Have you heard of Missouri’s Dill-Pickles State Park?

These unidentified gentlemen were photographed at the entrance to Fisher Cave.

Prior to the 1928 dedication of Meramec State Park near Sullivan, Mo., some people in the community believed it should have been called the “Dill-Pickles State Park.”

Most of the land for the park was purchased from Thomas “Benton” Dill and Julian Pickles, and the unique name was derived from combining the two surnames. Other parcels making up the original park were purchased from Leo and Henry Fisher, Mrs. Jane Coe Brant, and W. N. Dace.

The State of Missouri purchased 5,778 acres of land for the park in 1927 at a cost of $95,220. The state was responsible for naming the new park, but locals put their thinking caps on after a Sullivan newspaper solicited suggestions for names.

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Many generations have enjoyed Missouri’s ‘Spook Light’

As the recipient of a good turn once done me regarding a local natural phenomenon, I recently had the opportunity to pass on the favor.

It was one year ago last October that Rebecca and Genevieve Williams took me to see the mysterious “Spooklight” near Hornet. Though I had been down that road many times in search of the light, I didn’t see it until Rebecca and Genevieve brought me there. Actually, I later realized that I probably had seen it before, I just didn’t know what I was looking at, since it tends to vanish and reappear, especially the closer you get.

Later, I went on a ride along with J.R. Penn, and this time I was the guide. J.R. had family in town from Georgia and Arkansas who were curious about this crazy Ozarks Spooklight they had heard about.

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passion for gigging

Every year I begin counting down the days until September 15th. When that morning finally arrives you can usually find me in a tree stand with a bow in my hand.

Even though evenings are my favorite time to hunt early season, you won’t find me hunting the first evening. That is because September 15th is also opening day for another passion of mine, which is gigging suckers.

Being born and raised near Birch Tree, Missouri, I am blessed to be brought up around the Jacks Fork and Eleven Point Rivers. For many years now, I try to spend opening night of gigging season on the water fighting the bugs that are attracted to the bright lights of the boat; it’s worth it, though.

It’s one of those smalltown traditions, everyone goes on opening night, no matter what.

For those of you who don’t know what sucker gigging is, here is an insight as to why this sport is so addicting.

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Arnold’s been searching for history for all of his life

Paul Arnold is on a quest. He is on a quest for history.

History enthusiast Paul Arnold shows off the “rarest and finest relic” he has ever held — an ancient Native American mace made of Dover chert.

“The earliest thing I can remember my Dad saying to me was, ‘Lee surrendered to Grant’,” Arnold said. “I would say it over and over in my head so that I’d know the next time he asked. Dad and Uncle Larry (Arnold) were very active in grooming me for history.”

Both his dad and uncle were active in the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans in the Bootheel. He can trace his family tree to several ancestors who fought in the war, and has researched the battles they fought and he has visited the sites.

“I was making speeches to the Sons of Confederate Veterans by the time I was 12 or 13,” he recalled. “Dad took me to all the battlefields and historic sites in the area. He always went out of his way to expose me to as much history as possible.”

Re-enacting Civil War action was also a part of the Arnold household, with Paul beginning to participate in re-enactments when he was about 11 years old. But the father-son activity was more than just history.

“We started re-enacting when I was about 11 or 12,” he recalls. “It turned out to be a good hobby to keep our minds moving forward. My sister was killed in a car accident in 1992, and that will really test the bonds of a family. Re-enacting became an escape.”

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Lake of the Ozarks produces hot fishing action

Colby Simms Outdoors Pro Staffer Jim Lyle with a nice stringer of white bass, spots and a monster walleye.

Lake of the Ozarks is considered one of the best multi-species fishing waters in the Midwest.

This famous body of water harbors huge populations of many different species, offering a great chance at trophies in every category.

LOZ has produced several Missouri state records, and has the potential to produce many more. LOZ has lots of rock, wood and manmade cover, an abundance of complex structural elements, huge shallow feeding and spawning grounds, lots of deep open areas offshore, and tons of prey, that combine to produce excellent conditions to grow trophy fish.

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Where and how to bowhunt early season

When most hunters think of taking a trophy buck, they picture a cool November day with a buck chasing does around in circles because he is in rut.

Even though it is arguably the most popular time to harvest a mature deer, that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY time. Early season can be an excellent time to take a dominant buck as well.

The tactics to take that buck, however, are completely different from early season compared to the fall rut.

First of all, when I say “early season” I am primarily talking about September and the first couple of weeks in October. During this time temperatures are usually cool in the mornings and then begin to rise as the day goes on. Sometimes during those first few weeks of season it can still be flat-out hot.

Obviously this determines deer movement the most. Which means the first question to ask yourself is “where,” as in, “Where do I need to hunt?”

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Last days of summer to-do list

Now that school has started back up we tend to ditch the outdoor lifestyle that we developed over the summer.

This is the perfect time to finish your summer’s to-do list; the weather is perfect!

What if you have already finished your to-do list? I have come up with list of suggestions that are fun for the entire family:

• Whitaker Point (Kingston, Ark.) — This one is a bit of a road trip, yes, but you’ll be satisfied with everything about the trip. The drive up the mountain is an adventure in itself! The trail is a new meaning of beautiful.

There are small waterfalls along the way and if you’re adventurous enough you can go semi-off the trail to the base and inhale the definition of fresh air. There are many more little stops along the way, including spots where you can daringly climb on rocks that look like they have been put in place by a crane.

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I won’t forget this great Alaskan adventure

Our trio of float planes banked hard to the north into Thorne Bay. A panoramic view of the vast Tongass National Forest on Prince of Wales Island and the watery world of southeast Alaska popped into view like a gigantic mural.

Walt Fulps, owner of  www.missouri.trouthunter.com, worked feverishly over a period of several weeks completing the details to host 12 fly fishermen for a week of fishing, exploring and socializing in the vast reaches of the nation’s third largest island.

After a short jaunt through the fishing village of Thorne Bay, our party reached the charming comforts of Thorne Bay Lodge. Numerous superbly decorated rooms greeted our tired adventurers.

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I won’t soon forget my encounter with a river ranger

A couple of years ago I reconstituted our family’s extensive folio of color slide transparencies into digital photo files, so as to make these photo memories more permanent.

A Missouri Conservation agent measures Stagoski's smallmouth at 19.5 inches and weighing 3.5 pounds.

MDC Fishery Biologist John Ackerman’s presentation on the preliminary findings gathered from last year’s Angler Survey of Smallmouth and Rock Bass Fishing, reminded me that some of these “ancient” photos were taken on the Current River.

The survey data collected from the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers was especially fascinating to me.

Several days later, I idly began to rummage through the collection of photos from my earliest days of Smallmouth Bass fishing, when I was a “young man.”

Suddenly a kind of excitement, unique to anglers, filled my body as I beheld photos taken while fishing on the Current River in 1959.

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On the Edge

In the past couple of publications of the Traveler we’ve discussed the potential comeback of mountain lions and a growing population of black bears.

This month I thought it would be interesting if we took a look at some ominous species just on the edge of the Ozarks.  Alligator from public domain U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Now, some of these species might already inhabit a few small corners of the Ozarks. But for the most part, if you call the Ozarks home, you’ll have to venture out a little further if you want a realistic chance of encountering one.

I’ll start with a rather fearsome looking invertebrate. The giant red-headed centipede has been gaining some Internet stardom recently. A homeowner in Texas recently found a large specimen and snapped a shot of one holding on to the end of a broom. That picture has been striking fear into many Southern Midwesterners, maybe justifiably.

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