“The possession of ferrets shall be presumptive evidence of their illegal use.” – The Auburn Citizen, August 28, 1909
The practice of sending ferrets into burrows, to flush or “ferret out” the rabbits within, was brought to the U.S. from England circa 1880, but it sparked outrage and was eventually outlawed in most counties of New York State. However, in September of 1914, the Skaneateles Free Press reported:
“Hunters in this and other towns in Onondaga county are divided on the question of allowing the use of ferrets in the bagging of rabbits. Some declare this method is unsportsmanlike in the extreme—others claim it is the only way to insure a good bag after a hard day’s tramp. Farmers have made complaint to the State Conservation Commission that the animals [rabbits] have become so numerous that they are proving a nuisance which should be abated. Commissioner Moore had a hearing on the matter in Syracuse Wednesday and took under advisement the application of the Hunters’ Club for permission to use ferrets in this county. Such permission was given in several counties of the State last year. The rabbit season opens October 1st.”
In time, the more sporting individuals prevailed; rabbits were once more safe in their homes, and the practice of hunting them with ferrets is today illegal across New York.
A photograph from the collection of the Skaneateles Historical Society, with no identification, no notes — just two hunters with four long guns, a violin and an accordion. If you have any idea who they might be, or where this was taken, do comment here and let me know.
“The seeker for summer rest and recuperation will find the Utopia of his dreams in the lake region of central New York. Among these delightful ‘inland seas’ are seven beautiful lakes, ranging from ten to forty miles in length, with innumerable smaller, though no less attractive, bodies where boating, fishing and, in many cases, hunting, invite the summer sojourner.
“Among these lakes none is more beautiful than Skaneateles, which lies southwest of Syracuse, on the Auburn road. Its hilly, wooded banks are wonderfully picturesque and there is not a foot of its sixteen miles that is not beautiful and enchanting. It is an ideal spot for boating, and its dancing waters are dotted with countless white sails during the season, and until long after the appearance of ‘the orange tints that gild the greenest boughs.'”
— Photograph and text from “Woodland Paths and Waterways” in The Four-Track News, July 1902
In 1903, farmer Henry H. Vary of Skaneateles, with little regard for the feelings of our woodchuck population, wrote a letter to Recreation magazine with the following advice and product endorsements:
“For hunting woodchucks I use a Lefevre 12 gauge shot gun, especially if the grass is tall, and by a little strategy I have fairly good success. My load usually is 40 grains Laflin & Rand powder, 1 1/8 ounce No. 7 1/2 chilled shot. With that combination I can get the chuck every time up to 35 yards. I use a 32-40 rifle.
“It does not require much skill to get a chuck with that up to 50 yards; but for skill and fine shooting one should go out after the haying season is over, when a chuck can see and be seen across a 40 acre field or even farther. Then hold steady. At such times I have used the 30-30 with a Mogg telescope. With that combination one does not have to sneak far to get within range. I have killed a few chucks with the 22 Winchester repeater. That does well if one is near enough to make the head the target; but if only hit in the body the chuck will get home.
“For lively shooting one should be in Kansas or Arizona, where the prairie dog pest is. There one can ride along and if his horse will stand fire, can keep a 22 warm. These little fellows look out from the mouths of their holes and if they are not hit in the head they usually get in out of reach. Here in Central New York there is little use for a rifle larger than 25 or 30 caliber, unless it may be for target practice, and even then the 22 with its variety of cartridges will furnish lots of amusement.”