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Field Notes

From Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia from 1768 to 1795

By Lucullus Virgil McWhorter

 A Modern Nimrod

The following interesting letter was a reluctant compliance with the request of my father for a brief synopsis of a hunter’s career. Bearing no date, it was written in April, 1907, and is the record of a typical mountaineer; a simile of the hundreds who have spent their lives in killing game throughout the ranges of the mighty Alleghenies. In 1889, my father visited Mr. Arbogast, and went with him to one of his bear traps some three or four miles from his house and up the Greenbrier River. The trap was constructed of logs and contained a yearling bear, which was dead. The hunter had delayed his rounds one day too long.

“Dear Dr. J. M. McWhorter:

I will try to answer a few of your questions. I killed first deer in 1848 with a flint lock rifle. About 1852 I had the lock changed to percussion. I killed the majority [of deer] with [this] mountain rifle. In 1878, I got a 45-60 Winchester. The first fall after I had the [flint] lock changed I killed 8 [deer] next fall 20; next [fall] 25. After that I killed from 25 to 30 every fall. 32 was the most I killed in one fall. I killed 2 to5 Red Deer every Summer which were not counted in fall hunts at that time. I killed 2 at one shot 3 [different] times. I killed 4 a day 2 [twice] I killed 5 in half day out of six I saw with muzzle loader. I made an estimate I have killed between 6 and 7 hundred [deer] 25 was the highest number I saw in one day – I killed and caught several Bear – I shot one wolf and poisoned and caught several others in trap. We have had 8 sheep killed in sight of house and many less numbers at different times by wolves, bear and panthers. I killed 2 panthers [in] one day.  My father had a dog that treed 11 panthers that he killed. Dogs went out on his own accord and treed one. Panther came down and killed the dog. Was snow on the ground – was a young dog along with him came back next morning wounded by the panther. Father took his back track to where the old dog was killed. The panther had carried him into a laurel thicket [and] had eat him about half up [and] was laying by the dog. When father followed the trail to where the dog was the panther walked away. Father went about 2 hundred yards in the thicket. Panther had stopped twice in that distance til he saw Father coming, so he thought. Was a soft snow in April which made things plain.

A bear came at night when I was a small Boy father was not at home – took a small hog from where they lay at night before we had gone to bed; heard it squeal as the Bear carried it off. Must have been 200 yards away when stopped squealing. The hog bed was about 50 yards from house. Second night after, it came back caught a fat hog in pen about 30 feet from house. Father heard it squeal went out with gun was too dark to see it. He hallooed [and] as it climbed over pen he shot at the noise did not hit it. I had a salt lick for deer at the root of a chestnut tree; deer and groundhogs dug down through the roots. Went thee one morning to salt it – a deer had put its head down between the roots got its head fast was dead, and warm yet. I had killed a number of deer there before and after – I killed an eagle that had swallowed about 6 inches of a deer’s rib one end was broken off slanting very sharp he other end being a joint was round. This end was in its craw the other end stuck out about 2 ½ inches on one side of back bone. The part that stuck out was bleached as white as a bone that had laid on ground several years, and wore as smooth as if it had been done with sand paper. I suppose in using its wings the feathers wore it smooth.

I only had one close call in the woods that I know of. Was out hunting snow was about a foot deep commence sleeting in a short time crust on snow bore me up and slick as glass. Feet slipped from under me was on a steep hillside. Down the hill I went feet front about 30 yards to a large log, the gun stopped against the log. I went overturned head in front about 30 yards run into a bunch of dead brush which caught in my clothes by breaking off, the snags caught which I think saved me from getting killed or badly hurt. It was about 100 yards to stream of water nothing in way to stop me. I worked my way back to where my gun stopped at log, by breaking through the snow crust and heel of shoes. Then used breech of gun to break through crust of snow, until I got down to a stream of water which led to river and home. I met Father about half a mile from home going to look for me. I was born in a cabin 20 feet from the house I now live in, 72 years ago 6th of last March 1907 lived here all the time.

I wish I had kept a statement of every day’s hunt during my life taken down every evening. I give this as a true statement & ct.

Kindest Regards to any one who by chance may read this statement.

A. M. V. Arbogast.

Dunlevie Pocahontas Co W. Va.

Submitted for publication by Maxie Gum




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