Saturday, October 20, 2012

Deer Hunting, by Uncle Jack and Sue Kinsella

Sue: Hunting and fishing are big with many in the Taylor-Baker families. I remembered my Dad going hunting when I was a kid, so I asked him about it. He talked with Harold Taylor to get his memories, too, then sent me the following story.

My deer hunting adventures started in about 1954. Dick Lochner had talked to Merle Barrows [Ethel and Lil’s cousin] at one of the family gatherings and Merle told him about the great deer hunting get-together he and his neighbors had every year near his home in Pitcher, NY. Dick asked what he and I had to do to get invited and Merle said, “Consider yourselves invited! You can stay with Viola and myself.”

So next November, the day before deer season opened, we drove down to Pitcher, NY, raring to go. I had picked up an old double-barreled shotgun at my parents' house in Waterloo, NY that was originally my Dad’s. My brother, Dick, had used it for pheasant hunting.

 Merle and Viola's Farm, July 1955
Sue and Dan Kinsella by front of car

After we arrived, Merle gave us the lowdown on the deer hunt. He said the participants were all neighbors and friends. We hunted on a neighbor’s lands that, fortunately, backed up to government land that was off limits for hunting. The deer that lived there in this wide open area wandered back and forth between the government and the private land so that there were always lots of deer in the area. I must mention that hanging on Merle’s living room wall was the biggest mounted deer head I had ever seen. 

Early the next morning around 5 o’clock, Viola shouted up the stairs that breakfast was ready, and what a breakfast it was — heaps of eggs, pancakes, sausages, and bacon plus lots of freshly baked bread. We then piled into Merle’s truck and drove a few miles to his neighbor Bob's house. There we met the others that were included in the hunt. While waiting for it to get light we spent the time eating doughnuts and drinking coffee.

Just before daybreak, we split into two groups, the shooters and the beaters. Dick and I were in the first shooters group. We piled into Merle’s truck and drove on a dirt road that led to a hill about 1⁄2 mile from Bob’s house. Merle then dropped us off, one by one, about 100 yards apart along the hill. We could see Bob’s house from there. As soon as daylight came, the beaters came out of Bob’s house, spread out into a line and, banging clubs and pans together, started marching towards us.

There was a small forest of trees halfway between Bob’s house and where we were waiting. Several of the beaters entered that forest and shortly after I saw at least a dozen deer sprint out of the other side and run in our direction. Don’t you think that made me excited! Just then I heard a shot off to my right where Dick Lochner was positioned. I saw Dick take a couple more shots at a running buck and then I realized the deer was running towards me. It was about 40 yards away as it ran past me so I shot, aiming for its shoulder. Much to my amazement, the deer dropped like a rock. When I reached it, the deer was dead. Shortly after the drive was over, up came the trucks that picked us all up, plus the two deer that had been killed on that drive. We were driven back to Bob’s house, where we had more coffee and doughnuts.

After a suitable rest, we all got into the trucks and were driven to a different area where another drive was organized. The beater and shooter groups exchanged assignments and we started all over again. In that drive, three bucks were killed. I was not too far from Bob when he shot his deer. It was running at full speed and he dropped it with one shot!

That night when we were back at Merle’s house, I mentioned to him having seen Bob drop the deer and that I thought that he was an excellent shot. Apparently there was some rivalry there because that seemed to upset Merle and he promptly told me many tales of his hunting skill.

All the deer that were killed were brought back to a barn on Bob’s farm and hung up from a long beam. When Dick and I left, there must have been 12 to 15 deer hanging there. I don’t know who made the decisions on how much deer meat each person got but I think it depended upon on how much time the person spent hunting, not on how many deer they shot. As far as I could tell, everyone got some deer meat, whether they had been beaters or shooters, and whether or not they had personally killed a deer. Dick and I each received a generous portion of a rear haunch and all that winter we had roasts and steaks and hamburger from it.

The following year, Dick and I must have told Harold Taylor how much fun we had had hunting deer at Merle’s because he decided to join us at the next year’s hunt. The three of us stayed at Merle’s and, as usual, Viola provided us with delicious calorie-laden breakfasts.

We followed the same routine of beaters and shooters, but this year things were different. Now does were legal to shoot, which meant there were many more opportunities to shoot a deer.

Harold said early on in the hunt he had a nice clear shot at a deer. He told me, “I took good aim, pulled the trigger and shot. I don’t know what happened but the deer just disappeared. I never saw it again. I wasn’t worried, though. I still had two more days to hunt so I felt confident that I’d get my deer by then.”

But then Dick Lochner stumbled upon two deer and he killed both of them. This posed a dilemma for us. You are only allowed to kill one deer per day. When you do kill one, you have to attach your tag to that deer and then you must stop hunting. There were four people in our particular shooters group: Dick, Harold, one of Bob’s neighbors and me. The neighbor and I had already shot a deer that day and Dick had killed two. We needed a tag to put on Dick’s second deer and the only solution was to use Harold’s tag, which is what happened. That meant Harold had to stop hunting even though he hadn’t killed a deer yet.

Harold was disappointed but he continued the rest of the hunt as a beater, as did Dick and I. On one of the beater drives, I couldn’t believe my ears. I heard a dog barking, but it was illegal to use dogs on a deer drive. Nevertheless, I could distinctly hear that ‘arf’ ‘arf’ sound. As I kept walking, the sound got louder and then I heard ‘arf’ ‘arf’ “Red Heart” - at the same time I came upon Harold singing the Red Heart dog food commercial!

That year I had slipped a disc in my back and it was giving me so much trouble I wore a corset to ease the pain. One day during the hunting trip, I had a call of nature. This necessitated my removing my corset. When I was finished, I rebuckeled my corset, pulled up my pants and started to walk away — but I couldn’t. That’s when I realized that as I buckled up the corset, I hadn’t  noticed I was close to a small sapling and that was now wrapped inside my corset!

Oh, it was the best of times and a record number of deer were killed on our hunting trip with Merle's neighbors. We all went home with plenty of deer meat that year.

Sue: When I was asking about hunting stories for the blog, Mom and Dad started laughing and told me a story that suggests Uncle Dick wasn't the only "hunter" in the Lochner family.

As they told it, one year Uncle Dick went on a week-long hunting trip to the Adirondacks. But he came back rather dejected because, for all his efforts, he had not gotten a deer all week. Imagine his surprise when he got home, then, to find a whole deer waiting for him!  

It turned out that while he was away, Aunt Esther had been driving on some domestic errand or other and a deer had run in front of her car. She couldn't avoid hitting it and killed it. Flustered and upset, she called the police, who decided that, since she had killed the deer unintentionally, she could keep it.

So Uncle Dick had worked hard, hunting all week, but did not get a deer. Yet he came home to find that Aunt Esther had bagged one with no effort at all!

Breaking News!

Diana sent this picture of modern-day hunting, showing her son Mike McCarty and his dog Payton. Thank you!


Pat said...

Love these stories, Sue! Wonderful.


Mom/CB said...

I well remember the week that my father, Lloyd would go hunting in the Adirondacks. We were assured of "easy " meals for the week, No one minding our manners, being noisy, and IF aunt LIl came, we knew we would get to learn a new game!! Those were "happy" days, Our vacation! Sometimes he even got a deer! Even if not we got to listen to ALL the stories ! [ which, in retrospect, remind me of some fishing stories!! [ And as BIG I imagine!]

Julie said...

What a great--and memory laden--story. I remember very well all the years Dad looked forward to hunting down at Merle and Viola's. HE LOVED IT! It never seemed to matter a lot whether or not he bagged anything, although it sure made it more fun when he did. And I remember Mom hitting the deer. It took out the radiator the cost of which was offset by getting the deer she ran into. Nice story, Sue and Uncle Jack!

Sue Kinsella said...

I was most fascinated with the "team" aspect of Dad's hunting story. I talked with him some more about it today and he clearly really liked the way that everybody, even those who were not the shooters, played an essential role in the hunt. He talked about how, when he was dropped off at a shooting position along the ridge, he could watch the whole panorama of the hunt unfold - seeing the "beaters" come out of the farmhouse, then start beating pans, etc. as they entered the forest, then the deer rushing out of the other side of the forest towards the shooters, etc. Dad said he'd been talking with a friend a couple days ago who said he'd never heard of hunting that way, he always had hunted individually.

The community way of dividing up the deer meat was also apparently somewhat unusual then. In Dad's story, he describes how everyone got some of the deer meat, whether or not they had personally killed a deer, in recognition of the importance of everyone in the group effort. But those were also the days, Dad said, when hunters liked to tie their trophies to their car bumpers (obviously, car bumpers were stronger then, too!), so they could stop at the gas station in town and impress people with their prowess, with a deer tied to their front bumper - and another tied to their back bumper, if they had gotten more than one. Clearly, the team approach at Merle's farm didn't give the participants that option.

I don't know how common this kind of group hunting was (or is now), but to me it both reminds me of modern "team playing" at businesses and also of the wisdom of ancient times when groups and/or tribes hunted collaboratively in order to have the best chances for success and survival. Very interesting to me from a sociological perspective!