16 May 2014

A Night in a Pennsylvania Pigeon Roost

Just now the wild pigeons roost in innumerable numbers in the Chenango Swamp, Crawford county, Pa., about two miles east of the Ohio line. The Swamp is about ten miles long by two or three wide, grown up by tamerack or larch trees and alder bushes. The editor of the Ashtabula Sentinel has been among the pigeons. He says:

When within two miles of the roosting place, we began to hear the roar of the wings of the millions of birds there congregated, which literally equaled the roar of Niagara. But the sights and sounds that greeted us as we neared the swamp, beggar description. There were probably a hundred hunters assembled and at work. These were divided into parties of not more than two or three — some in the tamaracks, and some in the alders. At a shot in the bushes the birds rose in a mass and settled in the trees; and when fired upon there they flew to the bushes. This changing continued all night. At a single shot, the flock always rose and flew a short distance to settle or be fired upon again. This scene lasted all night. The usual mode of hunting the pigeons is for two men to go together — one with a gun, and the other with a bag and lantern and matches. As soon as the shot is fired, the bag man strikes a light and 'bags' the birds; and this must be done speedily, or the wounded ones will hide and be lost. Six dozen is quite a heavy load for any man. We 'gin cout' under five dozen, very soon. We were told to fire with one barrel at the bushes, and with the other at the 'bile up.' The term boil up, is a very natural one, for at every shot the flock will rise straight upward, and after circling a few moments, make a swooping course, and then alight perhaps within a few yards of where they rose. The number killed seems almost incredible. One man killed four dozen at a single shot, and nine hundred in the night.

December 8, 1859. A night in a pigeon roost. Jeffersonian 18(49): 1. Also: December 10, 1859 in the New York Sun.