Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen, 1830-1910
136 pages
English

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Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen, 1830-1910

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136 pages
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Jacob F. Rivers III has collected twenty-two classic hunting tales by twelve southern writers including Davey Crocket, Johnson J. Hooper, and Henry Clay Lewis. These stories spring not only from a genteel literary tradition but also from the tradition of the tall tale or stories of backwoods humor. Antebellum and post-Civil War tales reflect changes in the social and economic composition of the hunting class in the South. Some reveal themes of fear for the future of field sports, and others demonstrate an early conservation ethic among hunters and landowners.

Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen brings to new readers a wealth of hunting and fishing lore heretofore hard to find by any but scholars in the field of southern literature. Rivers has gathered a host of well-read and well-heeled sportsmen who relish each and every detail of their encounters with their environment. Sports authors come from every spectrum of southern society, but their common vocabulary and shared enthusiasm bond them together.

Rivers corrects unfortunate stereotypes of hunters as indifferent to aspects of nature other than environmental exploitation. Whether humorists or serious advocates, these authors reveal their sense of their place in the wild, and many advocate ecological good citizenship that disdains wanton slaughter and unethical practices. They condemn such acts as beneath the dignity and honor of true sportsmen.

The collection includes accounts of hunting many types of game indigenous to the South from 1830 to 1910, from aristocratic foxhunts to yeoman deer drives. The structure is largely chronological, beginning with John James Audubon's essay on the American wild turkey from his Ornithological Biography (1832) and ending with stories from Alexander Hunter's The Huntsman in the South (1908). Whatever their era, the chief characteristics of these sporting accounts are the excitement the authors experience upon suddenly encountering game, the rigors and hardships they endure in its pursuit, their keen powers of observation of the woods and waters through which they travel, and the comedy often found in the strong friendships that frequently mark their adventures. But above all the tales resonate with a reverence for field sports as the means through which humans establish meaningful and lasting relationships with the mysteries and the magic of nature.


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Date de parution 18 novembre 2014
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EAN13 9781611173987
Langue English
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Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen 1830-1910
The Wild Turkey Hunter
Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen 1830-1910
A LITERARY ANTHOLOGY
Jacob F. Rivers III
2014 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press Columbia, South Carolina 29208
www.sc.edu/uscpress
23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rivers, Jacob F., 1951-
Early Southern sports and sportsmen, 1830-1910 : a literary anthology / Jacob F. Rivers, III.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-61117-397-0 (hardbound : alk. paper) - ISBN 978-1-61117-398-7 (ebook) 1. Hunting stories, American. 2. Hunting-United States-Anecdotes. 3. Hunters-United States--Biography. I. Title.
SK33.R37 2014 799.20092 2-dc23
2014007291
Frontispiece from T. B. Thorpe, The Hive of The Bee-Hunter : A Repository of Sketches, including Peculiar American Characters, Scenery, and Rural Sports , 1854.
JACKET ILLUSTRATION
John James Audubon , by John Syme, oil on canvas, 1826, courtesy of the White House Historical Society (White House Collection)
CONTENTS
Acknowledgments
Introduction
John James Audubon, 1785-1851
The Wild Turkey
David Crockett, 1786-1836
Bear Hunting in Tennessee
Alexander G. McNutt, 1802-1848
A Swim for a Deer
Chunkey s Fight with the Panthers
William Elliott, 1788-1863
A Wild-Cat Hunt in Carolina
A Day at Chee-Ha
Random Thoughts on Hunting
William Gilmore Simms, 1806-1870
Bucks have at ye all. -Old Song
Which Augurs an Affair of Boars!
Phillip Pendleton Kennedy, 1808-1864
The Falls of the Blackwater
Thomas Bangs Thorpe, 1815-1878
Wild Turkey Hunting
Wild-Cat Hunting
Johnson Jones Hooper, 1815-1862
The Gentleman s Amusement
The Setter and Pointer
On the Shooting of Quail
Henry Clay Lewis (Madison Tensas), 1825-1850
The Indefatigable Bear-Hunter
Charles B. Coale, 1807-1879
A Bear Hunt in the Iron Mountain
Charles Edward Whitehead, 1829-1903
The Deer Hunt
The Drowned Lands
Alexander Hunter, 1843-1914
Among the Quail in Virginia
Cobb s Island
A Sporting Fiasco
Sources and Suggestions for Further Readings
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Among those many people who have helped me to collect and to edit these gems of early southern sporting adventures, Patrick Scott, distinguished professor of English and director for Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Carolina-Columbia, deserves my deepest and most sincere gratitude. He first suggested this project to me. Alexander Moore, acquisitions editor for the University of South Carolina Press, encouraged and inspired me to persist to completion. Special thanks go to the librarians and staff of the Thomas Cooper and the South Caroliniana Libraries for their help with locating primary and secondary materials.
I should also like to acknowledge my sincere debt of gratitude to Mrs. Beulah Hiers Rivers, whose pristine moral refinement and love for the world of nature have enriched and inspired many generations of native South Carolina sportsmen.
Introduction
Chief among the literary genres that depict the southern reverence for the natural landscape is the work of the literate sportsmen of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Affluent and well educated, they were nature writers who articulated communal values through their stories about hunting and fishing. The best of their sporting narratives reveal a deep involvement with the natural world and its importance to southerners, both real and as characters.
While the excitement of the chase and the appreciation of nature are themes common to southern sporting writers of all generations, the artistic and environmental sensitivity of these authors has often been undervalued. This is unfortunate for several reasons. During the particular period of American history covered by this anthology, the serious sporting essay was the primary form of nature writing. Even the scientific exactitude of John James Audubon s Ornithological Biography (1832) reveals its well-known author s dependence on practicing the hunter s craft in order to understand the subtleties of his subjects. In his selection reprinted here on the American wild turkey, we see the work of the noted ornithologist as he discovered the details of their secretive lives through his total involvement with the hunt.
Faithfully reflecting their author s view of life as both highly competitive and dangerously uncertain, the writers included here accepted the struggle for survival in the natural world as an inescapable reality that permeated the physical and philosophic fabric of their own lives. In contrast to the great wave of nineteenth-century Romanticism that sought to celebrate nature as a sylvan glade immune from what were often harsh realities, the authors reprinted here portrayed the ritual confrontation with death in the hunt with the same honor and fidelity that they gave to any other dignified undertaking. In the opening pages of Alexander Hunter s The Huntsman in the South (1908), he voiced their post-Darwinian view that the lives of all wild animals necessarily end in tragedy: It is the inexorable law of Nature that all living creatures prey upon one another. By beak, talons, and claw the fight was commenced, and it will only end when this world is no more. To say that sporting is a cruel pastime is to ignore the fact that all fin, fur, and feathers batten upon one another, and if the rifle or gun did not end their days, they would be killed anyway (11).
Perhaps because of their frank acceptance of natural laws that posits death as the perquisite for life and rebirth, and perhaps because of the growing urban population s increasing distance from the realities of the rural landscape, nonhunters, and most literary critics, have disdained and misunderstood hunting narratives. In the nineteenth-century South, the serious sporting essay nevertheless played a central cultural role that expressed southerners views of themselves as extensions of a living environment to which they felt closely bound. For these men and women, hunting provided a way to reenter the natural world and to feel what Bruce Dickson has called an otherwise inexpressible sense of what it meant to be a part of something as awesome as nature (273). In my earlier Cultural Values in the Southern Sporting Narrative (2002), I argued that those persons who practice field sports responsibly are among the most compassionate and sensitive aficionados of the natural world, not only because they regret its wholesale exploitation, but also because their engagement with the land and its game has enabled them to reenter the primitive unity of nature and man [and to] comprehend something of man s felt responsibility to his surroundings-to the elements of the natural world as well as to his human peers (xiv-xv). As Archibald Rutledge concluded in the final pages of An American Hunter (1937), sport hunting is perfectly compatible with the deepest and most genuine love of nature (144). While few of the writers in the twenty-two selections reprinted here articulate these truths in formal terminology, the portrayals of their sporting heroes in perfect rapport with their environment go far beyond any technical explanation in illustrating these themes. More than anything else, the present collection reveals that the return to nature through the hunt offers one of the surest pathways to a positive environmental awareness that draws on the intricate complexities of nature for spiritual regeneration.
Tacitly affirming the universality of a sporting code that valued the nation s natural resources for reasons other than their material worth, northern novelists have also portrayed the contempt that serious hunters and fishermen had for wanton environmental exploitation. In The Pioneers (1823), no less a literary figure than James Fenimore Cooper contrasted Leather-stocking s conservative ethos against the profit-minded townspeople. Squarely aligned with the tenets of good sportsmanship advocated by the present collection s contributors, Natty criticizes his neighbors for their slaughter of the wild pigeons as wasteful to kill twenty and eat one, warning them, like a modern-day Jeremiah, that the Lord won t see the waste of his creatures for nothing, and right will be done to the pigeons, as well as others, by-and-by (246). Natty continues in the following chapter by denouncing the townspeople s profligate netting of the lake s bass as sinful and wasty to catch more than can be eat (266).
Others approached the natural world differently. Although Henry David Thoreau did not originate writing about nature in American, he was one of the earliest to link environmental and social concerns. In Walden (1854), Thoreau explicitly set his retreat to Walden Pond within the growing controversy over chattel slavery, and his attempt to escape the negative effects of ambition, indebtedness, and drudgery resonates within the context of this larger social problem. Two decades later American environmental activism found another, more deliberate champion in John Muir, a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt and fellow disciple of the need to preserve the nation s wilderness treasures. Muir s The Yosemite (1912) did much to initiate a tradition of environmental activism by passionately denouncing plans to flood the Hetch Hetchy valley in California in order to create a water reservoir for the city of San Francisco. Although Cooper, Thoreau, and Muir were not primarily concerned with field sports, they shared with the authors in this volume a highly developed sense of environmental responsibility and a reverence and respect for the land.
Together with their unblinking acceptance of nature s life-and-death struggles, the present authors were also keenly attuned to the charm of her unblemished wilderness scenery. In The Falls of the Blackwater, Phillip Pendleton Kennedy s unwitting narrator is surprised into a spontaneous celebration of nature. Having travelled for days through an uncharted section of Virginia wilderness in search of a series of legendary waterfalls, followed by a sleepless night in the rain, the jaded narrator suddenly finds himself transfixed by the unexpected natural beauty of the scene around him: The wilderness was rich everywhere with hues of all dyes, and the banks of the river gleamed for miles with the flowers of the rhododendron. A scene of more enchantment it would be difficult to imagine. The forest with its hues of all shades of green-the river of delicate amber, filled with flakes of snow-white foam-and the splendor of the rhododendron everywhere in your eye. Picture all this in the mind-then remember that you were far beyond the limits of the world you had known-and say, was it of heaven, or was it of earth! (124-25).
During the same period, authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe developed the short story genre. Many of the sporting authors represented here were also conscious artists, well aware of the requirements of their genre and at pains to make their writing engaging for contemporary audiences. As William Elliott stated in A Wild-Cat Hunt in Carolina, But it is a cold thing, to tell over the same incidents to an unexcited third party; and a difficult thing, where a word too little makes you vague, and a word too much makes you tedious-so to tell them as to make your story please (141). While capitalizing on what Thomas Bangs Thorpe called the intrinsic merit in the subjects associated with the forest which took place of style or manner of composition (8), the stories collected here reflect their authors shared goal of expressing what it was like for them to reaffirm their kinship with nature. As Bruce Dickson has astutely observed of the genre: the total involvement of the experience as much as the actual kill . . . provided the sense of being a natural man (276). Whether the present writers take us after trout in the Virginia Mountains, panthers in the Louisiana Swamplands, or ducks in the Florida Everglades, their deliberate artistic renderings consistently draw our attention to the sportsman s complete and total engagement with nature through the excitement of the chase. As Jos Ortega y Gasset explains in his Meditations on Hunting (1942): the hunt alone permits us the greatest luxury of all, the ability to enjoy a vacation from the human condition through an authentic immersion in Nature (139).
Central also to this genre is a moral sensitivity to environmental citizenship. The first book published in the United States that was exclusively concerned with field sports, The American Shooter s Manual (1827), calls on the sportsman to exercise the finest points of fair play and conservation of game in the field. The selections here reveal that while their authors were writing about blood sports that have fascinated American readers for generations, their characters nevertheless return from their adventures afield refreshed by a new and deeper appreciation of their natural environment. Through their highly developed awareness of their responsibility to the natural world, these sportsmen came to view ethical conduct afield as an integral part of the larger, older, aristocratic ideal of personal honor.
Except for a small handful of specialist scholars and collectors, few contemporary readers have seen more than the briefest excerpts from this wealth of neglected sporting lore. For better or for worse, these writers have been squeezed out of the academy s canon and curriculum. Moreover, the once widely read backwoods humor and tall tales by men such as Johnson Hones Hooper, Thomas Bangs Thorpe, and Henry Clay Lewis stereotyped hunters, reducing their sporting protagonists into comic caricatures. Both Thorpe and Hooper made major contributions to the tall tale genre, most notably Thorpe s The Big Bear of Arkansas (1854) and Hooper s Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs (1845), but they also published serious sporting essays. Both the tone and substance of Hooper s The Gentleman s Amusement and On the Shooting of Quail reveal his involvement with and compassion for the natural world that surrounded him. A disciple of Henry William Herbert s code of proper sporting etiquette, he endorsed it passionately as the best way for a sensitive intellect to demonstrate his admiration and respect for the game. And in Thorpe s Wild Turkey Hunting, his intricate knowledge of the habits and habitat of the great birds has revealed his accomplished woodcraft; like Audubon, learning how to hunt allowed him to enter into the psyche of the very turkeys he pursued. An important part of what this volume accomplishes is to provide ready access to examples of the best work of the South s early sporting authors, regardless of their other literary achievements. These early hunter-naturalists explored themes and told tales that look forward to the twentieth-century South Carolina sporting writers Archibald Rutledge, Henry E. Davis, and Havilah Babcock.
Many of the writers in this volume had direct ties to the antebellum South and had witnessed firsthand the defeat and destruction of their region in the American Civil War. In spite of the war s trauma, their love for the exhilaration of the sports of the field remained. As Alexander Hunter has explained, throughout these mutations the love of sport has survived all changes, all vicissitudes (84). Like Hunter the writers collected here shared with their literary descendants and fellow sportsmen a deep affection for nature, and their efforts identify the serious hunting narrative as a major factor in bringing the written and print culture of Europe to the New World. As well as sporting essays, these are also works of literature that form an important part of a much larger movement that sought to establish a distinctively American and southern cultural identity.
I have selected those authors and stories that reflect some of the continuities in hunting. Many contemporary sportsmen date the origins of hunting in America from the arrival of the English colonists along the New England coastline during the early seventeenth century. The stalwart Puritans of Plymouth Plantation serving venison and wild turkey at their first Thanksgiving Celebration stands prominently as the iconic image of the first American hunters.
That tradition continued in the lives of many famous Americans north and south. The works of William Byrd of Westover (1674-1744) attests to his passion for the sports of the field, and fellow Virginian George Washington (1732-1799) loved nothing better than fox hunting and riding to the hounds. Although the bitter losses of the Civil War darkened his portrayal of hunters and hunting, South Carolinian William Gilmore Simms included them in many of his published works, most prominently in The Golden Christmas (1852) and The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the Old North State (1869).
A second context associates the origins of American hunting culture with the adventures of frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and Meriwether Lewis, men whose exploits as hunters were so widely publicized and celebrated that the independence, self-reliance, and resourcefulness of the wilderness hunter became what Daniel Herman called a certificate of cultural authenticity and an integral part of the communal national character (4). This second major school of thought is represented here by the work of David Crockett. In Bear Hunting in Tennessee, Crockett gave his readers a full measure of the dangers and hardships these early hunters had to face. His account of his fight with the bear, alone and at night, and his struggle to save himself from freezing suggest the kinds of stalwart, real-life qualities that earned him a prominent role in the American iconography.
Long before the European settlers began to establish permanent communities along the shoreline of eastern North America, Native American tribesmen had been practicing and perfecting the field arts of hunting and fishing for untold thousands of years. The earliest Native Americans hunted primarily to procure food and clothing, but they also associated prowess in the chase with masculinity and power and not infrequently with divine approval. Early pioneers in the South such as William Bartram, Mark Catesby, and John Lawson had all learned hunting lore from Native Americans. Admiring their woodcraft and skill in hunting inordinately, these pioneers drew the Indians into the national story by celebrating their accomplishments afield and by creating their image as noble savages, superior beings whose natural aristocracy transcended European standards of formal education and refinement.
Judging from the abundance of game that confronted the early colonists, Native American subsistence hunting had little detrimental effect on either the larger species of game such as buffalo, deer, and bear or on the smaller species such as turkey, squirrel, or waterfowl. What upset this environmental balance was hunting for trade once the commercial demand for meat and skins prompted the Native Americans to hunt for profit instead of for food and sport. Coupled with much-improved firearms, overhunting by both Native Americans and the European colonists quickly depleted game supplies in the vicinity of well-established settlements. Such market-hunting predations began a long history of abuse and exploitation that would evolve into the slaughter of the buffalo in the West and of waterfowl in the East. Extinctions caused by such activity were infamous, but it was the love of profit and not the love of sport that fueled these environmental atrocities.
The late 1800s saw the nation s first great reaction against the industrial slaughter of American fauna, sponsored by conservation-minded sportsmen such as Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and George Bird Grinnell. Because of these prominent sportsmen and the army of hunters and fishermen who organized to support their pioneering efforts, concern for the natural environment grew rapidly into national prominence. Through their experiences in the field and engagement with the natural life of the American landscape, these sportsmen came to value the nation s flora and fauna for more than their material worth. They also had begun to realize how rapidly market gunners and land developers were destroying these nonrenewable resources. Many of the writers included here not only shared that concern but also took action to manifest their beliefs in the public arena. As John F. Reiger revealed in American Sportsmen and the Origins of Conservation , prominent attorney and businessman Charles E. Whitehead successfully prosecuted, in 1858, a New York City restaurateur for selling woodcock out of season (43). Whitehead went on to lead the movement to introduce and to pass An Act for the Preservation of Moose, Wild Deer, Birds and Fish in the New York state legislature in 1860. Much later, as Alexander Hunter has reminded us in the closing pages of The Huntsman in the South , as a member of the Virginia legislature, he framed and formed the first game laws of the state (314). Alarmed at the vanishing flocks and herds that had once seemed inexhaustible, these hunter-naturalists adopted the conservation-minded tenets of the Code of Good Sportsmanship that writers such as Henry William Herbert ( Frank Forester ) imported from the British sporting press in his Field Sports in the United States and the British Provinces of America (1848).
Because they codified and transposed many of the region s preexisting cultural values into the formal language of proper sporting etiquette, these tenets took root and flourished in the well-heeled sporting circles of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century South. From them grew a body of sporting literature that emphasized respect for the land and game, a reverential approach to the world of nature as a whole, and a strong sense of duty to conduct oneself afield with moral no less than with environmental responsibility. In due course such moral commitment led to the kinds of informed, sensitive, and responsible hunting laws required for enlightened wildlife management.
It should therefore not be surprising that the nation s prominent sportsmen initiated the first great movement to conserve our nation s reserves of wild game. Alone among their political and entrepreneurial equals, they had grown through their sporting adventures to consider themselves integral, indigenous parts of the natural American landscape. In his famous poem written for the inaugural ceremony for John F. Kennedy, the speaker in Robert Frost s The Gift Outright reminds us that it took time to establish this vital connection: The land was ours before we were the land s / She was our land more than a hundred years / Before we were her people (348). Popular images of the American hunter in the nineteenth century, including prominent frontier hunters such as Meriwether Lewis, Daniel Boone, and David Crockett, helped many Americans to feel that they were as entitled to the land as much as were the Native Americans they had displaced. In Hunting and the American Imagination , Daniel Herman stated the matter succinctly: The image of the nineteenth-century hunter heroes-wearing moccasins and buckskins, carrying a Kentucky rifle, and educated in the school of nature-suggested a new aborigine. This man-the American Native-became the symbolic heir of the American Indian. . . . courageous men who, like Indians had sprung from the American soil (7).
Sporting conservationists faced different challenges in the South than those found in the West. In the unenclosed and publicly owned vastness of the West, a dedicated hunter-naturalist with the political connections and public endorsement of President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-9) could lead the fight that resulted in the addition of 148 million acres to the national forest reserves, where game could be managed and conserved. In the South, however, especially in the rice- and cotton-growing country of the Southeast, things were quite different. The land there was already privately owned, much of it in the form of large plantations. Private ownership and the rural and agricultural nature of the primary industry had prevented the kind of potential exploitation and development that threatened what became such national treasures as Yellowstone National Park. In the bitter aftermath of the Civil War and the plantations sale for unpaid taxes to wealthy northern industrialists, one might have expected rapid and unchecked development, but that was not the case. Instead many of the men who purchased the plantations did so because they wanted to possess some of the finest hunting land in the nation. While the attractive land prices made the investments appealing, a veritable army of well-heeled northern sportsmen seized on the opportunity to enjoy for themselves the magnificent sporting prerogatives that had once belonged only to the antebellum landed aristocracy.
The developments in lowcountry South Carolina provide a pertinent example. As Robert B. Cuthbert and Stephen G. Hoffius have explained in their excellent Northern Money, Southern Land (2009), the northern ownership stopped or delayed the denuding of South Carolina fields and proved a godsend for land [and game] preservation. The northern sportsmen had no intention of destroying the very paradise that their power and wealth had brought to them. As Cuthbert and Hoffius have stated: The new owners wanted most of their land left exactly as they found it: open woods, fields protected for the birds, waters undammed and unpolluted. They were true conservationists, if not environmentalists (xxii). Though the rapid development and the breaking up of these private game reserves, once proudly held, has changed the landscape of lowcountry South Carolina considerably in latter days, the fact remains that the men who were able to buy and to preserve the great antebellum plantations were themselves hunters, ardent sportsmen who shared the same reverence and respect for the land and the game that inspired the better-known efforts of Roosevelt and his friends.
The narratives in the present collection illustrate the concern of these early sportsmen for conservation and responsible behavior afield, but they also depict the sportsman s total involvement with the natural world through the excitement of his encounter with game. This kind of unmistakable, nearly mystical quality comes through in accounts by even the less-gifted narrator; in the hands of the talented writers included here it rises to the level of high literary art. This variety of intensity and excitement, as heady for modern readers as it was for our antebellum predecessors, not only provides us with a reprieve from workaday headaches and cares but also a level of involvement with the natural world that is not easy to come by otherwise. Describing his feelings during the headlong chase in A Wild-Cat Hunt in Carolina, William Elliott provided a sense of how engaging a hunt can be: There they go-look at them!-listen to them! Huntsmen, is it not charming? Does it not make your pulse quicken? Is there not a thrill of pleasure shooting through your frame? Can you tell your name? Have you a wife? A child? Have you a neck? If you can, at such a moment, answer questions such as these, you do not feel your position and are but half a sportsman! (147).
The successful sportsman s identification with the game he pursues also brings him a higher level of environmental awareness and compassion for his quarry, a respectful regard that manifests itself in the gospel of fair play. In his present essay, On the Shooting of Quail, Johnson Jones Hooper clearly transcended the moral vacuity of his famous villain, Captain Simon Suggs, when he upbraided those who would take quail by trapping them in nets:
Perhaps I shall have no better opportunity than just in this connection, to express the contempt which every well-bred man must view the practice of taking quail in nets. . . . the thing itself is so vile an outrage upon all sportsmanship, humanity, and magnanimity that no man who knows better ought to countenance his best neighbor if he will not discontinue it. We have now in Eastern Alabama a great abundance of quail, except in certain netting locations. When they are taken in that way, the bird is absolutely swept away, in particular neighborhoods. I have known a thousand birds captured within a week, by two or three parties using these infernal machines during a cold, sleety spoil of weather when the quail is always loathe to take wing (60).
It was such experience that led the well-heeled, well-read, dedicated sportsmen of the late nineteenth century to push for laws to conserve and to regulate the decimation of our nation s wildlife at the time. Even today hunters and anglers fund the major conservation projects involving fish and game, and sportsmen who are also political activists such as Rick Bass and Barry Lopez have demonstrated that their activism can affect how our great national resources are used. The modern sports of hunting and fishing still offer their practitioners the best opportunities to reenter the natural world on a deeper, more meaningful level of understanding that fosters both a reverence and a respect for the environment.
WORKS CITED
Bass, Rick. Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
---. Wild to the Heart . New York: Norton, 1987.
Cooper, James Fenimore. The Pioneers . 1823. Ed. James Franklin Beard. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1980.
A Gentleman of Philadelphia County. The American Shooter s Manual . Philadelphia: Carey, Lee, and Carey, 1827.
Cuthbert, Robert B. and Stephen G. Hoffius, eds. Northern Money, Southern Land: The Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin . Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2009.
Dickson, Bruce. Hunting: Dimensions of Antebellum Southern Culture. Mississippi Quarterly 30 (Spring 1977): 259-81.
Elliott, William. A Wild-Cat Hunt in Carolina. Carolina Sports by Land and Water . 1846. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994. 142-51.
Frost, Robert. The Gift Outright. In The Poetry of Robert Frost . Ed. Edward Connery Lathem. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1979. 348.
Herbert, Henry William [Frank Forester]. Field Sports in the United States, and the British Provinces of America . 2 vols. London: R Bentley, 1848.
Herman, Daniel. Hunting and the American Imagination . Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press, 2001.
Hunter, Alexander. The Sportsman in the South . New York: Neal Publishing Company, 1908.
Hooper, Johnson Jones. Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs, Late of the Tallapoosa Volunteers . 1845. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993.
---. On the Shooting of Quail. Dog and Gun: A Few Loose Chapters on Shooting, among Which Will Be Found Some Anecdotes and Incidents . 1856. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992.
Lopez, Barry. Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape . New York: Scribner, 1986.
Ortega y Gasset, Jos . Meditations on Hunting . 1942. Trans. Howard B. Wescott. New York: Scribner, 1972.
Reiger, Jon F. American Sportsmen and the Origins of Conservation . 3rd ed. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2001.
Rivers, Jacob F. Cultural Values in the Southern Sporting Narrative . Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002.
Rutledge, Archibald. Why I Taught My Boys to Be Hunters. An American Hunter . New York: Frederick A Stokes Company, 1937. 141-149.
Muir, John. The Yosemite . New York: Century, 1912.
Simms, William Gilmore. The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the Old North State. 1869. Ed. Miriam Jones Shillingsburg. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997.
---. The Golden Christmas: A Chronicle of St. John s, Berkeley . 1852. Ed. David Aiken. North Charleston, S.C.: Fletcher and Fletcher Publishing, 1994.
Thorpe, Thomas Bangs. The Big Bear of Arkansas. The Hive of the Bee Hunter . New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1854. 72-93.
John James Audubon
1785-1851
America s most famous ornithologist was born in Les Cayes, San Domingo, to Jean Audubon, a retired merchant, planter, and French naval officer, and Jeanne Rabin, the servant of a retired San Domingo attorney. Audubon s education in Nantes, France, where his father sent him in 1788, was undistinguished by any type of artistic training that might have revealed to himself and his teachers the great talent that would revolutionize all subsequent painting of birds throughout the known world. At Mill Grove, the two hundred-acre plantation near Philadelphia where his father sent him in 1803 to avoid the French military draft, Audubon spent much of his time hunting and drawing the game birds and animals that he found there in abundance. In 1807 he married Lucy Blakewell, the daughter of an English neighbor, despite her father s concern about the young Audubon s ability as a businessman. Although Audubon s reputation rests primarily on The Birds of America, from Original Drawings (1827-1838), he published other volumes of paintings and prints, most notably his Ornithological Biography, or, an Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America (1831-1839). The following selection from this volume appeared as an Episode, or one of several narrative interludes that he interspersed between the formally scientific descriptions of the various species. In The Wild Turkey (1832, vol. 1: 1-16), Audubon s narrator personifies the hunter-naturalist ideal: the dedicated sportsman, fully accomplished in the rigorous arts of the field, and one who has learned through their mastery to appreciate the mysteries and magnificence of the life of the game he pursues.
The Wild Turkey
The great size and beauty of the Wild Turkey, its value as a delicate and highly prized article of food, and the circumstance of its being the origin of the domestic race now generally dispersed over both continents, render it one of the most interesting of the birds indigenous to the United States of America.
The unsettled parts of the States of Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana, an immense extent of country to the north-west of these districts, upon the Mississippi and Missouri, and the vast regions drained by these rivers from their confluence to Louisiana, including the wooded parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, are the most abundantly supplied with this magnificent bird. It is less plentiful in Georgia and the Carolinas, becomes still scarcer in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and is now very rarely seen to the eastward of the last mentioned States. In the course of my rambles through Long Island, the State of New York, and the country around the Lakes, I did not meet with a single individual, although I was informed that some exist in those parts. Turkeys are still to be found along the whole fine of the Alleghany Mountains, where they have become so wary as to be approached only with extreme difficulty. While, in the Great Pine Forest, in 1829, I found a single feather that had been dropped from the tail of a female, but saw no bird of the kind. Farther eastward, I do not think they are now to be found. I shall describe the manners of this bird as observed in the countries where it is most abundant, and having resided for many years in Kentucky and Louisiana, may be understood as referring chiefly to them.
The Turkey is irregularly migratory, as well as irregularly gregarious. With reference to the first of these circumstances, I have to state, that whenever the mast * of one portion of the country happens greatly to exceed that of another, the Turkeys are insensibly led toward that spot, by gradually meeting in their haunts with more fruit the nearer they advance towards the place where it is most plentiful.
In this manner flock follows after flock, until one district is entirely deserted, while another is, as it were, overflowed by them. But as these migrations are irregular, and extend over a vast expanse of country, it is necessary that I should describe the manner in which they take place.
About the beginning of October, when scarcely any of the seeds and fruits have yet fallen from the trees, these birds assemble in flocks and gradually move towards the rich bottom lands of the Ohio and Mississippi. The males, or, they are more commonly, called, the gobblers, associate in parties of from ten to a hundred, and search for food apart from the females; while the latter are seen either advancing singly, each with its brood of young, then about two-thirds grown, or in connexion with other families, forming parties often amounting to seventy or eighty individuals, all intent an shunning the old cocks, which, even when the young birds have attained this size, will fight with, and often destroy them by repeated blows on the head. Old and young, however, all move in the same course, and on foot, unless their progress be interrupted by a river, or the hunter s dog force them to take wing. When they come upon a river, they betake themselves to the highest eminences, and there often remain a whole day, or sometimes two, as if for the purpose of consultations. During this time, the males are heard gobbling, calling, and making much ado, and are seen strutting about, as if to raise their courage to a pitch befitting the emergency, Even the females and young assume something of the same pompous demeanour, spread out their tails, and run round each other, purring loudly, and performing extravagant leaps.
At length, when the weather appears settled, and all around is quiet, the whole party mounts to the tops of the highest trees, whence, at a signal, consisting of a cluck, given by a leader, the flock takes flight for the opposite shore. The old and fat birds easily get over, even should the river be a mile in breadth; but the younger and less robust frequently fall into the water, not to be drowned, however, as might be imagined. They bring their wings close to their body, spread out their tail as a support, stretch forward their neck, and striking out their legs with great vigour, proceed rapidly towards the shore; on approaching which, should they find it too deep far landing, they case their exertions for a few moments, float down the stream until they come to an accessible part, and by a violent effort generally extricate themselves from the water.
It is remarkable, that immediately after thus crossing a large stream, they ramble about for some time, as if bewildered. In this state, they fall an easy prey to the hunter.
When the Turkeys arrive in parts where the mast is abundant, they separate into smaller flocks, composed of birds of all ages and both sexes, promiscuously mingled, and devour all before them. This happens about the middle of November. So gentle do they sometimes become after these long journeys, that they have been seen to approach the farm houses, associate with the domestic fowls, and enter the stables and corncribs in quest of food.
In this way, roaming about the forests, and feeding chiefly on mast, they pass the autumn and part of the winter.
As early as the middle of February, they begin to experience the impulse of propagation. The females separate, and fly from the males. The latter strenuously pursue, and begin to gobble or to utter the notes of exultation. The sexes roost apart, but at no great distance from each other. When a female utters a call-note, all the gobblers within hearing return the sound, rolling note after note with as much rapidity as if they intended to emit the last and the first together, not with spread tail, as when fluttering round the females on the ground, or practising on the branches of the trees on which they have roosted for the night, but much in the manner of the domestic turkey, when an unusual or unexpected noise elicits its singular hubbub. If the call of the female comes from the ground, all the males immediately fly towards the spot, and the moment they reach it, whether the hen be in sight or not, spread out and erect their tail, draw the head back on the shoulders, depress their wings with a quivering motion, and strut pompously about, emitting at the same time a succession of puffs from the lungs, and stopping now then to listen and look. But whether they spy the female or not, they continue to puff and strut, moving with as much celerity as their ideas of ceremony seem to admit. While thus occupied, the males often encounter each other, in which case desperate battles take place, ending in bloodshed, and often in the loss of many lives, the weaker falling under the repeated blows inflicted upon their head by the stronger. I have often been much diverted, while watching two males in fierce conflict, by seeing them move alternately backwards and forwards, as either had obtained a better hold, their wings drooping, their tails partly raised, their body-feathers, ruffed, and their heads covered with blood. If, as they thus struggle, and gasp for breath, one of them should low his hold, his chance is over, for the other, still holding fast, hits him violently with spurs and wings, and in a few minutes brings him to the ground. The moment he is dead, the conqueror treads him under foot, but, what is strange, not with hatred, but with all the motions which he employs in caressing the female.
When the male has discovered and made up to the female (whether such a combat has previously taken place or not), if she be more than one year old, she also struts and gobbles, turns round him as he continues strutting, suddenly opens her wings, throws herself towards him, as if to put a stop to his idle delay, lays herself down, and receives his dilatory caresses. If the cock meets a young hen, he alters his mode of procedure. He struts in a different manner, less pompously and more energetically, moves with rapidity, sometimes rises from the ground, taking a short flight around the hen, as is the manner of same Pigeons, the Red-breasted Thrush, and many other birds and on alighting, runs with all his might, at the same time rubbing his tail and wings along the ground, for the space of perhaps ten yards. He then draws near the timorous female, allays her fears by purring, and when she at length assents, caresses her.
When a male and a female have thus come together, I believe the connexion continues for that season, although the former by no means confines his attentions to one female, as I have seen a cock caress several hens, when he happened to fall in with them in the same place, for the first time. After this the hens follow their favourite cock, roosting in his immediate neighbourhood, if not on the same tree, until they begin to lay, when they separate themselves, in order to save their eggs from the male, who would break them all, for the purpose of protracting his sexual enjoyments. The females then carefully avoid him, excepting during a short period each day. After this the males become clumsy and slovenly, if one may say so, cease to fight with each other, give up gobbling or calling so frequently, and assume so careless a habit, that the hens are obliged to make all the advances themselves. They yelp loudly and almost continually for the cocks, run up to them, caress them, and employ various means to rekindle their expiring ardour.
Turkey-cocks when at roost sometimes strut and gobble, but I have more generally seen them spread out and raise their tail, and emit the pulmonic puff, lowering their tail and other feathers immediately after. During clear nights, or when there is moonshine, they perform this action at intervals of a few minutes, for hours together, without moving from the same spot, and indeed sometimes without rising on their legs, especially towards the end of the love-season. The males now become greatly emaciated, and cease to gobble, their breast-spongs becoming flat. They then separate from the hens, and one might suppose that they had entirely deserted their neighbourhood. At such seasons I have found them lying by the side of a log, in some retired part of the dense woods and cane thickets, and often permitting one to approach within a few feet. They are then unable to fly, but run swiftly, and to a great distance. A slow turkey-hound has led me miles before I could flush the same bird. Chases of this kind I did not undertake for the purpose of killing the bird; it being then unfit for eating, and covered with ticks, but with the view of rendering myself acquainted with its habits. They thus retire to recover flesh and strength, by purging with particular species of grass, and using less exercise. As soon as their condition is improved, the cooks come together again, and recommence their rambles. Let us now return to the females.
About the middle of April, when the season is dry, the hens begin to look out for a place in which to deposit their eggs. This place requires to be as much as possible concealed from the eye of the Crow, as that bird often watches the Turkey when going to her nest, and, waiting in the neighbourhood until she has left it, removes and eats the eggs. The nest, which consists of a few withered leaves, is placed on the ground, in a hollow scooped out, by the side of a log, or in the fallen top of a dry leafy tree, under a thicket of sumach or briars, or a few feet within the edge of a cane-brake, but always in a dry place. The eggs, which are of a dull cream colour, sprinkled with red dots, sometimes amount to twenty, although the more usual number is from ten to fifteen. When depositing her eggs, the female always approaches the nest with extreme caution, scarcely ever taking the same course twice; and when about to leave them, covers them carefully with leaves, so that it is very difficult for a person who may have seen the bird to discover the nest. Indeed, few Turkeys nests are found, unless the female has been suddenly started from them, or a cunning Lynx, Fox, or Crow has sucked the eggs and left their shells scattered about.
Turkey hens not unfrequently prefer islands for depositing their eggs and rearing their young, probably because such places are less frequented by hunters, and because the great masses of drifted timber which usually accumulate at their heads, may protect and save them in case of great emergency. When I have found these birds in such situations, and with young, I have always observed that a single discharge of a gun made them run immediately to the pile of drifted wood, and conceal themselves in it. I have often walked over these masses, which are frequently from ten to twenty feet in height, in search of the game which I know to be conceded in them.
When an enemy passes within sight of a female, while laying or sitting, she never moves, unless she knows that she has been discovered, but crouches lower until he has passed. I have frequently approached within five or six paces of a nest, of which I was previously aware, and assuming an air of carelessness, and whistling or talking to myself, the female remaining undisturbed; whereas if I went cautiously towards it, she would never suffer me to approach within twenty paces, but would run off, with her tail spread on one side, to a distance of twenty or thirty yards, when assuming a stately gait, she would walk about deliberately, uttering every now and then a cluck. They seldom abandon their nest, when it has been discovered by men; but, I believe, never go near it again, when a snake or other animal has sucked any of the eggs. If the eggs have been destroyed or carried off, the female soon yelps again for a male; but, in general, she rears only a single broad each season. Several hens sometimes associate together, I believe for their mutual safety, deposit their eggs in the same, nest, and rear their broods together. I once found three sitting on forty-two eggs. In such cases, the common nest is always watched by one of the females, so that no Crow, Raven, or perhaps even Pole-cat, dares approach it.
The mother will not leave her eggs, when near hatching, under any circumstances, while life remains. She will even allow an enclosure to be made around her, and thus suffer imprisonment, rather than abandon them. I once witnessed the hatching of a brood of Turkeys, which I watched for the purpose of securing them together with the parent. I concealed myself on the ground within a very few feet, and saw her raise herself half the length of her legs, look anxiously upon the eggs, cluck with a sound peculiar to the mother on such occasions, carefully remove each half-empty shell, and with her bill caress and dry the young birds, that already stood tottering and attempting to make their way out of the nest. Yes, I have seen this, and have left mother and young to better care than mine could have proved,-to the care of their Creator and mine. I have seen them all emerge from the shell, and, in a few moments after, tumble, roll, and push each other forward, with astonishing and inscrutable instinct.
Before leaving the nest with her young brood, the mother shakes herself in a violent manner, picks and adjusts the feathers about her belly, and assumes quite a different aspect. She alternately inclines her eyes obliquely upwards and sideways, stretching out her neck, to discover hawks or other enemies, spreads her wings a little as she walks, and softly clucks to keep her innocent offspring close to her. They move slowly along, and as the hatching generally takes place in the afternoon, they frequently return to the nest to spend the first night there. After this, they remove to some distance, keeping on the highest undulated grounds, the mother dreading rainy weather, which is extremely dangerous to the young, in this tender state, when they are only covered by a kind of soft hairy down, of surprising delicacy. In very rainy seasons, Turkeys are scarce, for if once completely wetted, the young seldom recover. To prevent the disastrous effects of rainy weather, the mother, like a skilful physician, plucks the buds of the spice-wood bush, and gives them to her young.
In about a fortnight, the young birds, which had previously rested on the ground, leave it and fly, at night, to some very large low branch, where they placed themselves under the deeply curved wings of their kind and careful parent, dividing themselves for that purpose into two nearly equal parties. After this, they leave the woods during the day, and approach the natural glades or prairies, in search of strawberries, and subsequently of dewberries, blackberries and grasshoppers, thus obtaining abundant food, and enjoying the beneficial influence of the sun s rays. They roll themselves in deserted ants nests, to clear their growing feathers there of the loose scales, and prevent ticks and other vermin from attacking them, these insects being unable to bear the odour of the earth in which ants have been.
The young Turkeys now advance rapidly in growth, and in the month of August are able to secure themselves from unexpected attacks of Wolves, Foxes, Lynxes, and even Cougars, by rising quickly from the ground, by the help of their powerful legs, and reaching with ease the highest branches of the tallest trees. The young cocks show the tuft on the breast about this time, and begin to gobble and strut, while the young hens pur and leap, in the manner which I have already described.
The old cocks have also assembled by this time, and it is probable that all the Turkeys now leave the extreme north-western districts, to remove to the Wabash, Illinois, Black River, and the neighbourhood of Lake Erie.
Of the numerous enemies of the Wild Turkey, the most formidable, excepting man, are the Lynx, the Snowy Owl, and the Virginian Owl. The Lynx sucks their eggs, and is extremely expert at seizing both young and old, which he effects in the following manner. When he has discovered a flock of Turkeys, he follows them at a distance for some time, until he ascertains the direction in which they are proceeding. He then makes a rapid circular movement, gets in advance of the flock, and lays himself down in ambush, until the birds come up, when he springs upon one of them by a single bound, and secures it. While once sitting in the woods, on the banks of the Wabash, I observed two large Turkey cocks on a log, by the river, pluming and picking themselves. I watched their movements for awhile, when of a sudden one of them flew across the river, while I perceived the other struggling under the grasp of a lynx. When attacked by the two Large species of Owl above mentioned, they often affect their escape in a way which in somewhat remarkable. As Turkeys usually roost in flocks, on naked branches of tress, they are easily discovered by their enemies, the owls, which on silent wing approach and hover around them for the purpose of reconnoitring. This, however, is rarely done without being discovered, and a single cluck from one of the Turkeys announces to the whole party the approach of the murderer.
They instantly start upon their legs, and watch the motions of the Owl, which, selecting one as its victim, comes down upon it like an arrow, and would inevitably secure the Turkey, did not the latter at that moment lower its head, stoop, and spread its tail in an inverted manner over its back, by which action the aggressor is met by a smooth inclined plane, along which it glances without hurting the turkey; immediately after which the latter drops to the ground, and thus escapes, merely with the loss of a few feathers.
The Wild Turkeys cannot be said to confine themselves to any particular kind of food, although they seem to prefer the pecan-nut and winter-grape to any other, and, where these fruits abound, are found in the greatest numbers. They eat grass and herbs of various kinds, corn, berries, and fruit of all descriptions. I have even found beetles, tadpoles, and small lizards in their crops.
Turkeys are now generally extremely shy, and the moment they observe a man, whether of the red or white race, instinctively move from him. Their usual mode of progression is what is termed walking, during which they frequently open each wing partially and successively replacing them again by folding them over each other, as if their weight were too great. Then, as if to amuse themselves, they will run a few steps, open both wings and fan their sides, in the manner of the common fowl, and often take two or three leaps in the air and shake themselves. Whilst searching for food among the leaves or loose soil, they keep their heads up, and are unremittingly on the lookout; but as the legs and feet finish the operation, they are immediately seen to pick up the food, the presence of which, I suspect, is frequently indicated to them through the sense of touch in their feet, during the act of scratching. This habit of scratching and removing the dried leaves in the woods is pernicious to their safety, as the spots which they thus clear, being about two feet in diameter, are seen at a distance, and, if fresh show that the birds are in the vicinity. During the summer months they resort to the paths or roads, as well as the ploughed fields for the purpose of rolling themselves in the dust, by which means they clear their bodies of the ticks which at that season infest them, as well as free themselves of the moschettoes which greatly annoy them, by biting their heads.
When, after a heavy fall of snow, the weather becomes frosty, so as to form a hard crust on the surface, the Turkeys remain on their roosts for three or four days, sometimes much longer, which proves their capability of continued abstinence. When near farms, however, they leave the roosts, and go into the very stables and about the stacks of corn, to procure food. During melting snow-falls, they will travel to an extraordinary distance, and are then followed in vain, it being impossible for hunters of any description to keep up with them. They have then a dangling and struggling way of running, which, awkward as it may seem, enables them to outstrip any other animal. I have often, when on a good horses been obliged to abandon the attempt to put them up, after following them for several hours. This habit of continued running, in rainy or very damp weather of any kind, is not peculiar to the Wild Turkey, but is common to all gallinaceous birds. In America, the different species of Grouse exhibit the same tendency.
In spring, when the males are much emaciated, in consequence of their attentions to the females, it sometimes happens that, on plain and open ground, they may be overtaken by a swift dog, in which case they squat, and allow themselves to be seized, either by the dog, or the hunter who has followed on a good horse. I have heard of such occurrences, but never had the pleasure of seeing an instance of them.
Good dogs scent the Turkeys, when in large flocks, at extraordinary distances,-I think I may venture to say half a mile. Should the dog be well trained to this sport, he sets off at full speed, and in silence, until he sees the birds, when he instantly barks, and pushing as much as possible into the centre of the flock, forces the whole to take wing in different directions. This is of great advantage to the hunter, for should the Turkeys all go one way, they would soon leave their perches and run again. But when they separate in this manner, and the weather happens to be calm and lowering, a person accustomed to this kind of sport finds the birds with ease, and shoots them at pleasure.
When Turkeys alight on a tree, it is sometimes very difficult to see them, which is owing to their standing perfectly motionless. Should you discover one, when it is down on its legs upon the branch, you may approach it with less care. But if it is standing erect, the greatest precaution is necessary, for should it discover you, it instantly flies off, frequently to such a distance that it would be vain to follow.
When a Turkey is merely winged by a shot, it falls quickly to the ground in a slanting direction. Then, instead of losing time by tumbling and rolling over, as other birds often do when wounded, it runs off at such a rate, that unless the hunter be provided with a swift dog, he may bid farewell to it. I recollect coming on one shot in this manner, more than a mile from the tree where it had been perched, my dog having traced it to this distance, through one of those thick canebrakes that cover many portions of our rich alluvial lands near the banks of our western rivers. Turkeys are easily killed if shot in the head, the neck, or the upper part of the breast; but if hit in the hind parts only, they often fly so far as to be lost to the hunter. During winter many of our real hunters shoot them by moonlight, on the roost, where these birds will frequently stand in repetition of the reports of a rifle, although they would fly from the attack of an owl, or even perhaps from his presence. Thus sometimes nearly a whole flock is secured by men capable of using these guns in such circumstances. They are often destroyed in great numbers when most worthless, that is, early in the fall or autumn, when many are killed in their attempt to cross the rivers, or immediately after they reach the shore.
Whilst speaking of the shooting of Turkeys, I feel no hesitation in relating the following occurrence, which happened to myself. While in search of game, one afternoon late in autumn, when the males go together, and the females are by themselves also, I heard the clucking of one of the latter and immediately finding her perched an a fence, made towards her. Advancing slowly and cautiously, I heard the yelping notes of some gobblers, when I stopped and listened in order to ascertain the direction in which they came. I then ran to meet the birds, hid myself by the side of a large fallen tree, cocked my gun, and waited with impatience for a good opportunity. The gobblers continued yelping in answer to the female, which all this while remained on the fence. I looked over the log and saw about thirty fine cocks advancing rather cautiously towards the vary spot where I lay conceded. They came so near that the light in their eyes could easily be perceived, when I fired one barrel, and killed three. The rest, instead of flying off, fell to strutting around their dead companions, and had I not looked on shooting again as murder without necessity, I might have secured at least another. So I showed myself, and marching to the place where the dead birds were, drove away the survivors. I may also mention, that a friend of mine shot a fine hen, from his horse, with a pistol, as the poor thing was probably returning to her nest to lay.
Should you, good-natured reader, be a sportsman, and now and then have been fortunate in the exercise of your craft, the following incident, which I shall relate to you as I had it from the mouth of an honest farmer, may prove interesting. Turkeys were very abundant in his neighbourhood, and, resorting to his corn fields, at the period when the maize had just shot up from the ground, destroyed great quantities of it. This induced him to swear vengeance against the species. He cut a long trench in a favourable situation, put a great quantity of corn in it, and having heavily loaded a famous duck gun of his, placed it so as that he could pull the trigger by means of a string, when quite concealed from the birds. The Turkeys soon discovered the corn in the trench, and quickly disposed of it, at the same time continuing their ravages in the fields. He filled the trench again, and one day seeing it quite black with the Turkeys, whistled loudly, on which all the birds raised their heads, when he pulled the trigger by the long string fastened to it. The explosion followed of course, and the Turkeys were seen scampering off in all directions, in utter discomfiture and dismay. On running to the trench he found nine of them extended in it. The rest did not consider it expedient to visit his corn again for that season.
During spring, Turkeys are called, as it is termed, by drawing the air in a particular way through one of the second joint bones of a wing of that bird, which produces a sound resembling the voice of the female, on hearing which the male comes up, and is shot. In managing this, however, no fault must be committed, for Turkeys are quick in distinguishing counterfeit sounds, and when half civilized are very wary and cunning. I have known many to answer to this kind of call, without mowing a step, and thus entirely defeat the scheme of the hunter, who dared not move from his hiding-place, lest a single glance of the gobblers eye should frustrate all further attempts to decoy them. Many are shot when at roost, in this season, by answering with a rolling gobble to a sound in imitation of the cry of the Barred Owl.
But the most common method of procuring Wild Turkeys, is by means of pens. These are placed in parts of the woods where Turkeys have been frequently observed to roost, and are constructed in the following manner. Young trees of four or five inches diameter are cut down and divided into pieces of the length of twelve or fourteen feet. Two of these are laid on the ground parallel to each other, at a distance of ten or twelve feet. Two other pieces are laid across the ends of these, at right angles to them; and in this manner successive layers are added, until the fabric in raised to the height of about four feet. It is then covered with similar pieces of wood, placed three or four inches a part, and loaded with one or two heavy logs to render the whole firm. This done, a trench about eighteen inches in depth and width is cut under one side of the cage, into which it opens slantingly and rather abruptly. It is continued on its outside to some distance, so as gradually to attain the level of the surrounding ground. Over the part of this trench within the pen, and close to the wall, some sticks are placed so as to form a kind of bridge about a foot in breadth. The trap being now finished, the owner places a quantity of Indian corn in its centre, as well as in the trench, and as he walks off drops here and there a few grains in the woods, sometimes to the distance of a mile. This is repeated at every visit to the trap, after the Turkeys have found it. Sometimes two trenches are cut, in which case the trenches enter on opposite sides of the trap, and are both strewn with corn. No sooner has a Turkey discovered the train of corn, than it communicates the circumstance to the flock by a cluck, when all of them come up, and searching for the grains scattered about, at length come upon the trench, which they follow, squeezing themselves one after another through the passage under the bridge. In this manner the whole flock sometimes enters, but more commonly six or seven only, as they are alarmed by the least noise, even the cracking of a tree in frosty weather. Those within, having gorged themselves, raise their heads, and try to force their way through the top or sides of the pen, passing and re-passing on the bridge, but never for a moment looking down, or attempting to escape through the passage by which they entered. Thus they remain until the owner of the trap arriving, closes the trench, and secures his captives. I have heard of eighteen Turkeys having been caught in this manner at a single visit to the trap. I have had many of these pens myself, but never found more than seven in them at a time. One winter I kept an account of the produce of a pen which I visited daily, and found that seventy-six had been caught in it, in about two months. When these birds are abundant, the owners of the pens sometimes become satiated with their flesh, and neglect the visit the pens for several days, in some cases for weeks. The poor captives thus perish for want of food; for, strange as it may seem, they scarcely ever regain their liberty, by descending into the trench, and retracing their steps. I have, more than once, found four or five, and even ten, dead in a pen, through inattention. Where Wolves or Lynxes are numerous, they are apt to secure the prize before the owner of the trap arrives. One morning, I had the pleasure of securing in one of my pens, a fine Black Wolf, which, on seeing me, squatted, supposing me to be passing in another direction.
Wild Turkeys often approach and associate with tame ones, or fight with them, and drive them off from their food. The cocks sometimes pay their addresses to the domesticated females, and are generally received by them with great pleasure, as well as by their owners, who are well aware of the advantages resulting from such intrusions, the half-breed being much more hardy than the tame, and, consequently, more easily reared.
While at Henderson, on the Ohio, I had, among many other wild birds, a fine male Turkey, which had been reared from its earliest youth under my care, it having been caught by me when probably not more than two or three days old. It became so tame that it would follow any person who called it, and was the favourite of the little village. Yet it would never roost with the tame Turkeys, but regularly betook itself at night to the roof of the house, where it remained until dawn. When two years old, it began to fly to the woods, where it remained for a considerable part of the day, to return to the enclosure as night approached. It continued this practice until the following spring, when I saw it several times fly form its roosting place to the top of a high cotton-tree, on the bank of the Ohio, from which, after resting a little, it would sail to the opposite shore, the river being there nearly half a mile wide, and return towards night. One morning I saw it fly off, at a very early hour, to the woods, in another direction, and took no particular notice of the circumstance. Several days elapsed, but the bird did not return. I was going towards some lakes near Green River to shoot, when, having walked about five miles, I saw a fine large gobbler cross the path before me, moving leisurely along. Turkeys being then in prime condition for the table, I ordered my dog to chase it, and put it up. The animal went off with great rapidity, and as it approached the Turkey, I saw, with great surprise, that the latter paid little attention. June was on the point of seizing it, when she suddenly stopped, and turned her head towards me. I hastened to them but you may easily conceive my surprise when I saw my own favourite bird, and discovered that it had recongised the dog, and would not fly from it; although the sight of a strange dog would have caused it to run off at once. A friend of mine happening to be in search of a wounded deer, took the bird on his saddle before him, and carried it home for me. The following spring it was accidentally shot, having been taken for a wild bird, and brought to me on being recognised by the red ribbon which it had around its neck. Pray reader, by what word will you designate the recognition made by my favourite Turkey of a dog which had been long associated with it in the yard and grounds? Was it the result of instinct, or for reason,-an unconsciously revived impression, or the act of an intelligent mind?
At the time when I removed to Kentucky, rather more than a fourth of a century ago, Turkeys were so abundant, that the price of one in the market was not equal to that of a common barn-fowl now. I have seen them offered for the sum of three pence each; the birds weighing from ten to twelve pounds. A first-rate Turkey, weighing from twenty-five to thirty pounds avoirdupois, was considered well sold when it brought a quarter of a dollar.
The weight of Turkey hens generally averages about nine pounds avoirdupois. I have, however, shot barren hens in strawberry season, that weighted thirteen pounds, and have seen a few so fat as to burst open on falling from a tree when shot. Male Turkeys differ more in their bulk and weight. From fifteen to eighteen pounds may be a fair estimate of their ordinary weight. I saw one offered for sale in the Louisville market, that weighed thirty-six pounds. Its pectoral appendage measured upwards of a foot.
Some closet naturalists suppose the hen Turkey to be destitute of the appendage on the breast, but this is not true in the full-grown bird. The young males, as I have said, at the approach of the first winter, have merely a kind of protuberance in the flesh at this part, while the young females of the same age have no such appearance. The second year, the males are to be distinguished by the hairy tuft, which is about four inches long, where as in the females that are not barren, it is yet hardly apparent. The third year, the male Turkey may be said to be adult, although it certainly increases in weight and size for several years more. The females at the age of four are in full beauty, and have the pectoral appendage four or five inches long, but thinner than in the male. The barren hens do not acquire it until they are very old. The experienced hunter knows them at once in the flock, and shoots them by preference. The great number of young hens, destitute of the appendage in question, has doubtless given rise to the idea that it is wanting in the female Turkey.
The long downy double feathers * about the thighs and on the lower parts of the sides of the Wild Turkey, are often used for making tippets, by the wives of our squatters and farmers. These tippets, when properly made, are extremely beautiful as well as comfortable.
A long account of the habits of this remarkable bird has already been given in Bonaparte s American Ornithology, Vol. I. As that account was in a great measure derived from notes furnished by myself, you need not be surprised, good reader, to find it often in accordance with the above.
Having now said all that I have thought it might be agreeable to you to know of the history and habits of the Wild Turkey, I proceed to the technical description of that interesting bird.
Audubon, John James. The Wild Turkey. Ornithological Biography, or, An Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America; Accompanied by Descriptions of the Objects Represented in the Work Entitled The Birds of America, and Interspersed with Delineations of American Scenery and Manners . Vol. I. Philadelphia: E. L. Carey and A. Hart, 1832. 1-16. 5 vols.
* In the United States, the term mast is not confined to the fruit of the beech, but is used as a general name for all kinds of forest fruits, including even grapes and berries.
* The peculiarities in the structure of the plumage of different species of birds might, if duly attended to, prove of essential service to the systematic ornithologist, as conducing, along with other circumstances, to the elucidation of the natural affinities of birds. On this subject, l would refer the system-makers to the valuable observations of Mr. MacGillivray in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal for 1828.
David Crockett
1786-1836
For well over the last century-and-a-half of American literary history, fictional versions of the mythical figure known as Davy Crockett have steadily supplanted his historical counterpart, a gifted raconteur named David who was killed at the Alamo after completing his second term in Congress as a representative of the newly formed state of Tennessee. While his extraordinary talents and iron courage easily entitle the historical David to a secure position in the large gallery of American heroes, few outside the learned world of American literary scholarship have had adequate opportunities to study the fascinating course of his restless and active life. But, despite his virtual metamorphosis into a well-established mythological icon whose alleged exploits have limited basis in actual fact, there remains one important point on which fact and fiction agree: both the mythical Davy and the historical David consistently define themselves as exceptional hunters of the very first mark, rank, and distinction. In the northwestern wilderness of Tennessee, where the events in the following excerpt from David Crockett s autobiography take place, it appears that one s skill as a hunter often meant the difference between survival and starvation, not only for oneself, but also for one s family, friends, and acquaintances.
After loosing his first hasty campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November of 1825, Crockett embarked in November of 1825 on an ill-fated, nearly fatal venture in the procurement and sale of wooden barrel staves. At a very far remove from the comfortable prosperity of his former fellow state legislators, Crockett found that his father s own chronic poverty seemed to haunt him with a grim, indomitable persistence. Crockett established a base of operations at Lake Obion on the river of that name in the extreme northwest corner of Tennessee, not far from the confluence of the Obion and the Mississippi and about twenty-five miles due west of his famous homestead, Kentuck, on the southern fork of the Obion River. Of particular relevance to the two chapters from his autobiography that follow is that the wilderness between Lake Obion and the Larger Reelfoot Lake to the north had been ravaged by severe storms that had toppled many of the largest trees, creating a tangle of downed timber stretching for miles. This morass had then been covered by vines and a dense undergrowth of vines, cane, and saplings, and the ground had also been torn by numerous earthquakes. This remote area, still very much a true wilderness, with its thousands of acres of thickets, lush vegetation, irregular ground, and bands of hostile Indians, had therefore become a haven and breeding ground for innumerable deer and bear, so that an accomplished hunter such as Crocket would have had no trouble in collecting all the meat he would need.
Bear Hunting in Tennessee
But the reader, I expect, would have no objection to know a little about my employment during the two years while my competitor was in Congress. In this space I had some pretty tuff times, and will relate some few things that happened to me. So here goes, as the boy said when he run by himself.
In the fall of 1825, I concluded I would build two large boats, and load them with pipe staves for market. So I went down to the lake, which was about twenty-five miles from where I lived, and hired some hands to assist me, and went to work; some at boat building, and others to getting staves. I worked on with my hands till the bears got fat, and then I turned out to hunting, to lay in a supply of meat. I soon killed and salted down as many as were necessary for my family; but about this time one of my old neighbours, who had settled down on the lake about twenty-five miles from me, came to my house and told me he wanted me to go down and kill some bears about in his parts. He said they were extremely fat, and very plenty. I know d that when they were fat, they were easily taken, for a fat bear can t run fast or long. But I asked a bear no favours, no way, further than civility, for I now had eight large dogs, and as fierce as painters; so that a bear stood no chance at all to get away from them. So I went home with him, and then went on down towards the Mississippi, and commenced hunting.
We were out two weeks, and in that time killed fifteen bears. Having now supplied my friend with plenty of meat, I engaged occasionally again with my hands in our boat building, and getting staves. But I at length couldn t stand it any longer without another hunt. So I concluded to take my little son, and cross over the lake, and take a hunt there. We got over, and that evening turned out and killed three bears, in little or no time. The next morning we drove up four forks, and made a sort of scaffold, on which we salted up our meat, so as to have it out of the reach of the wolves, for as soon as we could leave our camp, they would take possession. We had just eat our breakfast, when a company of hunters came to our camp, who had fourteen dogs, but all so poor, that when they would bark they would almost have to lean up against a tree and take a rest. I told them their dogs couldn t run in smell of a bear, and they had better stay at my camp, and feed them on the bones I had cut out of my meat. I left them there, and cut out; but I hadn t gone far, when my dogs took a first-rate start after a very large fat old he-bear , which run right plump towards my camp. I pursued on, but my other hunters had heard my dogs coming, and met them, and killed the bear before I got up with him. I gave him to them and cut out again for a creek called Big Clover, which wa n t very far off. Just as I got there, and was entering a cane brake, my dogs all broke and went ahead, and, in a little time, they raised a fuss in the cane, and seemed to be going every way. I listened a while, and found my dogs was in two companies, and that both was in a snorting fight. I sent my little son to one, and I broke for t other. I got to mine first, and found my dogs had a two-year-old bear down, a-wooling away on him; so I just took out my big butcher, and went up and slap d it into him, and killed him without shooting. There was five of the dogs in my company. In a short time, I heard my little son fire at his bear; when I went to him he had killed it too. He had two dogs in his team. Just at this moment we heard my other dog barking a short distance off, and all the rest immediately broke to him. We pushed on too, and when we got there, we found he had still a larger bear than either of them we had killed, treed by himself. We killed that one also, which made three we had killed in less than half an hour. We turned in and butchered them, and then started to hunt for water, and a good place to camp. But we had no sooner started, than our dogs took a start after another one, and away they went like a thunder-gust, and was out of hearing in a minute. We followed the way they had gone for some time, but at length we gave up the hope of finding them, and turned back. As we were going back, I came to where a poor fellow was grubbing, and he looked like the very picture of hard times. I asked him what he was doing away there in the woods by himself? He said he was grubbing for a man who intended to settle there; and the reason why he did it was, that he had no meat for his family and he was working for a little.
I was mighty sorry for the poor fellow, for it was not only a hard, but a very slow way to get meat for a hungry family; so I told him if he would go with me, I would give him more meat than he could get by grubbing in a month. I intended to supply him with meat, and also to get him to assist my little boy in packing in and salting up my bears.
He had never seen a bear killed in his life. I told him I had six killed then, and my dogs were hard after another. He went off to his little cabin, which was a short distance in the brush, and his wife was very anxious he should go with me. So we started and went to where I had left my three bears, and made a camp. We then gathered my meat and salted, and scaffled it, as I had done the other. Night now came on, but no word from my dogs yet. I afterwards found they had treed the bear about five miles off, near to a man s house, and had barked at it the whole enduring night. Poor fellows! many a time they looked for me, and wondered why I didn t come, for they knowed there was no mistake in me, and I know d they were as good as ever fluttered. In the morning, as soon as it was light enough to see, the man took his gun and went to them, and shot the bear, and killed it. My dogs, however, wouldn t have any thing to say to this stranger; so they left him, and came early in the morning back to me.
We got our breakfast, and cut out again; and we killed four large and very fat bear that day. We hunted out the week, and in that time we killed seventeen, all of them first-rate. When we closed our hunt, I gave the man over a thousand weight of fine fat bear-meat, which pleased him mightily, and made him feel as rich as a Jew. I saw him the next fall, and he told me he had plenty of meat to do him the whole year from this week s hunt. My son and me now went home. This was the week between Christmas and New-year that we made this hunt.

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