27 February 2012

Stupefied Wild Pigeon Trapping in Essex County

"In the county of Essex large numbers are annually captured. The value of pigeons taken here yearly is estimated at $20,000. In the town of Boxford it is reckoned that three thousand dozen are taken every season; and in Andover, Methuen, Tewksbury, and other towns in that section, still larger numbers are trapped. Cartis, the well-known hunter and trapper of Boxford, takes about 700 annually, and has been known to capture over 100 dozen in a single day. The general market value is about one dollar per dozen, and hence the estimate that $20,000 are taken in Essex county annually supposes that 20,000 dozen, or nearly 250,000 pigeons are captured per year.

"The pigeons, in this vicinity are attracted to particular parts of the woods by the strewing of grain in open spaces cleared of brushwood for the purpose. In this way they are not only tolled around the spot where traps are to be set and familiarized with the ground, but are well fattened before being taken. They are fed for some time before the spreading of the nets. When a sufficient number have congregated to make it worth while to entrap them, their grain is saturated with whiskey, which steals away their silly brains, as it does silly men's brains, and they become willing stupefied victims of the trapper. The net is set in such a way that by the use of young saplings for drawing-springs, it is made to jump over the dense flock of fuddled pigeons gathered in front of it, and when they attempt to rise they are entangled in the meshes. The pigeons, we are told, when enticed by the grain and whiskey will huddle together in a compact mass, as if for the special convenience and gratification of the trapper. When once caught in the net they thrust their head through the meshes, and the trapper, by a certain pressure upon the neck, kills them one after another, with great rapidity, and with more dexterity of touch than tenderness of feeling. They are then taken out, picked, and packed for the market."

This report is from 1859; and from Essex County, Massachusetts.