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by John R. Spears

THE items in recent numbers of Forest and Stream about the Ozarks have interested me very much. I was in Taney and Christian counties, Missouri, for two weeks during last November, stopping at Forsyth for three or four days and at Ozark for nearly two weeks. Although business engagements prevented any personal experiences with a gun in that country I made diligent inquiry of people well posted.

The truth is I never saw a country where game of certain sorts was so abundant. The flocks of quail were so numerous and so tame that they ran along in the roadway and cocked their eyes up at me as I sat, on a horse, as chickens might do in a barnyard. The natives thought them rather too small to bother with—very good eating of course and worth killing if a man could bunch 'em and shoot twelve or fifteen at a shot; but as for wasting a whole charge of powder and shot on one quail was sheer extravagance.

In a ride from Chadwick to Forsyth five deer were started on the oak ridges—three in one bunch and two in another. The native who was with me said that my luck in this case was exceptional. He rode over the route very often without seeing even one. However, deer are sufficiently numerous to warrant the assertion that no sportsman need spend a week on White River without getting a handsome head to mount. Deer may be either stalked or driven to water by the native dogs.

Turkeys, the natives said, were so thick as to be a nuisance. They scratched up their corn in springtime and picked it down when the ears became sufficiently matured. Messrs. Al. Spaulding and Charley Blood, two traveling salesmen driving over a route 650 miles long out of Springfield, Mo., told me they frequently saw flocks of from 20 to 50 turkeys along their route and that they never drove over it without seeing turkeys.

Bears abound in the caves along White River and its branches. The natives butcher them for their pelts by going into the caves during cold storms and shooting or stabbing the sleeping brutes. At least that is the story they told me, but it seemed to me it was rather a low down way of shooting even a bear. The natives wouldn’t kill each other in such fashion. Taney and Christian counties were the home of the Bald Knobbers. In their fights with one another the Knobbers and the militia always jumped out into the clearing and went at it man fashion. If a man who can shoot will go down in Taney county to the Arkansas line he will surely get a bearskin as well as a buck's head for trophies in the course of two weeks' time.

I do not think there is a panther in the country. I heard of a few wolves, and saw one wildcat pelt. The possum and the coon and dogs and natives who can appreciate the sport which these animals afford can be found in their glory.

It was singular, but I did not see a partridge (grouse), nor did I see a man who had seen any. I cannot believe that they do not exist there. It is a land that produces nuts and berries in the utmost profusion.

Of course, wildfowl shooting is good in the season. When the geese and ducks come south in the fall the waters of White River are covered with them.

If I could go there for sport I would go in October or not later than November. I would carry a Winchester for large game, a shotgun for feathers and a .22cal. rifle for fun. If a man could not supply a hearty appetite with enough game with the aid of the little rifle he ought to go hungry; and he would not need to take an unfair advantage of the game either.

To reach the Ozarks from New York take the Pennsylvania road to Springfield, Mo. It will cost a little over $40, including palace car and meals to ride there. A spur of the 'Frisco road runs down into Taney county. The fare is a dollar, I think. Thereafter one can either hire a guide with dogs, team and camping outfit for, say, $3, or he can take up quarters at some tavern. A pleasant trip would include a stop at Ozark, Christian county, at Mrs. Wrightsman's hotel; another at Forsyth, Taney County, at the Hilsabeck House; another at Vivian's, in Bakersfield, Ozark county. Mrs. Wrightsman and Mrs. Vivian are model cooks—serve food that a Northern man can relish. Vivian is a sportsman of the native sort, and a right good fellow.

I have forgotten to mention the fish. I saw some big channel catfish, one weighed over 401bs. I was told of others weighing over 75. I was told there were no trout here. This seems to have been an error from what you have printed. The water was clear and beautiful in the streams, but it did not taste just right to me. I believed those who said there were no trout — the taste of the water made me do so. Possibly the fault was in myself.

I can heartily recommend the readers of the Forest and Stream to try a trip to the Ozarks. It is a most beautiful country, and the climate in the fall can be described in no better way than by the word delicious.

John R. Spears.

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Source: "Forest and Stream", No. 32, July 4, 1889, pp.490-491
Updated: 11-XII-2018