. He could still feel the ground rumble as tanks went by, and he would remember. He awoke some nights to the screaming of wounded buddies and lay there in the dark with his eyes open for hours as his wife slept peacefully beside him. He kept it all hidden from those he loved.
They had no idea he also felt really guilty because he got to come home, raise a family and have a good life. So many of his buddies did not get to go home. At times, it even bothered him that he escaped the nightmare of that place with no visible scars and no missing limbs. He was one of the lucky ones, but he didn’t see it that way. He had scars alright, but they were hidden.
No one said anything, but they probably wondered why he didn’t want to watch war movies or any movies or TV shows involving shooting and killing. He would even walk out of the room when the news came on. He didn’t want to see or hear anything about people being shot or killed.
When friends tried to get him to go deer hunting with them, he politely declined with some kind of excuse. One of his grown sons got into hunting with friends. He told his dad how much he enjoyed it and that it was not just about killing a deer. It was about all the special moments out in the woods with his kids or by himself, whether he got a deer or not. The grandkids also encouraged him to join them on a hunt.
He came up with an excuse each time they asked and declined as he had his friends. But, then one day, he saw the disappointment on his grandkid’s face and the pleading eyes of his son when they asked once again. “Okay,” he said, “Teach me what I need to know to hunt these deer.” He couldn’t believe he spoke those words, but then he saw the smiles of joy on his son and grandkids’ faces. He would do this for them.
His son loaned him one of his rifles, and they went out to sight it in. When he was handed the rifle, thoughts of all the times he held an M16 rifle crossed his mind. He took a deep breath before the first time he fired it and again had to wipe away memories going through his head. It got a little easier with each shot.
The morning of the hunt, he put on the camouflage hunting clothes his son had bought him. As his wife slept, he quietly poured a thermos full of coffee and waited for headlights to come up his driveway. He sat there and tried to concentrate on making good memories this day and not think about bad memories that for all these years had crowded his mind.
Lights shined through the window, and he went out the door into the dark. “Are you ready for this,” his son said. “You’re going to love it, papaw,” a grandchild told from the back seat. He took a deep breath, sighed and then smiled. “I will do my best,” he said. His son gave him lots of tips and told him stories of what to expect on the drive to the woods.
They pulled off the dirt road and parked. The grandkids were old enough to hunt on their own, so they wished everyone good luck and went off to their favorite treestands. The son took his dad to an enclosed blind that he felt would be safer than having him try to climb a tree with a gun and sit in a stand when he had never done that. The son didn’t know that dad had done that many times a long time ago in a place far away that he tried hard to forget.
The son wished his dad good luck and went off to his own treestand. As he sat there in the dark, the sun started peeking through the trees. The sky was a beautiful shade of orange. Birds started singing and fluttering around from limb to limb. A fox came walking through and had no idea he was there. Squirrels were digging in the dry leaves. His first thought was it sounded like the enemy advancing on his position. He dismissed that thought and enjoyed watching them.
The field he could see out the windows of the blind could have reminded him of battlefields, but it didn’t. The shots he heard in the distance could have put him on alert for advancing enemy soldiers. Instead, he hoped it was his grandkids, and they were successful.
In this particular moment, in this special place, he silently talked to God. He asked his forgiveness for not thanking him a long time ago for watching over him during the war and bringing him safely back home. He also thanked Him for creating all the beauty of nature that surrounded him that morning. He started thanking Him for his wife and family and was wiping a tear from his eye when he saw something in the field before him.
The buck had his nose down following the scent of a doe that had come through the field during the night. He remembered everything his son had told him. He raised the rifle, looked through the scope and put the deer in the cross-hairs. His heart raced as he clicked off the safety just as it had many years ago. He squeezed the trigger, gun smoke drifted through the air, and the buck dropped where it stood.
What his son hadn’t told him was that he could see Dad’s blind and the field from the treestand he sat in. The buck had walked right under the son’s stand, and he didn’t shoot. He knew Dad had been in the war even though he never talked about it. He knew that Dad needed this moment to hopefully help free him of his nightmares.
There was blood on the field that morning as the son joined his father where the buck lay. They hugged, and the tears flowed. The grandkids joined them and hugged their papaw too. They also knew their papaw had been through a war, but dad had told them not to ask him about it. They all dropped to their knees, put their hands on the buck and bowed their heads to honor it for giving its life to help a troubled man heal.
What does organic food really mean? Higher cost or Better Health?
By Larry Whiteley
I went grocery shopping with my wife the other day. I’m usually not much of a shopper unless I am in the local outdoor store. It can take me hours and cost me a lot of money when I go in there. I always need to replace something I broke, lost or wore out. Plus, there is always the latest and greatest new product I just have to have.
Anyway, as I followed her around the store, I was amazed at all the organic foods with their green and white labels. Some labels were not green and white but still said they were organic but not as organic as the green and white ones. The prices kind of amazed me too. They sure weren’t cheap, and some of those labels were in my wife’s grocery cart. I could have bought a lot of fishing lures for what they cost.
When we got home, I brought the groceries into the house, and she went about putting everything in its proper place. I went into my office, opened the computer, typed in “organic foods,” and hit the search button. I found that organic meats are supposed to be free of antibiotics, growth hormones or other drugs, and according to the USDA, not genetically modified or unnaturally “enhanced” in any other way. Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must also have access to the outdoors, giving them more room to move around, provided with organic feed, and not inhumanely cramped up in a crowded pen.
Organic crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. It also said that how food is grown or raised can have a significant impact on the health of your body, including your mental and emotional health. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts. People with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or disappear when they eat only organic foods.
In addition, organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals and people who live close to farms.
Organic meat and milk are richer in particular nutrients. A 2016 European study showed that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions. I guess I might be forced to admit that the price of organic foods is justified by all that.
Maybe organic foods are also worth the price just to know that you do not have pesticides, petroleum products or sewage in the food you eat. That is kind of gross, don’t you think? As I leaned back in my desk chair, pondering everything I had just read about organic foods, I thought about that.
As I pondered all this, a picture of the old farm where I was born and grew up caught my eye. We milked cows by hand, raised and butchered hogs, had chickens to fry and their eggs to eat. We also hand-tilled and grew our own vegetables in the garden. All of that was done without the use of any chemicals back then.
While I continued to ponder, I looked around my office. On the walls were deer heads, turkey fans, duck mounts, pheasant mounts and fish mounts. Pictures of myself and kids and grandkids with fish and wild game hung on the walls and sat on shelves around the room. They brought back great memories and got me thinking that I have been eating natural organic foods for years. Even before it became a buzzword that some marketing companies came up with.
I hit the search button on the computer once again and typed in “health benefits of wild game and fish.” I found that the venison, wild turkey, ducks, pheasant, and other wild game I hunt and eat are all organic. Wild game is the original sustainable, free-ranging, grass-fed meat. And, it’s lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories than most other meat. It’s also high in protein, iron and vitamin B, yet low in saturated fat.
The fish I catch and eat are naturally organic. So are the wild mushrooms I find and prepare with my fish and game. The wild blackberries, raspberries and other fruit and nuts are a special treat and are also organic.
The exercise, fresh air, and other health benefits from harvesting all kinds of natural organic foods are enormous. It’s good for my body, my mind and my soul. Anyway, that’s what the computer said, and that’s what I am going to tell my wife. I will also tell her that all the natural organic foods I bring home are cheaper than what she buys in the grocery store. Suppose I say that, though, I have to hope she doesn’t get adding up the cost of all my guns. In that case, the gun safe I put them in, all my hunting clothes and equipment, my ATV, the trailer to haul it, my boat, I don’t know how many rods and reels, tackle boxes and at least a zillion lures. I almost forgot all my camping gear. On second thought, maybe I better not say that.
Hmm! I wonder if I could start a market of my own. Instead of a Farmers Market, it could be an Organic Outdoorsman Market selling wild game, fish, mushrooms, wild fruit, etc. Or, maybe The Organic Outdoorsman Restaurant. Can you imagine the menu? Appetizers could be fried frog legs, or boiled crayfish tails dipped in melted butter we make from a wild buffalo we milk by hand. Entrees could include grilled venison tenderloin with sauteed morel mushrooms, fried walleye or crappie with potatoes and onions (that I grew myself), baked wild turkey or wild pheasant with wild rice. For dessert, maybe gooseberry pie or wild blackberry homemade ice cream. I might even make enough to buy more fishing lures. But, on further consideration, I’m thinking that a lot of work would cut into my time outdoors doing my kind of organic market idea.
I quit my daydreaming, shut off the computer, then head out to my workshop to grab my fishing stuff and hook up the boat. Before I leave, I stick my head in the back door and tell my wife I’m going shopping for organic food and that I will be back in a couple of hours.She just rolls her eyes, shakes her head, smiles and tells me to have a good time shopping.
Please feel free to use any or all of the above information with your wife to help you get away more from organic food shopping when you need to. You just have to hope she doesn’t figure out the real cost for all your organic shopping.
The Tri-Lakes area of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas includes fishing hotspot waters, including Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake.
World class fishing is found everyday in the famous Tri-Lakes region of southwest Missouri.
Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake & Bull Shoals Lake offer trout, bass, crappie, walleye, catfish, perch and more.
Visitors discover affordable family fun, family fishing, family entertainment and restful accommodations.
By Larry Whiteley
Where can you go and fish three different lakes for 23 different species of fish in one trip? The answer is Branson, Missouri. Located in the famous Tri-Lakes area of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas, this family fishing hotspot includes Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake. All have been ranked among the best fishing lakes in America. In 2018, Branson was named #1 in ”Top 10 Lake Towns,” then in 2020 was ranked #2 in ”Top Affordable U.S. Lake Towns” by www.realtor.com.
Wrapping around the eastern border of Branson is Lake Taneycomo, renown as the “Trout Capital of America.” It is internationally known for world-class rainbow and brown trout fishing. The Missouri state record brown trout was broken twice in 2019 with a 34-pound 10-ounce fish, followed seven months later with a 40-pound 6-ounce brown. The world record is 42 pounds 1 ounce and was caught in New Zealand. In 1997, a dead brown trout was found floating in Taneycomo that was 41.75 inches long, and based on those measurements, it would have weighed over 44 pounds. Will the next world record come from Lake Taneycomo? The fabulous trout fishing is not the only great fishing that Taneycomo offers. The diverse fishery also features catfish, crappie, bass, sunfish and walleye that all thrive in the cold, nutrient-rich waters.
Table Rock Lake is also a big part of the fishing and fun in the Branson area, with shorelines covering both Missouri and Arkansas. When I say big, I do mean BIG! The 43,100-acre reservoir has excellent bass fishing year-round and is annually ranked in Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes listing. If you have dreamed of catching the “Triple Crown of Bass” (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted), this is the place you could make it happen. White bass are also in these waters, so I guess if you caught one of them along with the other three, you would have a “Grand Slam of Bass.” There are also a limited number of striped bass, but I have no idea what you would call it if you caught one along with the other four. A miracle, I guess, and something you can tell your grandkids about. In addition to all the bass species available in Table Rock waters, there are also white and black crappie, walleye, goggle-eye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, carp, bluegill and longear sunfish. If you are into catching something really different, Table Rock is also home to ancient paddlefish.
Bull Shoals Lake is a short drive from Branson, and like Table Rock, is in both Missouri and Arkansas. It, too, is nationally known for its excellent bass fishing. Largemouth weighing up to 12-pounds have been caught here. There is also hybrid bass, smallmouth bass spotted bass, stripe bass, and white bass too. Bull Shoals is not known for hybrid bass, but a local angler recently caught a state record 29-pound 1-ounce hybrid that might very well also be a line-class world record if it passes all the judging criteria. A 65-pound, 10-ounce state record striped bass was also taken from these waters. Bull Shoals is also nationally recognized as a fabulous walleye lake. The Missouri state record at 21-pounds, 1-ounce came from Bull Shoals. Crappie fishing is also popular and, if you’re into catfishing, there’s plenty of those too. There are a limited number of rainbow trout and a few of the historic paddlefish here. Another fish in Bull Shoals, and conservation folks are not sure how they got there, is the yellow perch. This species is very popular in America’s northern lakes and in Canadian waters. The Missouri state record is 2-pounds, 7-ounces, which is a good size for this good-tasting cousin of the walleye.
Besides fishing, there are many family fun things to do in this beautiful area of America. Go to www.explorebranson.com and check it all out for yourself, then come explore all that Branson, Missouri has to offer for fishermen and families. For additional information regarding travel or accommodations, you may also contact the Branson Visitors Bureau by phone: 1-800-296-0463 .
Was it the owls and crickets, or the stream flowing nearby…that brought dad back into mind?
The old days and the days of today, there was love in both places, but so different.
It’s something about campfire smoke in the morning at sunrise, it makes your eyes wanna cry.
By Larry Whiteley
He woke up from a good night’s sleep and lay there in his tent, listening to owls hooting and crickets chirping. For some reason, he got to thinking about his Dad. “Haven’t done that in a long time,” he thought to himself. He slipped out of his sleeping bag, put on some clothes, and went out into the early morning.
There were still a few hot coals in the campfire, so he added some kindling, blew on the coals, and the fire came to life again. He gradually added bigger sticks until the fire was ready for his coffee pot on the grate. As he waited, he looked up to see stars still twinkling and listened to the sounds of flowing water in the nearby creek. He enjoyed his time alone in the outdoors, but he was beginning to miss his wife and family.
Maybe that’s why his Dad kept sneaking into his thoughts that morning. His Dad had been gone for many years, but there were things he needed to say to him and never had. It was a good time to do that. To tell him something that had been in his heart and mind for a long, long time. And, no one was around to think he was crazy talking to someone that wasn’t there.
You know, Dad, I don’t remember you ever telling me you loved me. I don’t remember you ever putting your arms around me and hugging me. I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to tell you I love you when I never heard or felt it from you. I realize now that your father never did that with you, so you didn’t know-how. That’s probably the way he grew up, so he didn’t know how either.
All I remember about Grandpa is he never smiled. He never seemed happy. I guess his Dad was probably that way, too, so not showing someone you loved them got passed down to you. I wish it had been different, but it wasn’t. Excuse me for a minute, smoke from this campfire must have got in my eyes.
I do remember the only time you took me fishing. You and my other Grandpa took me along to the river with you. But you never let me fish and never tried to show me how. I do remember getting in trouble for throwing rocks in the water. I also remember the turtle I hid from you because I was afraid if you found out I snuck it back home with me, I would get in trouble again.
That was when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa down on the farm. I don’t remember you doing much with me as I grew up there. You worked for the railroad and were gone a lot. Mom worked in town, and grandma was always busy helping with chores and cooking our meals. At least she would take the time to put her arms around me and kiss me on the head once in a while. I loved her smile. Grandpa had to milk the cows, feed the pigs, butcher the hogs, cut and put up the hay, fix what was broken, and a lot of other stuff, so he didn’t have much time for me either.
When I was young, I spent a lot of time by myself wandering the fields and forests around the farm. I remember pretending to be a soldier like you were. My imagination had me fighting the Germans. When I wasn’t fighting them, I was dodging arrows from the Indians and riding off on my horse. You weren’t around to see me doing that, Dad.
When I got old enough to help around the farm, I gathered the eggs for grandma and helped her pluck the chickens. Grandpa taught me how to milk the cows by hand and take a bucket to the spring to haul water back for grandma. He never said thanks, but at least I got a pat once in a while. That’s something I never got from you, Dad, but I know you were busy working. Wow, smoke’s getting in my eyes again.
Two things happened during that time that would eventually end up being a big part of my life. When I got my work done, Grandpa would let me use his old fishing rod, and I went off and taught myself how to fish. Later he let me use his old .22 rifle, and I became a hunter. The love I was seeking from you, I found in the great outdoors.
Were you proud of me when I joined the military, Dad? I wrote you, but I don’t think I got any letters back. Guess you were too busy. I’ll be right back. This campfire smoke is nasty. Got to blow my nose and wipe my eyes.
O.K., where was I? Oh yeah, were you there when I got married? I don’t remember that either. Like you, I made mistakes too, and for that, I am deeply sorry. God forgave me, and I forgive you, Dad.
My wife and I tell our kids and grandkids we love them, and we hug them. That’s important in today’s world. They have grown up fishing, hunting, camping, and in church. It has helped shape them into the good adults and young people they are. They have a lot of happy memories. Our kids have passed it on to their kids, and they too will pass it on to their kids and grandkids. You will be glad to know that the chain is broken. What a better world it would be if all kids grew up knowing that they are loved. It would be even better if kids grew up learning to enjoy God’s great outdoors and all it has to offer. It changes lives.
Well, I have to go now. My son and grandson will be here in a little while, and we’re going fishing. I’m glad we had this talk, Dad. I’ve been needing to do this for a long time.
He finished his coffee, wiped his eyes one last time, smiled, and started getting his fishing stuff together.
A story about fun times from way back when I was a kid and nothing was complicated, nothing was new – and people were people through and through.
By Larry Whiteley
Grabbin’ suckers is age-old fun, nothing complicated, nothing new. Just ask the folks from Nixa, MO. It goes back to a time when families lived from the land. They raised pigs, fattened and butchered them. They milked a few cows by hand and drank the milk, and they kept plenty of chickens for their eggs. When they wanted fried chicken for Sunday dinner, they would just grab one, cut off its head, pluck the feathers, then fry it up on the old wood stove in lard made from the pig,
They always looked forward to April and May when sucker fish would school together in great numbers on the shallow shoals of local streams and rivers to spawn. Fish from the sucker family include yellow suckers, white suckers, blue suckers, and redhorse. They were a special treat to the hard-working local families, and they caught them any way they could.
In later years both farmers and city folk started using fishing rods with 20 to 30-pound test lines, heavy sinkers, and big treble hooks. A small white cloth was attached above the hooks, so they always knew where they were in the water. When they saw a sucker swim past the white marker, they would jerk hard and hope the hooks sunk into the fish.
Fishermen would stand on the gravel bars or elevate themselves on trees, rocks, and even ladders to better see the fish in the water. Some even used stable flat bottom boats. Polarized sunglasses became popular because they could better see the fish. There was no limit on the number of suckers you could keep back then.
Suckers are delicious, but they are filled with tiny, thread-like bones. The fish were scaled and fileted, leaving the skin attached, to prepare for eating. Cuts were then made through the filet about 1/8 inch apart to cut the tiny bones into small pieces. The filets were then covered in a flour and cornmeal mixture, making sure to get the mix down between the cuts. Then, on to be deep-fried at 325 to 350 degrees for some of the best eating you could ever experience. Some locals canned or pickled sucker filet chunks to enjoy all year long.
Grabbin’ suckers was so popular and was such a longstanding local tradition, the local town folk suggested they have a special weekend to celebrate this fish and the fishermen. The first “Nixa Sucker Days” was held in May 1957. Businesses closed, and so did the school. Main Street was lined with booths and games. Fishermen in their boats and floats of all kinds came parading down the street. There was musical entertainment, awards for the biggest sucker, a Sucker Day Queen was crowned, and, of course, fried suckers were served along with all the fixins. You could even have a bowl of ‘sucker soup’.
I was an 11-year old Nixa boy at the time, and I loved it. I wanted to be a sucker grabber, too, someday. My uncle was Rex Harp, who won many of the awards for biggest sucker fish. He was considered “King of the Sucker Grabbers” and always took his vacation when the suckers started their spawning runs.
When I was older, I worked to save money to buy everything I would need to be a sucker-grabber. By then, I was married with kids and my weekends were spent grabbin’ with friends. We enjoyed it because there was always plenty of action compared to regular fishing and having to wait and hope a fish took your bait.
When my sons got older, I started taking them. We have some great memories of sucker grabbin’ together. By then, suckers were a 20-fish limit per day, instead of all you could catch. I fried a lot of suckers back then. The egg sac found in female suckers was a special treat when fried up, just like I did the suckers.
For many years we went as a family to Nixa Sucker Days. It was an excellent time to see old friends and family, have fun, enjoy music, and eat suckers. Sucker Days was always on the local news and was even featured one year on the national news.
As my sons and grandkids got older, we fished more for crappie, walleye and bass in the spring, as well as going turkey hunting. The desire to go sucker grabbin’ faded.
There doesn’t seem to be as many folks sucker grabbin’ anymore. Nixa Sucker Days has changed too. Most of the old-timers are gone. This year the event will celebrate its’ 63rd year. It is now known as the Nixa Sucker Days Music, Arts, and Craft Festival. Visitors can still get a chance to taste real fried suckers, they say, along with other fried fish. There’s even a parade and music, but it’s mainly an arts and crafts festival now and not like the good ole’ days.
I have fond memories of grabbin’ suckers with friends and family. I remember great times spent at the old Sucker Days. My grabbin’ rods are stored in the barn, and grabbin’ suckers is back on my bucket list. I keep telling myself I am going to go one more time. I am getting old. I need to do it while I still can.
A few years ago, I was in Minnesota for an outdoor writer’s conference. During an interview with the local Visitors Bureau, I asked what fish species were in that area. They gave me a sheet showing and talking about all of them. They wanted to talk about the walleye, pike, crappie, and yellow perch. I wanted to talk about the fish that was at the bottom of the list – suckers.
I asked them if people actually fished for them. They said, “No way! It’s a trash fish. Nobody eats them. They sometimes catch them when fishing for other species and just throw them out for the eagles to eat or take them home and grind them up for fertilizer for their gardens.”
I smiled and said, “Let me tell you a story about grabbin’ suckers and a special day a town has every year in their honor.” I even told them I would be willing to come back and teach them how to fish for them, show them how to cook them, and pass out samples to the locals. I told them it could start a whole new fishing industry for them. They had no idea what they were missing. I’m still waiting for their call.
Author Note: Be sure to check your local rules and regulations before trying this where you live.
Birds, squirrels, deer, mice and more…all tell a story of their journey.
The coffee tastes especially good on snowy mornings…a good time to share quiet time.
By Larry Whiteley
In the quietness of the early morning, he sat staring out the window at icicles hanging from the roof. The same white scene greeted his eyes as it had for several weeks now. He got up and went to the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee. The outside thermometer showed the temperature was in the single digits again as it had been for many mornings lately. At least it wasn’t windy and causing below zero wind chills.
He loves watching shows like “Alaska…The Last Frontier”, “Mountain Men,” “Life Below Zero,” and others. But this was southern Missouri, for goodness sakes. What happened to global warming?
As he stood there looking out the kitchen window, sipping his coffee and staring at the cold, he watched birds coming into the feeders. The woodpeckers pecked at the frozen suet cakes. That’s no problem for a woodpecker. Other birds pecked around anywhere they could find a seed. They needed the food to warm their little bodies. Among the birds were more bluebirds than the man had ever seen at one time. Usually, he didn’t see them until spring, when they were ready to start nesting.
Suddenly all the birds scattered as a red-tailed hawk dove into the snow, trying to catch breakfast. He missed and flew away, probably thinking that catching a mouse would be easier. A friend had recently sent him a picture of a woodpecker frozen to a tree and another of a bluebird a friend of his had found frozen, but managed to nurse back to life. Winter is hard on those that have to live out in it every day.
The birds soon returned, and he made a mental note to put more bird feed out. He went back to his office. Most days in the past few weeks had been cloudy, dreary, and depressing. But, this day the sun was shining and the snow sparkled like millions of tiny diamonds scattered on top of it. His smartphone made a turkey sound, and he picked it up to see several pictures of some special kids from church playing in the snow. They all had big smiles on their faces. He and his wife had gifted them with their grandkids sleds several years ago, but there had never been enough snow to get out and have fun on them. Along with the pictures was a text from their Dad that said, “They love it!!!!” and the man smiled.
He and his wife had been watching out the windows lately at their little neighbor, buddy Hudson, out playing in the snow with Mom, Dad, and friends. Hudson also had one of their grandkid’s old sleds. He too was enjoying it, and so will his sister Lilly when she gets big enough. Adults were having as much fun as the kids. The man smiled again, thinking about it.
He looked out the window once more. In past days it had looked cold, cloudy and uninviting. With the sun shining and after watching the birds and thinking about the kids having so much fun, the snow suddenly seemed beautiful and inviting to him. He took his final sip of coffee, got up from his chair and started putting lots of clothes on. He figured if the Kilcher family from his favorite TV show could do it, and if those kids could get out in this kind of weather and have so much fun, he could get out and enjoy it too. After going through a pandemic during this past year, nothing seemed that hard anymore, anyway. He knew that this wouldn’t stop him from being out there in a treestand if it was deer season. He had even gone crappie fishing in this kind of weather. Besides, he had read somewhere that getting outside is good for your body and soul no matter what kind of weather.
A turkey sound went off again and he picked up his phone to read a text from a friend. Knowing that he loved watching Alaska TV shows so much, the friend had sent him a story about a lady in Alaska who went to the outhouse. When she sat down on the hole, a bear bit her on the butt. When her husband heard the screams and came running, a very stinky black bear came out from under the outhouse and ran off into the woods. Her husband successfully treated her wounds, and they will now have quite a story to tell their kids and grandkids. She probably won’t be showing her scars though.
Since the man didn’t have an outhouse and black bears should still be hibernating, he chuckled and finished putting his clothes on. After putting another log on the fire, he ventured out into this winter wonderland. The first thing he did was feed the birds and put out a little water for them since everything was frozen. He then started a fire in his fire pit, so he could warm up if he got too cold. Then, he reached in his pocket for his smartphone, clicked on the camera and started walking through the snow.
He was amazed at all the tracks he saw. There were many bird tracks around the feeders as well as tracks and a body print of a hawk who missed. Rabbit tracks led into the tall bushy grass and also under a storage building. Squirrel tracks could be seen in the snow clinging to the sides of trees, then across the snow to another tree and another. Near their tracks were holes where they were looking for acorns. The tiny tracks were probably field mice. Deer tracks were on the hill behind the house near where the garden is in the spring. Dog or coyote tracks were there also. Raccoon tracks were on the dirt road behind. Tracks of little kids and sled tracks were nearby.
As he walked down the plowed driveway to the front of his house, he noticed something strange in the front yard. There were places with tracks and some disturbed snow, but no tracks leading to or from them. Was it a mouse or a mole? Did a red-tailed hawk finally get a meal or two? Maybe it was aliens! The mystery may never be known.
He kept walking around, taking lots of beautiful pictures of the snow and the sun glittering off the icicles. He saw even more squirrel, rabbit, and deer tracks. The snow tracks were proof to him just how many wildlife critters also call this place home. You just never know what you will discover when you get outdoors away from the television and other electronics that steal so much of our time every day.
May some of the tracks you find in the snow be your own.
As I sat there, I thought, “Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.”
By Larry Whiteley
The forecast for opening day of the firearms deer season was for rain with a chance of thunderstorms. My son was out of town, and my grandson was at college in Kansas. It wouldn’t be the same without them, so why not just stay home? Wait a minute, this is opening morning I’m talking about. A tradition for goodness sake. How many years in a row have I enjoyed this special day? I had to be out there even if I was going to be by myself. Even if it was raining.
The alarm jarred me from my sleep. I got the coffee pot going, brushed my teeth, did my duty, grabbed my hunting clothes and rifle, filled my thermos, and was out the door. I could see stars in the night sky, so maybe, just maybe, the weatherman was wrong. My truck came to a stop at the metal gate on the gravel road, and I got out to open it. No rain! I drove on down the road, crossed the creek, and pulled up to the old barn sitting majestically in the field.
My plan was to leave the truck there and hike across the field to a tree where my stand waited for me. I got out of the truck, thunder rumbled, and lightning cracked and lit up the dark sky. I was sure thankful I had gone to the bathroom before leaving home. My hair would have stood on end if I had any.
I quickly decided I did not want to walk across a field with the lightning while carrying a rifle to go sit in a metal treestand. Then the sprinkles started, the thunder and lightning continued, and I got back in my truck. As I sat there thinking about what to do, the sky lit up again, and it seemed like heaven opened. I swear I heard the angel chorus singing hallelujah and trumpets bugling. There before me was the answer that would save this day. I would deer hunt from the old barn hayloft. My son, grandson, and granddaughter had all taken deer from the old barn before, and so had I.
I jumped out of the truck, grabbed all my hunting stuff, and ran inside. Then I remembered I had a folding chair I used when hunting in blinds, it was still in the truck, so I ran back out to get it. The rain was getting heavier, but the old barn would keep me dry. It was still dark, so I was in no hurry to climb up in the barn loft. I looked around with wide eyes, and my headlight assured me there were no wild animals in the barn ready to attack me. I also made a mental note not to step in all the groundhog holes in the dirt floor.
The old barn was built over 100 years ago by a gentleman named Christopher Columbus Meadows. I remembered the old black and white picture the owner of this land had shown me of Christopher Columbus holding a horse by the reigns and standing next to the barn.
My headlight shines on, the big stacked rocks and hand hewn beams light up. These are the foundation on which the old barn has stood for over 100 years. I look at the ax marks on the wood, and I see, in my mind’s eye, Christopher chopping and shaping the log to become this foundation. I imagine him in the wooden wagon, pulled by the horse in the picture, going down to the creek to find the flat rocks for the beam to set on.
I look around at all the weathered wood that covers the old barn. There was no electricity in this valley when the barn was built and wouldn’t be for another 30 years or more. So how did they get this wood to build it? How has the wood lasted this long? There is no paint or sealant of any kind on it. Where did they get the old rusted hinges and nails? I will never know the answers.
My mind travels back in time, and I see the horse in the picture standing in a stall. I see corn stalks stacked in another area. Maybe this was where they milked the old cow. Is that daylight coming through the cracks? It sounds like the storm has let up. I better get up in the loft.
I climb the stairs that are just as sturdy as they were when they were built but step carefully around rotted boards on the loft floor. I set up in the big opening where they once brought hay up from below to be stored in the barn loft. My chair is comfortable. I pour a cup of coffee and stretch out my legs. This is a great way to hunt deer, even if it’s not raining.
I look around the old loft, still amazed at how they built the old barn this big and how it has stood this long. The owner tells me it’s home to barn swallows, field rats, mice, a pair of black vultures that come here to raise babies every year, and the groundhogs who made all the holes, these will probably be the biggest reason the barn comes down someday.
The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. On the left, it is normal but only three points. On the right, it is short with two points and ugly. He slowly saunters across the field with his head down. I figure all the bucks have teased him about his weird rack, and the females don’t want anything to do with this ugly buck.
I think for a moment about putting him out of his misery and click off the safety. But then I think maybe next year when he grows back a new set of antlers, they will be prominent and handsome. Then the ladies will be attracted to him, and the bucks that made fun of him will regret it when he kicks their butt. I click on my safety.
Rain starts again. He will be the only deer I see this day, but that’s okay. I don’t know why we have to get older to realize that deer hunting is not just about getting a big buck you can put out on social media to brag about. Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines, not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.
This day will be added to my storehouse of memories. Before I get too old, and as long as it remains standing, I would like to have a few more days of deer hunting from the hayloft of the old barn.
From time to time in life, you meet people with hearts as big as the outdoors they love. It is hard for those who know these two unforgettable people, Bob and Barb Kipfer, to think of one without thinking of the other. They are husband and wife, but they are more than that. They are friends, they are a team, they are life partners in a life well-lived.
The first chapter in their book of life begins at Kansas University Medical Center. Bob was a medical student in his first year of patient care in the hospital wards. Barb had just arrived as a newly graduated nurse on her first job. During his daily classwork around the hospital, Bob took particular notice of Barb. One-day, Bob saw her going into a room where nurses went to dump bedpans. He followed her in, closed the door, and asked her out on a date. He thought he might get dumped-on too, but she said yes. They were married on September 4, 1965, and another chapter in their life had begun.
Two years later, Bob received his draft notice, then served with the infantry in Viet Nam as a battalion field surgeon. That meant he traveled into battle with the troops and worked in field hospitals in the battle zone. Barb continued nursing back in Kansas and caring for their newborn son, Mark, hoping Bob would make it back home. I am sure there were times when Bob wondered the same thing. Like most Viet Nam veterans, he doesn’t talk much about that time in his life. Needless to say, he did make it home to his family after his tour of duty ended. They settled down to somewhat normal life during four years of his residency at the Mayo clinic. Their family also grew with the birth of their daughter, Amy. Life was busy, life was good.
In 1973 Bob and Barb and the kids moved to Springfield, MO to start a new chapter in their lives. Bob practiced Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine at a local hospital. Barb began to teach at a school of nursing. They bought a home and moved into an urban neighborhood where they still live today. Their lives were busy, but they managed to find time to go fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing on weekends. They played tennis. They traveled. They made lots of friends at work, in their neighborhood, and through social activities. One of those friends owned land with a cabin in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, where Bob and Barb visited often, and they soon started looking for land of their own. That search led them to land with a clear-flowing creek running through a beautiful valley with forested hills and lots of wildlife. They fell in love with this special place, and another chapter was to be written.
Bob and Barb continued to work at their medical jobs during the week and stayed at their home in town. Unless they were traveling to places all over the world, visiting their kids and grandkids in other states, or going to social events, they were at their valley cabin on weekends.
Ten years after buying the property, Bob decided it was time for another chapter to be written. He had been working in medical administration, in addition to his medical practice, but having more fun on their property, he retired. He gave up tennis for a chainsaw and a tractor down in the valley. Barb waited two more years before retiring just to make sure Bob was house broke.
Retirement started another chapter to their story. During their time spent in the valley, they started working with the Missouri Department of Conservation to clear trees to bring back glades that were once there. They also worked with the department to plant trees for bank stabilization to protect the stream and their land. They even planted over 2,000 tree seedlings themselves for the same purpose. This all sparked their interest in conservation and fed their desire to conserve and protect this special place.
Their transformation from medical professionals to dedicated conservationists and conservation educators is an amazing chapter in their book of life. It’s about how their love for conservation grew and changed not just their lives but changed and touched the lives of so many others—more than they will ever know.
They became involved with the Springfield Plateau of Missouri Master Naturalists. Bob writes an informative blog for the group, Barb represents them on the Grow Native board. She leads educational tours of their urban yard in Springfield, where she has planted over 100 native plant species. She even made a video tour of what has been accomplished so far to be used for virtual education. Barb spends a lot of her time in the valley trying to rid their land of any kinds of invasive species or plants not native to the area. They have restored warm-season native grass fields and work at endangered species protection. They collect native butterflies, raise moths, volunteer at special events at the Butterfly House, and host mothing events at their property. A somewhat unique event.
They implemented a forest stewardship plan for their property, and it is now a certified Tree Farm. They were named State Tree Farmers of the Year in 2015 for all their work with timber stand improvements and even hosted a Missouri Tree Farm Conference.
Their land in the valley has grown to 400 acres and includes another cabin with their land additions. The valley and the house are used by college students for stream ecology studies. The Audubon Society has access to bird counts and education. They have hosted Missouri Department of Conservation tours, a black bear study, Boy Scout activities, wildlife studies of plant and animal species, wild mushrooms studies, and field trips for groups studying plant and wildlife identification. Their land is open to other conservation-minded groups for retreats and ecology field trips, woodland management, and stream education.
They were named the 2017 Conservationists of the Year by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. I would bet if you asked them what they have enjoyed doing most of all the things they have done, it would be their work with the public schools’ WOLF program. They teach fifth-graders in weekly classroom sessions and host kids in their valley for educational classes several times a year. Bob and Barb have profoundly impacted conservation in the lives of all the kids and people they have taught. The kids love them and will never forget Bob and Barb. This world could use more people like the Kipfer’s. Their impact on conservation has been immense.
One of these days, I hope in the far distant future, Bob and Barb will no longer be able to manage their land. When that time comes, they have donated it to Missouri State University under a protected agreement to sustain the valley’s natural ecology and use it to educate students who will be our future conservationists and conservation educators.
When Bob and Barb are gone, their ashes will be added to the old cemetery in the valley they loved. Their passion for conservation will continue through these students, the Wolf School kids, and all the other lives impacted by these two people. It will not be the final chapter of their book of life, though. Their story will go on through all the lives they have touched. Those people will pass on their passion for conservation. The Bob and Barb story will continue.
It’s a warm day. For winter, that is. I’m sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods. The sun soaks deep into my bones. Days like this don’t come that often in winter, here where I live.
I take my jacket off and use it for a cushion and insulation from the cold of the rock. Except for the sound of a deer mouse rustling through the dry leaves enjoying the warmth too, or the occasional chatter of squirrels or crows talking to each other – it’s quiet here.
My eyes get heavy. Just as I start drifting off to sleep, an old dead tree comes crashing to the ground and startles me back to reality. What is that old saying? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? My heartbeat slows back down to normal. I stretch my legs back out and enjoy my rock again.
You know, I hadn’t noticed so many dead trees out here before. The wood-eating insects must have got to them. Then the woodpeckers got to the insects. Then the holes the woodpeckers made became home to other birds and flying squirrels.
Someday, when no one’s around to hear it, they too will fall. Then mice will build nests in them, snakes will hibernate, and they will be an excellent place for storing nuts. Eventually, though, they will return to the ground from which they came. It’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods…on a warm winter’s day.
The musty smell of decaying leaves reminds me of how unique nature really is. In a few months, tiny buds will start appearing. Soon after, green leaves will burst out and unfurl. These woods, which now seem dead, will come to life again because of the nurturing power of the decaying leaves mixed with sunshine and rain.
As I scout for turkeys or begin looking for mushrooms, I will notice the buckeye trees first because they are the first tree to leaf out around here. The oaks, maples, hickories, walnuts, sycamores, and all the others will soon follow. Serviceberries, with their dainty white flowers, will be the first to bloom. They will be followed by the redbuds with their tiny purplish flowers. The white blossoms of the dogwood will not be far behind. Their colors add beauty to the spring woods.
It will be so much different than it is right now. Except for the brown leaves, blue sky, and green of the pines and cedars, I kind of feel like I’m watching an old black and white television. Don’t you remember those? Well, you probably wouldn’t unless you’re getting as old as I am.
The fully leafed trees add cooling shade to these woods as I come here for morning hikes in summer. Summer also brings ticks, chiggers, and snakes to these woods. Because of that and the hot and humid days, I’m not here as often as I am in other seasons.
As summer ends and fall begins, the chlorophyll that gives the leaves their green color begins to break down, and the true colors of the leaves are revealed. These woods become a kaleidoscope of red, gold, orange, and yellow. Trees drop their nuts to the ground while deer, turkey, squirrels, and the mice that call this place home, enjoy the bounty. Once again, I will be hiking, scouting, hunting, and sometimes even camping. It’s my favorite season of the year and a beautiful time to be here.
But then, those same leaves that burst forth in spring will wither and fall to decompose and give nourishment to the same tree that gave them life. How does that song go? “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow, lies a seed that with the sun’s love in spring, becomes a rose.” Here in these winter woods, it will be beneath the dead leaves and sometimes a covering of snow. It will be a seed or a nut, that in the springtime with the sun’s love, sprouts and becomes a maple, dogwood, redbud, oak, papaw, buckeye, or hickory. Maybe even just a scraggly bush. Life goes on.
Wow! Again I will say it’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods on a warm winter’s day. If a man talks or sings to himself in the woods and no one’s around, does anybody hear him?
I feel a little like an acorn. My eyes are getting heavy again.
Woodsy turkey call sounds combine screech and scratch controls
Henry C. Gibson and Eric Steinmetz each provided sound innovations about 120 years apart
Tone and tune change in one box that allows clucking, purring, yelping and cackling is about pure genius
By Larry Whiteley
Now some of you probably read that headline, and your mind drifted off to another kind of foreplay. However, this is not that kind of foreplay. This 4-Play is something that can get a turkey gobbler all excited to come looking for love.
Let me begin with how this kind of 4-Play started. You see, the first box-style turkey call was patented in 1897 by an Arkansas farmer and fence supply manager, Henry C. Gibson, of Dardanelle. Though there may have been box calls before his patent, Gibson sparked a new industry with many imitators creating box-type turkey calls.
For over 120 years, the turkey box call has never really changed much from the original wooden box and paddle design. Then along came avid turkey hunter Eric Steinmetz. Eric built his box calls for years and had terrific success with them. He even sold a few to local hunters. Eric couldn’t get the thought out of his mind about coming up with a call that was more versatile and more effective than the standard box call design. He would think about it as he drove down the road with his traveling sales job. When he was home and wasn’t turkey hunting, he was in his shop tinkering with different designs and wood types.
He finally came up with the idea of building one with a forward-mounted wheel that would allow the paddle to be moved to both sides of the box. That way, it could be used on any of four sound rails, each made with different wood types to have four different tones. Thus came the name for his call, the 4-Play. He also found that since the wheel allowed the lid to be moved forward and backward, he could strike the sound rails in multiple locations, adding to his box call versatility. The 4-Play is a turkey box call like no other you have ever seen or used.
The U.S. Patent Office agreed that Eric’s box call was so innovative they awarded him a Utility Patent. 4-Play turkey calls are available with Cherry, Walnut, or mahogany bodies, and all have sound rails made of walnut, eastern red cedar, sassafras, and poplar. If you’re a turkey hunter, you have to have one of these. For more information, watch videos, read reviews, and order, visit https://4playturkeycall.com/shop. Or, give them a call at 610-984-4099. They would love to visit with you.
“It is a versatile call,” says Eric. “With a little practice, you can make an almost unlimited number of tones and pitches. I just want hunters to use it and then hopefully send us pictures of them and their Gobbler. That’s what would make me feel successful.”
Eric has since sold the 4-Play patent to Brian Benolken, but he is still involved with the business, working shows, building calls, and of course, turkey hunting. He’s even won several calling competitions with his 4-Play. Brian is busy growing the business under the name of Cutting Edge Game Calls, and his goal for the company is to offer you products for making you a better and more successful turkey hunter. Brian and Eric both are continuously thinking of new innovative ideas.
This old turkey hunter has never seen anything like it in all my years of turkey hunting, so I just had to have a 4-Play. I love it! I can’t believe all the sounds I can make with it. I’m clucking, purring, yelping, and even fly down cackling with it. I can’t wait until spring turkey season. My wife can’t either! Can you believe she banned me from the house and makes me take my 4-Play and practice out in the barn?
If you are a turkey hunter, you might try hinting to your wife or girlfriend that you would surely like to have 4-Play under the tree for Christmas. If they look at you like you’re weird or something, you might have to just order online or call Cutting Edge Game Calls to order one for yourself. But if they smile, this could be a very Merry Christmas in more ways than one.
Father and son hunting buddies that can say, "I love you Bub!" Molly Meyers photo
Hunting, fishing, frog-giggin’ and sucker -grabbin’
Freckles, frowns, wrinkles and specks of gray…is winter here?
Kids, grandkids, heartwarming memories…thank you Lord. Pass it on.
By Larry Whiteley
He was up early getting ready to pick up his son to go deer hunting. He had brushed his teeth and was washing his face. He paused to look at himself in the mirror and saw an old man staring back at him.
Maybe it was because his 74th birthday was on Christmas, and it would be here in a few more weeks. He stared at the old man in the mirror and saw wrinkles carved by frowns and smiles through the years of his life. He looked at the bags under his eyes. He saw his skin sagging down on both sides of his chin and looked like a turkey wattle hanging below. What little hair he saw was gray. The old man in the mirror was in the winter of his life.
He pulled into his son’s driveway and smiled as he loaded his deer hunting stuff in the truck. He was proud of the husband and father, his son, had become. He moved over to let him drive. His old eyes didn’t see as well in the dark anymore. The interior light of the truck revealed specks of gray in his son’s hair. It was hard for him to believe that it wouldn’t be long until his son would be a grandpa for the first time. He was in the fall of his life.
Not much was said as the truck traveled down the road to their hunting place. The son glanced over at his Dad. He realized that his Dad was getting older. He wondered how many more deer and turkey hunting trips they would have together. Dad was still very active and his health seemed good, but at his age, you never know.
As he drove, his mind wandered to times when he was younger, and Dad took him rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, and dove hunting. He thought of frog-gigging trips, fishing trips, and especially sucker-grabbin’. Camping and trout fishing was fun too.
He thought to himself how he needed to thank him for the time they had spent together in the outdoors and all the outdoor things he had done with his son and daughter when they were in the spring of their lives. This would be a good time to tell him how important all that was to him and them. They drove on in silence.
The truck came to a stop, the older man got out to open the gate. The night sky was dark, but getting lighter. They had to hurry to get to their stands before the deer started moving. They wished each other good luck and started in opposite directions. The son stopped, turned around, and watched his Dad walking away until he disappeared into the dark.
The older man got to his stand and started the climb up. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be. He settled into his stand, got everything ready, and sat in silence waiting. He thought about the old man in the mirror that morning and wondered how many more times he would be able to do this thing he loved so much. Right now, he still had the strength, the will and the desire, but he knew at his age, that could change at any time. He didn’t want to think about that anymore.
The dark turned to light, and the wildlife started their day. Birds sang their songs, and crows talked to each other, and squirrels sounded like deer as they rustled about in the woods. He watched deer traveling through the frosted field below but out of range.
As the morning wore on, his thoughts turned to memories he had from being outdoors with his kids, grandkids, and friends in the summer and fall of his life. He even thought of a time when he was fishing and would look over to watch his wife reading a book. He wished there had been more time spent in the outdoors with his son and grandsons that lived in another state. Where had the time gone? It went so fast. He looked up to the sky and said thank you for blessing him and forgiving him.
In another stand, in another place, his son sat waiting. He too, had seen and heard the wildlife. He too, had seen deer out of range and even a few that he let have a heartbeat for another day. He too, also thought about outdoor memories with Dad, his wife, and his kids, and the memories he would make with his grandkids someday. The outdoor traditions he loves would be passed on. He too looked up and said thank you. He even thought about how he was in the fall of his life, and winter was coming.
There were no deer to field dress and load that day. They talked some on the way home, but it was mostly a silent trip again. The old man was thinking to himself how he wished his Dad would have spent time with him in the outdoors, but he didn’t. He thought about how he never heard his Dad tell him that he loved him. He had no good memories from the spring of his life.
It might have been a perfect time to talk to each other about all the things they thought and talked about. Why is it so hard for men to look at each other in the eye and tell them how they feel? A day will come when they will wish they had.
They pull into the driveway. Hunting gear is unloaded. The old man says, “I love you Bub!” The son says, “I love you too,” then watches until his Dad has driven out of sight. He goes into the house, kisses his wife, and goes into the bathroom to wash his hands. He looks in the mirror and sees the gray in his hair. His thoughts from the day sweep over him. He thinks of his Dad being in the winter of his life. “I will be right back,” he tells his wife. “I need to go tell Dad something.”
He was alone on the lake. The sunrise was breathtaking. He had seen lots of mornings but none this beautiful. His first cast landed near some bushes. He felt the thump and set the hook. The largemouth came out of the water, trying to shake the bait. It fought hard but soon tired. He gently lifted it from the water, smiled, and released it.
There would be many more fish to visit with that morning. One was the biggest smallmouth he had ever caught in all his years of fishing. The sunlight glistened off its bronze body. He managed to take a selfie of him and the fish. As he hit send on his smartphone, he smiled. A son texted back, “Nice one, Dad.” Another son replied, “Good fish, old man!” A grandson asked, “What did you catch it on?” His wife texted, “Are you doing okay, and how are you feeling?” He smiled and texted back each of them with only the words “I love you” and then went back to fishing.
It suddenly occurred to him that he had not heard or seen another boat all morning. Kind of felt like he was fishing on his own private lake. He heard crows, ducks, and geese. He saw deer and turkey at the water’s edge. Birds were flittering around everywhere and singing their songs. A hummingbird even came buzzing by thinking he was a big flower. He said to himself, “Is this what heaven will be like for a fisherman like me?” He smiled again.
The afternoon sun was high and hot. He motored into a shaded cove and shut off the engine. The slight breeze felt good there in the shade. He tied the boat to a tree, sat back, and relaxed. Thoughts of the first fish he ever caught went through his mind. He saw the bobber, the worm, his cane pole. He felt the little perch squirming in his hand. The particular feeling, he had that day alone on that creek, was unlike any other. He was hooked. It was the first of many fish he would catch in his lifetime.
As he stretched out in the boat, he looked up at the sky and saw a cross formed by clouds and a jet stream. He grinned and said, thank you. More memories flooded his mind. He wished his Dad would have taken him fishing, but he didn’t. He thought of times he took his son’s fishing, recalling the look on their faces when they caught their first fish. He wished he hadn’t been so busy trying to make a living and would have taken his boys fishing more. But, they both grew up to be fishermen. They both became good husbands, fathers, and Godly men. Their kids became fishermen too. They had a dad that took them and a papaw too. There was no doubt in his mind that his grandkids would also take their kids fishing. He smiled once more and was proud. He hoped that more people would discover the magic of fishing and pass it on.
With the gentle rocking of the boat, his eyes got heavy. A nap came easy. It was a much-needed rest. The hospital visits and all the medicine had taken its toll. Late afternoon, he awoke to the screeching sounds of an eagle flying in the sky above him. It was out fishing too.
As he lay there watching the eagle, he wished he had more time left. He thought that he would go back to Canada fishing for walleye and pike with his son and grandson. Travel with his other son and grandson’s to the Northwood’s for those good-eating yellow perch. Going back to catch a snook or grouper in Tampa Bay or speckled trout at Gulf Shores would also be on his list. A limit of crappie, some trout fishing, or maybe catfishing would be good too. Grabbing a mess of suckers and frying them up on the river bank would really be fun, one more time. He even thought about going wade fishing in a creek or sitting on a farm pond, on the bank. Alaska salmon and halibut fishing were on his bucket list. So was fishing for redfish. It had never happened, and now there was not enough time.
The sunset was beautiful in the western sky. The bats began their dance with the approaching darkness, it was feeding time. He listened to the owls and the whip-poor-wills as they started their nightly chorus. The smell of new-mown hay and someone’s campfire drifted through the air. He knew he should be heading home. His wife would be worried. In the gathering dusk, he wanted to fish just a little longer.
The doctor had told him the radiation and chemo was not working. This was his last time to fish. He was at peace with that because he knew where he was going. He had messed up his life at times. He had made mistakes. He had gotten his life straightened out and was walking the path he should have been all along. He wished he had more time to tell his wife and family he loved them and make more memories. He wished he had more time to say to others that no matter what they did wrong, they could still go where he was going.
The boat roared to life, and he headed for his favorite fishing spot near the ramp to make another cast or maybe two. In the half-light, he cast toward the bank. The topwater bait gurgled across the surface. A massive bass slammed it, and the fight was on. When the battle was finally over, and he lifted it out of the water, it was bigger than the one earlier in the day. He removed the bait from its cavernous mouth, lowered it back into the water, and in the dim light, watched it swim away. He looked up into the night sky filled with millions of stars and, with a tear in his eye and a smile on his face, said, “thank you!”
“Just one more cast,” he told himself. The lure hits the water. A fish engulfs it. The battle begins and then suddenly stops. He’s snagged. The line snaps. “That’s okay,” he says to himself and smiles again. Too dark now to re-rig. It’s time to go home. He looked up at the night sky, and it looked as if heaven was opening. It was his last cast.
Eagles signified majestic strength from the ancient times of Babylon, Egypt and Rome
Eagles are part of Native American tribe mythology
Eagles…respect, honor, tradition, nature, awe.
By Larry Whiteley
The bald eagle’s role as our nation’s symbol goes back to 1782 when it was added to the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle was selected because of its great strength, stately looks, long life, and because it is native to North America. The design went on to appear on official documents, currency, flags, public buildings and other government-related items. The bald eagle became an American icon. To us as Americans, along with our flag, the bald eagle represents freedom and all that freedom stands for and is worth fighting for.
Since ancient times the bald eagle has been considered a sign of strength. Babylon, Egypt and the Roman legions all used the eagle as their standard, or symbol. Eagles figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, eagles are considered medicine birds with impressive magical powers and play a major role in their religious ceremonies.
In some of their legends, an eagle serves as a messenger between humans and the Creator. Eagle feathers were earned by Plains Indians as war honors and worn in their feathered head dresses. In some tribes today, eagle feathers are still given to soldiers returning from war or to people who have achieved a great accomplishment.
Eagles are also mentioned 17 times in the Bible. My favorite is Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
In the wild, a Bald Eagle will live 30-35 years. A full-grown Bald Eagle has a wingspan of up to 7-feet. They can fly up to 30 miles an hour and dive at 100 miles an hour. Eagles feed primarily on fish, supplemented by small mammals, waterfowl and carrion.
Bald Eagles mate for life and an established pair will use the same nest for many years. Over time, some nests become enormous and can reach a diameter of 9 feet and weigh as much as 2 tons. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs and both parents share incubation and guard them diligently against predators. While the chicks are small, the parents move about the nest with their talons balled up into fists to avoid harming them.
For such a powerful bird, the Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls that are usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes. The female may repeat a single, soft, high-pitched note that is said to be unlike any other calls in nature.
Fishermen who recognize the sound of an eagle usually stop fishing just to watch this majestic bird soaring in a bright blue sky. The bonus is when they dive from the sky to the water to do a little fishing themselves. Campers, hikers, canoers and kayakers are sometimes also treated to the sights and sounds of an eagle. It’s a memory that stays with you forever.
Many years ago I was flying back home to Springfield, MO from Chicago in an old prop airplane. The plane flew very low all the way back. As I watched out the window I thought to myself, “This must be what an eagle sees as he fly’s around.” I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing a poem and finished it before we landed.
The line about the round rainbow was added later and the title was changed after my wife and I were flying back from Florida. When we looked out the window of the plane, we were amazed to see a round rainbow with the shadow of the airplane right in the middle of it.
Rainbows are created when the sun reflects off rain drops to mirror a multitude of colors. Most people don’t realize that a rainbow gets its traditional semicircle shape from the horizon because we are only seeing half of it. When the same atmospheric conditions that create a rainbow are observed from an airplane or by an eagle, a rainbow is a full circle. A round rainbow is called a “glory” that NASA defines as an optical phenomenon. To us, this “glory” was a sign that God was watching over us that day. He still is!
THE EAGLE SEES THE ROUND RAINBOW By Larry Whiteley
What must it be like to perch on a limb in a tree on a mountain high? Then look above and spread your wings and fly into the sky.
The eagle sees the round rainbow that has no beginning or end. He sees the flatlands, hills and valleys and places I’ve never been.
What must it be like to look below at cloud shadows on the trees? It must be wonderful to be so wild and free.
The traffic on the roads must appear like ants continually on the go. Following straight and winding roads to places only they know.
What must it be like to fly along the rivers carving out the land? Over ponds, lakes and oceans all created by God’s mighty hand.
The patchwork quilt of the fields below, the prairies, the deserts, the plains. How could you ever get tired of looking when what you see is never the same?
What must it be like to fly over rows of houses, giant factories, malls and other stuff? For a majestic bird so used to nature’s beauty neon lights, billboards and concrete must be tough.
I wonder if tears come to an eagle’s eyes and they fall to the ground. When he sees streams filled with trash instead of fish and pollution all around.
What must it be like to fly above when the seasons come and go? To see the landscape turn from green to gold and red to the white of a winter snow.
What must it be like to be an eagle and soar way up high? Oh the sights we would behold if we could see through an eagle’s eyes.
Mentors play an important role in our outdoor heritage and future
By Larry Whiteley
David Merrill grew up hiking, fishing, and camping in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It was an amazing place where a young David would discover many life experiences in the great outdoors as he roamed through the mountains and valleys of this beautiful place.
In 1996, when he was 14-years old, his Uncle Kendall introduced him to archery. It was the beginning of a life-long passion for shooting a bow and bow-hunting. That passion continues to burn deep in his heart today. This world needs more people like Uncle Kendall who take the time to introduce kids to archery. It could change their lives, like it did David’s.
Later on in life, David moved to Alaska and lived among the wildlife and wild places of what is called the last frontier. While there, he spent every free moment he had out in the wilds, hunting Dall sheep with his bow and fishing for salmon. The adventure and wide open spaces of Alaska is something a lot of us only dream about. I dream about it every time I watch the Kilcher family and life on their homestead on my favorite TV show – Alaska: The Last Frontier.
It was hard to leave Alaska, but with a growing family of his own now, he felt the need to be closer to extended relatives. So, in 2013 David and his wife, Crystal, moved and started their family among the mountains of Wyoming. Their two boys are the joy of his life. Here, he continued his passion of bow hunting for wild game. David says, “I cannot think of a purer way to feed my loved ones than with wild, free-range, organic game.”
In 2015, David was on a backcountry elk hunt with a friend. His bow was strapped to his pack as they walked along a mountain trail. They came around a corner in the trail and walked up on a huge bull elk. His friend hurried to unstrap David’s bow from the pack. He finally got it out, handed it to David and he drew it back, but it was too late. The elk of a lifetime was gone.
The vision of that monster elk still haunted him on the drive back home. He told his friend that he was never going to let that happen again to him or anyone else. That same passion he has for bow hunting started him creating prototypes of a product that would allow him to carry his bow safely and securely, but within easy simple reach to get out.
After much trial and error, he got his product exactly how he wanted it. He called his lightweight, round bow holder – the Bow Spider. You attach an aluminum arm to your bow’s riser and that slides into a slot on the round receiver. The bow is held securely in place on the back of your pack with a gravity-locking system, but slides out easily when you need it. “If you can scratch the back of your head you can grab your bow and pull,” he said. “You’re going to be able to manage your bow very quickly and efficiently, to get it when you need it. It works with any backpack and any bow, whether you’re on horseback or on foot.”
Using the belt that comes with the Bow Spider, you can easily attach it to your backpack, hip, binocular harness, truck headrest, blind or tree. Using the bolts that come with it you can also mount it to any sturdy flat surface for storage. It is the most innovative bow packing system I have ever seen. My grandson has one, loves it and can’t wait to use it this fall out west.
The Bow Spider comes in green, tan or black. The $84.95 price is well worth it to keep you from having bad dreams about the huge elk or monster buck you might have tagged if you could reach your bow quicker and easier.
If you’re a bowhunter after western big game and strap your bow to your pack, you need a Bow Spider. If you are a whitetail hunter and need your hands free to get to your stand or if you’re trying to work your way through the woods stalking a big buck, you need a Bow Spider. Go to www.bowspider.com and check them out. Watch the online videos to see how easy the Bow Spider works.
If you are a crossbow hunter like me, you are probably thinking it sure would be nice to have one of these to use with my crossbow. Well, your wish is granted. A Bow Spider for crossbow hunters is coming soon.
Being a veteran myself, I think it’s great they give our veterans a 15% discount. All you have to do is call them at 307-438-9290 to place your order and get your discount. “We owe everything we have in America to the veterans that have served and are serving to keep our freedoms alive,” Merrill said. “Our discount program is simply a small way for us to say thank you to those who have done so much for us.”
David’s products are 100% made in America and I love that. David, Crystal and their company also give a percentage of their sales to several recognized American conservation organizations. To me that says a lot. These organizations make it possible for hunters to go to these wild places across this great land to enjoy our hunting traditions.
The aspens are displaying their brilliant colors. There’s a coolness to the air. David is sitting on a rock looking at the majesty of the mountains that surround him. Ravens are talking to each other. An elk bugle echoes in the distance. He is thinking of his Uncle Kendall and the day he taught him to shoot a bow. He is thinking of the game he has taken since then and the places he has hunted. He is thinking it’s time to teach his boys to shoot a bow. He is thinking there would not be a Bow Spider if it were not for Uncle Kendall. It’s amazing what can happen when you teach a boy to shoot a bow.
It’s time to start getting back to normal and plan a weekend getaway, or a week-long vacation that offers something for everyone in the family. The place to do all that is located right in the heart of America in Branson, Missouri.
There may be no better place in America to experience family entertainment and all the great outdoors has to offer in one place, than in the beautiful Missouri/Arkansas Ozarks with its forested hills, pristine lakes and clear-flowing streams. Plus, it’s only a short flight or within a day or two drive from two-thirds of the United States.
Lake activities are a great way to enjoy Branson. Water sports are available on each of Branson’s great lakes. Guests can swim, water ski, wakeboard, tube, boat, sail, scuba dive, Jet-ski, parasail, ride a hydro-bike, paddle-board, kayak, canoe and fish.
There are more species of fish to catch in Branson than almost anywhere else in America. Choose from rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky bass, striped bass, white bass, rock bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, yellow perch, four species of sunfish and even the historic paddlefish. Unfamiliar with fishing in Branson? Book a guided fishing trip through one of the many guide services on any lake. Want to get some physical activity in? Branson has more than 200 miles of miles of hiking trails, with varying lengths, offering natural views of water, woods and wildlife.
Table Rock Lake has nearly 800 miles of shoreline and is one of Missouri’s top fishing destinations. Marina’s offer boat and equipment rentals, or bring your own, as there are multiple public and privately-owned locations to access the lake. Want to relax on the lake? Enjoy a lunch or dinner cruise and show aboard the Showboat Branson Belle or take a cruise on the Spirit of America catamaran.
Lake Taneycomo’s water comes from the bottom of Table Rock Lake, making it a cold-water lake perfect for trout fishing. The pristine, clear, water is stocked annually with approximately 750,000 rainbow trout, making it a world-class trout fishery. The state record brown trout came from these waters and many believe the next world record is swimming around right now in Taneycomo’s waters. This lake is also perfect for kayaking and there are plenty of resorts and other lodging along its banks.
Branson also offers plenty of family-oriented RV Parks and Campgrounds near and around the lakes. Spend quality time together with the comforts of a full-service RV site or unplug and reconnect with the family at a campground near one of the beautiful lakes. Prefer something more upscale? Stay in a log cabin, resort, lodge or hotel – the options are unlimited.
Looking for more outdoor adventure? Try trap or skeet shooting, visit a cave or enjoy the high-tech sport of geocaching. Ride a zipline through the hills and valleys at Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park or at Branson Ziplines at Wolfe Creek Reserve.
In addition to all the outdoor opportunities in the Branson area, visitors can enjoy Silver Dollar City theme park, nature parks, waterparks, museums and aquariums in the area. Have a great meal at one of the many restaurants or take in a dinner show. Play a round of golf at one of our 10 world-class golf courses, or have fun at one of the many miniature golf courses.
Branson is one of the leading entertainment cities in America. With over 100 shows playing throughout the year there are more seats than Broadway in Branson. It is a truly remarkable city with so much to offer. There is always something to fill your days with lots of fun-packed activities. Or, just come to relax and recharge your body and soul away from home. Go to www.explorebranson.com and check it all out.
Come for all the experiences in the great outdoors. Come for the all the entertainment. Go back home with lots of memories from Branson, Mo.
Loons, Lynx, Trophy Fish…Unforgettable Fun at Fletcher Lake Lodge, Canada
Arrive by air (bush plane) from Kenora, Ontario…exciting and fun!
Visitors find hugs, smiles, peace, quiet…and great food
By Larry Whiteley
Between fishing for and catching trophy walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike and musky, there are sightings of moose, bear, lynx, bald eagles, fantastic scenery, sunsets and sunrises, and the love sounds of the many loons. Not to mention sitting around a campfire. It’s unforgettable fun.
Jeanne MacLean has owned and operated Fletcher Lake Lodge in Northwestern Ontario for 39 years. During all those years she has always looked forward to welcoming guests that return year after year. It is like going back home for them. They have become like family to Jeanne and her staff.
Her “family” and first-time visitors all arrive by Canadian bush planes out of Kenora, Ontario. When “family” arrive there are lots of hugs, smiles and laughter. When “first timers” step off the plane onto the dock and look around, big smiles appear and you hear them saying things like “WOW, this is awesome!” or “Oh my gosh, this is perfect!” And, that is before they have even been on the water catching trophy smallmouth, walleye, northern pike and muskie.
The “first-timers” soon realize what Jeanne’s “family” already know: This special lodge on this special lake and the memories they will make will remain in their hearts and minds forever. They are now “family” too.
Don’t take my word for it though. Here are what some of Jeanne’s guests have to say –
“Jeanne, thanks again to you and your staff for my 15th consecutive, knockout fishing trip with you at Fletcher Lake. Of course, the fishing was fantastic. I must tell you that the facilities, staff, food and lodge are frosting on the cake. I can hardly wait to come back 15 more times.” – Paul
“For the past 35 years, three generations of our family have come to Fletcher Lake Lodge. During these trips, the ladies of the family have enjoyed their experience as much as the men and can’t wait to come back again. The walleye, northern pike and smallmouth fishing has continued to improve with each trip and our family always catch trophy fish in each species every year. Jeanne and her staff provide a warm family welcome. We can’t wait to keep coming back. – Nancy
“Fletcher Lake Lodge is an outdoor paradise, made even better by Jeanne and her staff. They are hands down the best hosts anyone could ask for. You really feel like you are part of the family when you stay here. – Abby
“I just wanted to thank you again for the top notch fishing trip. Will definitely be spreading the good word about Fletcher Lake Lodge and the fantastic people who make it a family like atmosphere. See you next trip.” – Jason
Fletcher Lake Lodge was established in the mid 1960’s and is the only lodge on the lake. Jeanne purchased it in 1982. In 1995 they implemented a conservation fishing practice in order to ensure a healthy fishery for many years to come. Five years later Jeanne teamed up with the Ontario Government to create a unique Trophy Waters program that has dramatically increased both the quality and the quantity of fish in Fletcher Lake. It has set this area of Canada apart from many other regions in regards to trophy fish being caught, documented, pictures taken just in case they want a replica mount made and the fish are then released back into the water to be caught again another day.
Guests have a choice of a full service, fly-in American plan or a housekeeping package. The lodge is nestled into a bay with a sand beach and great fishing right from the dock.
During the 2019 fishing season guests caught over 261 trophy walleye, northern and smallmouth along with many eaters and that doesn’t include all the other fish that were released. There are also two portage lakes north of Fletcher Lake that provide fantastic muskie and perch fishing. You can eat fish everyday, if you want, or enjoy all the other delicious home-cooked meals too.
Even though a high percentage of guests are “family” and return every year, there is room for “first-timer’s”. Go to https://www.fletcherlake.com/ and check it all out. Then call Jeanne at her office in Minnesota at (218) 386-1538 or at the lodge (807) 224-3400 and tell her you want to come home.
As I write this, the Canadian border and Canadian provinces remain closed because of COVID-19, but Fletcher Lake Lodge “family” and “first timers” will be able to return on June 21st, 2020.
The lodge will be open into September and there are a few openings for “first timers” throughout the summer if you would like to be one of them. Right now, Jeanne is busy taking care of her “family” and letting them know that there is a new beginning in sight with regard to COVID-19 rules.
EDITOR NOTE: All photographs are courtesy of Fletcher Lake Lodge
This easy-to-use tool makes anyone look like they know what they are doing when it comes to sharpening.
I’ve had lots of knife sharpeners in my life, but thanks to my new Work Sharp…I don’t need them anymore
It has 4 different sharpening angles depending on the type of knife and 5 flexible belts from extra-coarse to extra-fine
By Larry Whiteley
My favorite TV show of all-time is “Home Improvement” from the 1990s. Thankfully, through re-runs, I still get to enjoy it almost every night. My wife just loves it when I do the Tim “The Tool Man” grunt (not really). My oldest son Daron also loves the show. He likes to say he is like Tim’s sidekick, Al, because he knows tools and how to use them. Then he says, “Dad is Tim because he is an accident waiting to happen.”
I recently got a new tool that Tim would love and so will my son if I let him use it. It’s a Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener. Like most men, I have a lot of knives and of course, just like Tim, lots of tools. I have also had lots of knife sharpeners in my life, and still do, but thanks to my new Work Sharp, I don’t need them anymore. This probably isn’t a surprise, but I wasn’t very good at sharpening knives with them anyway.
It took me a little while to figure out how to use it, but unlike Tim would do, I read the instruction book and watched videos before I even attempted to sharpen a knife. It has 4 different sharpening angles depending on the type of knife and comes with 5 flexible belts from extra-coarse to extra-fine depending on the dullness of the knife.
The cool thing about this amazing machine is that you just plug it in and you can sharpen a lot more than knives.
So far, with easy adjustments for speed and blade angle, I have sharpened all my hunting knives, fish filet knives, pocket knives, clip knives and kitchen knives, even serrated knives, sharper than they ever were. Then I sharpened my wife’s scissors, my pruning shears, and even my lawnmower blades. If I can do that, anyone can do that. Al, I mean…my son, will be proud of me. I can’t wait to tell my neighbor Wilson about it.
Go to www.worksharptools.com and check it out. You can order more belts and accessories like a blade grinding attachment which gives you, like Tim would say, “More Power” to do even more.
When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled.
At nighttime, there is nothing more relaxing than the sound of rain making music on my canvass tent
When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled.
I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.
By Larry Whiteley
It’s 5 am on an April morning. I sit at my desk writing a blog article about going camping. My wife is still sleeping. The television is on so I can check the weather for the day. The weather forecast was a lot better than the news. It was about nothing but coronavirus. Sunny days, cool nights with a slight chance of rain. I turn the television off and go back to writing.
My days are spent following stay-at-home rules. There are always things to get done outside in the yard, garden or workshop. I had practiced social distancing and gone fishing a few times.
In a moment of absolute brilliance, I thought why not go do what I have been writing about. I rushed in and told my wife we should escape the pandemic for a couple of days and go camping.
She said she would rather stay around home, but I should go enjoy myself. I stood there for a few seconds with thoughts rushing through my head of being alone for a few days in the outdoors. Alone in the wild.
I feigned disappointment and told her I would miss her. I packed all my clothes, camping gear, and food in the truck. I also grabbed a couple of locater turkey calls.
As I drove down the driveway, I knew exactly where I was going. I would escape to a place that I was very familiar with. I had spent many years hunting deer and turkey there. I would go to an open area on top of a hill I had often thought would make a great place to camp. From there I could see for miles looking over forested hills and valleys, but also with big open skies to enjoy. The creek in the valley below would be a bonus.
The stress and pressure from what was going on in the world with the coronavirus was gone as I drove up the hill. I pulled in by three trees that offered a great view. I just sat there for a moment. It was a totally different feeling than what I had been used to lately.
I pitched my tent and unloaded the truck. I got into my cooler for something to eat and drink then sat down in my camp chair to look around and take it all in. This is what I had come for.
The sun was warm. Sitting in the shade and with a little breeze, it was comfortable. I listened to bird songs. Crows were talking to each other. Buzzards circled in the bright blue sky. I looked up and said thank you to God for blessing me with this special moment in time. I also thanked him for my family and not giving up on me.
My afternoon was spent fishing the creek in the valley. The water was cold as I waded and fished but felt good. I lost count of how many fish I caught. Nothing big, but all fun. I tried skipping rocks and then just sat on the gravel bar looking for arrowheads and holey rocks. The sound of the flowing water was soothing. I took a nap.
When I woke up the day was starting to fade so I drove back up the hill. The night skies were spectacular with thousands of twinkling stars. Coyotes howled and owls hooted. I did some hooting myself listening for turkey sounds from their roost. There were none. I stirred the campfire. The night cooled and my sleeping bag felt good.
I got up before the light came, stoked the fire and put on a pot of coffee. As the day started arriving, I was already out with my locater calls and binoculars scouting for turkeys. It wasn’t long before I found where they were. I knew where I would be hunting when the season started. I went back to camp.
The smell of bacon sizzling in the skillet drifted through the morning air. A deer let me know they smelled it too. My second cup of coffee was as good as the first. Birds were singing again and turkey gobbles echoed through the hills. Squirrels fussed at me because I was in their home.
The day found me secretly watching deer and turkey go about their day. I saw an eagle, a fox, and a bobcat. Black bear roams these woods too. I didn’t see one. I hiked around. I found wildflowers and morel mushrooms pushing their way through decaying leaves. I checked deer stands and pruned limbs and cleaned brush from around them. I even found a couple of shed antlers. I was enjoying my time alone in the wild.
Before I knew it, the night was upon me again and the moon was big and bright. I sat around the campfire listening to night sounds and using my headlight to read “Friendship Fires” by Sam Cook. He doesn’t know it, but his style of writing greatly influenced me. Friends Dave Barus, David Gray, and Bobby Whitehead gave me the confidence I needed. They all shaped me into the writer I now am. I am using the gift that God gave me.
My eyes are heavy from all my activities of the day, the dancing flames, a crackling fire, and reading. I could hear thunder and see lightning in the distant hills. Tree frogs croaked and crickets chirped. Peaceful sleep came quickly.
Sometime during the night I awoke to rain making music on my canvass tent. There is nothing more relaxing than that sound. I easily drifted back off to sleep.
When my eyes opened again the sun was starting to shine through the trees. A light rain was still falling. When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled. The sun glistened off the raindrops still clinging to the leaves and grass. I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.
I sat there for a long time enjoying the beauty of the rainbow. Hundreds of purplish redbuds and white dogwood trees were all bloomed out painting the landscape. As much as I hated to leave, I missed my wife. It was time to go home to a different world. My time here will be re-lived in my daydreams and night dreams. It had been a wonderful escape from the pandemic. Alone in the wild.
Author note: All photos are courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation
A special gift – protection and peace for grandpa’s mind – for a very special young lady
The Kimber Micro 9 measures a little over 6 inches in length and 4 inches in height
Aluminum frame, steel slide – it weighs a little less that a pound with an empty magazine
By Larry Whiteley
My granddaughter Anna is a petite, beautiful young lady that was a cheerleader and a gymnast when she was younger. She has a smile that touches your heart and a heart as big as all outdoors.
We used to tell her that when she started bringing boys over, that her dad, brother and I would be there to meet them with conceal carry pistols in full view. We also told her we were going to make sure we showed these young men all the pictures of her with the deer and turkey she had shot, as well as her shooting her bow, her turkey mount on the wall. If fear didn’t come to their eyes and they didn’t run out the door, then we might approve of them.
Now that she is a sophomore in college, her dad and I felt like it was time to get her a conceal carry pistol. Dad felt she was ready and we had no doubts she could handle it. A few years ago we got her brother a “Made in the USA” Kimber® Super Carry Ultra+™ .45 ACP. He loves his Kimber and what young man wouldn’t. When his sister saw it, she told us right then she wanted a Kimber too, someday. Her dad told her we would when the time was right. Until then, she had to carry the “Kimber Pepper Blaster II” we had bought for her in her purse.
Two years later, we told her to pick out the handgun she wanted. She looked at a couple of Kimber models, but when she saw the Micro 9™ Amethyst, in a 9mm, it was love at first sight. Especially since it was in the colors of the college she attends, so important to a fashion conscious young lady, you know!
She is “Daddy’s Girl” and he immediately started doing his own research on the Micro 9. He then reported back to me that he agreed with her choice. Since the good Lord has blessed my wife and I, 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. Besides, it’s something they will be able to pass down to their kids.
That all being said, we bought the Kimber Micro 9 for her. MSRP was $1,061 but she is worth it and we wanted her protected. I took it to her dad, who is a shooter and re-loader, for him to check it out. Unlike the Super Ultra+ that Hunter has, my grandson, he couldn’t really take it to the range and test it because there was less grip area for his big hands to handle it properly. He said, “It is really a nice-looking gun and I like the size and balance for her, but I am more concerned with how it shoots. We’ll find out when we take her to the range and also check out how easy it is for her to carry.”
The Micro 9 measures a little over 6 inches in length and 4 inches in height. It is constructed with an aluminum frame and a steel slide, so it weighs in at a little less that a pound with an empty magazine. That should make it easy to carry for her but my worry, like her dad’s, was how was it going to do at the range. Generally, a gun that’s easy to carry is harder to shoot well because of excessive recoil and less grip to hold on to.
I think she knew she was going to get it but she just didn’t know when. Grandma and I went over to their house on Christmas day and brought a present we said we had forgot to give her when they were over for Christmas Eve. When she unwrapped it, her smile and the twinkling in her eyes made it all worthwhile. The hugs helped a lot too! I think we all agreed that the Micro 9 was a special gift for a very special young lady.
A few days later her and Dad went to the shooting range and made a memory. Here are my some of her comments after handling, concealing, and carrying her new pistol, plus taking it to the range:
“Overall I enjoyed shooting it and the accuracy was really good.”
“The front and rear sight made it easy to get on the target.”
“I felt very little recoil, so my hand wasn’t sore at all after a lot of rounds.”
“The side of the slide has a textured treatment that is very easy to grip.”
“I am anxious to try the night sights.”
“If I give papaw a hug he might get me the Crimson Trace grips for it.”
We still haven’t talked her mom and grandma into getting a Kimber, but they still carry their Kimber Pepper Blaster II spray. Thank goodness they haven’t had to ever use it, but it’s always there if they need to. It will shoot up to 13 feet and disable an attacker for up to 45 minutes. You can learn more about it by clicking on https://youtube/1b2ZRbZfWUQ.
While his kids are away in school, Dad finds time to go to his reloading area to reload 9mm and .45 ACP ammunition. As he does, he smiles and a tear comes to the corner of his eye as he thinks about Anna and Hunter, and how blessed he and his wife LaVay are. He looks forward to when his kids come home again from school and they go back to the shooting range.
New hunting land…I saw 33 deer on one day, 57 deer on another day, here’s how.
Controlling your body odor is critical, there is only one good way, most critical.
Trail cam’s that talk with remote pictures can help us map out deer kill zones.
By Larry Whiteley
You are probably thinking why in the world would I be writing about deer hunting in March? Yes, deer season is over. It won’t be here again for another 7 long months, but I will tell you like I have told others, “I like my fishing. I enjoy camping. I delight in my time on hiking trails. I savor my time on the water in boat, canoe or kayak, but I absolutely love hunting and especially deer hunting.” Also, I want to share some things with you that could greatly improve your deer hunting this year, but you need to be doing them right now!
Late winter/early spring is a great time of year to get out and scout for deer while you look for shed antlers and maybe some early morel mushrooms too.
You can safely roam every inch of your hunting grounds and not worry if you spook a deer or two since you won’t be hunting them again until at least September. Check every nook and cranny searching for tracks, rubs, trails, and scrapes you missed this past season. Enter all that you find on your onX app, then study them to put together the innermost pieces of the puzzle. You don’t have an onX app? My grandson (from the age that knows handheld help) feels it is the most useful hunting app available. Go to https://www.onxmaps.com and see what all this app can do. You’ll be ahead of the game come fall because whitetails are notoriously habitual creatures that follow the same general movement patterns year after year.
Since the trees are still bare, it’s a good time to identify new places for stands, then go ahead and hang them. If you find that big buck’s shed, you will know he is probably going to be around again come hunting season. You can also put out food or minerals if it is allowed in your area. Put game cameras out too and start watching for deer pictures on your smartphone or computer. It’s a lot cooler now than waiting for summer to do it and the scent you left will be long gone before hunting season.
Speaking of scent. Few animals have a better sense of smell than the whitetail deer. Their senses of sight and hearing are important, but their nose is their best protection. They can detect odors much better and from considerably longer distances than us humans. A big part of their brain is devoted to odor reception and interpretation. Their nasal chamber can even concentrate odors so they are more identifiable. They not only identify the source of the smell, but also the approximate distance and location/direction of the smell.
The number one thing that can keep you from getting a deer is their sense of smell. So, when you’re out there hunting deer, it makes the most sense to do everything possible to keep from alerting them to your presence in their home. Way before this past deer season, my grandson and I started doing research on that very question. He is a senior in college majoring in wildlife management and did summer intern work with one of the best deer biologists in America. He learned a lot about a deer’s sense of smell, how it works and what you can do to keep them from smelling you. I attended seminars at outdoor writer conferences and did a lot of research on the internet trying to determine the best products to use to keep them from smelling us.
All of that is exactly why the Whiteley family decided to be a ScentLok family. My grandson could explain to you why and what they do to their clothing that really works. You can also go to https://www.scentlok.com/ to learn all about it. I just know it does! To seal the deal, in 2012, a Minnesota lawsuit filed by some hunters saying it didn’t work was dismissed after expert testing found that, using highly elevated test odor concentrations that were ‘likely ten thousandfold greater than a human body could produce in the course of 24 hours,’ ScentLok clothing fabrics blocked 96-99% of the odor compounds, and essentially 100 percent of body odor compounds tested. The expert testing also found that after drying, or washing and drying, ScentLok fabrics continued to be highly effective at blocking odors.” In other words, ScentLok gets as close to scent invisibility as a hunter can get.
All my deer hunting family wore ScentLok clothing and used their other products this past deer season. Our opinion is that if you take care to eliminate your scent by showering with no scent soap, use no scent detergent, wear a headcover, use no scent spray on all your equipment including stands and blinds, plus use ScentLok storage systems in combination with their OZ ozone systems, the results are measurable in pounds of venison and antler size. To wear your ScentLok clothes, reactivate them in your dryer, watch the wind direction and steady your aim. Very effective. You’ll need to choose the deer you take down, you’ll see that many more.
Now, even if you do all that and then get out of bed, just throw your clothes on and hop in the truck or get on an ATV, chances are a deer will know you are there. If you smoke, chew or eat on the way over plus leave scent on your way in and then climb into your stand or blind, then nothing is going to work. You are not going to magically disappear just because you have ScentLok clothing on if you don’t do everything right, as explained earlier.
ScentLok clothes will do their job, but it is up to you to do all the above plus not make noises they will hear or movement they will see. My son and I can both testify we heard the dreadful sound of deer blowing at us and saw their white flags as they ran away. It was their sight and hearing that got us back then, not their nose.
This past early archery season, I was hunting in a new stand on a new property and saw 33 deer. Not one of them had any idea I was there. The next weekend in another new stand, I saw 57 deer coming from every direction possible. None of them caught my scent. My son and I hunted two different Missouri properties all through the different deer seasons. My grandson and future granddaughter-in-law hunted property in Kansas. All of us can honestly say we never had a deer smell us no matter where we were at.
No, we did not get any of the big bucks we saw while we were out there or had pictures on our game cameras. Their time is coming though. We passed on several nice bucks but decided to give them a heartbeat for another year. We did take several does to help get the doe to buck ratio in better balance and fill our freezers until next season. The steaks, burger, summer sausage, jerky and snack sticks will be enjoyed all year.
We will also be wearing our ScentLok come early turkey season in a few more weeks. Not that we’re worried about turkeys busting us with their nose, but their clothing is so comfortable, quiet and well-made it is not just for deer season. None of us are on ScentLok’s payroll, but we can honestly tell you we have tried many things to control our scent and there is nothing better. That’s why we are and always will be a ScentLok family. Start getting ready and start shopping right now!
As responsible sportsmen, we need to share our outdoor skills with more kids
As Christians, we need to consider our choices in order to bring kids closer to life through the outdoors
As neighbors to each other, let’s take the extra time to help kids find fun away from electronics and TV
By Larry Whiteley
Our kids today are growing up in a broken world.
All you have to do is turn on the TV and watch the news to know that. When all they talk about is shootings, rapes, drug busts and crooked politicians, it’s depressing.
It’s the same for newspapers.
Most TV shows and movies aren’t worth watching for kids or adults. The majority are filled with sex, drugs, and killing. Take time to watch some of the electronic games kids are playing today. They get points and win by how many people they shoot. Some of the things on the internet and all the other social media aren’t much better. Guns get the blame for all the shootings in America, but where do they think people develop those ideas from?
One of the reasons kids are caught up in our electronics world is they are not actively involved in the great outdoors. Their parents are too busy trying to make a living or the kids are growing up in single-parent families.
There is no one to help them discover the thrill of a fish tugging at their line, to know what it’s like seeing a deer sneak through the woods, to paddle a canoe across a lake or just sit around a campfire watching the flames dance and flicker. More importantly, they are growing up not knowing who created it for all for us to enjoy.
There is hope though. Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) is working to change all that. They are providing opportunities to get kids outdoors and away from all the electronics and online diversions. CTO teaches them about our American hunting and fishing heritage, while at the same time sharing their faith. That is a combination that can change kids’ lives for the better.
“We want kids to know that life is different than what they see on TV, in the movies or on video games,” stated CTO Missouri State Director Kirk Bouse. “There’s a wonderful life out there in God’s creation and we strive to guide the next generation to Christ through the outdoors.”
CTO is an independent, inter-denominational ministry primarily for boys ages 7-20, offering a wide range of year-round outdoor activities. There are also opportunities for families and girls to participate in such outdoor endeavors, depending on the outfitter and volunteers available within a chapter. “CTO is about building relationships,” Bouse continued. “We teach, mentor and disciple kids through life circumstances while also working at preserving our hunting and fishing heritage.”
They continually offer hunting and fishing opportunities of all kinds, skills training sessions, fun shoots, community service projects, summer camps and a whole lot more. CTO Summer Camps are the ultimate adventure. Can you imagine a week of pure fun activities for these kids like learning to accurately shoot a rifle or bow, hunting or catching big fish? All CTO summer camps feature hands-on, in-the-field instruction from a wide range of outdoor experts. They learn all kinds of outdoor skills through meaningful lessons, they learn Bible truths and they have campfire discussions about life and our Creator.
So, have I got your interest in CTO? The first thing you need to do is go to www.teamcto.org and contact a chapter near you to get your child or grandchild involved.
There are currently CTO chapters and events in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Start by contacting your local outfitter. If there’s not a local outfitter, contact the state director. They will get you specific information on getting involved. Sign-up for a chapter or e-newsletter to receive updates about upcoming events and activities where you live (pick a state). Many of the chapters have a Facebook page and you can find links to their events by going to the local chapter’s page on the Facebook site.
If there is not a chapter near you, CTO will be glad to talk with you about starting one and train you on hos to do it. It’s a great project for churches and civic groups, as well. Bouse said, “My calling in life is to change lives by sharing the love of Jesus Christ through Cross Trail Outfitters and the great outdoors.” It could be your calling too.
There are many opportunities for you to get involved in chapters. You can participate in regular CTO events like Sportsmen’s Night, Family Night, summer camps and a variety of outdoor outings as well as community projects. Once involved, you might work directly with the kids as a Host Guide. You could serve on the prayer, fundraising or communications teams. If you love hunting and fishing or even if you don’t, but you love the Lord, there is no better place to serve.
Without the support of good people who are willing to donate time or help with financial assistance – it all adds up, CTO may not continue its mission. They never turn a child away due to financial limitations. That’s only possible through donations from all of us. I can’t think of a better tax deduction.
If you are a landowner there is another way you can help. To conduct weekend outings or camps, CTO works with landowners who are willing to provide their land for activities that may include hunting, fishing, and other outdoor events.
May the words of this mom touch your heart and get you or your kids, or both, involved with CTO. The mom, Heather, said to me, “If you are considering CTO, absolutely do it! Kids can never have too many Godly men mentoring and guiding them. If you are a man who loves the Lord, who is equipped to help, then ABSOLUTELY do it! Those gifts of yours are meant to be shared. You WILL make a difference… a real difference…in lives. There are so many boys who are lacking solid men in their lives and you could be the one who changed the course. Even if it’s just one.”
Can you possibly imagine what could happen in this broken world with our nation’s kids if CTO was available to them all across America?
Is that the haunting howl of the wolf or the call of a loon?
Can you ever forget that buck grunt in a November woods or a turkey gobble on a spring morning?
The sounds of nature are everywhere in the wild if we just take the time to listen.
By Larry Whiteley
There are some sounds in the great outdoors that you hear and they touch your soul. You don’t have to see what made the sound because when you hear it, you instantly see it in your mind. You may even hear them and see them as you read these words.
To some, the bugle of an elk is like that and so is the haunting howl of the wolf or the call of a loon. It might even be a cougar’s throaty growl or the gruff huff of a grizzly or black bear. Those of us who don’t live where these animals live, rarely if ever, get to hear these sounds in the wild unless we travel to where they are but if we do, they linger in our memories. Can you hear them?
Most of us have sounds in nature that stir us. A buck grunt in a November woods, the sound of a majestic eagle flying over a quiet lake or a turkey gobble on a spring morning. It could be the kingfisher’s rattling call as he flies up and down the creek or a coyote yelp.
Maybe it’s the quacking of ducks or honking of geese as they settle onto the water. The drumming sound of a woodpecker trying to attract a mate, the booming sounds of prairie chickens during their mating ritual and maybe the strange music of a woodcock doing his sky dance trying to impress the ladies too. Some of us hope that one day we will once again hear the sound of the bobwhite quail. Can you hear them?
Songbirds also add to nature’s chorus. Chickadee’s sing “chick-a-dee-dee-dee,” the cardinal’s join them with their “purdy-purdy-purdy” and the robin’s whistling “cheerup-cheery-cheerio-cheerup” are joined by the tweets and whistles of all their friends. The squeal of a hawk can silence the bird music and get the squirrels barking an alarm to their buddies.
Owls ask us “who, who, who cooks for you.” Crows, “caw-caw-caw,” and then caw some more. The sound of peeper frogs or a whip-poor-will means spring is finally here. The flapping sound of hummingbird wings and their distinctive chirp will soon follow. The rhythmic choruses of katydids can be so loud that they drown out nearly all other sounds. Tree Crickets are known as the thermometer cricket because you can count the number of its high-pitched musical chirps in 15 seconds and add 40 to calculate the outdoor temperature in Fahrenheit. Believe me, it works!
The sounds of nature are everywhere in the wild if we just take the time to listen and it’s not only from the animals and birds. A rush of wind through the treetops, the rattling of dried fall leaves in a breeze and the sound of crunching leaves as something nears your secret hiding place. Booming thunder, the crack of lightning and rain dripping on a tent or the popping and crackling of a campfire. A stream tumbling over rocks and the soothing sounds of a waterfall small or big are music to the ears. To some, it is the ocean waves crashing onto a sandy beach. To others it may be the “plip-plop, plip-plop” sound of a jitterbug gurgling across the water followed by the loud splash of a big bass rising out of the water to engulf it.
Nature sounds not only soothe our souls but they are also suitable for our mind and body. Researchers say there is a scientific explanation for why sounds from nature have such a restorative effect on us. According to a study, they physically alter the connections in our brains to keep other thoughts out and the sounds even lower our heart rate. The exercise we get going to and from our listening places is an added benefit.
You’re not likely to hear or for that matter see wildlife unless you force yourself to just sit still. We hike, we hunt, we fish, we camp, we canoe, we are continually on the move when in the great outdoors and not very quietly. We also carry with us the baggage of everyday worries, what’s on the news, bills to be paid and work to be done.
You have to block all that out. Remaining still and quiet and actually paying attention to the sounds of nature is what is essential. But that doesn’t come easy. You can’t just stop, listen for a few minutes and then move on. You have to settle down and tune into the sounds around you.
Those of us who sit in a treestand and a turkey or duck blind usually have no problem doing that because we have to if we want to be successful. If you wish to go out and listen to nature sounds though I suggest you find a fallen tree, a stump or a big rock. Make a comfortable cushion of leaves, pine needles or take along some kind of pad and sit down. Now, don’t do anything but relax. Don’t let restlessness or thoughts of other matters creep back into your mind. Stay relaxed and breathe slow and easy. If you remain still the wildlife around you will forget you are even there. Soon enough the sounds of the wild will return.
The real art in listening to nature is not so much hearing the sounds of life in the woods as it is in identifying them. Listening carefully to nature sounds and learning what makes that sound can help you begin to distinguish one sound from another and that gives you a greater appreciation for what you’re hearing. The digital age has made it easier than ever to school yourself in Nature Sounds. Although this and other aids may be able to help, there’s no substitute for firsthand experience. It’s not just an ability to identify sounds, but also an understanding of their meanings, that will come to you when you spend time listening carefully.
Yes, you can download and listen to nature sounds on your computer, tablet or smartphone. I listen to nature sounds accompanied by the melodic sounds of the Native American flute as I drive down the road in my truck. If it is a cold, nasty day not fit for man nor beast I will put my headphones on and drift off to sleep listening to the sounds of nature. That is all good too but it does not replace actually being out there in the great outdoors and being stirred by the sounds of nature that call us back to the wild.
As kids, we would check down the outhouse hole for snakes and spiders before sitting down
We drank cow milk from our cow, then churned the cream into butter
I rode my imaginary horse through the fields and climbed the hills in search of adventure
By Larry Whiteley
My early years were spent on grandma and grandpa’s farm.
If you needed to go to the bathroom you walked 20 yards down a path to a little building that was outside the house and had no deodorizer. Toilet paper was usually the pages of old Sears and Roebuck catalogs and you always checked down the hole for snakes and spiders before sitting down to do your duty.
Kerosene lanterns or candles lit the night because there was no electricity.
There was no TV or phones back then either.
Water came from a bucket we carried from the spring which also served as a refrigerator.
Hauling hay for the animals was done with a pitchfork and a horse-drawn wagon. We slopped hogs and butchered them ourselves, and hung them in the smokehouse.
Milking cows was done by hand with a bucket and a stool. We drank the milk and churned the cow cream into butter.
Chickens were raised for their meat and eggs. I can still remember grandma wringing a chicken’s neck and watching it flop around. I can still smell the aroma of wet feathers as they were dipped in a bucket of boiling water to help make the plucking of feathers a whole lot easier.
Grandma cooked on a wood-burning stove. Everything we ate was grown or made on the farm.
We hunted and fished, not for fun, but to survive.
Even at a young age my little single-shot .22 sometimes meant the difference between having a supper of squirrel or rabbit, or going hungry. A mess of bluegill caught with my cane pole and a worm was a special treat.
We picked wild fruits like blackberries and gooseberries and gathered nuts. There were no supermarkets or fancy restaurants in those days.
There was no depending on the government to take care of us. There were no food lines and handouts for those in need. We took care of ourselves and worked hard. We struggled, but we were proud of who we were, what we had and what we accomplished. It helped mold me into the person I became.
As a kid, besides hunting and fishing and working around the farm, my time was spent exploring the fields and forests. I climbed trees and rested in the comforting arms of their limbs, carved my initials in them and daydreamed.
I imagined Indians hiding behind them waiting to attack me, rode my imaginary horse through the fields and climbed the hills in search of adventure. I camped out under the stars on summer nights. I captured lightning bugs and put them in a Mason jar with holes in the lid. I can still see all that in my mind’s eye and feel them in my heart. I am a writer today because of it.
As I got older, grandpa let me hunt turkeys and quail with his old shotgun. He even taught me how to use his old muzzleloader rifle so I could hunt what few deer were around back then.
Grandpa surprised me one year with an old baitcasting rod and reel he traded for with a neighbor. Along with it came a rusted metal tackle box with some funny looking lures and I became a “real” fisherman.
A love for God’s great outdoors was planted deep in my soul.
A lot of years have passed since my days of childhood and, yes, things have changed. I know my kids and grandkids have a hard time believing the stories I tell them of growing up on the farm. They don’t think anything about it when they flip a switch and a light comes on, or turn a handle and water comes out. They sure don’t think about it when they flush a toilet but I do!
I sit at my desk writing this on a computer that corrects my spelling and grammar. It stores all the articles I write, helps me do research, sends and receives messages and I could keep going on because the list is endless.
My thoughts are interrupted by the morning news on the TV in my office. I have it on, not to watch all the bad news, but to check the weather forecast for an upcoming hunting trip with my son. I grab the remote and click the off button. If I want to know the weather, I can find that out on my computer or my “smart” phone without listening to negative news and commercials.
Out in my garage and barn is all the latest and greatest hunting, fishing and camping “stuff”. We have a bass boat with the newest electronics that do everything but hook the fish. There’s a duck boat, ATVs and a 4-wheel drive truck to haul it all. My grandpa wouldn’t believe how things have changed.
I sit back in my chair for a moment and see memories on every wall. Fish, ducks, deer and turkey fans from some of my outdoor adventures. Antique outdoor equipment is also scattered about the room. Grandpa’s old rusted muzzleloader sits in a corner and so does his old fishing rod and tackle box. His old shotgun is in the gun safe next to my single-shot .22 rifle.
On all the walls are pictures of kids and grandkids. Most of them are of their first fish or deer, and times spent together with them in the outdoors.
Among all the pictures and directly in front of me, as I look up from writing, is an old picture of grandpa and grandma’s farmhouse where I grew up and where I was born on a Christmas Day. There weren’t many hospitals back then either.
Some folks might say grandma and I have spoiled our kids and grandkids. We have helped make sure they had the latest in electronics, clothing and anything else they needed for today’s world. We have helped with vehicles and assisted with college. They have all the latest in outdoor gear. We don’t call it spoiling though, we call it making investments in the lives of good kids. They work, they get good grades and the kids are not into some of the bad things a lot of kids are doing today. We tell them we wouldn’t be doing what we do for them if they weren’t good kids.
Most of our investments though are re-lived in the pictures on the walls. In case you don’t know it, kids spell love with these letters: T.I.M.E. We gave them plenty of that too and still do. Our time investment has been taking them on lots of outdoor adventures throughout their lives. I have no doubt they will be doing the same with their kids and grandkids.
My grandpa invested in me too. He gave me as much time as he could while trying to survive on that old farm. Maybe our grandkids will have fond memories of us like I have fond memories of my grandma and grandpa from a time long ago, back when things were a whole lot different than they are today.
Things certainly have changed, but time investment in kids’ is still the most important thing you can do to make a difference in their lives.
Camping, RVs and Outdoor Recreation in Branson, Missouri
Fishing, Hiking, Swimming, Boating
Peace, Quiet, the Smell of a Campfire & Sweet, Scrumptious S’Mores
By Larry Whiteley
Enjoy the great outdoors on a camping trip to Branson in 2020. From campsites to hiking trails, find out everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable family excursion. Fresh air, a cozy campfire, the sweet taste of s’mores — there’s no better way to enjoy a weekend getaway than camping in Branson. Add to those attributes, the beautiful natural surroundings of the Ozarks and you’ve got yourself one awesome outdoor adventure.
One of Branson’s most popular camping destinations is Table Rock Lake, which features two campgrounds – Viney Creek Recreation Area and Table Rock Lake Campground. Trails around Table Rock State Park provide a great environment to explore the outdoors. Trails of varying lengths are open to hiking and biking, while the popular Table Rock Lake is one of Missouri’s top fishing destinations. The marina also has plenty of options for boat and equipment rentals and nearly 800 miles of shoreline to enjoy.
Or, pack up and plan a getaway any time of the year in one of Branson’s family-oriented RV Parks and Campgrounds. Enjoy the convenience of Wi-Fi at most facilities, plus pack up the pets as most are pet-friendly too. Several are Good Sam award-winners and are often featured in Trailer Life magazine. Branson is the place to spend quality time together with the comforts of a full-service 20/30/50-amp RV site or to unplug and reconnect with your family near one of our beautiful lakes.
Of course, there’s more to camping than just pitching a tent and stoking the fire. A great camping trip includes exploring hiking trails, a little fishing and did we already mention s’mores?
The Branson/Lakes Area features more than 200 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Also, the high-tech sport of geocaching is alive and well in the Ozarks, with dozens of caches hidden throughout the terrain.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park provides the perfect setting for many activities including fishing, hiking, biking or taking a historical tram tour. Covering 10,000 acres of pristine Ozark Mountain landscape, the park has miles of crystal-clear trout streams, cascading waterfalls, ancient burial caves, unique hand-built bridges, and bottomless, blue-green pools.
The Branson Zipline Canopy Tours at Wolfe Creek Preserve offers authentic eco-adventures in the Ozark Mountains. The thrilling options include a variety of guided canopy tours with treks across numerous zip lines, sky bridges, and platforms.
The Shepherd of the Hills Vigilante ZipRider is an exciting thrill ride launching from the open-air deck of the 230-foot Inspiration Tower. This ride whisks guests on an adrenaline-pumping downhill adventure over The Shepherd of the Hills’ 160-acre homestead. Coasting along at speeds of up to 50 mph, it’s a ride that you’ll remember for years to come.
The Branson/Lakes Area has three pristine lakes – Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals, with hundreds of miles of natural shoreline. The lakes’ waters never freeze, welcoming activities year-round. Water sports enthusiasts can swim, water ski, wakeboard, tube, boat, sail, scuba dive, Jet Ski, parasail, kayak, and fish.
Kayaking, hydro-biking and stand-up paddleboarding are amazing ways to get out on the water. Options can be found with Kayak Branson, White River Kayaking, 38 Paddle Co. and Main Street Marina on Lake Taneycomo.
Table Rock Lake is accessible from multiple public and privately-owned locations just minutes west of Branson. Many enjoy this lake through a variety of activity options including boat rentals, wave runner rentals, the Spirit of America catamaran cruise for up to 50 people, as well as lunch and dinner cruises aboard the Showboat Branson Belle.
Lake Taneycomo’s water comes from the bottom of Table Rock Lake, making it a cold-water lake. The pristine, clear water, is stocked annually with approximately 750,000 rainbow trout, making it a world-class trout fishery. This lake is also perfect for kayaking.
Whether you’re on a cross-country road trip or headed for the Ozarks, Branson and its surrounding area are the perfect place to park your tent or RV. Enjoy the waterfront beauty and water activities at Bull Shoals Lake and Table Rock Lake. Or stay in the quiet woodlands of nearby state parks. With 50-amp service and campfire rings, along with the proximity of so many great shows and attractions, it’s little wonder Branson is one of America’s favorite camping destinations.
Come for the outdoor experience and go back home with lots of great memories
Christmas is almost here! If you’re still shopping for a gift for someone who loves to get out and enjoy all kinds of activities in our great outdoors, here are some items that my family and I personally use and highly recommend as Christmas gifts.
Binoculars are invaluable for anyone who gets out and enjoys our great outdoors. I don’t go anywhere without them and even have a binocular holder mounted in my truck, so they are handy whenever I need them.
For the past four months, the binocular that has been with me everywhere I go is German Precision Optics (GPO) Passion 10×42 HD binocular. I am very pleased with how clear and easy to focus they are compared to those binoculars I have used that sell for much more.
They also have what they call their Spectacular Lifetime Warranty™ and will take care of their products at no charge to you, ever. They are headquartered in Richmond, VA and you can find out more about all their products by going to www.gpo-usa.com.
Another idea is a really good boot that they can use for every kind of outdoor activity. To me, personally, there are none better than LOWA. They have been 100% handcrafted in Europe since 1923 and I am impressed with their quality.
I wear their Renegade GTX® Mid and their Zephyr GTX Hi TF®, and both are by far the most comfortable, lightweight, and durable of any boots I have ever owned and I’ve owned a bunch of boots. They’ve also got a new men’s leather boot called the Nabucco Evo GTX that you might want to check out. It’s a rugged cold weather model that’s great for everyday use, on the hiking trail, camping adventures, and in the woods or fields after a deer or turkey. MSRP on this boot is $260 and that’s a great buy considering the quality you get with LOWA boots. Go to www.lowaboots.com to see their selection of boots for yourself.
While you are on their site, read about their social commitment, how they treat their employees, what they do for the environment and nature protection as well as the non-profit groups they support. If you are like me and finding out what else a company is doing besides manufacturing and selling products is important to you, then you are going to like what you read about LOWA.
HUNTER SAFETY SYSTEMS
If the person on your list is a deer hunter and you want to show them how much you care about them, this is a gift that will make sure they are around to enjoy many more Christmas days for years to come.
Get them a Hunter Safety Systems tree stand harness, which will cost you from $60 to $140 and a Lifeline for every tree stand they have.
The Lifeline starts at $39.95. That is a small price to pay to ensure they come back home after every deer hunt.
Their gift to you then can be a promise that they will always use them when getting into and out of a tree stand.
Trail cameras are an important tool for every serious hunter. There are hundreds to choose from on the market but we did our research and went with Cuddeback and we are sure glad we did.
We use their CuddeLink system, which is a proprietary wireless mesh network. It allows from 1 to 15 cameras to communicate with each other and transmits images from remote cameras to a home image collection camera. It has been invaluable to us this deer season in helping us to know where deer are moving through and for inventorying bucks. They can also work as a security system around the hunting cabin or house. Go to https://www.cuddeback.com/cuddelink
and learn how it works.
This is the one gift that no matter if you or your friends hunt, fish, hike, camp or anything else outdoors, they can use this and they will love it. It is the most useful app they might ever own. My grandson used it on a couple of our new hunting properties this year and it helped him figure everything out. This app can also be used for a lot more than hunting.
The onX Hunt App is a mapping application to download onto an iPhone, iPad or Android device and this app turns the phone into a handheld GPS unit that works with or without cell service. Their Elite Membership is $99.99 a year and covers the entire nation. It includes access to onX’s proprietary basemaps, property lines, landowner information, GPS Mapping Tools (Waypoints, tracking, line distances, area measures, and more), Wind and Weather, Offline Map capabilities, Sharing capabilities and many additional Layers. You can also get it for one state only at $29.99 a year. They will also get a 7-day free trial and they have a great customer service department that is very helpful.
I would bet that the outdoor enthusiast on your gift list has lots of knives, but if they are like me, they can always use another one and especially one like this.
As outdoor folks, you know this, we are always needing a good sharp knife, and they don’t get much sharper than this one.
Here’s a true story for you from this year’s deer season. I had shot a deer with my crossbow during archery season and was preparing to field dress it. I dug through my pack and found a bone saw but had neglected to make sure my other field dressing knives were in there. As I dug deeper, I found a small Outdoor Edge RazorLite EDC clip pocket knife that truthfully I had never used much. It was as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel and I was able to field dress that deer and another deer during firearms season faster and cleaner than any knife I had ever used. I am now a believer in and have ordered their RazorPro™ Saw Combo that will always be in my pack. Outdoor Edge’s Razor-Lite Series of knives are the sharpest, strongest replacement razor-blade knives available, with safe and easy blade changes at the push of a button. Outdoor Edge has a lot of other great knives and tools and you can browse their entire selection at www.outdooredge.com.
With the holiday season in full swing, there is no better way to save money (and time) on your shopping this season than browsing the online Holiday Sportsman Show. This show is completely digital and can be accessed on your time in the comfort of your home. For those already familiar with outdoor trade shows, it’s easy to understand the value that attending these types of exchanges can provide. Now you have the opportunity to save thousands at a sportsman show while shopping directly from the comfort of your home.
Save thousands of dollars in your favorite outdoor brands
Shop from the comfort of your home
Save on time and gas expenses
Allow you to find hundreds of brands with the click of a mouse
Shop during your own time; whether midday or midnight
Support non-profit veteran, conservation, and youth groups
Best of all, the online Holiday Sportsman Show is open 24 hours a day, 57 days out of the year, at holiday time. This virtual experience even gives you that fun, sportsman show atmosphere. Finally, when shopping from home, you don’t have the lines, crowds, travel time, parking or gas expenses that you would by attending a traditional show. Instead, you can easily purchase gifts for your friends and family, and spend that time making memories with them instead.
Of course, the biggest benefit of the online Holiday Sportsman Show is saving money and time when shopping for outdoor gifts. Each vendor offers individual savings shown at their storefront. Not only do you save by shopping the show, but you have access to even more savings when you purchase the Discount Coupon book (more details below).
A few examples of exceptional savings you receive include:
Outdoor Edge (Knives and cutlery for outdoor use): 30% OFF and FREE SHIPPING
Dardevle (Famous for catching big fish): $10 off $50 or more purchase
JAKT Jewelry (Outdoor themed jewelry): 10% Off Any Order + FREE Shipping + FREE GIFT BOX.
Lure Lock (Innovative tackle storage): 30% off any Lure Lock purchase
These are just a few of the many outdoor deals available at the online Holiday Sportsman show. By investing in the $15 coupon book, you not only have the opportunity to save thousands in outdoor purchases but are helping support some of your favorite non-profit groups as well.
Long gone are the days you have to individually search each brand for their holiday specials. Instead, the Holiday Sportsman Show makes it simple by having each brand, and their holiday specials, in one place. All storefronts are neatly organized by category, making finding your product easy. As a consumer, you can even digitally browse the isles, much like you would in person. With each vendor’s booth informatively displayed, you can quickly navigate to their storefront and browse their featured products. Having all of these brands in one place makes online shopping simple, helping you save valuable time and money.
With the Holiday Sportsman show, you also get to shop the show at your time and your way. Whether you need to shop at noon or at midnight, the show is open for your convenience. Not only do you save time by not having to invest in travel distance, but you also save money on gas. Having all of these brands under one roof is the quickest and most efficient way to find that perfect outdoor gift.
Not only can you save thousands in outdoor discounts, but you can also support veteran, conservation, and youth groups by purchasing one of the Discount Coupon Books. Supporting deserving groups such as these is just one of the many reasons that the online holiday sportsman show is the perfect place for outdoor holiday shopping.
Attending the online Holiday Sportsman Show is a breeze. Start by visiting https://holidaysportsmanshow.com. This will redirect you to our website homepage, also known as the Lobby. Then you will notice that the Lobby is broken down into three clickable sections. These are:
Locations: Where you can browse the different vendor’s display
Discount Coupons: As previously mentioned, this is where you can find coupons that will save you extra money at each vendor
My Shopping List: Where you can save your favorite products while you browse the show.
Start at The Lobby
Immediately upon entering holidaysportsmanshow.com, you will be redirected to the show’s virtual lobby. This will give you access to multiple features including the vendors, discounts, and even a My Favorites list where you can save your favorite items as you browse. With these three simple tabs, navigating the show is easy and its virtual storefront makes online shopping a breeze. Below we breakdown each tab, and how you can easily navigate and utilize the show to discover the best outdoor deals this holiday season.
Use the Locations Tab
To access the show’s vendors, click on Locations located on the right-hand side of the lobby. This will bring you to a category list, allowing you to choose between hunting, fishing, gifts and outdoor travel. From here, it’s up to you to select a category relative to your interest. By browsing each of these locations, you can find products from the brands you love, and discover new brands that might have the perfect gift (or experience) you are looking for. Each of these locations also acts as a virtual hall – making the browsing experience enjoyable. Ultimately, the Locations tab is easy to navigate, giving you convenient access to hundreds of outdoor brands.
Visit the Vendor Storefront
Once you’ve browsed the virtual halls, you can click on a brand to explore what they have to offer. The brand’s packages and features are in an easy to view display – where you will find exactly the information you need to make an informed purchase.
Add Discount Coupons To Save More
At the bottom of the lobby, you will find the Discount Coupons tab. This is where you can unlock thousands of dollars in savings on your favorite outdoor gear while helping support non-profit youth, veterans, and outdoors groups.
Finally, purchasing this book is quick and secure. All you need to do is click on “PayPal Checkout” where PayPal will securely handle the transaction, encrypting your personal information and allowing you to purchase the book quickly and easily at the convenience of your home. These coupons can be redeemed instantaneously at any of the individual vendor’s online stores.
My Shopping List
Finally, on the left-hand side of the lobby, there is a My Shopping List that can help you save your favorite products as you browse the show. To access the My Shopping Listyou will need to enter your email. A link will then be sent, redirecting you back to the show – where you can quickly and easily save your favorite products as you browse.
Slime is a green tire repair product to keep you on the road
Slime is non-toxic, non-hazardous, free of carcinogens, and non-ozone depleting
Slime products make great gifts, they last for years in storage
By Larry Whiteley
Halloween’s not even here yet and Thanksgiving is still over a month away but when you walk into some big-box retailers the Christmas decorations are already out and have been for a while. Don’t wait until someone gives you a Christmas gift. Go buy yourself a gift that you could really use right now! You deserve it don’t you?
Between now and Christmas you’re going to be driving your vehicle a lot to go fall fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, hunting, trick or treating, Thanksgiving get-togethers, and even Christmas shopping. You are probably going to be using your lawnmower for a lot of fall clean-up around the house. If you are a farmer or rancher that tractor is going to get a lot of use. If you’re a deer hunter you’re also going to be using your ATV or UTV a lot. Does your utility trailer, boat trailer or your truck have a good spare? Did you know that one in three cars do not even have a spare?
If you have a flat, AAA or some other kind of road service will come to take care of it but they are not cheap. You can also call a good friend or family member or do-it-yourself but that can take a lot of time when you could be working or enjoying the great outdoors. Or, you could make sure you always have Slime Prevent and Repair Tire Sealant with you.
If you can say that you have never had a flat count yourself very lucky because odds are you will someday. As someone that has had numerous flats during my lifetime, I never go anywhere without having my Slime with me in my truck, boat, and ATV. I even keep some in my barn and garage in case I need it.
Slime has been in business for over 30 years. It is a bright green, thick liquid that coats the inside of a tire as it rotates. When your tire gets a puncture, the escaping air pulls the Slime tire sealant toward the hole, where physical particles and fibers build up and intertwine to form a long-lasting, flexible plug.
Slime tire sealant continuously seals for two years, stops slow leaks and includes non-corrosive properties to keep your wheels safe. It is also great for not only repairing but also preventing flat tires on almost everything you use.
Besides having several bottles of their sealant I also have several of their tire compressors, tire repair kits, and tire gauges. I have used them all and they are great products that last a long time.
I also can’t say enough about their customer service people. One of my Slime air compressors was several years old and the air tube had deteriorated and fell apart. I called customer service to see if I could buy a replacement and got a very nice lady who understood what I needed and sent me one at no charge. When I received it, it was the wrong one, so I called again and got the same lady who apologized and sent the one I needed. That ladies and gentlemen is great customer service!
Slime’s green color is not the only thing that is green about them. They are also dedicated to creating green products that are safe for the consumer, safe for the tire, and safe for the environment. Every year, 27 million scrap tires end up in landfills. Using their tire repair products to repair a flat enable a tire to be cleaned, professionally repaired and remain in use rather than tossed in a landfill.
Their sealant formulas are environmentally friendly and wash up easily with water. They are non-toxic, non-hazardous, free of carcinogens and non-ozone depleting. They even contain chunks of recycled rubber, further reducing tires in landfills.
Slime products may not be the gift you had in mind when you started reading this article. It may not be a gift you can use right now or you ever thought about giving as a Christmas present but it is a gift that will always be there when you or they need it and someday you or they will.
I am thinking about telling my wife I got her something for Christmas that is a beautiful color of green, is something she will love and is very valuable. You don’t suppose she will think she is getting an emerald ring or necklace do you?
I was working on a turkey fan mount in my workshop this past spring when I suddenly heard the sound of a turkey hen talking to me. I jumped and for a slight moment, I thought it was a hen coming to get me because I had taken her boyfriend away – but it was just my smartphone. It makes that sound when I receive a text and a turkey gobble when someone is calling. The text was from our youngest grandson Sam, in Wisconsin. It read, “Do you have a scope for the pellet gun? Oh yeah, HI!”
Since Grandma and I don’t get to see them as often as we would like, we tend to forget that he and his brother Ty are no longer the little boys that couldn’t wait until we came to visit and were excited to see us when we did.
They have grown up and are now teenagers who, if we are lucky, might respond back to our text or talk to us when we call. If we are really lucky, too, we might get a hug or at least a hand squeeze 3 times when we are there to visit. That means, “I Love You.”
They had out-grown the small air rifles we got them several years ago for shooting at targets on the farm. Our teenage grandsons still enjoy shooting at targets, except now they were trying to shoot pests like pine squirrels and chipmunks with their Dad. I knew the old air rifles didn’t have a scope or the power to do what they wanted.
I texted back to Sam that I would do better than that. He and Ty would both be getting new air rifles that fit them better, have a quality scope and a lot more power than what they had. A text came back, “That would be nice. Thank you.”
I had purchased a really good Stoeger air rifle with scope for myself several years ago. Stoeger is well-known for its quality, accuracy, and power. I wanted one to help control the squirrels and blackbirds getting in our backyard bird feeders as well as rabbits in my garden. I still use it and I still love it. It has a quality scope and a break-over barrel that shoots .177 caliber pellets. The Stoeger is powerful enough to take down big groundhogs that cause problems too. That’s what I wanted to get for them.
For Sam, I decided on the Stoeger S-6000-A. It is what they call an “underlever” and offers some advantages over break-over barrels. The design really helps accuracy. Also, the extra weight of the cocking lever is placed under the barrel and I felt that would make the rifle steadier in his hands when he shoots.
For Ty, I went with Stoeger’s S-4000-E which is the next generation of air gun technology. It is fast shooting, hard-hitting, quiet and comes with multiple features so he could customize the fit and feel. It does have a slight kick to it, but I knew he wouldn’t notice it that much with the recoil-absorbing butt pad. It also has an ambidextrous safety, adjustable two-stage trigger, and interchangeable fiber-optic bars for the front sight. I figured the rifled barrel along with the quality scope would deliver great accuracy for him. The ergonomically designed suppressor also serves as the cocking grip, this easily allows him to use the powerful Gas Ram System break-barrel action.
Because the rifles use air compression rather than the explosion of a powder cartridge like a .22 rifle, this means they will not only be saving money not having to buy ammunition, they will also not be breaking the law or disturbing neighbors.
Developed by Italian engineers and designers with the feel of a high caliber rifle both rifles will last them a lifetime and someday they will be able to pass them on to their kids or grandkids long after I am gone.
Another great thing about their pellet rifle Stoeger’s is that when they are ready to move up to hunting bigger game, they already have basic gun handling safety as an internal process. I will be looking forward to getting another text someday that says, “Papaw we want to start deer hunting, so can we get a deer rifle now?” That will be another great opportunity for Grandma and I to make an investment in the lives of our grandkids.
A few weeks after getting their new Stoeger air rifles I heard that turkey hen talking again and another text from Sam popped up on my phone. “Thanks for the pellet guns,” it said. That was followed by a text all grandparents want to hear, “Love you!” A few days later, I got another turkey talking text that said, “Last night we got a squirrel.” I smiled and a tear ran down my cheek.
If you want to make an investment in something your kids or grandkids would love and give them many hours of enjoyment for many years and be able to pass down to their kids and grandkids, go to https://usa.stoegerairguns.com/ and find a dealer near you or order online.
It sure is getting foggy. I’m not sure I could even see a deer sneaking through the woods in this stuff. Oh well, I just love being out here sitting in my stand, even if I don’t see a deer. It’s a great time to be alone with God and thank Him for the opportunity to be out here in His great outdoors.
I wonder how many sunrises I have seen coming through the trees while sitting in a tree stand? After over 50 years of deer hunting, it has to be a lot. I have watched a lot of sunsets too, while up in a tree, but sunrises are my favorite. There’s just something special about being in the dark watching the sun gradually bring light to the forest.
Hearing the first bird songs of the day is music to my ears. I even love the smell of decaying leaves on the forest floor. The first movement I see is usually a squirrel gathering nuts for the long winter ahead. It’s amazing how much a squirrel sounds like a deer walking through the woods. Then there were the times I have watched a fox, a bobcat or some other animal traveling through and they had no idea I was even there. There was also the time an owl thought the fur trapper’s hat I was wearing on a cold winter day was breakfast and, with claws raised, dived right at my head.
It’s funny how we deer hunters tend to name our tree stands too. Over the years I have sat in stands with names like Northwood’s, Papaw Bear, Dad and Me, 23, Pond, Kelly, Red Neck and even one called No Name. Just thinking of the names brings back a lot of memories.
Most of my years sitting in those tree stands have been by myself, but the absolute best times were the years I shared them with my grandson, Hunter, while my son hunted with my granddaughter Anna. Hunter got old enough to hunt in his own tree stand and I am now once again sitting alone in the deer woods. It won’t be too many more years and he will be hunting with his son or daughter and continuing to pass on the tradition. Just thinking about the good times when it was just him and me brings tears to my eyes.
When you sit there waiting for a deer to come by your secret hiding place thinking of all these things, you see them in your mind. Speaking of tears, as I sit here this day, for some strange reason I am seeing my wife crying. The fog is lifting enough that I can now also see my sons, daughters-in-law, and grandkids crying. What’s going on?
Honey, I love you. Why are you crying, I say to my wife? Can’t you hear me? Hunter, I know you have always had a tender heart, but what’s the matter Bub? Don’t cry Sis, your Papaw’s here. Ty, Sam…come here and give your Papaw our secret hand -squeeze and let me wipe away the tears. Kids, I am right over here!
Hey, I also see some of my cousins and friends from church. There’s Pastor Scotty too! What are they all doing here? I try talking to them and they act like they can’t hear me or see me. Why is this room filled with all these flowers and pictures of me with my wife, kids and grandkids plus pictures of me with fish and deer?
I hear someone ask my son how it happened. How what happened? My son Kelly chokes back a tear as my son Daron puts his arm around him to comfort him and he says, “Dad was always telling us to wear our harness and attach our lifeline when we got into a tree stand. He was hunting out of a ladder stand and for some reason, I guess he thought he didn’t need to do what he always told us to do. He even wrote articles and did radio shows telling other people how important it was to do it, but that day he didn’t. A ratchet strap broke; the stand slipped and he fell out.”
Did I fall out of my tree stand? I’m dead?! You’ve got to be kidding! I have hunted that stand for years. My harness and lifeline were in my truck. I guess like most hunters, I thought this could never happen to me. I made a bad decision.
I say I am sorry to my wife for the times I have hurt her, tell her I love her one more time and that the boys will watch over her, but she doesn’t hear me. I want to hug and kiss her but I can’t.
I stand right in front of my sons and tell them how proud I am of them for being the good husbands and fathers they are, but they don’t see or hear me. I reach out to touch each of my grandkids, tell them I love them and I am sorry I won’t be there to watch them grow up and have families of their own, but they don’t hear or see me either. I pray they won’t forget their Papaw. I hope they tell their kids about the memories we made together.
I feel a hand gently on my shoulder and a voice says, “I know this is hard Larry, but they will be alright. God will watch over all of them for you. It’s time to go to a better place. There are other people waiting for you when we get there and I bet you have a bunch of fishing, hunting, kids and grandkids stories to tell them.”
We turn to go, but I look back over my shoulder at my friends and family one last time and say goodbye.
Boone and Bo…squirrel hunters that lived for the next day, every day
The autumn of their years – a special story to my grampa and his dog
Lessons for every generation to pass down
By Larry Whiteley
Bo was a beagle and beagles are usually rabbit dogs, but he was all squirrel dog and cared nothing about rabbits. He loved to chase and run those squirrels around the farm, ran them right up the tree. Creeks, barbed wire fences, briar thickets or even a brake-squealing car couldn’t keep him from his mission. Treeing squirrels was Bo’s job and he was good at it. He would do it all day long before finally coming back home to supper. When finished he’d curl up on the porch completely worn out from his days’ adventures.
Bo was my Grandpa Boone’s dog and both were as independent as they could be. Boone was in his 80s and I was 12. He enjoyed taking his grandson hunting and was teaching me to be a squirrel hunter too -when the time was right. Back then we were poor, so it was important not to waste a bullet. It would take a while to save enough to get more. Getting a couple of squirrels was our supper. With Bo’s help that was never a problem. I still remember how good those fried squirrels with grandma’s homemade biscuits and gravy were.
Grandpa Boone had worked hard on the farm all his life and his heart was beginning to wear out. He slowed down a bit, took his medicine, and kept hunting squirrels with Bo and me. Like Boone, Bo was in the autumn of his years. Bo’s gray muzzle reminded me of Boone’s gray beard.
For Bo, chasing and treeing was the game. It was fun to watch him go after a squirrel. When it would run up a tree he would climb partway up it in his excitement to get at it. As soon as he gave up climbing he would sit at the base of the tree barking until Boone got there and shot the squirrel. A dead squirrel was not important to him anymore. He would trail up to a freshly killed squirrel and then take off after another one.
Our last day was perfect squirrel hunting weather. A crisp, clear morning had dawned when we reached the back forty of Boone’s farm. The early sun sparkled on the frosted grass as we left the old truck. The trees were bare of leaves now. Bo saw the movement of a squirrel and he went to work. Boone took a position by an oak tree and watched. He smiled with pleasure as he listened to the sounds of Bo. He held his old .22 rifle, still in mint condition, in the crook of his arm.
Bo was out of sight, but his bark told us he was after his quarry. His voice muffled as he chased it across a gully and it ran up a tree, as we knew it would. Boone walked slowly to the tree and prepared for the shot. The squirrel came into view out on a limb high up in the tree. Boone sighted down the barrel, but it moved slightly as Boone fired. The squirrel fell to the ground and then ran into a thicket of wild blackberries. Boone muttered to himself.
Bo was after him, but like Boone, slower than before. His voice high and clear, he started after the squirrel at a walk. As we watched, Bo fell. Quickly scrambling to his feet, he yodeled as he entered the thicket. He gave voice for another fifty yards or so and then there was silence.
I looked at Boone. His face was gray, his breathing was heavy and his old face seemed more wrinkled. “Sit down Boone,” I said. “He found the squirrel. I’ll go get them.” But Boone just stood there and didn’t say anything.
I walked through the thicket toward the place where I’d last heard Bo. I found him stretched out, mouth open, eyes glazed. There was no life left in him. A couple of feet beyond his muzzle, the squirrel twitched and was still. I left them both and returned to Boone. He was leaning against a tree with his head bowed.
“I knew it when he fell,” Boone whispered. We walked back to the truck, thinking our own thoughts. Boone broke the silence. “I hope to go like Bo, doing something I really like to do.” “I’ll come back later with a shovel,” I said. “Thanks,” Boone replied, “I don’t think I could do it. One more thing though, would you bury the squirrel in front of him?” I nodded as a tear ran down my cheek.
We got back to the truck and Boone reached in and got out an oiled rag and carefully wiped his old rifle and cased it. He handed the gun to me and said, “I don’t think I’m going to hunt anymore. I want you to have it.” In just a few months, Boone was gone too.
I hunted for many years with Boone’s gun and took a lot of squirrels with it. But, it just wasn’t the same without Boone by my side and the sounds of Bo treeing a squirrel. Today, the rifle sits in the gun safe in my office. I am now in the autumn of my years.
My sons grew up hunting squirrels with that gun. I taught them as Boone taught me. My grandson Hunter got his first squirrel with it after his Dad had taught him. There was never another dog like Bo though.
When I am gone, Boone’s gun will be passed down to one of them.
They all know the story of Boone and Bo, more than just a story of the autumn of their years.
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.
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.
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/.
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.
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.
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.