|Title:||From Thos. Wm. Magrath, Esq., Upper Canada, to the Rev. Thomas Raddiff, Dublin.|
|Collection||Authentic Letters from Upper Canada [Rev. Thomas Radcliff]|
|Sender||Magrath, Thomas Wm|
|Origin||Erindale, Toronto, Upper Canada|
|Recipient||Rev. Thomas Radcliff|
|Transcript||Erindale, January, 1833.|
My dear Sir,
In my last, you were presented with the Johnny-raw
results of our two first day's sport; but as practice makes
perfect, I have not only been amply repaid for my first
failure by future successes, but having tried all the various
methods of the country for the gratification of this exciting
amusement, I am enabled to detail the different modes of
deer hunting, with their appropriate circumstances. As I
commenced with snow shooting, I will here add some
useful directions to be observed by sportsmen, in this particular
branch, and also the usual dress and apparatus to
The dress should consist of a blanket coat, made to
button up to the collar; a cap of the same material; a
warm pair of light coloured cloth trowsers, three or four
pair of stockings under the moccasins, or a piece of blanket
rolled round the foot as a protection from stumps—thus, with a leathern belt to carry your hunting knife, and with
a rifle of the following description, you are accoutred for
the hunting ground.
It should be two feet ten inches in the barrel, about ten
pounds weight, and of a bore, suited to balls, forty to
the pound; a description of rifle shot experience has taught
me to prefer to any other. This however is a point upon
which you will seldom find two sportsmen agree, as your
fellows of light metal generally prefer a bauble.
I have invented a powder flask, to contain caps, balls
and powder, to save the necessity of fumbling with cold
fingers in different pockets, for the several articles—and
will send you one as a model by the first opportunity, for
the benefit of my brother sportsmen, who may come out to
If on arriving at the scene of action, you find the wood
abounding with fresh tracks, stand steady for a time, and
observe if any of the deer are in motion. If you spy one
that does not see you, contrive to be concealed by the trees,
whilst you approach him—should your step be heard,
stand still, and never stir till he begins to move: when
within shot, fix your eye on a space through which he
must pass; your finger, rifle, and eye, all ready. If you
require it, take a rest against a tree, but be sure to cover
the spot, and as he passes, aim for the shoulder, and fire.
Should you miss the deer, don't stand gaping like a fool,
but load again at once, as he may be simple enough to
give you a second shot, and you may have the luck to hit.
Should he go off with his single DOWN, he is wounded.
Keep as close as you can, and if he do not fall from the
effects of the first shot, you can make sure of him by a
second; your hunting knife must then be employed in the
necessary operations—and lastly in opening the muscle of
the nose and sinews of the fore legs, so as to admit a gad
of the blue beech to pass through, and connect them all
together—then taking the rifle on your left shoulder, and
the gad over your right, you may pull away to the next
house—but should you object to this laborious work, and
yet wish to secure the venison, till an opportunity offer of
sending for it, the head must be first got rid of, and the
skin, to preserve it entire, be stripped from the fore, and
left attacked to the kind-quarters, when, the carcass being
cut across, you must look out for a tree of small diameter
that will bend with your weight upon climbing up—as
soon as it begins to spring, let go your feet, holding on
with your hands only, and you will thus bring the top to
the ground. The half deer fastened to this (as the tree
springs back,) is put out of reach of wolves and bears, as
the former cannot, and the latter will not, climb a tree of
such pliable dimensions. A stem calculated to raise but
half a deer, could not fail to give way under an entire
bear; besides that, to admit of being climbed, the tree
should be of sufficient circumference to fill his embrace,
and Bruin is too shrewd a fellow to take the risk of a
failure, and a fall. The remaining half must be treated in
a similar manner on a separate tree.
When you cross a river or ravine, never expose your
person suddenly, and instead of walking along its edge,
make a circuit through the wood, coming out with
caution about three hundred yards below your point of
entrance; and observe to examine the brow of the opposite
hill, as the deer, in winter, always lye in a situation that
commands a wide compass. If two sportsmen are in company-—
one, should show himself at a distance to attract
the attention of the deer, whilst the other, making a circuit,
may come round unnoticed, and have a fair and decisive
shot. This has happened to me in many instances.
Should the snow be very deep, snow-shoes become necessary.
I have had occasion for them, however, but one
winter out of six—at first they are very unpleasant;
experience only will teach to use them, without inconvenience.
The second variety of the sport is termed deer stalking.
This takes place in summer—at which time the deer are
so much scattered over the face of the country, it becomes
very difficult to find them.
This is best to be effected at the salt licks, or springs,
whither they resort to drink.
The sportsman should walk quietly along, in the direction
of one of these—stopping occasionally to listen, and
reconnoitre. By observing this precaution, and strict
silence, I have frequently known the deer to walk up
within ten yards of me.
In this mode of hunting, the arms should remain perfectly
at rest; the body erect and steady—all motion
limited to the legs and feet—no sawing of the air—no
coughing—no brandishing the handkerchief—no sounding
of the nasal trumpet—no flourishing the rifle from one
side to the other, and above all, no talking—else the deer
will be off. They have eyes, and ears, and a quick sensation
of alarm. They dart away at a distance, and you will
never get a shot.
A third method is termed night shooting.
The proper season for this sport is during the months of
July and August. The time from midnight to day-break.
In this case the salt spring is again the scene of action.
Besides your rifle ready loaded, you bring thither, as
appurtenances, a lantern with a concealed light, a bundle
of pitch pine split into small stripes, and a flask of brandy;
on your arrival seat yourself to leeward of the spring, that
the deer, which are quick scented, may not perceive you
on their approach. Let not a gleam of light escape, and
remain quiet, 'till you hear a deer leap into the little
marsh, which always surrounds the spring; then, waiting
a few moments, slowly produce the light, and taking the
rifle in your right hand, and the faggot in the left, apply
your light, and ignite it gradually, as a sudden flash would
put the deer to flight. As the faggot of pine wood, formed
like a Bavarian broom, spreads an increasing light, you
begin to perceive the game, the eyes first; which, from
the reflection of the blaze, appear like balls of fire; you
then take deliberate aim, and if you are not a bungler,
you will bring down your deer.
Still move not farther than to re-load. They generally
come in pairs; if not so now, drag out the fellow you have
shot, resume your former situation, and you may probably
bring home a second deer; avoid the does; the bucks are
now very fat and in high season.
The fourth method is that of Driving the Deer.
This is in my estimation an unsportsmanlike method, and
is effected in the vicinity of lakes, by driving the deer
with dogs, who pursue the animal through the woods, till
he is obliged to take refuge in the water. There a canoe
is in waiting; and as the hunted deer comes bounding
along, and boldly dashes into the lake, the aquatic hunters
follow slowly, till he has made some way, and then press
on the chace. Thus pursued, the deer makes for the next
headland, at a rate of swimming which seems to baffle
his pursuers; but they contrive to intercept his landing,
and he turns again to the expanse of water.
The sportsmen, (if they deserve that title,) not a little
exhausted, still gain upon the wearied animal, he gives up
his forward course, wheels again and again in narrower
circles than the canoe can compass; yet makes no way—
his nostrils distended—his head less raised above the water
—his swimming slackened—he sees the canoe approach
him—snorts wildly, but cannot escape the fatal noose
thrown over his gallant head by his enemy in the boat,
who twisting it on his neck, by means of the long pole to
which it is affixed, thus puts an ignominious termination tc
the poor deer's life, and to the inglorious chace.
Sometimes I have been gratified by seeing a novice take
the deer by the horns. That moment, he strikes at him
with his fore-feet, and unless the boat be a large one,
invariably upsets it, or pulls the Green-horn overboard.
The common practice is, when the deer is perfectly
exhausted, to seize him by the tail with one hand, and
make use of the tomohawk with the other—a description
of butchery to which I never have, or ever will be accessarv.
Having now detailed the various modes of deer hunting,
I will hold out some concluding encouragement
to sportsmen, by adverting to a day's sport which my
brother and I enjoyed, very different from that which I
reported at the commencement of this subject.
In December, 1830, having arrived at the hunting
ground, early in the morning, we found the tracks of deer
so numerous on the snow, as to resemble those of a flock
Getting forward, in great heart, we came to a ravine,
where we spied at least twenty deer, gamboling about a
spring. Each singled out his deer and fired. Without waiting
to see whether they fell, we made off to a pass where I
knew the herd would come out, and having re-loaded, we
met them precisely at the expected place, bounding and
clearing every obstruction.
Our alarm was that they would run over us; but they
stopped short, and we pitched off two of them. Having
bled and collected together those that we had shot, we
parted company, taking different directions in pursuit of
the scattered deer, and fixing on a place of rendezvous
for the night; we met there at eight o'clock, and on comparing
notes, we found that my brother had ten balls at
setting out; he had expended all, and missed but one shot.
I had ten in the morning, but two on my return, and had
missed two shots. Next morning we hauled all home, and
never stopped till we ranged along the farmer's yard
thirteen fine deer, (two of them twice hit,) which were
duly transferred to the frozen larder, at Erindale. for
Winter provant. Many weeks of similar amusement might be
enumerated, since I became acquainted with the manner of getting in
on the game. The young sportsman, however, must not
expect the success which I have described, on his first
arrival in the woods.
I remain, my dear Sir,
THOS. WM. MAGRATH.
P.S.—My next shall treat of Bear Shooting.