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The history of hunting in the Adirondacks

Notes from the North Woods

At first glance, the only evidence it was a buck were some big tines sticking out of the tall grass.

At first glance, the only evidence it was a buck were some big tines sticking out of the tall grass. Photo by Joe Hackett.

The rush north was greatly aided by several publications that painted a rather rosy image of the benefits of wilderness travel. Initially, the notorious Adirondack black flies received very little ink.

When Rev. William H. H. Murray published Adventures in the Wilderness in 1869, the book brought a ground swell of urbanites to the to the Adirondacks in the movement that became known as ‘Murray’s Rush.’

Increasingly, travelers that included Murrays Fools came to hunt and fish during their vacation, and the demand for competent woodsmen fostered the development of a network of Adirondack guides. The manly pursuits of hunting, fishing and camping were extremely popular among urban dwellers, and the Adirondacks beckoned.

In the years after the Civil War until the turn of the century, over three dozen national magazines were published to satisfy the demand for sporting journals. Many publications, including Forest and Stream advocated for the preservation and restoration of native species such as moose, black bear and beaver, while others endorsed efforts to stock elk, buffalo, Russian Boar and a host of exotic big game species.

A few of these original sporting journals are still in publication today, including The American Sportsman, Outdoor Life, and Field and Stream.

As fish and game stocks began to become depleted, The New York State Forest Commission enacted game laws for the Adirondacks with defined seasons, take limits and a specified means of harvest in order to protect the natural resources.

According to Adirondack Wilderness: A Story of Man and Nature by Jane Eblen Keller, the New York Deer Hunting Season was reduced to two deer per person from August 15 until October 15, in1895.

Jacklighting of deer was finally banned in 1897, and following a five-year prohibition in 1899, the hounding of deer was banned permanently in 1904.

At the time, the science of game management was a relatively new concept. However, the extinction of such prolific species as Passenger Pigeons, and the near demise of the American Bison, sounded a national alarm. The unprotected and unwarranted hunting of game species simply for sport was considered a national calamity.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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