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Title: From Thos. Wm. Magrath, Esq., Upper Canada, to the Rev. Thomas Raddiff, Dublin.
CollectionAuthentic Letters from Upper Canada [Rev. Thomas Radcliff]
SenderMagrath, Thomas Wm
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationfarmer
Sender Religionunknown
OriginErindale, Toronto, Upper Canada
DestinationDublin, Ireland
RecipientRev. Thomas Radcliff
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count2011
TranscriptErindale, January, 1832.
My dear Sir,
You expressed a wish to learn something original, and
in detail, upon the field sports of Canada—and I will
endeavour to gratify you.
Many new settlers have been surprized at not frequently
seeing, deer, bears, wolves, &c. in this country; as if those
animals were to walk out of the woods, and shew themselves,
as their keepers would present them in a menagerie,
for public exhibition, not considering that they are of retired
habits, not given to obtrude, nor much pleased at having
their secluded haunts invaded. Therefore, except to the
persevering sportsman, they seldom give demonstration of
the numbers that really occupy our extensive forests. It is
also an erroneous opinion with many, that no fat venison
can be procured here; but though our family resided in
a venison country, in Ireland, abounding with parks, I can
aver that I have repeatedly shot fatter deer here than I ever
saw there. What has given rise to this opinion is that when
the bucks are in their prime, in August and September, the
farm works are too important to be sacrificed to amusement.
I have known the most devoted sportsmen, when
once settled on their own property, and feeling the necessity
of giving personal attention to its improvement, to
have abandoned the fowling-piece altogether, during the
busy season but to have gladly resumed it in the Winter,
(the Canadian's Jubilee,) while the ground is covered
with snow, and scaled up by frost, to the prevention of all
farming operations. This, then, becomes the selected
season for deer shooting, when the bucks are out of condition,
which accounts for the foregoing remark.
The Does, however, though an inferior quality of
venison, are at this time in high order, and very acceptable
at the settler's table—nor is it necessary to be too fastidious,
as to either sex—as the servants and labourers on the
settlement, though they like plentiful meals, are not epicures,
and will not object to a haunch of venison, although
destitute of an aldermanic cut of fat.
My brothers and I are now become expert.

If we have luck.
We'll bring a buck,
Upon our lusty shoulders home.
Old Glee.

In winter we make it a point to provide abundantly for
the larder.
However, as you desire this sporting information for
young settlers, I shall commence with our first day's work,
and go forward in regular detail. The Winter after our arrival here, my brother and I
made our first essay, about sixteen miles back in the woods
behind our house.
However young at this particular sport, we were not
inexperienced in the use of the rifle.
Mine was of the true Yankee cut—three feet, six inches
in length—as heavy as a musket—the bore, calculated for
balls seventy to the pound; and his, a short Spanish rifle-
two feet, ten inches long—carrying half-ounce balls, thirty-two
to the pound.
We took a wide range for the entire day, and never
got a shot. We saw indeed, abundant tracks, and many
singles as the deer darted off through the wood, but had
no opportunity of presenting our rifles with any prospect
of effect. In despondency we returned to the farmer's
house where we were to sleep, disgusted with our sport, or
rather with our failure. When the family were assembled
in the evening, and talked over our disappointment, the
fanner, a thorough-bred Yankee, said "Well—I guess you
know nothing about this here deer shooting. I calculate I
will go out with you to-morrow, and see how you get on."
We thanked him, and having received from him some
preliminary instructions, and a good breakfast before day
light next morning, turned out with our host, in the hope
of a more successful day. He was even of greater value to
us as a model, than as a monitor; for as soon as we got
upon the track of a deer, we could at once perceive by our
companion's manner of proceeding, the true cause of our
own failure the preceding day. He was all quietness. We
had been all bustle. He walked silently and steadily along,
taking special care not to break, or even touch the point
of a branch, lest the sound should disturb the game. We
had been slashing and smashing every thing before us,
which could not fail to rouse at a distance, far out of
view, or at least out of shot, a timid animal, most susceptible
of alarm.
Upon holding a council of war, at the suggestion of our
practised hunter, we agreed that my brother and I should
separate, on distinct tracks, and our Mentor in an undertone
said to us— "You may have pretty considerable sport,
I guess, if it be not your own fault—be silent and steady—
I calculate you will have to keep down your hands—well,
step gently through the snow—if you see a deer running
past, shout out, and I guess he'll stop—I wish you sport."
Upon which he wheeled about, and returned to his farm-yard
We observed his directions, and when some time on the
track which I had followed, I found by it that, at a particular
place, the deer had stopped, and turned, and sprung
off again, compassing a tremendous distance at each
bound, leaving me but little hope of coming up with him,
though, by the indication of the snow, as I went forward
I could observe that he had frequently stopped and turned,
but, alas! had again continued his progressive course.
The snow being eighteen inches deep, and the walking
very laborious, I sat down quite exhausted, to recover
my fatigue and to consider how I was to get back. Resting
quietly, with my rifle across my knees, I heard some
branches snap; and the next minute a noble buck came
dashing along, within shot. Springing up (as I had been
instructed by the farmer,) I gave a shout. That moment
he stopped, snorted and looked at me—I fired; but, to my
great disappointment, he bounded on, leaving me to conjecture
how I could have missed so fair a standing shot,
and within twenty paces!
Having loaded again, I went up to the place where he
had stood, and found a large gush of blood upon the snow.
I felt as if I had not walked a mile. In a little time I
caught a glimpse of the poor fellow within fifty yards-
trees however, were too close. He moved slowly on,
with drooping head and lagging step, and, stopping for
a short space, lay down apparently in pain. Then taking
deliberate aim at the head, I fired. The branching antlers,
by a quivering movement, indicated a short and final
struggle to rise—on coming up, I found him stretched on
his side, and for the first time, enjoyed the savage, but
instinctive, delight of seeing an American deer lying at my
feet, brought down by my own hand—what was next to
be done? I had left my knife behind me, and could not
perform the necessary operations in breaking up the deer,
as it is termed, and must of course be burdened with the
entire weight of the interior—but how was I to drag
along the first fruits of my deer hunting career?
By a clumsy and fumbling application of my ramrod
to his nose, I succeeded in making a perforation sufficient
to admit the end of my handkerchief—securing it there,
I moved him with difficulty along the snow: not having
any means of tying his fore feet to his nose, (which is
usually done,) they caught in every log and branch I
passed, by which I was both retarded and fatigued. Stopping
to rest, I found that in the confusion of my joy, my
rifle had been forgotten where I fired the last shot—and it
should have remained there till next day, but for the
apprehension of its being covered by the snow of the night.
I returned for it; yoked myself again to my cumbrous
but honorable burden, and was proceeding gallantly, when
the head of the buck happened to catch on a stump; at a
sudden pull the handkerchief giving way, down I went
head foremost, rifle and all, into the snow. My sporting
ardor would notwithstanding have made light of this,
and of the weight I dragged along, had I not discovered
to my utter consternation that I was in a wrong track, and
had completely lost my way. Still moving on, however,
my ear was gratified by a distant shout to which, on my
part. I most joyfully responded.
This gave me new life to tug along the trophy of my
successful sport—another shout! still nearer and more
distinct—returned by me of course— "a louder yet and yet
a louder strain," —one other shout—and all was still.
The parties mutually attracted by the approaching signals,
had met, and shaken hands—and there appeared my
brother Charles, yoked to another deer!!
On asking him in what direction the farmer's house
lay I was mortified to find that he knew as little of the
matter as myself.
He had a knife, however, which enabled me to lighten
the buck to which I was harnessed, and to brace his feet
and head in a more convenient manner for the draft. We
then agreed to keep straight forward in the hope of crossing
on some Concession line which might direct us in
our course; but the sun had disappeared; the twilight was
receding fast, and a faint gleam of moonlight through the
trees afforded us but precarious assistance; at one place,
however, where they were not so close, a stronger light
broke in, and Charles, in great joy, called out that he had
come upon a track; but judge what my disappointment
must have been, and let me have the sympathy of all
brother sportsmen, who may learn that the buck, which
had travelled behind me for so many hours, was again lying
within a few yards of the very spot on which he had first fallen.
By this time, in sporting phraseology, I was completely
done up, and obliged to abandon my game from downright
inability to pull it after me another yard—My
brother still stuck to his—but saddled me with the weight
of his rifle. Becoming, shortly, as exhausted as myself, his
deer was also left behind; and struggling on a little farther,
so weak were we from fatigue, that we were deliberating
upon ridding ourselves of the incumbrance even of our
rifles, when a sudden shot was fired beside us—a horn
sounded—almost in our ears, which we acknowledged by
a double discharge—and to our great joy discovered that
we were close to our good quarters of the night before;
whilst, to our utter amazement we were informed that we
had been all the time so near the house, that the people
repeatedly heard our voices and were surprised at our
staying out so late.
Our guide of the morning received us hospitably, guessing
"we had missed our way, and calculating, that it
would be better if he had not left us, as he saw we did no
good after all;" our point of honor, as sportsmen, being
called in question, we averred that each had brought down
his deer; two of the spunky boys turned out, and soon
returned with both deer to confirm our veracity and
In the morning it was great amusement to review our
circuitous tracks, (which, as they said, "had bet down the
whole place pretty considerably,") and to perceive that
we had gone round and round in rings, within the limits
of twenty acres, that were never passed during the space of
the last five hours!! which terminated the hunting of our
second day.

I remain, my dear Sir,
Your's faithfully,