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“History of Springwater” by Orson Walbridge

Early History of Springwater New York

Chapter 12 - More about Hunting and Fishing

by Orson Walbridge


After the Indians had done hunting here there were considerable many deer left, and there were a good many white people who continued to hunt for them, but they were mostly used up in a few years; though up to 1880, there were enough to give the hunters all the exercise they needed in following them. When the first light snow came in the fall we could go on to the hill, and by going to a thicket of small pine or hemlock timber, we would find where they had lain the night previous, and as they were in the habit of herding together, it was not an uncommon thing to find where from three to six or eight had bedded the previous night; and as they would usually scatter in search of food, the hunter would take the trail of one or more, if they kept together, and then follow in as careful a manner as possible. But the deer being a cautious animal appeared to be constantly on the lookout, and would generally be the first one to see or hear the approach of the hunter, and be off; and in this way I have followed on their trails all day without getting a shot or seeing a deer except on the run at a distance. At other times we would see them quite frequently, and occasionally get a fair shot and if we were not too much excited, would wound or kill the game. But whether we had the luck to kill or not, it was sufficiently exciting to keep us frequently on the trail all day, while the snow was right for tracking. Though a deer was quite a large mark to shoot at, a beginner was apt to be too much excited, and would miss when they would have hit a squirrel the same distance. I must say that I have killed but few deer for the time that I have spent in hunting. I recollect one tints being hunting on the west hill, I think on what is now D. C. Snyder’s farm, when I saw quite a herd of deer. They were in an open piece of woods too far off to shoot. They were going up the sidehill in line, and I counted sixteen, which was the most that I ever saw at any time. As the country became cleared up the game grew scarce, and by 1840, it was a rare thing to see a deer. The last one that I killed was in the fall of 1841 or 1842 and near where the railroad crosses the road leading to Sparta. Two or three have been killed since, that had been chased by dogs from some of the surrounding country. The hunting here now is confined to foxes, coons, skunks, and other small game. Fishing in the early days was quite interesting, as there was plenty of fish in the most of the streams; and in the fall of the year the speckled trout, of the brook trout species, were in the habit of coming up the stream from the Hemlock Lake to spawn, and there were large quantities of them. The usual mode of taking them was with a spear. As the fish were in habit of running in the night they would go with a light and spear and take them as they were running in shallow water. They were sometimes taken in a net and sometimes taken with the hands. They would range in size from a half to four pounds in heft, usually between one and three pounds. They were the best fish that I ever caught or eat. As the mills increased on the stream, and the sawdust filled in at the head of the lake, the trout decreased in numbers, and after a while ceased to come up the creek. In the fall of 1840 we caught considerable many, and after that year there were but very few taken. In the spring the suckers came up the creek to spawn and there were large quantities of them taken by nets spears and with the hands. They ranged all the way up to five pounds. I have assisted in taking six bushels in an evening. In the spring of 1850 there was a one horse wagon box full taken with a dip net in one day from Edward Withington’s farm bridge over the creek, but they too are getting scarce, and though there are a few taken each year, nothing in proportion to former years; and those that wish to enjoy the sport of fishing have to resort to the lakes, Hemlock or Canadice, where trout, bass and pickerel are plenty.