Fifty Years a Hunter and Trapper.. E. N. Woodcock Jan 18, 2012 21:23:05 GMT -5
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Fifty Years a Hunter and Trapper, by
Eldred Nathaniel Woodcock
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Title: Fifty Years a Hunter and Trapper
Autobiography, experiences and observations of Eldred
Nathaniel Woodcock during his fifty years of hunting and
Author: Eldred Nathaniel Woodcock
Release Date: October 12, 2010 [EBook #34063]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK FIFTY YEARS A HUNTER AND TRAPPER ***
Produced by Linda M. Everhart, Blairstown, Missouri
FIFTY YEARS A HUNTER AND TRAPPER COVER.
E. N. WOODCOCK AND BEAR TRAPS--HIS OWN MAKE.
WOODCOCK AND BEAR TRAPS--HIS OWN MAKE.
FIFTY YEARS A HUNTER AND TRAPPER
Experiences and Observations of E. N. Woodcock
the noted Hunter and Trapper, as written
by Himself and Published in
H-T-T from 1903 to 1913
A. R. HARDING
A. R. HARDING, Publisher
St. Louis, Mo.
A. R. HARDING.
I--Autobiography of E. N. Woodcock
III--My First Real Trapping Experience
IV--Some Early Experiences
V--Some Early Experiences (Concluded)
VI--A Hunt on the Kinzua
VII--My Last Hunt on the Kinzua
VIII--Fred and the Old Trapper
IX--Bears in 1870, Today--Other Notes
X--Incidents Connected with Bear Trapping
XI--Pacific Coast Trip
XII--Some Michigan Trips
XIII--Hunting and Trapping in Cameron Co., Pa., in 1869
XIV--Hunting and Trapping in Cameron Co.
XV--Trapping and Bee Hunting
XVI--Hits and Misses on the Trail
XVII--Lost in the Woods
XVIII--Traps and Other Hints for Trappers
XIX--Camps and Camping
XX--Deer Hunt Turned Into a Bear Hunt
XXI--Dog on the Trap Line
XXII--Two Cases of Buck Fever
XXIII--Partner a Necessity
XXIV--A Few Words on Deadfalls
XXV--Advice from a Veteran
XXVI--The Screech of the Panther
XXVII--Handling Raw Furs and Other Notes
XXVIII--The Passing of the Fur bearer
XXIX--Destruction of Game and Game Birds
XXX--Southern Experiences on the Trap Line
XXXI--On the Trap and Trot Line in the South
XXXII--Trapping in Alabama
XXXIII--Some Early Experiences
XXXIV--The White Deer
XXXV--A Day of Luck
XXXVI--A Mixed Bag
E. N. Woodcock and Bear Traps--His own make
E. N. Woodcock's Residence
Setting a Large Steel Trap for Bear
Woodcock and Some of His Catch
Woodcock on the Trap Line
Log Set for Fox
Woodcock and His Catch, Fall, 1904
Building a Bear "Lowdown"
Results of a Few Weeks' Trapping
Woodcock Fishing on the Sinnamahoning
Woodcock and Some of His Catch
Woodcock and His Steel Traps
Woodcock Fishing on Pine Creek
Woodcock and His Old Trapping Dog, Prince
Good Small Animal Deadfall
Spring Set for Fox
Woodcock on the Trap Line, 1912
Visitors at Woodcock's Camp in Georgia
E. N. Woodcock and His Catch of Alabama Furs
E. N. Woodcock and Some of His Alabama Furs
Foot of Tree Set
Woodcock and His Old Trapping Dog
Sometime early in the spring of 1903, a letter was received from a man in Pennsylvania and published in H-T-T, which a few weeks later brought to light one of the truest and best sportsmen that ever shouldered a gun, strung a snare or set a trap--E. N. Woodcock.
Some of the happenings are repeated and all dates may not be correct, for be it remembered that Mr. Woodcock has written all from memory. It is doubtful if he kept all copies of H-T-T, therefore was not sure if such and such incidents had been written before. In most cases these are somewhat different and as they all "fit in" we have used them as written and published from time to time.
Much information is also contained in the writings of Mr. Woodcock and whether you use gun, steel traps, deadfalls or snares, you will find something of value. The articles are also written in a style that impresses all of their truthfulness, but, so written that they are very interesting.
Those of our readers who have read his articles will be glad of this opportunity to get his writings in book form, while those that have only read a few of his more recent articles will be pleased to secure all.
Perhaps the following editorial which appeared in H-T-T will be in place here:
"Although crippled with rheumatism, there is an old hunter and trapper living in Potter County, Pa., whose enthusiasm is high and his greatest desire is still to get out over the trap lines a few seasons before the end of the "trail" of life's journey is reached. May that desire be fulfilled is the earnest wish of the H-T-T as well as thousands of our readers, who have read the writings of this kind-hearted and wide experienced hunter and trapper, as they have been penned from his home near the Allegheny Mountains.
It is with pleasure that we publish in this issue the "Autobiography of E. N. Woodcock as a Trapper." During his half century with trap and gun, he has had some narrow escapes and experiences, but not the many "hair-breadth escapes" that some claim, but which only occur on paper. Mr. Woodcock is a truthful man, and you can read his autobiography knowing that it is the truth even to the minutest detail."
The autobiography was written by Mr. Woodcock at the request of the Editor of Hunter-Trader-Trapper in the spring of 1908 and published July of the same year. We are glad to add that since that time, Mr. Woodcock has enjoyed several hunting and trapping expeditions. Some were in his home state--Pennsylvania--on same grounds, or at least near those he camped on many, many years ago. He also took a couple of trips into the south--fall of 1911 and 1912. He was in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. An account of these hunts is given in Chapters XXX, XXXI and XXXII.
In May, 1912, the Editor of Hunter-Trader-Trapper visited Mr. Woodcock and family at their home some four miles from Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Mr. Woodcock, though physically not large, is a wonderful man in the "ways of the woods." He is not given to exaggeration or boasting like many a man who has followed the Trail and Trap Line. Every word that he says or writes can be put down as truthful beyond a doubt.
At this time, (May, 1912) he was afraid he would never be able to get out on the trap line again, as he was suffering from rheumatism and heart trouble. Towards fall he became better, and enjoyed the sport, which for more than fifty years has been his--may he be spared to enjoy many more.
By noting the dates as given in connection with various articles published, it will be seen that Mr. Woodcock shortly after 1900 began to point out the need of protection to game and fur animals. After a life on the trap and trail of more than fifty years, such advice should be far reaching. Mr. Woodcock is a man of unusual foresight and knowing that he is nearing the end of the trail, wishes to forcibly impress the needs of protection.
By referring to a good map, you will be able to see the location of many of Mr. Woodcock's hunting, camping and trapping trips, as he generally mentions State, County and Streams.
Very few men have had wider experience than Mr. Woodcock. He knows from more than a half century much of the habits and characteristics of animals. He gives his reasons why marten are plentiful in one section and are gone in a few days. His reason too, looks plausible. He describes trapping wolves in Upper Michigan about 1880, also beaver. Tells how he caught the "shadow of the forests" as wolves are often called by trappers--they are so hard to trap. By reading of his many experiences you will not only enjoy what he says, but will get facts about bear, deer, fox, wolves, mink, marten and other fur bearers that you had never thought of.
This man, while on the "trail" upwards of fifty years, so far as known never killed out of season or trapped unprime furs.
A WORD FROM MR. WOODCOCK.
The editor of HUNTER-TRADER-TRAPPER has requested a foreword of introductory to FIFTY YEARS A HUNTER AND TRAPPER OR EXPERIENCE OF E. N. WOODCOCK, saying that so many have enjoyed my articles, which have appeared from time to time in HUNTER-TRADER-TRAPPER, extending over a period of some ten years, 1903 to 1913, that same are to be published in book form.
I was born at Lymansville, Potter County, Pennsylvania, August 30, 1844. From early childhood, my nature led me to the Forests and Streams. I have hunted in many of the states of the Far West including the three Pacific States--California, Oregon and Washington. I killed my first panther or cougar in the mountains of Idaho on the headwaters of the Clearwater river. My first real experience in wolfing was in Southeastern Oregon. I met my greatest number of deer in Northwestern California.
I have trapped of late years, in nearly all of the states east of the Mississippi river and also on the White River of Arkansas; also trapped bear and other fur bearing animals and hunted deer in Northern Michigan, also forty years ago.
Another sport which I enjoyed was the "pigeon days." I have netted wild pigeons from the Adirondack Mountains in New York state to Indian Territory--now Oklahoma--trapping them in the states of Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania and New York.
My nature led me to the Trail and Trap line from early childhood and I have trapped bear and hunted deer in the mountains of Pennsylvania for more than 50 years--half a century--and my picture with my two foxes on my shoulder shows me on the trap line for the season of 1912-13.
March 1, 1913.
E. N. WOODCOCK.
Autobiography of E. N. Woodcock.
I was born on the 30th day of August, A. D. 1844, in a little village by the name of Lymansville, Potter County, Pennsylvania. Lymansville was named after my grandparent, Isaac Lyman, or better known as Major Lyman, having held office of that rank in the Revolutionary War. It is from this limb of the family that I inherited that uncontrollable desire for the trap, gun and the wild.
At a very early age it was my greatest delight to have all the mice, squirrels and groundhogs and in later years young raccoons, young fox and every other varmint or wild animal that I could catch or could get from other sources, and at times I had quite a menagerie.
I began trapping at a very early age, the same as many boys do who live out in the country where they have an opportunity. My father owned a grist mill and a sawmill. These mills were about one-half mile apart and it was about these mills and along the mill races and ponds of these mills that I set my first traps for muskrats, mink and coon. Before I was stout enough to set a trap which was strong enough to hold the varmint, it was necessary for me to get some older person to set the trap. I would take the trap to the intended place and set for the particular animals I was in quest of, whether mink, coon or rat.
In those days clearings were small, woods large and full of game. Deer could be seen in bunches every morning in the fields and it was not uncommon to see a bear's track near the house that had been made during the night. Wolves were not plenty though it was a common thing to see their tracks and sometimes hear them howl on the hills.
Like other boys who lead an outdoor life, I grew stronger each year and as I grew older and stronger my trap lines grew longer and my hunts took me farther into the woods. Finally as game became scarcer my hunts grew from a few hours in length to weeks and months camping in a cabin built in the woods in a section where game was plenty.
At the age of thirteen while out with a party of men on a hunting and fishing trip, I killed my first bear. While I had now been out each fall with my traps and gun, it was not until I was about eighteen years old that I took my first lesson from an old and experienced trapper, a man nearly eighty years old and a trapper and hunter from boyhood. The man's name was Aleck Harris. We made our camp in the extreme southeastern part of this (Potter) County in a section known as "The Black Forest" and it was here that I learned many things from an experienced trapper and hunter that served me well on the trap line and the trail, in the years that followed.
It was here that I made my first bed in a foot or more of snow with a fire against a fallen tree and a few boughs thrown on the ground for a bed. At other times perhaps a bear skin just removed from the bear for covering, or I might have no covering other than to remove my coat and spread it over me. This I have often done when belated on the trail so that I was unable to reach the cabin and was happy and contented.
It was here I first learned to do up the saddles or the carcass of a deer in the more convenient way to carry. It was here that I took my first practical lessons in skinning, stretching, curing and handling of skins and furs. I also learned many things of traps and trapping and to do away with sheath knives and other unnecessary burdens on the trap line. In my younger days I preferred to "go it alone" when in a country that I was familiar with and many a week I have spent in my cabin alone save for my faithful dog, but as I grew older and became afflicted with rheumatism I have found a partner more acceptable.
I have met with many queer circumstances while on the trap line and trail, yet I have never met with any of those bloodcurdling and hair-breadth escapes from wild animals which are mostly "pipe dreams". Perhaps the nearest I ever came to being seriously hurt by a wild animal was from a large buck deer. It was in November and on a stormy day. I had killed a doe and was in the act of dressing the doe and was leaning over the deer at work. I was within a few feet of a fallen tree. Hearing a slight noise, I raised up to see what caused it, when with the speed of a cannon ball a buck flew past me, barely missing and landed six or eight feet beyond me.
The deer had come up to this fallen tree on the track of the doe and seeing me at work over the doe, became angered and sprung at me and only my straightening up at the very instant that I did saved me from being seriously hurt or perhaps killed. I sprang over the log. The deer stood and gazed at me for a moment. His eyes were of a green hue and the hair on his back all stuck up towards his head. After gazing at me for a moment the deer walked slowly away. The suddenness of the occurrence so unnerved me that I was unable to shoot for some minutes though my gun was standing against the tree within reach.
At another time I was somewhat frightened by what I supposed was a dead bear suddenly coming to life. I had caught the bear in a trap and it had got fastened in some saplings growing on the steep bank of a small brook. I shot the bear in the head, as I thought, and it fell over the bank in such a manner that his whole weight was held by the leg that was fast in the trap. I was unable to release it from the trap where it was hanging as I had no clamp to put the trap springs down with, to release the bear's foot. I had set my gun, a single barrel rifle, against a tree without reloading it.
I cut the bear's paw off close to the trap which allowed the animal to roll down the bank to level ground. I had begun to rip down the leg that had been caught in the trap. A lad of about ten years was with me having accompanied me to attend the traps that day. The lad stood looking on when all of a sudden he said, "See him wink." I stopped my work and glanced at the bear's eyes and sure enough he was winking and winking fast, too, and almost before I knew it the bear was trying to get onto his feet. My gun was unloaded and the lad was screaming at the top of his voice, "Kill him! Kill him!" But what was I to kill him with? Nothing came to my mind at first except to use my gun as a club but I did not like to break it.
In a moment I thought of my hatchet which I had taken from the holster and laid on the bank where I had cut the bear's foot off to release him from the trap. I grabbed the hatchet and one good blow on the head put a stop to the rumpus and nobody harmed, although the boy was badly frightened.
At another time I might have got into trouble with a bear also caught in a trap. I was quite young at this time. I had gone some ten or twelve miles from home and set a trap for a bear. The trap was rather a poor one with a very light chain for a bear trap. I had only set the trap a few days before yet I thought I must go and look after it, but it was more the desire to be in the woods than it was of expecting to have a bear in the trap at that time. I did not take a gun with me, only a revolver loaded as I had no more balls and this was before the days of fixed ammunition.
When I came to the trap there was an ugly bear in it and he had the clog fast in some roots and among some fallen trees. After firing one shot at the Bear's head, which I missed, I then shot the two remaining balls into the bear's body with the only effect of making him more determined to get at me. I now cut a good club determined to put a quietus on Bruin in that manner but after landing several blows my knees began to feel weak. I gave up the job and returned home leaving Bruin in the trap feeling as well as he did when I first found him, so far as I was able to see. But when I returned the next morning with help and now with a regular gun we found Bruin nearly dead and helpless from the shots that I had given him the day before from the revolver.
I have met with other circumstances not quite so fascinating as those just related. At one time a young companion and I were camping and trapping several miles from home and several miles from a road. One day while we were some ways out from camp setting traps my friend became suddenly very ill. It required no skilled doctor to see that it was a case that must have help at once. I started with my friend to get to camp. While my companion was not as old as I, he was larger and heavier. I worked along with him, half carrying him, while he would support himself as best he could. I got him within about a mile of the cabin when he completely gave out and could go no farther and with all my pleadings I could not get him to try to go any farther, but he promised that if I went after help that after resting he would work his way to camp.
Seeing that there was no other way to do, I left him and started for help. It was now dark. My way was over a road of about twelve miles and nearly all the way through a thick woods and part of the way without a road other than a path. When I reached the cabin I stopped long enough to build a fire so that the cabin would be warm when my companion got there if he did get there at all, which I doubted.
I took a lunch in my hand and started for help. I would take a trot whenever the woods were sufficiently open to let in light enough so that I could see my way. I got to my companion's home about midnight and we were soon on the way back with a team and wagon while my companion's father went after a doctor to have him there when we got back with the patient. We drove with the wagon as far as the road would allow, then we left the wagon and rode the horses to the camp.
When we reached the cabin, contrary to expectations, we found my companion there but very sick. We lost no time in getting him onto a horse and starting for the wagon where we had a bed for the patient to lie down on. We got home about eight o'clock in the morning. The doctor was waiting for us and he said as soon as he looked at the man that it was a bad case of typhoid fever. He was right, for it took many weeks before my friend was able to be out again.
When game began to get scarce, that is when game was no longer found plenty right at the door, I began to look for parts where game was plentiful and accordingly, with three companions, I arranged to hunt and trap on Thunder Bay River in Michigan, where deer and all kinds of game, we had been told, were plenty and also lots of fur bearers. This we found to be quite true but the state had passed a law forbidding the shipment of deer. We did not know this when we left home and two of the boys soon got discouraged and returned.
It was while hunting here that I had another trip of twenty miles through the woods over rough corduroy tote road in the night after a team to take my companion (Vanater by name) out to Alpena to have a broken leg set. He was carrying a deer on his shoulder and when near camp it was necessary to cross a small stream to get to the cabin. We had felled a small tree across the creek for the purpose of crossing. There was three or four inches of snow on the log and after my companion was across the creek and just as he was about to step from the log he slipped and fell, striking his leg across the log in some manner so that it broke between the knee and ankle.
After getting my companion to camp and making him as comfortable as possible, I took a lunch in my knapsack and with an old tin lantern with a tallow candle in it, which gave about as much light as a lightning bug, I started over the longest and roughest twenty miles of road that I ever traveled in the night. Sometimes I would trip on some stick or log and fall and put out my light but I would get up, light the candle in the lantern again and hurry on all the faster to make up for lost time. I made the journey all right and was back to camp the next day before noon where we found my companion doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances.
We got my companion out to Alpena where the doctor set the leg and in the course of two or three weeks he was so far recovered that he was able to return to camp and keep me company until he was able to again take up the trap line and trail.
Some years later I again went back to Michigan and hunted deer and trapped on the Manistee, Boardman and Rapid Rivers, but I found game and furs had become somewhat scarce in that part so I next went with a partner to upper Michigan. At that time there was no railroad in Upper Michigan and but few settlers, after leaving the Straits, until near Lake Superior and near the copper and iron mines.
I have tried my luck in three of the states west of the Rocky Mountains. In the Clear Water regions of Idaho there was a fair showing of big game, with a good sprinkling of the fur bearers, including a bunch of beaver here and there. (Beaver protected.) I heard men tell of there being plenty of grizzly and silver tip bear but I saw no signs of them. In California a trapper told, me of a large grizzly coming to his shack in the night. He said that he was cooking venison and that he had the fresh meat of a deer in the shack and he thought that the bear smelled the meat was what brought him there. The man said the bear smelled around the shack awhile and then began to dig at one corner of the shack and soon pulled out the bottom log. The man kept quiet until the bear pulled out the next log and put his head in through the hole when he put a ball between the bear's eyes that fixed Bruin too quick. (A bad case of nightmare.) I think it doubtful if there is a grizzly bear or at least very few now to be found south of the British Columbia line.
My best catch of bear in one season with a partner was eleven. Years ago I caught from three to six bear each season but late years I have not caught more than one to three. I think that of late the heavy lumbering going on through Northern Pennsylvania had something to do with the catch of bear.
The timber in Pennsylvania is largely cut away now leaving bark slashings which make fine shelter for bear and wildcats and both animals were apparently quite plenty I would judge from the number caught in this section, fall of 1907. Deer are very scarce in this state, perhaps the most to be found are in Pike County.
I can lay claim to one thing that but few hunters and trappers can do, that is for forty years I lost only two seasons from the trap line and the trail and each time I was detained by rheumatism. Once being taken down with sciatica while in the camp trapping and hunting, and it held me to my bed for several months hard and tight. I still have the greater part of my trapping and hunting outfit, and am still in hopes to be able to get out on the line and pinch a few more toes.