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Ozarks' hunters, anglers tell their stories

by Flip Putthoff | June 9, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

No hunter or angler ever comes home empty-handed.

Stories can always be told about the adventure. Some ring with excitement. A dash of fiction might spice up an occasional plot.

Storytelling is woven into the fabric of the outdoors, especially in the Ozarks. That's proven with the book, "Ozark Outdoors: Hunting Lore and Fishing Stories."

The 168-page paperback by Mark Morgan, a professor with the School of Natural Resources at the University of Missouri, is a rich collection of outdoors stories related by the hunters and anglers of the Ozarks in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Stories from well-known authors such as Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and Vance Randolph lead off the first section of the book. In fact, Morgan dedicates his book to Randolph, who spent most of his life studying and writing about Ozark folklore. Randolph died in Fayetteville in 1980.

Yet the true gems to read spring from the stories contributed from regular folks, the men and women who explore, fish and hunt.

Six university students in Morgan's hunting and fishing folklore class helped with the book. Morgan put out a call through various groups, including the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, welcoming people to submit written hunting and fishing stories.

About 50 stories came in and 32 of them made the book, Morgan said by phone.

Students in his folklore class edited the stories mostly for spelling and grammar, taking care to maintain the voice and personality of the storytellers, he added.

No telling what might happen when an angler casts a line or a hunter steps into the woods, and the stories prove it. Authors touch on deer hunting miscues and adventures. Fishing stories tell of catching black bass, muskies, suckers or not catching anything.

Hunters and their dogs get fine treatment in Morgan's book. So do canoeing adventures, shooting skills -- or lack thereof -- and quiet meditation outdoors

Morgan rounds out the book with descriptions of some Ozarks mythical creatures and monsters. Or are they real?

There's the booger bird, which, legend says, flies backward because it doesn't care where it's going. Who'd be able to outfish the fish hound? This hybrid critter is said to be the offspring of an otter and a big fish-eating bird, with feathers on its back and fur on its belly.

We can't be outdoors all the time. Reading about it is the next best thing. Morgan hopes these stories will fuel the fire to get out and enjoy what the woods and waters have to offer.

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“Ozark Outdoors: Hunting Lore and Fishing Stories” costs $15, which includes shipping. Fifty percent of profits go to the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Books may be purchased through the group’s website, www.confedmo.org, or buy directly at [email protected] or call (573) 825-2705.

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