17 December 2012

Wild Pigeon Shooting in the Alleghanies

By P.L.W.
Deer Park, Md., September 18, 1874.
Editor Forest and Stream:—

I have often seen in the Forest and Stream descriptions of duck, snipe, woodcock, trap, pigeon, &c., shooting, but I do not recollect reading any article on wild pigeon shooting in the country. I think that they are worth mentioning, for they afford a great deal of sport when they are frightened. It is true that they generally fly in flocks of ten or twenty, and therefore they give you more to shoot at than some other birds; but when they get scared, then you will find that you have "greased lightning to aim at." I think that I had more fun (it could not be called sport) at a pigeon roost last September than on any other gunning excursion.

About eight miles from home the pigeons had formed a roost, as it is called, a place where they came in immense numbers to pass the night. Five or six of us, hearing very glowing accounts of the number of birds that were being killed, resolved to spend a night there. So one fine afternoon, about four o'clock, we started out "seeking what we might devour." We soon reached the edge of the roost, but as it was too early for the birds, we built a fire and ate our suppers, and "laid around loose" until sunset; then we started out, reaching the ground as the birds began to settle on the trees and bushes. Our forests here are composed almost entirely of oaks of various kinds, the white, red, black, yellow, chestnut, pin and jack oaks being the principal varieties; the latter (jack oaks) form the underbrush in most places, and are the favorites with the pigeons, who crowd so thickly upon them that the smaller branches were many of them broken off. As soon as it was fairly dark we got to work. We had brought three laborers with us to carry lanterns, and they now became of use. All who had guns advanced together on the front, and kept moving on until we thought there was a sufficient quantity of "noise." We would then fire in the direction from whence it came. The men with lights would then search for the killed and wounded. The first shot we killed 65 birds, or at least found that number, for two farmers came with a wagon next morning and found nearly a load of dead and wounded pigeons lying on the ground. Of course I don't mean in this particular spot, but all over the roost. About midnight we separated into two parties and went in opposite directions.

About three o'clock we found we had all the birds we could carry, so we returned to camp and slept until morning dawned upon us in the shape of a fine misty rain. The pigeons were put in ordinary grain sacks, and when they were counted we had seventy birds apiece. This is somewhat barbarous sport, but very exciting, the birds flying all around you, men swearing as they fall into the numerous holes, or run into thorn bushes, and the ever present idea that some one is about to put a load of shot into you make it quite lively.

The birds are coming in in great numbers, and from the present lookout we shall have good sport this Fall.

If any one of your readers wishes to try this kind of shooting I would be happy to furnish him any information in regard to it that he may wish.

The town (Deer Park) is on the main stem of the B. and O. R.R., 220 miles from Baltimore.

October 8, 1874. Pigeon Shooting in the Alleghanies. Forest and Stream 3(9): 140.

Maryland — Deer Park, Sept. 30. — I have never seen birds as thick as the wild pigeons are this fall. I have been out every day this week, and have been very successful. On Monday evening in an hour and a half I got nineteen; Tuesday, fourteen, Wednesday, twenty-two, Thursday, twenty-four, Friday, thirty-three, Saturday, thirty-nine, in all one hundred and fifty-one, and an average of twenty-five. I killed these birds all from one point of woods, that runs out into an open glade. They were flying to the main roosts, which is about our half-way house. With the exception of fifteen, these were shot on the wing, from small flocks of five or ten. I could have killed a larger number had I shot at birds in trees, for the oak timber all around me was loaded with them while they were feeding on acorns. Once I did shoot a single barrel at a tree full, and the result was fifteen birds. I killed so many that I have refused all invitations to go to the roost, but others have taken my place, for we can barely get enough sleep on account of the number of gunners. ...

[From portion of Shot Gun and Rifle column in same issue, as submitted by same contributor.]

Maryland — Deer Park, Oct. 12. — Pigeons are still plentiful some six or eight miles from here, but are secure near town, although they fly over in the morning and evening to and from the feeding grounds.

On Wednesday [October 7th] I bagged sixty-two in about two hours. Immense numbers of birds have been killed, and quite a number of gentlemen have been here from Baltimore, Cumberland, and two (the best shots and keenest sportsmen) from Bedford Springs, Va. Some of these gentlemen have not been successful, for they came too late for the shooting near town, and had not time to go any distance. Two or three men, whose names I don't know, have been netting pigeons for the past two or three weeks, and you may judge of their luck from the fact that they shipped 300 dozens of birds in the first two weeks of their being here. I do not know whether this is against the laws of Maryland, but it is against those of fairness and humanity.

This wholesale slaughter has aroused the indignation of all the neighboring sportsmen, and I have heard several say that they had been hunting for the nets without success, intending to destroy them if they were found. Grouse are quite plentiful and bring a good price (forty cents apiece). A few quail, and occasionally a wild turkey may be seen for sale. I shall go about ten miles into the country this week for a couple of days grouse and pigeon shooting, and will inform you of my luck.

W. October 15, 1874. Forest and Stream 3(10): 149-150.

[The wild pigeons had departed from this area by the latter part of mid-October.]