Hunting around the Sacandaga

Hunting, camping, and fishing drew, and still does draw, many people from out of the area The great Vly was a wetland on the Sacandaga River that covered 13,000 acres and provided a great deal of sustenance to deer and many other animals. Some people made a livelihood of trapping fox, raccoon , muskrat, martin, and other furbearers on the Vly. The many streams and brooks that ran into the river lent themselves to excellent fishing. Deer would be drawn to the Vly for it’s grasses and water.

In the 1700’s, before the Revolutionary War, Sir William Johnson was an avid outdoorsman and superintendent of Indian affairs in the area. From the Broadalbin author Robert Chambers book titled Cardigan he refers to Sir William Johnson and the “echoes of his flintlock on the Vly.”

In the late 1800’s hunting parties would travel from outside areas on the stage or by train to local hotels where guides would take these outdoorsmen to primitive hunting camps. Gun Clubs were also formed. This is the era that the Adirondacks experienced its first tourism boom. Visitors – primarily from urban areas – flocked to the North Country to “recreate.” People who actually lived in the Adirondacks soon learned that the tourists who came to the woods needed them.

Guides knew where to hunt and fish; they knew how to build boats and bark shelters; they knew how to start a campfire and cook what they’d caught. Above all they knew their way through the forest and along the lakes and rivers that threaded through the vast isolated region where they lived.

Men, and eventually women, who had always fished, hunted, and trapped to feed their own families now hired themselves out as guides to these “sportsmen” or “sports” as the visitors were called.
Traditionally, a guide was responsible for the food, shelter, transportation and safety of his party. He made all the preparations and bought all the supplies necessary for a stay in the woods lasting anywhere from a week to a month or more. He also furnished the boat, which was used for traveling, fishing, and hunting.

The guide did everything he could to make sure the trip went smoothly and his customers were satisfied. He was woods-wise and independent, a skilled hunter, fisherman and cook, and a shrewd judge of character. He was also a teller-of-tales (some pretty tall) and not above pulling the leg of a green horn “sport” from the city.

The F J & G Railroad, whose line was extended to Northville in 1895, also lent particular ease to the travel of these hunting parties. Hunters could take the extensive New York Central line which would leave passengers at Fonda who would then board the short-line F J and G and continue on to the Northville depot. At the depot the stage would take the hunting party to either a hotel or the guide would await them and proceed to points north to hunt. Hunting parties then utilized horses to transport provisions into the woods for their use during the stay.

The first historical hunting period went up to about 1800. Massive deer hunting harvests occurred primarily at the hands of Indians during their trading with European settlers. They traded deer for things like metal wares, alcohol, textiles, guns, and promises.

The second historical period was from early to mid 1800’s, in which the numbers of whitetail deer rebounded somewhat. This occurred mainly because of the decreased influence that Indians had on them. Also as settlers abandoned homesteads and move west, the land they had been on reverted back to the whitetails habitat. This rebounded population of the whitetail deer led to the next historical period.

The third historical period occurred about 1850 to 1900. There was saw an exploitation of the whitetail deer by hunters who hunted for profit They were almost hunted to extinction, primarily for the meat. Railroads with refrigerated cars were available to bring the venison to many markets throughout the country.

It wasn’t until the federal “Lacey Act” of 1900-which prohibited interstate traffic in wild game taken in violation of state law. The “Lacey Act” was meant to help protect and restore the whitetail deer, along with other game animals and birds. It was signed into law by President William McKinley on May 25th, 1900. The Lacey Act has been amended several times. The most significant times were in 1969, 1981, and in 1989.

by Lorraine Frasier