By Marjorie Clark.
On March 10, 1896, the Morriston correspondent noted the following:
“Grosbeaks – A large number of the grosbeak birds from Labrador have put in an appearance here. Their beautiful plumage is very attractive and quite a number have been captured, some of them in a perishing condition. It is not generally known, that there is a law regarding these birds. The law says that any person injuring or having one found in his possession is liable to a fine up to twenty dollars for each bird.”
The columnist from Puslinch Lake reported on Oct. 2, 1896 that, “A number of sports from Guelph visited the Lake, in search of wild duck but left disappointed as the ducks have deserted these parts this season, only a couple of flocks having been seen all fall.”
Again, on Sept. 1, 1897, that reporter wrote, “Our sportsmen ruefully acknowledge the scarcity of wild duck on ponds and marshes.”
There was such a paucity of ducks by Oct. 11, 1898 that, whether purposeful or by misapprehension, some youths shot up duck decoys on Puslinch Lake.
There was, also, the odd case of accidental shooting of one hunter by another as, when aiming at a pheasant in the Gore in November 1896, George Turnbull shot George Tennant in the hand and hip.
Migration of some species in 1898 was still a sight to be witnessed. The Morriston columnist wrote on Oct. 17, 1898:
“Between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. this (Monday) morning, the sky was black with flying crows going south. In one collection, there must have been upwards of a thousand birds. Some of the birds were flying quite low. Last week for a number of days, the orchards were full of robins, which were so tired that one could get quite close to them.”
The Killean correspondent wrote on Nov. 10, 1898:
“A somewhat long and busy season has been brought to a close by the housing of the turnips and our local sportsmen have had some leisure to take in the swamps. With the exception of hare, game is very scarce.”
A Killean resident, with a view to restocking the swamps with game, imported three pair of German hare in 1898. On November 8th, the Killean correspondent noted:
“Though they proved very prolific, they have not shown any liking for cedar brush but burrow about the barn and outbuildings with such persistency, that his ingenuity is now taxed to find means of getting rid of them”.
Jackrabbits, as local people called them, became very numerous in the township, destroying young trees and bushes on a large scale.
On December 6, 1898, the Morriston columnist of the Guelph Mercury reported that Michael Neubauer’s son, of the 2nd concession, had the previous week, shot a lynx, 3 feet in length.
The Morriston columnist reported on Oct. 31, 1901, that John Vogt had been out on the hunt near Puslinch Lake the previous week. Among other things, he brought home eight large blue-billed ducks.
Still, on November 15, 1904, the Arkell correspondent noted that, “the boys of this vicinity held their annual bush shooting match on Thursday last. Messrs. W. King and P. W. Laing were the captains.”
The following article appeared in the Guelph Mercury on Nov. 22, 1906:
“The hunters, like the fishermen, are becoming too reckless and are bringing on themselves the time when the game and fish, which are very rare now, will be more strictly protected. Farmers will not allow such trespassers on the premises. Last week, Mr. William Moran, Puslinch, lost a year and a half old heifer. He and his neighbours searched for it for twenty miles around. It was found on his own farm, shot through the side.”
As there were very few deer remaining in the township by 1890, forays were made then to Northern Ontario by sportsmen, who returned with “Muskoka beef”. In November 1892, the Morriston correspondent reported that Bernard Brown had arrived home from “the far north” with two. These jaunts were so popular that, on Oct. 23, 1895, the Puslinch Lake columnist was led to remark:
“Everybody, that can get hold of a musket and a pound of shot and can get his turnips in and his potatoes sold before next Monday, is going with Alex Neubauer to Muskoka on that day to be there for the opening of the deer season on November 1st.”
E. Bell of Arkell returned home from Muskoka with a deer in November 1895. Peter McKenzie of Badenoch returned with a fine buck from the Moon River area in November 1896. In late October 1897, John Black of the 10th concession started for Muskoka and a party of young men from the Puslinch Lake section, Charles and Alex Neubauer, J. Fyfe, J. Cober and Will Little left for the north, while Peter McKenzie of Badenoch returned in November with “a big supply of venison”. On Nov. 24, 1897, the Puslinch Lake correspondent stated:
“Our company of hunters returned from Muskoka last week, bringing with them ten deer and we believe, several other kinds of game. They report having an excellent outing with game in plenty to try their skill. Jerry Cober’s fortune is especially deserving of mention, since it was he, who shot the large buck, that commanded such notice.”
The columnist from Puslinch Lake reported on Oct. 20, 1901, that William Gilchrist and Donald Ferguson were to leave for Muskoka on a hunting trip that week, specifically for deer.
In November 1910, Dr. Walter Telfer of Morriston, who made frequent sorties to Northern Ontario over a number of years, and five friends, James Black, Clifford, Michael and John Eaton and Melvin Carey, went hunting at Lake of Bays. He returned with a “magnificent 200 lb.” buck and his friend with another the same size, “the others remaining in the north in hopes of securing something to exhibit to their admiring friends as a trophy”.
The Ontario government passed an order-in-council on September 2, 1911, giving effect to a petition from the Wellington County Council, prohibiting the taking, killing or hunting of deer for three years in the county. Those in authority had only just begun to understand the scale of the destruction wrought. It would be sixty more years before the public began to realize the treasure that had been lost and the necessity of conserving what remained.
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs”
– from ‘I Am Waiting’
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti