Updated March 1, 2013.
March 5, 2012 HUNTING Part 2
September 25, 2010 LIVE DECOYS
March 1, 2013 DUCK CARVERS
October 11, 2010 SWAN CALLING
March 11, 2012 MARKET HUNTING.
February 13, 2012 DUCKS UNLIMITED
March 18, 2012 GAME COMMISSION.
February 22, 2012. This is the first two pages of the
HISTORY AND FAMILIES OF KNOTTS ISLAND. Author unknown. This book
is located at the Methodist Church. Probably compiled in early
2011. Anybody know the compiler?
Ronnie Wade said that Bob Timberlake first came to KI in 1975. Excellent comment on why people hunt.
January 6, 2012. James Dudley said around here, in
addition to Knotts Island chicken, coots are often called
"Bluepeters" or "Bluepetes". Where does that term came from?
Jane Brumley answered: American Coot (fulica americana) They are known by different names in various sections of the Country. In the Midwest they are called mudhens. Other names they go by: water chickens, puldoo, water hens. Blue Peters is the name used in the area of Back Bay & Currituck. I finally had to drag out all my bird books and look them up. This also seems to be the area where they are considered "good eating". It also seems avian flu killed a lot of them when that was an epidemic. It seems that they have somewhat recovered for there are more around this year than in several years past. I believe they got the name "Knotts Island Chickens" when Dunnie (not sure of spelling) Bonney had them listed in a restaurant he had one time. Also, a restaurant is called "Blue Petes" in the Muddy Creek of Va Beach area. I am not sure if it is opened at this time. My husband loves them fried like chicken and my daughter cooks them in a stew. I have never liked the taste of them.
December 5, 2011. From the KI Junior Historian Assoc.
Knotts Island Duck Hunt, 1878.
January 13, 1963
Dear Mr. Mays, As a reader of your column, I know of your interest in the hunting and fishing of this area and I thought you might be interested in the enclosed copy of a diary written in 1878. It was written by my great uncle, Henry S. Clarke, who lived at South Walpole, Mass. Mr. Clarke was a great hunter and, with my grandfather who shared his interest, he went on many hunting trips to various spots around the country. My grandfather is the “George” mentioned as shooting on “Little Raymond” on January 26 in the enclosed log.
My father now owns the Clarke’s guns; some of them were undoubtedly along on this trip.
Since I have an interest in things historical this is all very interesting to me. I thought it might be to you.
R. S. Belcher, Jr. Captain, USN
Many thanks for your thoughtfulness, Captain Belcher. I enjoyed reading the diary so much that I am taking the liberty of sharing it with the readers of this column.
The diary is headed “Henry S. Clarke, Trip to Currituck, 1878.
“Left Walpole January 21st, 7:40 p.m., via N.Y.& N.E. R.R. and
Norich Line, arrived in Jersey City 7:15 a.m. Pleasant night on
the sound, slightly foggy. Breakfast at Jersey City, left at 8:25,
arrived at Philadelphia and Baltimore on time. Fare to Baltimore
from Boston, $9.20.
Left Baltimore via Steamer Florida of the Baltimore Steam Packet Co., (Bay Line) at 6 p.m., distance 180 miles, fare $5. Supper and breakfast on board. A very fine seat, a splendid night. Arrived at the Atlantic House, Norfolk, Wednesday a.m., Jan. 23rd. Left Thursday a.m. via Steamer Cygnet, Capt. Eugene Ballance (G.W. Simmons, Clerk), for Knots Island via Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal, No. Landing River and Currituck Sound, distance from Norfolk 50 miles. Arrived at Knots Island at 3:40. Met by Mr. White’s boys, who rowed us to their house, distance 5 miles, arrived in good order a little after dark. Fare to Knots Island $2.50, including dinner.
“Jan’y 25th, shot on Little Skinner Point, started out late and came home early, poor day, wind S.S.E., 3 ducks, rainy at night.
“Jan’y 26th, Clarke on Flint Island, Geo. on Little Raymond, wind W., 3 swan, 4 ducks, 1 snipe.
“Jan’y 27th, Sunday-
“Jan’y 28th, shot on the beach for geese and swan. Wind N.W., which was right, but changed to W.N.E., which was wrong, 5 geese.
“Jan’y 29th, shot on Little Skinner and New Found Creek. Wind N.W. to W., cold, 1 swan, ? ducks.
“Jan’y 30th, shot on Flint Island, wind N.E., blowing hard, 14 ducks.
“Jan’y 31st, wind N.E., changed to S.E., then to W. Shot in the afternoon on Walker Point, 22 ducks.
February 1st. Out before day on the beach for geese, gave it up at noon, did not get a shot. Wind N.W., changed in the afternoon to N.E. Went on the outside beach in the afternoon, quantities of blankets, pork, potatoes, clothing, etc., coming ashore from the wreck of the Steamer Metropolis, from Philadelphia for South America, loaded with R.R. iron and laborers, 251 persons aboard, about 100 lost, 12 or 15 came ashore where we were, and were buried in the sand. Steamer went ashore about 6 a.m., Jan’y 31st, about 10 miles below White’s.
“Feb’y 2nd. Shot on Little Skinner and Wide Walkers Creek, 16 ducks.
“Feb’y 3rd, Sunday-
“Feb’y 4th. Shot on Little Skinner and Flint Island, 1 swan, 1 goose and 16 ducks. Wind North.
“Feb’y 5th. Shot on New Found Creek and Flint Island, wind North, 16 ducks.
“Feb’y 6th. The poorest day we had. Calm all day, wind at night South, 7 ducks.
“Feb’y 7th. Calm, no shooting, packing for home.
“Feb’y 8th. Turned out at 3 a.m., wind S.E., blowing a gale, with rain. Left White’s 4:45, very dark. Left Knots Island at 8:30, clearing weather. Arrived at Norfolk 4:30 via Steamer Cygnet.”
January 17, 2011. From the KI Junior Historian Assoc.
April 6, 1878 FRANK LESLIE'S ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER
SWAN SHOOTING Norfolk, Va. February 26th
Editor Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper:
"The swan ain't no soft shot. You'll think he flies heavy. Don't
you believe it. He's goin' at a slappin' pace, so just drop your
shot in front of him or you’re euchred!"
This was the observation of an astute native of North Carolina as we flew in a ”dug-out" across the waters of Currituck Sound en route to our happy hunting grounds.
The Sound, in some places eight miles wide, is very shallow, its
shores being fringed with reeds and grasses. It is upon these
grasses that the swans, geese and ducks made aldermanic banquet.
The swans dig for this grass - which begins to sprout about
February — with their paddles, uttering during the process of
feeding an almost continuous plaintive cry, not unmusical, yet
scarcely melodious. When feeding, one swan always acts as
sentinel, trumpeting on the approach of danger. They fly in an
angle, each line in a single file, the leading bird, as he gets
weary, retiring to the rear. Swans are afflicted with a throat
affection somewhat resembling diphtheria, and once the bird has
caught the disease no food again passes its bill. He droops and
dies, uttering a low sound which may probably have given birth to
the poetical idea that swans sing before they die. Currituck is
the home of the swan, the shores being beaded by the white bodies
of the birds, the long, snowy line at a distance resembling foam.
Several gun-clubs dot the low lyinq sand hills, whither the crack
shots of New York and Boston repair during the season to commit
fell havoc upon swan, goose and duck.
The distance from New York to Currituck renders the latter region
comparatively secure against the irruptions of Cockney sportsmen.
None but the genuine lovers of the sport would travel so far "for
a blaze at the feathers”. The route is a delightful one, via the
luxurious cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the superb steamers
of the Bay Line from Baltimore for Fort Monroe and Norfolk, Va. -
steamers on board of which the bill of fare is as extensive as the
cookery is piquant, and the staterooms, tiny apartments, are very
marvels of ease, elegance and comfort. From Norfolk the route is
by small steamers through the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal. To
those by whom the pleasures of a sea trip are appreciated we
strongly recommend the Old Dominion Line, whose magnificent
sidewheel steamships leave Pier 37, N.R., at 3 P. M. on Tuesday,
Thursday and Saturday in each week, for Norfolk direct. The
comfort of these vessels should be tested to be appreciated.
The muchly prized canvas—backs are "dropped” in large numbers at Currituck, being disposed of on the waters to dealers at a dollar and ten cents the pair Swans are brought within range range by “blinds" and“batteries“, the blind being a movable thicket, shifted and moored at will, within which lies concealed the boat of the wily hunter.
Formerly punt-guns were in use, but, in addition to the murderous
effects of their fire, it was discovered that the loudness of
their report succeeded in scaring birds from the Sound,
consequently punt-guns have been "counted out". The battery is a
square box in which the fowler reclines as best he may. Upon two
sides of the box are canvas wings of about a yard wide that lie
upon the water, sloping upwards to the edge of the box. Decoy
ducks are attached to the wings. The fowler is provided with two
guns, which he places on a shelf on either hand, so as to be in
readiness when the flock of swans gently descend, as it is during
this descent that he shoots. The ends of the battery are not
trammeled with wings, a clear stage and no favor being accorded to
the cramped-up sportsman.
The Sound was literally covered with feathered game as we cleaved
our way across its waters. Before us we could see hundreds of
snow-white swans, some feeding, some arching their graceful necks
over their wings, others with their wings set allowing the breeze
to impel them gently along, and all enjoying themselves in the
rays of a magnificent sun.
Swan, duck or goose shooting from ”points” is not disagreeable,
as one can move about when the game is not flying thick and manage
to keep out of the wind and to maintain something akin to warmth;
but shooting out of a battery is an ordeal that must have been
passed through to be justly appreciated. To lie as though in one's
coffin, without moving a muscle, with the eye and ear ever on the
strain, to enjoy the luxury of cramps and stiffness and soreness,
while a cutting breeze passes over the "sneakbox”, shaving the
face as if by machinery, is the inner life of battery shooting;
and to those who live at home at ease, enjoyment under such misery
seems paradoxical, nevertheless, to a man who has been caged for
months in an office, reduced to a mere machine, for the purpose of
turning out so many dollars per diem, the startling change
possesses a charm all its own. The rising in the silent watches of
the night, the noiseless and secret movements attendant upon
running the blockade of the game, the adjustment of the battery,
of the wraps, of the guns, the eager waiting for day-dawn and
victims, their gradual approach, the apprehensions lest they will
not come within range, the aim, the bang! Bang! the splash of the
birds in the water — all, all seem to render wild-fowl shooting ”a
big bit in life".
Having been duly ensconced in my battery. I was moored in a spot, selected for me by the knowing ones, and left to my meditations. In the distance the swans girded the shore like a fringe of foam. Close to me, but not within range, were tens of thousands of geese and duck - it was after a heavy gale of wind which raised a sea in the bay, and routed the fowl up so that they kept on the wing - occasionally rising with a great flapping like miniature thunder, and placing a great dark curtain between me and the sun. Luckily for me, some gunners in “blinds“ commenced to blaze away at the ducks, causing the swan to take alarm and to head in the direction of my battery. Blinds are points of meadow jutting out into the bay, at the extreme end of which a circular rampart of reeds and sea grass about thirty inches in height is thrown up, within which gunners recline watching the decoys floating at anchor about thirty yards from the point. Onward came two splendid birds, their heads and long necks straight out before them, whom I destined as trophies for my bow and spear. As they passed in front of me I let them have it, and brought one of them, a superb specimen, down to the water. During my eight hours in the battery by dint of good fortune, I managed to bag nine magnificent swans.