Birds are singing again, spring must be on its way. But only a couple of weeks ago, I saw a big V-formation of geese heading south again, and there were three wild turkeys in with them...honest!


Birds are singing again, spring must be on its way. But only a couple of weeks ago, I saw a big V-formation of geese heading south again, and there were three wild turkeys in with them...honest!

The grizzled old veteran turkey hunter, Jim Spencer, who is one of the best outdoor writers in the country, says he didn't worry about the wild turkeys during the deep snow.

"They just stay up in the trees," he says, "and live off of the new maple and box elder buds."

Spencer lives down in the woods next to the National Forest in Arkansas, and he says it is ice storms that kill the turkeys, not so much the snow and cold. If it gets so deep they can't wade around in it and scratch through it, they just stay up in the trees and wait it out. 

"I grew up over along the lower White River," he said, "and in East Arkansas, where the rivers all come down and join the Mississippi, there is a wide flood plain with lots of turkeys. In the spring, near Clarendon, I have seen the water fill those bottoms for miles and miles, and the turkeys have no ground beneath them. They can stay up in the trees and survive for weeks if they have to. They are a tough bird."

Spencer is a turkey-hunting nut. It has become an obsession with him, and he will start hunting them in mid-March in the deep south, and hunt them until the last day of the last season in the northern states. His new book, "Bad Birds" is something all turkey hunters will want to read.

I admire him because he does what he writes about, and has for many, many years. He doesn't get it out of books. No one knows the outdoors better than my old friend Jim Spencer, but a lot of that is because of what I have taught him over the years.  He won't admit to that.

In the 1970s, he and I set up a camp in the Ouachita Mountains in early April, and hunted turkeys for a week. We had a bet on who would get a gobbler first. On opening morning, Jim set his box of shells out on the table as we ate breakfast before daylight. I found an old half brick there in a campfire ring left by deer hunters, and it fit perfectly in that shell box, being the same weight as his shells. So I removed the shells and put the brick in the box, and at daylight, high on a mountaintop, listening to an old gobbler sound off, Jim discovered the practical joke. Rather than just laugh about it and be a good sport, he had to get even, and on a float trip one afternoon a day or so later on the Fourche River, I opened up my tackle box to find it full of small rocks and pine cones where my lures had been.

We will see who can bag the wildest turkey this year, going by spur length and little else. I have the advantage because I make a little box call that is so effective some states have talked about outlawing it.

And the good news for any of our turkey hunting readers is:  I will give away some of them, and sell some, at our spring swap meet. Anyone can make one in a matter of a few minutes, and I use nothing else.

We still have half of the tables available at our swap meet, March the 19th. We will limit it to 40 tables, but that is a lot of outdoor gear for sale, lures and calls and antiques and everything you can think of for the outdoorsman who can't afford to buy from the big Sporting Goods Stores and is looking for bargains. If you have outdoor gear for sale, you need to contact me to reserve one of those tables. They are free, as is the admission.

I don't know how it was where you live, but up here in the woods on Lightnin' Ridge we had a record cold temperature a couple of weeks ago, thirteen degrees below zero. Then a week later we had a record high temperature for that date... 72 degrees! Isn't that something? I haven't got the slightest idea what is causing things like that. I don't believe anyone else does either. Blame it on what you want, but if you laugh at the idea that huge, increasing populations of people and massive energy use is affecting our planet in ways that are a threat to mankind, you have your head in the sand, or somewhere similar.

Whatever is happening, I doubt we can figure it out, and I doubt we can stop the end result, but it will be something catastrophic in time. We can't change it and we can't stop it.  Most of us may be gone by the time it all takes place, and then again, maybe we won't.  I talk to young people who have no idea what it was like to be able to drink out of an Ozark river. They have no worries about that kind of thing. I have seen creeks, even rivers flowing in the Ozarks which now are nothing but dry beds; for instance, the Little Piney River in Texas County. Only a few years back, I saw rivers in the Ozarks reach their lowest levels, and their highest levels within a year. Since then, that has become a regular occurrence.  Hundreds of springs in the Ozarks which flowed constantly since men first began to settle here, have gone dry, and they say the water level below us is constantly dropping, down hundreds of feet from what it once was.

What happens, I wonder, when all the oil and natural gas is removed from huge cavities beneath the earth, leaving those places to dry up and collapse.  Could that cause earthquakes, I wonder. Well, I don't know any answers to anything, I just wonder. In time I guess we will know what we did wrong or right.  But the biggest snowfall I have ever seen, and record low temperatures and record high temperatures within a week of each other just isn't right.

Mine may be the last generation to mourn the fact that our rivers are what they are now, rather than what they use to be. We may be the last people who remember getting clean water free.

If you don't know what you missed, I guess you don't miss it. I for one, do not understand how millions mass together with their daily lives devoted to accumulating more money and treasure that doesn't last. I can't understand traffic jams and pavement being that attractive, especially when you never hear wild birds or see the sun rise and set. 

But I know it has to be that way. I am glad those masses are there in those huge cities instead of out here in the country. And where you are isn't so much of importance as just being happy.

You can easily see why those folks in Chicago and New York would be so happy, and I guess we are all envious of what they have in California. I have heard that Los Angeles and Hollywood is almost like heaven, and the people there are so much smarter than folks anywhere else!  You can turn on TV and see that!

I guess there really isn't anything to worry about. We can cleanse the water, dig deeper landfills, and there will always be plenty of oil and wild turkeys.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, e-mail me at lightninridge@windstream.net or see my website at www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.net.