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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Forest Game In The Early Miami Country

Dallas Bogan on 3 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Wild game was found in abundance in the early Miami country. Wolves and panthers were so plentiful that they were considered a pest. The Warren County Commissioners for each wolf killed over six months old, and half these sums for those offered a bounty of $2.00 to $2.50 under six months. At a single meeting of the commissioners wolf scalps went for as much as $20.00 each.
Panther scalps were allowed the same premium, but only two men received their bounty in the first eight years of the history of the County; Abraham Bowman received payment on June 27, 1805, and William Copeland on November 15, 1806, each man receiving $2.00 for their kill.
The huge herds of deer were quickly killed off, they being used chiefly for their hides. A good buckskin was worth a dollar, thus the derivation "buck." The hunters would profit by a dollar for the panthers and wolves. Because of the constant shooting and trapping by the white man and the Indian, the wild game soon disappeared.

Wild Turkeys

Wild turkeys and pheasants were plentiful, though not as numerous as the pigeons. Caleb Mercer of Wood County came upon a flock of three hundred wild turkeys that were having a furious battle amongst themselves. Apparently two strange flocks had come together to decide which were the "head of the roost."
Traps were often set for these giant birds. A Jackson County man has left a report of how such a trap was built. He writes:
"A trench about fifteen feet long was dug sloping gradually down from both ends. Then a rail pen was built about three feet high and covered on the top with rails. One side of the pen was built directly across the middle of the trench. On the inside a few boards were laid across the trench next to the rails of the pen. Then corn would be scattered about the fields leaving a trail of corn leading to the pen.
"Turkeys, finding the corn, would follow the same to the pen, and picking up the corn in the trench would walk into the pen. When they wanted out they always looked up, running their heads between the rails. They never once thought of looking down the trench."
Wild turkeys were customarily the target of the hunter's gun. The old time innkeepers would entice the traveler to visit his establishment, more frequently than not, with news of a huge wild turkey which had recently been killed. The passerby would smell the fine aroma of the big bird as it was suspended over the fireplace. A pan was placed among the coals to catch the drippings. A finer meal could not be had.

John Sublett

One hunter who arrived in Warren County was John Sublett, settling in Wayne Township along the Little Miami. He was a Virginian that emigrated to the Northwest Territory with Rev. James Smith in 1798, and made his home with the Smith family on a large uncleared tract of land near the mouth of Caesar's Creek in 1800.
A mechanic by trade, he had constructed a log workshop that he used for making tables, chairs, spinning wheels and furniture. Articles of this sort were hard to come by in the newly discovered Miami country.
He was most popularized by his hunting and fishing skills. The Little Miami, with its great abundance of fish, was his fishing grounds. He had various devices for catching fish, one of which he called a "fish-pot." He would place the contrivance, a stone net, at the head of a ripple in the Little Miami about a mile below his home. (This area was called Fishpot Ford and was used by Gen. George Rogers Clark and Gen. Josiah Harmar as a crossing on their march northward.)
Sublett's hunting skills allowed him to kill numbers of deer and turkeys, and occasionally a bear. One bear he killed weighed 400 pounds, and a wild turkey he had shot was so pudgy it burst open when it hit the ground.
He every so often caught wild turkeys by alluring them into a pen from which they could enter under the lower pole at one end. Once inside they would look up and not down to find their way out.
Sublett sometimes would catch an otter, and, on one occasion, a beaver, said to have been the only such animal in the neighborhood.

Squirrel Onslaught

Squirrels were regular visitors in the woods in certain seasons. These animals would organize in large groups and migrate, crossing rivers and mountains. Great armies of these broad-tailed pests would gather and cross the Ohio from the south.
Havoc was placed upon the settlers as crop devastation abounded. The squirrels would pull up the young corn to get the grain at the root and injure the growing wheat and rye.
Henry Howe stated while on his tour in Western Virginia on a November morning in 1844, that he instantly found himself surrounded by an enormous amount of squirrels, gray, red and black. He mentioned that gray was the principal color, and only one in twenty was as black as ink.
They were quite tame and he could see thousands of them without turning his head. He was later told that a day or two previously they had been seen swimming the Kanawha where an untold number had drowned. One theory was that the food source had been exhausted in their former home and they were moving northward, searching for their food supplies.
The Ohio Legislature, in 1808, passed a law requiring every male person of military age to turn over to the clerk of his township at least 100 squirrel scalps. A receipt was given each participant.
If his quota was under this number, he was required to pay three cents each for the shortage, this amount being divided among those who turned in an excess. If his quota was exceeded he was credited this amount for the next year's allocation. The law, because of irregularities, was soon repealed.
A Columbus newspaper, dated August 1822, gives an account of a stirring squirrel hunt in Franklin County, in which 19,666 squirrel scalps were brought in.
The Western Star reported "a number of citizens of Washington Township in this county, consisting of fourteen persons, on the 27th, 28th, and 29th ult. (March 1828) killed 4,475 squirrels." The total amount killed averaged nearly 100 per hunter each day.
Communities would sometimes combine their efforts to rid themselves of unwelcome wild beasts that threatened them and their domestic animals. One such hunt was the famed Hinckley Hunt, which took place the day before Christmas in Hinckley, Medina County, in 1819.
About four hundred persons encircled the township. A spot a half-mile in the center had been marked off and, because of safety reasons, no one was to pass over this line. The total area measured five miles. Word was passed from person to person and within ten minutes the hunt was on.
As they closed in the slaughtering began. Within the half-mile limit, the kill consisted of one hundred deer, seventeen bears, and five wolves. No mention was made of wild turkeys, which there certainly must have been some.
Another hunt was arranged a month later near Chargin in which three or four hundred folks gathered for a community hunt. The plunder consisted of two elks, seventy-five deer, twenty- three bears, seventeen wolves and ten turkeys.

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