The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Among some of the stories given me by hunters regarding the largest number of deer killed during one or two days, months or year is the following.

Lige Motley says that during the month of August, 1867, he shot and killed 35 deer on land and in White River in the neighborhood of old Tolberts Ferry east of Yellville, Ark. Fourteen of this number were shot in the river on two consecutive nights while fire hunting. Sam Carpenter tells of him and Bill Cowan fire hunting one night from the mouth of Yocum Creek in Taney Co., Mo., down to the mouth of Bear Creek in the edge of Boone Co., Ark., and killed 7 deer. Jake Hetherly said that in time of the big snow in February, 1856, while the frozen crust capped the snow his father and Steve McIntosh went out one day in Douglas Co., Mo., with two dogs they called Catch and Ring. The deer could hardly travel on account of the crust on the snow giving away. The dogs were too light in weight to break through and the dogs could catch the deer very easily. The men would pick out the best deer and let the dogs catch and kill them. They took in 8 deer that day. John Bias gives an account of his father, Hiram Bias., and Lewis Clarkstone staying one night on head of Shoal Creek in Taney Co., Mo., and Bias killed 11 deer and Clarkstone one, but the latter took care of the hides and venison that Bias had shot. John D. Ackinson, ex-sheriff of Boone County, Ark., told of Jack Steward killing 74 deer in the lead mine hollow of West Sugar Loaf Creek in 1870. To show the marksmanship of Jim Barnette, an old timer of Ozark County, Mo., he said (Barnette) that out of 23 consecutive shots fired at deer he killed 22 and wounded the 23rd one. Peter Keesee, who knew all the old timers of Little North Fork, mentions that Sam Bevins during the snow of February, 1856, wrapped his horses’ forelegs with leather leggins to prevent the frozen snow cutting the horses’ legs, then with gun and dog he killed deer until he was weary of the sport. Before the snow disappeared the deer was so thin in flesh that most of hunters were ashamed to slaughter any more while they were in that condition. "On one occasion," said Mr. Keesee, "Bevins had killed several deer during the day but before night he stood behind a tree and shot and reloaded and shot until 5 deer lay almost in one heap. This last killing occurred on the head of McVey’s Branch of Big Creek in Ozark County, Mo." Hamp Fancher’s father, James Fancher, located on the Osage Fork of White River in Carroll County, Ark., in 1838. The locality where he settled is known now as Fairview. In speaking of the greatest number of deer being shot in one day, Hamp Fancher says that an uncle of his of the name of Joseph Ruckman stood near the famous lick on head of Lick Branch, a tributary of Long Creek, and shot down 25 deer and did not move over 10 paces from where he shot down the first deer. "I well remember," continued Mr. Fancher," that my uncle Tom Fancher was a great deer hunter. Over on the head of Piney Creek in Marion Co., Ark... he met a herd of deer one day and shot and killed the leader. The other deer stood still until he shot 4 more down before the others left. All 5 of the dead deer had fell in a few feet of each other." John Cook, son of Alph Cook, tells of an interesting time he had with a lot of deer once on Jimmies Creek in Marion Co., Ark., in time of snow and ice. "I was riding a small mule and met 6 deer in a bunch and shot 11 shots at them and killed 5 of them. Three of them fell so near together that they nearly touched. The other two fell in 20 paces of the other three. I cut off the heads and feet of all the dead deer and loaded them on the mule and took them home. You talk about funny deer hunts," said John, "but if I did not have a jolly time getting that mule out of that rough creek valley with his load of pelts and venison." Phillip Green relates that during one 12 months he killed 114 deer on Little North Fork in Ozark Co., Mo. Referring to Jake Hetherly again he said that his father, George Hetherly, when he settled on Bryants Fork of Big North Fork he shot and killed 370 deer In three months. "On another occasion," said Jake, "after the little corn mill was built at mouth of Little North Fork in Marion Co., Ark., the few settlers who located on Bryant’s Fork went there for their grist. On one occasion my father went to that mill in an oxwagon and killed 55 deer on the round trip." Jesee Tannihill of Ozark County, Mo., in referring to the number of deer he has shot at certain times has this to say. "I once owned a 32 calibre Winchester with which I killed 96 deer. I also once owned a mouse colored mule I called Nellie on which I have carried 140 deer home from time to time." During the early settlement of Bryant’s Fork deer were found to be very numerous there and hunters that understood the backwoods way of killing game experienced little trouble in killing all the deer they wanted. When the Uptons arrived there from North Carolina some of them were not expert hunters. Ned Upton says that when his brother Jobe Upton located on that stream he imagined that he could soon kill all the deer in that valley. One evening he said he was going out the following day and kill 75. So he moulded 75 bullets to kill them with. He said he needed 75 deerhides to exchange for necessaries for the family. He intended to save a deerhide for each bullet shot away, so with the 75 bullets stored away in his shot pouch and his big powder horn full of powder he went over the valley of Spring Creek, a tributary of Bryant, and started down a long hollow that leads into Spring Creek. The grass in places was waist high. As he went along the deer would leap up out of the grass and run and were soon lost to view in the grass, but Upton would shoot at them as they ran, but never saw one fall. They were so plentiful that he was able to shoot at a deer as often as he could reload but nary one did he see fall and neither would he follow any of them to find whether he had wounded one or not. He stayed in the hollow nearly all day and had shot away 74 balls and had not tried to find any evidence that he had killed a deer out of the 74 shots for all he had shot at soon his spirits had drooped. Disheartened at his ill luck he rammed down the last bullet and went back home to tell his wife that the deer bore a charmed life. Next morning Sam Sliger came to Uncle Jobe’s house (the former knew that Upton had went out hunting the day previous) and asked him what luck he had in collecting pelts. Upton related his story to him. Sliger was surprised but remarked to Uncle Jobe that he did not understand hunting, but thought he had killed a few deer at least and offered to go with Jobe to this same hollow and see if they could find any dead deer, for the weather was cool and the hide had not spoiled. Uncle Jobe was willing to go and while searching the hollow they found 30 dead deer that Upton had shot and had ran out of his sight before they died. This is no fake story," said Uncle Ned,, "but is true."
Tom McCollough in referring to his father, Pleas McCollough, as a hunter says that he has known of his father killing as many as 7 deer in one day on Little North Fork on a few occasions, but he never could go beyond that figure," said Uncle Tom. During the great snow of February, 1856, many deer in Marion County, Ark., fell victims before the unerring aim of the merciless hunter. Among some of the untiring hunters after game were Lige Wood, son of Ben Wood. "one day," says Frank Wood, "while the thick hard crust of ice was on the snow Lige Wood went a hunting on Jimmies Creek where he struck a big herd of deer. The poor animals would slip, slide and fall in trying to keep out of Lige’s way, but he followed them up and shot and killed 12 of them. Taking out the entrails he hung them on the limbs of trees and went home for help to carry them home."

"I remember, said "Thresher" Bill Yocum, "of going out hunting on one occasion in 1834 and it was the hardest days work I ever done. I killed 9 deer on the divide between Bear Creek and head of Carrolton Hollow in Boone Co., Ark. The hard days labor referred to was removing their hides and dressing the deer and carrying the venison home to mouth of Bear Creek where I lived."

Elijah Ford tells of a successful days hunt for deer while he and his brother William Ford lived in the first creek bottom on the east side of Little North Fork below the mouth of Brattons Spring Creek. This land is sometimes called the Dan Burress place. "This was in 1845," said uncle Lige. "Me and William went out to see how many deer we could kill in one day. We killed three soon after we left the house and took them back and gave them to the women folk to remove the hides and dress the meat. Then started out again and we hunted until nearly sunset and killed 14 more deer or a total of 17 during the day. Of these last we only saved the hides and hams. The majority of them were shot on Gooley’s Spring Creek."

The old timer John H. Tabor of Marion County, Ark., in relating his experience in killing deer says that when the Oregon Flat, Sugar Orchard Creek and head of West Sugar Loaf Creek was wild woods him and his brother Smyth Tabor passed one day in that section horseback to kill deer for their pelts only. "It was in the fall of the year but the day proved to be a warm one and we had some trouble to prevent the hides from spoiling. We shot and killed 11 deer that day. I well remember," said Mr. Tabor, "of being very thirsty for water and we come to a spring in a hollow that leads into West Sugar Loaf Creek where we dismounted and drank and rested. Then we noticed a stream of water trickling down a steep hillside which we followed to its source where it issued from under a shelving rock in a shallow gulch on the side of the hill. Both this and the spring in the hollow was cool and pleasant to the taste. This proved to be the once famous Elixir Springs. It was in the fall of 1837 when I drank at these springs and more than likely me and Smyth Tabor were the first white hunters that quenched their thirst here, but I am not positive of that," said uncle John.

John C. Ross tells the following account of a settler killing deer. "I remember on one occasion during the war a man of the name of Bill Yocum who lived on Indian Creek set me across White River at the mouth of James River. Several years after the war we went to Springfield, Mo., together. After we had crossed the river at the mouth of James and struck into the hills Yocum would stop ever now and then and view the surrounding hills and hollows without saying anything. After repeating this about 4 times he says, "Here in this vicinity me and some companions many years ago when the country was overrun with deer we crossed the river from Indian Creek and camped here two weeks and killed deer, but the first thing we done after stopping to camp we erected a frame of poles and forks for shelter. Then we killed enough deer in one day to furnish hides to cover it which proved to be a splendid shelter. We were very successful in killing game on that trip for we killed about 200 deer before we returned home."

There is a small creek about 10 miles in length that flows into Long Creek some 12 miles below Carrollton, Ark., known as Lick Branch. At the head of this stream situated on a divide between Terrapin and Long Creeks is a famed lick once known as Bryant’s Lick where in early times buffalo, deer and elk collected together in large numbers to taste of the saline dirt. John Ross in describing this lick says, "the flat where it is situated used to be known as Ash Flat, taking its name from a grove of Ash trees that once grew on the flat, but the land is now in cultivation. The old lick is at the upper end of the flat." Mr. Ross said that the old settlers informed him that this was discovered by an early explorer of the name of Bryant who after crossing White River struck a trail made by Buffalo and Elk and followed it to this lick. The writer was told by the pioneer that hunters would go to this lick who lived many miles distant and shoot hundreds for their pelts. It is told that on one occasion that Joe Coker and Len Coker visited the lick once and killed about 40 deer apiece in one day. This is the same lick that Hamp Fancher refers to in this chapter.

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