HAROLD STUTLER CLOSE TO THE EARTH - Little Creek Trapper And Rooter

(04/14/2002)

By Bob Weaver

Since his first steps walking up the narrow Little Creek holler, Harold Stutler has been a rooter, hunter, trapper and fisherman, a man close to the harvest. At 65 he says "I have worked hard at it, never got rich, but it has helped pay the bills." He surely has enjoyed it, most of the time.

He learned his mountain survival skills from his dad, the late Bill Stutler of Little Creek, who trapped, traded fur and cut stone. "He was the best stonecutter around," said Harold. "Not much use for that now." Earth skills have been life sustaining for the Stutler clan and other families on Little Creek.

Harold's early inspiration was his great uncle Ledson Stutler who died in the 1950's. "Uncle Led was an old gambler who always wore a suit, white shirt and tie, shoes shined and shaved-up, but if you met him coming up the holler he'd probably have some skunk hides hanging out of his pockets," said Harold. He was never found without his deck of cards.

Harold buys and sells all kinds of skins and roots. "Slippery Elm has a good price, along with "Rattle Weed." There is always a demand for wild cherry bark and witch hazel bark."

Harold says the Russians want American coon skins, from $8-$15 each. He says red fox often brings $30 a hide, muskrat about $4 and beaver $15-$20. The demand for mink is way down, mostly because of mink farms.

The West Virginia Division of Forestry is reporting the ginseng crop is down 37%, mostly due to dry weather and low prices. Harold says prices have gone from $510 to $360 to $260 a pound. He says the deer have taken a toll on the seng, in addition to the turkey. "Seng has a crown with a white bud, and the turkey scratch it off and the top dies," he said. "It takes a year or two for the root to come back."

West Virginians can harvest seng from August 15 to November 1.

Harold can be reached by calling 304-354-6614.


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