(11/08/2018)

Ollie Bill Umstead would have appreciated this muskie
caught by Chris Ferrell in 2005, 47" long at 30 pounds

Hunting And Fishing In Calhoun County

By W. O. "Bill" Umstead, Member of Historical Committee

Centennial Book 1956

During the past one hundred years, hunting in Calhoun County has been confined mostly to small game. However, there are stories emanating from old time hunters that many deer were killed during the 1870's and 1880's, but few deer were killed after that with the exception of the past few years.

In all probability, far more deer exist in Calhoun County today an existed in 1856. Through stricter law enforcement and proper regulation, deer herds have shown a tremendous increase throughout West Virginia as a whole, during the past thirty years.

Despite the modern day guns, as compared with the old "blunderbusses", and the clearing of our great forests–game has survived the advanced civilization of man today we probably enjoy better hunting than our forefathers.

Bear Fork Hunting Club - early 1900s

Our forefathers bagged their game mostly with the Kentucky squirrel rifle using the ball and cap, but today we use pump guns, automatic guns and rifles powerful enough to shoot two and three miles.

It's the opinion of most experts that game has been hurt more by the cutting of the forest lands and blight that killed the chestnut trees than it has been hurt by guns.

Disease has also played an important part, especially to our rabbit. Some twenty-five years ago the rabbit developed a disease known in medical terms as Tularemia, better known to us as "rabbit fever".

This disease caused much anxiety to the hunters because it was very contagious from the blood of the rabbit to an open wound and hunters refrained from handling the game.

The disease has been under control in the past several years and rabbits are gradually increasing.

Foxes provide a great pastime for our people and many Calhouners are proud owners of fine foxhounds. The animal is pursued mostly by chase and seldom killed as its fur value is almost worthless.

Raccoons are more plentiful today than at any time during the past generation. Squirrels are the most sought after game in the county today, and hundreds of Calhouners derive much pleasure during the autumn months in quest of the "pesky bushy-tail".

Quail or the bob-white provided one of the greatest sports in the county a generation or so ago. Many citizens like the late Dr. Riddel, Dr. Morford, and many others owned fine bird dogs and expensive guns mostly to hunt this specie of game.

One can hardly draw a parallel between the past and the present. The greatest change, in my opinion, is the gun and the skill of the hunter.

We of the present age are more accustomed to a wider approach and a longer range than were our forefathers who used cunning and skill to bag their meat.

They had to make every shot count, whereas we of today use little caution, knowing that if our first shot misses, we have another shot ready.

I wonder that a real old-timer, if he could return from the grave today, would think of our modern weapons. He would probably cherish them but look upon them as we would look upon his weapon of a hundred years ago–an antique.

Perhaps more Calhouners have enjoyed fishing than hunting. Our forefathers found the streams running with pure, fresh water and full of fish.

Civilization with good roads, the automobile, polluted streams, more modern methods of fishing has decreased the supply of fish.

Another important phase of fishing in the Little Kanawha River was the old paddle wheel boat that played the river trade a generation or so ago. These boats were a common sight between Parkersburg and Grantsville and they kept the river channeled out.

The clearing of the forest and the soil from the mountainside have washed into the river and most of the deep pools that contained many fish are now filled.

Some of the more commonly used methods of taking fish by our fore parents were trot-lining and bank-hooks.

Gigging or spearing of fish was the most popular sport along our streams during the last half century. This sport was outlawed in the early twentieth century but has been revived during the past two years.

There was great art in spearing a fish and only a few of the old-time giggers were left when the sport was again made legal.

The fisherman of today with his fly rod, casting rod, and spinning outfit would have found a paradise along the wilderness streams of Calhoun County fifty to a hundred years ago.

Tall tales were often heard by the writer of giant muskies (pike) being taken around the turn of the century.

The late George Saurbourn told the writer that when he was a boy some seventy-five years ago fish were so plentiful that he used to frequent the shallow shoals and kill them with his ax.

The late Charlie Stump frequently spoke of seeing the redhorse in such vast numbers that if they had been stones you could have walked across the river on their backs.

The late Jeff Kelley and E.D Morgan introduced a new method of fishing called "graveling." This became very popular with a few who would brave the deep pools and bring out a giant catfish.

The process used was a gaff hook and the pursuer would dive down and catch the fish while on its nest in some hollow log or under a rock. This method has been outlawed but many of Ed and Jeff's converts still practice, in a sly way, this method.

Few records have been made of large fish, but the largest muskie that I know of being taken was by Auzzie Wright some twenty years ago and it actually measured fifty-two inches and weighed thirty-one pounds.

If old-timers took them larger they left no record, but merely stated "they were five feet long".


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