Taking it to the Extreme

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Jane Gallenbach makes the Sabine River her home

Fishing in the Sabine River is a common practice for many folks in Panola County, but to Jane Gallenbach, it’s a way of life. Growing up in the river bottom, Jane watched her father, Delbert Twomey, hunt and fish to put groceries on the table. “My brothers hunted and fished also, and I wanted to be like them,” recalls Jane. “I was a tomboy--it was in my blood.” As an adult, she’s never strayed very far from home. She grew up only three miles from where she currently lives.

Lots of women are avid sportsmen, but once you visit with Jane, you’ll learn quickly that she takes it to the extreme! In her log cabin where she lives with husband Tom Gallenbach, a retired Game Warden, the walls are decorated with an array of wild animals that have come from as far away as Argentina and as close as the woods along the Sabine  River. Between the two of them they have mounted deer, elk, moose, bear, turkey, pheasant, duck, ptarmigan and pheasant. And when she’s not in the woods hunting, she’s in the river fishing for white bass. “When I first got my home place, most people on the river were fishing for catfish. The white bass were here, but most of the locals cuss the white bass because they get on their trotlines. Gradually some people started coming in to fish the bass, and then guides began coming in. I was fishing all the time and telling everyone where I was getting the fish. It dawned on me one day that I could be doing the guiding myself…and getting paid for it!” That’s the beginning of River Ridge Guide Service.

Business was slow at first, but it didn’t take long for word to trickle down through the grapevine. Soon Jane was contacted by Shannon Tompkins, an outdoors writer for the Houston Chronicle. He wrote about Jane’s uncanny ability to find fish and soon her schedule was booked with interested fishermen. Most of her customers come from the Houston, Dallas, San Antonio area, but she has had people from as far away as Kansas, Colorado, Illinois and Minnesota. Jane’s knowledge of the white bass is one of the reasons she has been so successful. The bass come up the river from Toledo Bend and must have current to spawn. When the water temperature reaches 55o, they lay their eggs on the sand bars. (That’s why some call them sand bass.) “We’ll start catching some around Thanksgiving.” says Jane, “The smaller ones come up first, then the bigger ones come. When I first started, I just assumed they didn’t start biting until February 15. That’s not true. They’re just easier to find then.” Taking a look at Jane’s website and you’ll see photos of many happy fishermen who have caught their limit of fish. 

When the fish are not biting, Jane is back in the woods with her gun. Recently, she returned from a bear hunt in Arkansas where she bagged a black bear. “Just to show you how determined and passionate I am (in other words, crazy!), I sat there for two days, morning and night. It’s kind of eerie getting down at dark knowing this is bear country and all I have is a crossbow! Time was running out, so I got on my phone and researched and found that bears love bacon grease. I fried a bunch of bacon and poured the grease all over the food I had baited for the bear. I guess he smelled it because he came out at 6:00 that evening and I got him as he was walking up the hill. It was a male and I’m thinking it might be Boone & Crockett. He had a huge head, but only weighed 270 pounds. They had a major drought in that area so there wasn’t much food available. He should’ve weighed about 400 pounds. I took it to the taxidermist to make a rug.”

Turkey hunting is Jane’s favorite. She hunts by herself and does her own calling. “A turkey flies off a roost in the morning and you’re calling trying to fool him into thinking you’re a hen. It’s a one-on-one thing and it’s such a challenge to get them to gobble and come to you.” She says there are not many turkeys in Panola County. “Texas Parks & Wildlife came in 30-40 years ago and brought some turkeys that were not adapted to this climate and they didn’t do well. They came back 25 years ago and restocked them in areas like Salt Creek and Yellow Dog, but they put them out in small bunches and didn’t put them in any pastures, so they still didn’t do well. They’ve finally figured out they need to put them out in large bunches, so they’re talking now of doing a super stocking and trying one more time.” 

Jane’s love of hunting and fishing is evident—and she’s good at it. Her camp has the River Body Record for three different fish types—white bass, hybrid yellow bass and crappie. She has huge white tail deer mounted that most Panola Countians will never see in a lifetime of hunting. She is a true outdoorsman. “Even if I don’t see an animal, I love sitting out in the woods. It’s so peaceful. I just love nature.”

Wildlife Recipes from Jane’s Kitchen:

Squirrel – cut up, add salt & pepper. Roll in milk & flour, then milk & flour again. Drop in hot grease & brown it really fast. Put on cookie sheet lined with foil, & they lay another sheet of foil on top (do not seal so it will stay crispy) Bake for an hour at 350o. This makes it really tender. Serve with homemade biscuits, English peas, mashed potatoes & gravy. Mmm!

Wild Hog – use a hog shoulder, cut into 2 pieces so it will fit in the skillet. Put flour on it & brown in a little bit of grease (not much). Brown it pretty fast. Don’t salt & pepper because it pulls the water out of it. Brown it & put in a cooker (I use a Nesco oven). Add a cup of water. Salt & pepper, chop up an onion or two, carrots, russet potatoes, & sweet potatoes & Worcestershire sauce (enough). Put lid on & cook for a few hours at 300o. It’s good!