Waterfowl historian Dr. Wayne Capooth describes duck hunting in America way back in the 1600-1700s when the first colonists arrived to a real-life Garden of Eden. Describing their growing pains, how they hunted, what they hunted with and how natives taught them to hunt better, we end up discussing hunting George Washington’s duck hunting experiences and other famous duck hunting US presidents.
Wayne Capooth’s Historic Duck Hunting Stories Podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/historic-duck-hunting-stories-the-golden-age-of/id1660685324
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, I tell you, when the first immigrants came over here in about 1607, most of those Europeans that came over English, they didn’t know how to hunt because they came from a country where only the elite, the blue bloods, the gentry could hunt. So they had to poach if they wanted to hunt. So it wasn’t much duck hunting. So when they got over here, not many of them really knew how to hunt. So they had to depend upon the Indians, the native Americans to furnish them game and of course, they’d trade back and forth for whatever the Indians wanted in return.
Ramsey Russell: And welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, I am in Memphis, Tennessee, meeting with Dr. Wayne Capooth about the Golden Age of Waterfowling. Push a button a little soon, he’s already flying off in today’s conversation. And we’re going to start at the very beginning of duck hunters in North America and we’ll find a stopping point somewhere along the way. Didn’t mean to interrupt you, Wayne.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, Ramsay, back when the first immigrants came over here in 1607 and following years after that, they really didn’t know how to hunt the English people because they couldn’t hunt over there unless they were really elite and blue bloods and not many of the blue bloods and the rich royal people were coming over here to this country to get away. So they had to poach if they wanted to hunt over there.
Ramsey Russell: In Europe, wildlife belonged to the king and the land, they had the access, they owned the property that was all reserved for them. In fact, I heard one time, Wayne, that the old saying, food fit for a king was in regard to swans and only royalty were allowed to shoot swans back in those days. So the pilgrims show up to Plymouth Rock and at the time they showed up, there were more game and animals in North America than probably in the whole rest of the world combined. That’s amazing.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, you folks don’t know, before we started this podcast, Ramsay and I was talking back and forth and got to talking about how smallpox back during the 16th century and on, were decimated, the native Americans. Well, when they came over here in 1607 in that 17th century, they were bewildered by the gain that was available in this country, including waterfowl. And you have to think back, Hernando de Soto came through this southern part of the country, Florida and on up into the – they crossed at Memphis to go over into Arkansas. And he brought the smallpox with him and the other explorers did too. So the Indian population was decimated when they came in 1707.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve heard that with the Spanish explorers, de Soto and others that were coming in from out west through Mexico, that by the time Christopher Columbus landed on in America, that what he witnessed as native America was only 10% of what it had been.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, as you just stated, not only did they come on the east coast in 1607, but they were coming up, like you said, from Mexico on the California and spreading smallpox too. So what I’m getting to is, okay, when they arrive, I’m just going to take the eastern coast in 1607 and for most of that 17th century, the waterfowl population was just exploded because the Indians had been decimated. Now you say, okay, the Indians only hunted big game, no, they hunted anything they could exploit and they exploited small game and waterfowl also. So what I’m saying is since the Indians couldn’t exploit the waterfowl, the waterfowl population exploded. So that’s what they saw, they saw a waterfowl Eden, if I might use that biblical term. Anyway, the initial colonists had to depend upon the Indians. So the Indians were really the first market hunters. Now you’re not going to find that written in any book anywhere. And I’m going to tell you, it even continued somewhat into the 19th century, especially over in Wisconsin in that area, a lot of Indians continued to mark hunt into the 1800s. And the last really market Indian hunters I know of was Humboldt and Carson in Nevada. And that was from about 1850 on to about 1900. They were the last Indian market hunters. So I don’t got off track here or not, but where do you want me to go from here?
Ramsey Russell: Well, keep on. I want to kind of start with the east coast. I’m thinking of the Europeans showing up to this new world, they did not know how to duck hunt, they didn’t really know how to hunt at all, it was foreign game to them, but they befriended Native American. Native American knew how to hunt.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, they learned from the Indians.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, it wasn’t until listening to your podcast and we’ll talk about that towards the end of this episode. I’m excited you got a new podcast talking about this, but I’ve been listening to some of it and it never really occurred to me what the first American duck hunters must have been like. I can go back to the 1800s, we always talk about that, the good old days, but no, man, it goes all the way back now to the 1600s, 1700s.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, the first European English market hunter that I know of was Thomas Morton, that was about 1635. He’s got a description of doing some market hunting. I think that was up in Massachusetts, but don’t hold me to that. But it was up in New England that Thomas Morton was doing a little market hunt. But other than him, it was mostly the Indians supplying the game for at least I said, into the 1700s. And then by that time, a lot of the New England or the coast on the England’s east side had developed. Okay, so he had Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and that area.
Ramsey Russell: Who was Thomas Morton?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: He was an Englishman, I can’t remember what his trade was when he came over, right off the top of my head now, but he was an Englishman that came over. A lot of them came over, the Englishman came over to see what was all going on and write things up in books and things.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of guns did they have when they showed up?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: They had the old flintlock muzzle loaders and what’s called long fowlers.
Ramsey Russell: I bet not many of them had guns, come to think of it.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, no, they did. Indians traded a lot of things when they first came over, but the Indians wanted that gun, because what guns the English had, they showed them what guns would do. So the Indians really wanted the guns and they became experts with them. So the colonists soon learned how to hunt, especially waterfowl from the Indians, after the Indians had the guns.
Ramsey Russell: What did the Indians teach them about their hunting ways?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Mainly about the bow and arrow, because they started out and the Indians used a lot of nets to catch their waterfowl.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, they string a net across, let’s say, a creek or river, not a big river, but let’s say a small river. So they stretch your nets sort of where it might narrow down into a little pocket and then 200 or 300 yards away, they’d get a row of boats and circle back there. And then those Indians in those canoes would start driving the ducks on the water towards the net and when they got close and fairly close to the net, then the Indians in the boats would scare them up and a bunch of them would land in that net.
Ramsey Russell: I’m sure they went out and shot them with archery.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, they did. And it wasn’t a sharp point error like we’re thinking about, it was blunt pointed round. Blunt pointed. So it would hit breasts usually and just stun it that it fall and it would kill it so hard sometime.
Ramsey Russell: I never really thought about the first colonists showing up, obviously, they had guns, they needed to eat, so they probably went out and did what they could with what they had. But they were busy building towns, building cities, building and developing and clearing and surviving just the best they could. But most of them, you’re saying the natives were coming in and selling meat, selling them game. That’s how most of the meat was being – these colonists were eating with just stuff that the natives were coming in and bartering and trading.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: If it hadn’t been for the Native Americans, some of them would have starred when they first started coming over here.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve heard that. I’ve heard they taught them how to plant corn, like the old story and graze. They make the road and put the fish down in it for fertilizer.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, and melons, too.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me more about this Thomas Morton. Did he write much about what he was selling or what numbers he was killing or how he was killing?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: He just said, I think, in the thousands. He wasn’t killing that many, don’t get me wrong about that. But he described more what he was seeing, the numbers and everything everywhere. And that he said that he had more in the front of the mouth of his gun than he could ever hope to kill, he just saw him by the thousands. A lot of the descriptions are the same thing, just thousands of waterfowl. Now, some of them may be hyperbole, because they’re trying to get the people over England to come over here. So they’re writing back to England, blowing up these numbers, but I’m telling you, there’s too many historical accounts.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t believe it was an exaggeration. I don’t believe it was exaggerated. I’ve heard estimates that passenger pigeons, for example, which stretch clear up to New England, down to Louisiana, depending on their migration, that their numbers eclipsed all the other bird life on earth. Can you imagine?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, it was staggering.
Ramsey Russell: And then there were just as many parakeets, Carolina parakeets and things that nature.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: They used to take the beak of the parakeet, I don’t know, and they take the beak of the parakeet and put it on the end of a rifle barrel as a sight.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Things you learned.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Of course, they wanted the feathers, too. You get into feather hunting, you tell them about something else there. But in forest conservation, as far as the 17th century, already, some of those cities, like Philadelphia, New York – now New York, you got into Manhattan area, there were swamps there, man, the center core of New York, they didn’t have to go but to Brooklyn swamps to kill a bunch of ducks back then.
Ramsey Russell: Did I hear you say downtown Manhattan was actually built on a big wetland?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, big wetlands and they’re just full of ducks. So they just get out of the main center core and go to the Manhattan swamps or right across the river to Jamaica, which is on part of the western end of Long Island, the same thing.
Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy. Talk about the evolution of hunting from those original colonists, they’re buying a lot of their meat from Native America, you got guys like Thomas Morton coming on and doing some market hunting to feed these communities. How did it begin to evolve? How did their prowess, the firearms and technology and everything else begin to – What would be the difference in a pilgrim or a puritan duck hunter versus a modern duck hunter?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Puritans, they didn’t like hunting. They looked proud upon it. So it was basically the non-puritans and of course the puritans, some of them got into it. I forgot what your question was. What was it?
Ramsey Russell: Well, I mean, just how they hunted versus how we hunt.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, actually, the colonist that came over in 1607, they had what’s called the Dutch snaphance, I think that’s how you say that gun. And it’s a rudimentary form of the flintlock and they had a few of those. And then they had a few wheellocks, but not many.
Ramsey Russell: What’s a wheellock?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: It’s a rotating thing that strikes a pyrite, which is an iron material and makes a spark. So it’s an early form of flintlock too. So, actually the wheellock antidates the snaphance. But anyway, the wheellock was so expensive only the richest have it. So when they first came over, let’s say the first 3 decades, they have snaphances and then they have a few wheellocks, the rich people and then the actual flintlock.
Ramsey Russell: Were they shaped like a Boon and Crockett, a Davy Crockett musket or were they blunder bus looking?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, not blunder bus.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve got a friend up in Manitoba, Paul Conchatre, Birdtail Outfitters. And there in his kitchen, he’s got a gun that supposedly was used by an Indian in the Custer battle. Homemade stock, just kind of a homemade crude barrel. But he said somehow he knew something about that gun that it was loaded with buckshot, not with a single projectile. I never thought of that, I just assumed they were all shooting rifle cartridges at each other. But no, he said a lot of them were shooting shotguns.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Oh, no. Well, old smooth boar flintlocks, you could shoot either a bullet or pellets.
Ramsey Russell: When these first pioneers were showing up into the new world, did they come with rifles or shotguns or was it just kind of both?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Both.
Ramsey Russell: They could use it as both.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: They could use it as both. But it got to gravitating really and separating. Like back in the, like I said, 17th, 18th century, you had what’s called a fowling piece. That’s what they used to call it fowling piece. And they had what’s called a birding fowling piece and a long fowling piece. In the old historical accounts that you read about, they interchangeable. So you don’t really sometimes know which one they’re talking about, but they’re different. A burning fowling piece was for quail and doves, passenger pigeons, things like that. And the barrel only was about 3, it didn’t get past 3.5ft. Now the long fowling piece, which we used, which they used the colonists, which we’re talking about and up until the breach loaders really started, the long fowling piece barrel went from 4ft to 7ft. And that’s the difference. You’ll see a lot of long fowling pieces mentioned or long fowler, they call them long fowlers too.
Ramsey Russell: I would have imagined them going out and flat shooting ducks more than one shooting.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Listen, the old, really early guns, they had to put them on a rest, because they were so dead gum heavy. You imagine shooting a 7ft gun?
Ramsey Russell: It wasn’t light either.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, it wasn’t light.
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever seen and I know you talk about this in The Golden Age of Waterfowl, have you ever seen live pigeon shoots, box pigeons, big sport, that goes all the way back to France, the flintlock days.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: So they were shooting flying birds. There was some shooting ability on flying birds, but that’s a whole difference in being in a Royal French Arena for sport versus being over in a new world winter’s coming and I got to eat, man, I got a starving family.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, when you started getting to flip these flint mechanisms on the guns, then you could think about shooting flying. The old muzzle loaders by the match lock, where you had to light a match by a wick and the wick had to go up to the powder –
Ramsey Russell: Like a handheld cannon.
Wing Shooting Origins (1615-1630)
I hope I was saying this right, the snaphance and even the wheellock, you could begin to do a little wing shooting.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: How in the heck are you going to swing that? So the guns I just mentioned, I hope I was saying this right, the snaphance and even the wheellock, you could begin to do a little wing shooting. And that would have been probably the early part, about 1615, 1630 onward. And then when the true flintlock, now you’re talking about doing pretty reliable wing shooting, but you still had a little fraction of a second between the time the flint would explode the powder and you get an explosion.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s what I was just about to say, anybody that’s ever shot a modern black powder gun, hawking 50 caliber or something, even with the little cap you put over the nipple, there’s a lag, snap, boom. I just can’t imagine.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, you learn to lead.
Ramsey Russell: Boy, you better lead them.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: That’s where the Indians, when they got the guns, way back there in the 17th century, I’m going to tell you, Indian, it didn’t take them long to learn about wing shooting.
Ramsey Russell: No.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: And they taught the Americans where they were on Americans in, but you know what I’m talking about.
Ramsey Russell: Well, the oldest waterfowl decoys known to exist are 2000 years old and they were found out there in Lovelock cave, out there where you’re talking about Nevada. That big lake. And you think they were hunting with nets or bow and arrows.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Both. They would basically hunt with a net and they’d put the decoys in front of the net and they could call by their mouth so they could call the ducks and they’d get those ducks down and come into the decoys and then they’d shoot them. The net really was used to, once again drive the ducks. So you had two things going on, just hunting with the decoys and the bow and arrow. And then you had the drive where you’d drive them into the nets and they’d see the decoys that away and they’d get a bunch by the net also. But Ramsay, just imagine when I see those 2000 year old decoys and they’re hunting mostly, just think canvasbacks, they’re hunting mostly canvasbacks.
Ramsey Russell: I know.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Just imagine when the first colonists came over and for what, 200 years after that, the canvasback was the duck that duck to eat. And imagine they already figured that out 2000 years ago, they’re eating that duck. But anyway, when I look at those decoys, I’m just absolutely astounded.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, it’s amazing.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: And the next time you really pick up decoys like they used was up in the northern part of Vermont in that area, Lake Champlain in that area.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah. And that was in the 18th century, about 1723.
Ramsey Russell: That’s the first time of decoy.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: And that was by a Frenchman named Lebante. Of course, the French are settling that area up there in Canada, very northern tier of the states. His name was, I can’t think of his first name, Lebante is his last name. But he was describing the decoys that the English used and the huts that they hunted in or their blinds that they hunted in.
Ramsey Russell: Describe them. I mean, what are we talking about here? What were the decoys like? And what were the blinds like? And were they still propping their guns up and flat shooting them off of rest?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, they were shooting flying in. This is about 1735 or so up in Lake Champlain in that area. And they would do several deal, they’d pile up mud to make a decoys and then they’d put a steak, like, for the neck of it, then they’d stake out the ones they killed and then they had the decoys like we’re talking about, like they had in Lovelock cave. Maybe not so decorative as those, but they had all different kinds of decoy. And they had tame decoys or tame geese decoys, too.
Ramsey Russell: Black labs were a big part of waterfowl hunting culture today and I just can’t imagine hunting without one. But I’m always reminded when you talk about that staking up those live birds, we do hunt parts of the world that we might start with 12 decoys, little old cheap decoys but the dead ducks you shoot are more decoys, same as wild pigeon hunting. I’m cognizant of that, when my dog’s out there picking up a bunch of birds, she don’t need to pick them all up because those are my decoys. I’m going to tell you right now, I can’t speak to Canada goose because I know a lot of Canada goose hunters just want to run out and get all them birds know because they believe it scares the geese coming in. But everywhere in the world I’ve hunted for ducks, it don’t matter if that bird is belly up or how he’s laying on the water, the ducks are coming in. I don’t know what it is about that. Like this recently is Azerbaijan, where I can’t get out of the blind, boy, that mud will swallow you whole. I don’t have a dog, the boat ain’t around, the ducks are laying out there in the pond, and man, it don’t matter, they can be upside down, sideways caddy, corner, broke wings, it don’t matter the ducks are coming into them like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, you think they used to back look, I just mentioned mud decoys and they put a steak for a head and neck on it. I agree. When I tend to hunt and I’ve even used none painting decoys, but painted black, I’ve used that in some of my sets. And I tend to like that, especially when they like it, it’s breaking and a duck can’t really see the color of anything, they’re just seeing black, even the ones that’s colored, they’re seeing black. So that’s the reason I put, not all the time, but I used to put some black ones in, just painted black, not shiny black.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you think about a clear bluebird day and you’ve got decoys out here on the water, if the sun angle is just right, if it’s behind you or somewhere in that quarter, you see color, start walking around that spread black and all you see is backlit decoy, black. I don’t think the color matters on ducks.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No.
Ramsey Russell: When I was a broke college kid, I had 18 to 24 decoys to start and I subsidized them with black pop bottles and it didn’t matter, we killed ducks.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: When I ducked on almost 50 days out of a 60 day season as the season progressed, so I’m 2/3rds into the season. So the last 1/3rd, sometimes I even reduced the number of my decoys. I felt like the big numbers, especially on a non-windy day, I’d reduce my numbers because to me, a duck up there seeing 100, 200 decoys or even 50 decoys and none of them are moving on still this day, they ain’t buying it. So I reduced my number of decoys. Another thing I did late in the season, too, was like 1/3rd of the season left on a 60 day season, I’m sort of getting off tangent here. Instead of going out at the break a day, I’d go out at 10:00 and set up and why? Because my observation, I have killed probably the last third of the season, just as many from 11 to 2 or so as I did early in the morning. Well, you ask why? And really two reasons why. One, because most of the people about 1/3rd of the season left are tired, they’re ready to go in, out of that pit and so on and so they’re out of the fields by 11. And the other reason is a lot of people leaving, they’re stirring up ducks every different ways and now they’re coming back in. Those people have gone and there I am out there. So if that makes sense to you.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, it makes perfect sense. I always try to wait until I hear machines running and they’re all gone back to camp because they’re allowed to bump up a few birds that’ll fly by. That doesn’t bother me a bit, that don’t make sense. Wayne, going back, getting back on track with some of the earlier colonial type hunters, the birth of duck hunting as we know it now in North America, they started with the mud decoys, they were out there, and I’m assuming those French were still killing birds to supply to the villages. It was still a market campaign, it was a commodity is what that wildlife was. It wasn’t so much sport as it was business. Interesting story, I’ve heard that Quebec City was the oldest city in North America.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: It is.
Ramsey Russell: And years ago, I had a French Canadian outfitter, Luke Lape, that ran snow goose hunts north of there about 30, 45 minutes, maybe an hour and gosh, the name of that refuge eludes me. But that settlement was the first where we were hunting these geese in Cape Torment is the name of it, up at Cape Torment refuge, it was established as a hunting camp, it’s where the French would go up to hunt geese, primarily geese and other birds to feed the city of Quebec. So it was a business transaction, they were feeding their people and stuff. When you get back onto the colonials, can you walk me through some of the process and evolvement of how we started? I’m just imagining a typical pilgrim with a black hat and a shiny buckle in the middle, holding a blunder bus and the Indians are helping him survive the winter and showing him how to hunt. Now they’re swapping in guns, the Indians are becoming better hunters. Can you talk about a progression as we start building up into the new world, how this is all evolving? Well, I mean, what were the wetlands like, you know everything.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, the wetlands obviously have been drained.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, Manhattan was a freaking swamp. It was a duck hole at one time, that’s crazy.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: It’s hard for a guy like me to know what it was like back then because we’ve drained all the dang wetlands. And if it wasn’t for the organizations like Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl and other things, we’d just be in, I tell you, we wouldn’t be hunting ducks, okay? There would be no duck season. But there were just wetlands everywhere back then. All the rivers, I mean, you didn’t have – we’re sitting here on the Mississippi River and I can look over and look at the levee that they built and before the levee built, when the river would get out, it would go 40 miles west of here over to what’s called Crawley Ridge, which was a big hilly section, that’s 40 miles. Well, the river keeps that in. So all of that wetlands that used to go 40 miles over there has been drained. So that went all. And of course, as a colonist, we colonized and then led by the fur traders, we just kept going westward. Every place we went westward, we just seen staggering numbers of ducks in wetlands, because wetlands was everywhere.
Ramsey Russell: We went west to a point, I know that on the even Civil War, Wisconsin was the western US.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, they even call this the west at one point. Memphis was even the west. Actually, anything east of the Mississippi River from the north border to the south border, they call pretty much west at that point.
Ramsey Russell: So we’ve got colonists that are surviving that are learning to hunt from the Indians, it’s a market based sport. It ain’t even a sport, it’s market based pursuit. How do we begin to evolve more into the traditional recreational duck hunt, Wayne? What’s going on in the new world that evolves.
Transformation of Manhattan’s Hunting Landscape.
That area around Manhattan is with all swamps that Collins was hunting, that’s all been filled. So now you got to go to Long Island and Long Island is a story within itself.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, for sports hunting and even duck clubs to form, you’ve got to have population centers, such as on the east coast, because they really haven’t penetrated past the Appalachian Mountains, you’re talking about Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and big cities like that. So when you’ve got a large population, then you got people who want to just do it for sports hunting. And so they’ve got all kinds of places to sports hunt because you can go anywhere. If you’re in New York, like I said, of course, that area around Manhattan is with all swamps that Collins was hunting, that’s all been filled. So now you got to go to Long Island and Long Island is a story within itself. You’re talking about fantastic market hunting, unbelievable. Especially on the great South Bay, good god almighty. Then you just go south of that –
Ramsey Russell: Wait a minute, talk more about Long Island. I want to hear more about it.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Let me get into the club. So you got the sportsman’s going out and then you have that population and you’re getting wealth built up because people are making some money and they start doing duck clubs. And now the first duck club, I’m going to talk about the waterfowling, just waterfowling duck clubs. Because really, when you get down to duck clubs, way back then, that was the only ones that had duck clubs. There were no deer clubs, there were no buffalo club, no elk club back then it was all waterfowling clubs.
Ramsey Russell: I wonder why.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: I think the camaraderie, you’ve got at least 4 guys going and sometimes you got 12 people going to duck hunt, I think just the camaraderie. And they’re all socially, economically the same. And so it’s just like, if you didn’t have duck clubs, you got other clubs, social clubs, so why not duck club? But anyway, the duck clubs at a certain economic level got going. You had to be certainly middle class and upper class to be able to do in the duck club.
Ramsey Russell: Well, what been a timeline for some of these earlier duck clubs or associations? Are we up to the 1800s yet?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: The first and I’m talking about duck hunting club was a Tally Ho Hunting and Fishing Club. So I’ve only mentioned the east coast, but the same time they’re being developed, the cities and all of that. New Orleans already been established by the French in the beginning of 1700, 1699. So they’re already established. Tally Ho Hunting and Fishing Club, 1815 and that’s because the war of 1812 lasted until 1814. And then that’s when the Tally Ho Hunting and Fishing Club came together. So it at one point was the oldest hunting or waterfowling club in America and it stayed that away, really, until hurricane Katrina and it just destroyed their clubhouse. And so now it’s still a club, but it’s not really a waterfowling club. The members themselves have their own private places down there they hunt, but they’re not really a waterfowling. So the oldest existing continuous waterfowling club is Winous Point in Ohio.
Ramsey Russell: Heard that.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: And that was in 1854.
Ramsey Russell: Jump back over to the east coast summit. Tell me what’s going on up in that New England hub where the Europeans, that’s kind of where they landed now we’re starting to spread out a little bit.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Obviously, you got Long Island and you got the Long Island part between there and Connecticut. That was more sea duck hunting, which on the northern part of Long Island, the south part had a bunch of bays and shallow bays and everything. So they got mallards and canvasbacks and the whole deal. That is where sink box got shooting got started and probably punt gun shooting got started there and there’s a big debate. I’m getting off. I’m not going to get in. Bring me back to the clubs. The general thought in America and England is that the punt gun got started in England and brought over here. After doing tons of research and writing on that punt gun, I’m not so sure it didn’t get started here, the long gun, during the American Revolution with the British seeing that long gun and then carrying it back over there.
Ramsey Russell: I see.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: This is a period about whether it’s England or here is about 1760 or 1770. I just don’t have quite enough facts to say for sure.
Ramsey Russell: So when you were talking about those 7ft long guns, it would have been the weight and size and approximation of a punt gun, they were just trying to shoulder it?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No punt gun back in –
Ramsey Russell: Like a cannon?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: They went up to 10ft and you got barrel bores two inches wide.
Ramsey Russell: When would you guess the punt gun showed up in the new world? When would it have emerged down around Long Island or Chesapeake Bay?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, that’s what I’m saying, it probably showed up –
Ramsey Russell: Revolutionary War?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: See, I’m thinking that the punt gun really got started about 1760, 1770, either in England or over here. But really, for it to start showing up where you can say it was a punt gun was about 1810 or 1820 or 1830 or so, and the sink box, probably about 1835 or so. And it was probably started by a gentleman named and he made decoy, his famous decoy maker and it starts with last name, starts with nay. And I cannot think of his name, but he may very well be the guy that got sink box going between what’s called the East River, which was between New York and Long Island, there’s a river called East River. And he took that sink box down to Barnegat Bay because he had an uncle that lived down there. And that’s another area after Long Island where big time duck hunting was going on in clubs forming and then on into Chesapeake Bay. Back to duck clubs, though, then you have Long Island and you got the population that’s grown enough and wealthy enough they can sport duck clubs. So Long Island was a biggie and then Barnegat Bay and New Jersey was a biggie and as you keep coming south, obviously Chesapeake Bay. And Chesapeake pay duck clubs started some of them, Maxwell, I can’t think of the first one now, but in 1832 or so. So they got started early and they just ended up with a ton of duck clubs. Then by 1854 or so, you come down to Carthage in North Carolina and Carthage Bay then you had Back Bay and Back Bay was in Virginia, Carthage Bay was in North Carolina. So Back Bay was nothing more than a northern extension of Currituck sound, I say bay, Currituck sound into Virginia and both of those were just loaded with duck clubs and famous duck clubs, as was Long Island famous duck clubs. And then obviously, as the population kept spreading westward, the same situation developed. And when they opened up Lake Erie Canal, Erie Canal between New York and the Great Lakes, then lo and behold, here’s come Chicago, which got established in about 1832. And I’m going to tell you, by probably the 1890s, Chicago was the emporium for game, New York was the biggie back before the westward expansion. And then Chicago got going and by 1880, that period 1890, it was the emporium, it was shipping a lot to New York and New York even shipped a lot to Europe waterfowl. And then you come on down the river, you got St. Louis, you got Memphis and they already got New York going, then you go westward, you got Kansas City, you got Great Salt Lake and you got Texas down in that on the Gulf coast and the Gulf coast just had a bunch of – So it just kept going. And of course, California they really duck clubs got started because of the gold rush. Prior to the gold rush there was no duck clubs in California.
Ramsey Russell: When you go back, some of the earliest duck hunters on the east coast jump back to the colonials. Did any of your research come across? Did they have a species preference? Was it canvasbacks that far back? Because we start talking about Long Island, I’m thinking sea ducks, I’m thinking eiders –
Dr. Wayne Capooth: That’s the Long Island, what do you call that on the north part of, between there and Connecticut? Long Island sound, that’s the sea ducks, scoters.
Canvasbacks and Redheads on Menus
The canvasback has always brought the most price on the market, so they were an expensive duck.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. But what about the early settlers? Were they eating anything that got brought in or were they targeting species?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, they love canvasbacks. The canvasback has always brought the most price on the market, so they were an expensive duck. And then you have the redhead, then when we’re talking about the east coast, it wasn’t so much mallard, it was the black mallard. The black duck because they were endemic up there, because of the way things amp the boreal forest and all of that stuff. So you basically had the canvasbacks, the redheads, which were much less frequent duck back then than the canvasbacks and they got interchangeable. When you go to a restaurant back in the old days, like in the late 17th century, 18th century on the menu would be canvasbacks, well, it’s liable to be a redhead. And then you’d have the black duck, highly sought after and then the pintails and wigeons, teals.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Teal probably came after the mallard probably.
Ramsey Russell: It does in my book. May come before mallard in my book, I like a teal.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: And the same thing all the way down the east coast – even when you get down to Currituck Sound, the canvasback was the duck. Now, obviously past Carthage, you don’t get many canvasbacks down into Florida in that area.
Ramsey Russell: I want to change subject completely. Never in a million years did this cross my mind that our first president was a duck hunter. Never in a million years did it cross my mind that George Washington duck hunted. Did he duck hunt?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, when you read the textbooks, of course, George Washington being the first president, he got a lot of material written on him. So we’re talking about the mid – he was born in 1732, so we’re talking about really sort of the middle half of the 18th century for George Washington, he became president, what was that, 1786 or so? And he had served 2 terms. So we’re talking about 1760 or so, and then he died, I think, in 1796. So we’re talking in that period, all of those people in Virginia, which is where he was born were gentry. Not all the people, but the gentry is what got all the press back then and they were fox hunters because their English forebearers were fox hunters. So when they came here, they were fox hunters. So really about Washington’s hunting is all you read about his fox hunting. And he had his own pack of hounds, he had his special horses, he was the real deal and he was a real outdoorsman. So you don’t find that much about waterfowling. But yes, he was a waterfowler, when he wasn’t duck hunting, when he had the opportunity, he duck hunted on the Potomac River because he lived right on the Potomac river on the Virginia side.
Ramsey Russell: Now, I know a little bit about him, seemed like his mama may have remarried, she may have been a widow at some point in time. I was up in Virginia and I want to say that the family farm where he presumably chopped down the cherry tree was on the Roanoke River.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: I think he started out on the Roanoke. He had two brothers and some sisters, too. But the two brothers, yeah. They started out hunting up there, but soon they moved down right below Washington DC in that area, Mount Vernon and Alexander in that area.
Ramsey Russell: He was a big fox hunter, but he had labor that had to eat, he had guests that had to eat, so he probably hunted deer, small game.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Oh, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Whatever was on the farm besides fox, you don’t eat fox, that’s sport.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, he did. And he had a deer park. Now, in a certain extent, he was a conservationist because he had a deer park, no hunting on it.
Ramsey Russell: How big was it, would you guess?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: I think it was about 160 acres. And he ran all the poachers off, he didn’t let anybody hunt on his land unless you got permission. And there’s one right up where there’s a poacher, just a persistent poacher of waterfowl on the Potomac.
Ramsey Russell: Probably punt gunning or shooting blotch of ducks.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, he was shooting a flintlock shoulder piece long fowler. But Washington’s usual routine when he could get away was he would ride for about 3 hours every morning on his land. And he was riding one day and heard pop and boom, boom coming from Potomac, so he goes over, he figured that it was this guy. When he gets over there, a guy is coming in with his ducks, his canvasback and he’s right at the shoreline there and Washington rides into the water, yanks him up by the quarter and says, get his you know what, out of here. Well, that guy never showed up again after that.
Ramsey Russell: Was he president at the time?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: He was president, yeah. He served 2 terms, as I said. And you have to remember this guy –
Ramsey Russell: Go ahead.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Anyway, you don’t find too much waterfowling history and really not that much hunting history, even fox hunting. But you find a lot of fox is because he was a busy man. He fought in the 7 year war, which also was called the French and Indian War and that was 1757 and ended in 1763, 7 year war or the French and Indian War. And he was the lead man for the colonists then against the French, that’s when the English was battling the French for territory up in that northern tier of states and we ended up running the French out. So he had that whole period and then he comes back here now, he gets into the American Revolution. So now he’s tied up for another X number of years, but he hadn’t got a lot of time to go out. So, as far as a president, he just sort of hunted in that general Mount Vernon area.
Ramsey Russell: When he’s home, he just hunted right there in his backyard?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, because he didn’t have steamboats or trains back then. So he could do a rowboat, but he didn’t have to go far outside of Mount Vernon area on the Potomac, right across the river from Mount Vernon on the Maryland side was a famous duck blind, it was later president
Ramsey Russell: It was his famous duck blind?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, he duck hunted, it was another guy’s duck blind. But he was allowed to hunt on it. And in that upper part of the Potomac, there wasn’t many canvasbacks, you had to get in the lower part, where it starts running into the Chesapeake Bay to start getting, because that’s where the wild celery was growing. And so you got a lot of canvasbacks in the sort of the lower part of that. I’ll mention a place called wildwater down in that part. So he was getting mostly black mallard, he said mallards, so maybe he was getting mallards, but I figured it was more black ducks.
Ramsey Russell: You would think so.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: But then he got ball plates, which was a wigeon and he got teal and that was what he mainly got. And he only killed enough to feed his dinner table. If he needed a bunch of canvasbacks and he never killed a bonus, he kept a diary. And in the diary, going through it for a number of years, I couldn’t find where he really killed a canvasback. So when he needed canvasbacks for a big meal, he was going to have a big dinner, a lot of people in, he’d get his two black slaves to go down furthers and kill the canvasbacks and bring them back, 150, whatever he need, 150 to 300 canvasbacks.
Ramsey Russell: That must have been a heck of a dinner.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: And those two guys was one Sambo Anderson and Tom Davis and they were trusted slaves. So he gave them their firearms, their old flintlock long fowlers, he gave them the boats, he gave them the ammunition. And when Washington died, Sambo Anderson became a free slave and he continued to – well, he really wasn’t market hunting then, but he was supplying the table. He was a market hunting and he made enough money market hunting that he freed two of his family members as free slaves. And Washington raised dogs, like I said, he had a bunch of fox dogs, but he also had some rabbit dogs and things like that. And he had a retriever that he called Pilot, that was the name of the dog, Pilot. And if you read all the accounts of what the dog kind of dog and he doesn’t really say what kind of dog it is, but if you read all the accounts of what the historians say Pilot might have been, they say it was probably a poodle.
Ramsey Russell: Like a standard poodle.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah. Of course, back then, when I say back then, you had a lot of water poodles.
Ramsey Russell: Well, a standard poodle was a hunting dog.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: It’s got web feet.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah. Even in England the poodle was a big retriever, I’ve never seen a poodle as a retriever in action. Have you in live action?
Ramsey Russell: No, but there used to be a guide over here in Arkansas that had standard poodles, he hunted with. I can’t remember his name.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: But anyway. He had Pilot and in his diary doesn’t specify what kind of dog it was. And all historians have tend to say it’s a poodle. But in 1857, there was a guy did a color lithograph, this is 1857, so take that into account.
Ramsey Russell: 100 years after he died.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: He did a lithograph of a hunt of George Washington and he’s there with 3 or 4 of his buddies fishing. And they’re back on the bank and they’re sitting down resting while the two slaves are in the boat at the dock and they’re holding some ducks. Well, at the foot of the 6 or 7 guys that he’s with in Washington setting, there’s a whole depiction of his hunting dogs, there’s about 7. So you have a foxhound and you have another hound that’s a deer dog and then you have some for rabbits and you have pointers, setter and you have a Newfoundland.
Ramsey Russell: A Newfoundland.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: So I’m sitting there thinking, okay, this guy painted this in 1868, I’ve got it here, 1868, that was Charles Tholey, he’s some years past the time.
Ramsey Russell: Could have been just his imagination.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Could have been, but I’m thinking he’s depicted all those other dang dogs that I know that he had and he’s throwing this Newfoundland in, so I tend to think it was a Newfoundland.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll be darn. It reminded me of something I heard in one of your early podcast, I know we’re jumping all around a timeline, but that’s okay. You were talking about new world retrievers and how there was a fox behavior and it developed into a dog.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Tholing dog.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And that was a legitimate retriever back in the day?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: It was more to entice the ducks who were out in the middle, like in Chesapeake Bay, they had those big inlets, so the ducks would come in there and rest out in the middle of that thing, away from their shoreline. And so they thought, came up with the idea how to bring them into –
Ramsey Russell: Tell the story about the fox, because that’s what got my attention.
Decoy Origins in Holland and England.
It probably really started with what’s called the decoys in Holland and England, where they built those big cages, tunnel net cages and they would drive them, the ducks.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, it probably really started with what’s called the decoys in Holland and England, where they built those big cages, tunnel net cages and they would drive them, the ducks, into the mouth of that tunnel cage to the very end and trap them and they would drive them by boats like the Indians I mentioned early did, drive them towards those nets and as they got closer to those nets, there were some live decoys and the live decoys were trained when they saw the wild ducks come in to start swimming into that tunnel net. But they also had a duck, a little tholing duck and those ducks probably came from Nova Scotia, tholing ducks, because they used to thol those dogs and use them. But anyway, so once they got the wild ducks got close to the net, the live ducks would start leading them a little bit, and then the tholing dog would start running down the tunnel net and galloping, looking back and forth and like that. And then those ducks, curious, would follow that duck and they’d like for that tholing dog to be sort of a reddish color, like a red fox. Well, I think that’s where it got started from Chesapeake Bay, they started using tolling dogs without the net, but hunting from a blind on shore and the ducks would land out in the middle of a bay off Chesapeake Bay and they’d have to get those ducks over from the middle of the bay, that shallow bay inlet, over to their blind and that tholing dog, from their blind they would throw a rock out or stick at that tholing dog and that tholing dog would go from the blind to get that stick, which they threw towards where the water started at the shore. And that tholing dog didn’t start running up, trained to be running up and down along the shoreline. Well, the ducks would see that and their curiosity brought them into gunshot range.
Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: It’s crazy. That went on mostly in the Chesapeake Bay, but also a little bit in Long Island, but mostly Chesapeake Bay.
Ramsey Russell: I thought you told a story about somebody observing foxes, red foxes doing something like that. And the geese would come in and they would lunge and catch them.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Did I hear that?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Actually what the Chesapeake Bay really noticed is that the foxes would do that, the same thing as their tholing dog. And so that said, okay, if a fox does that. So if they didn’t have a tolling dog out of their blind, they’d do a red flag, wave it back and forth for curiosity.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s how flagging started.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of goose hunters use flags and it does work.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Going back to George Washington, I imagine he’s a busy man, fighting wars and I wonder if he wanted to be president or he just got stuck.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, I tell you, I don’t think his greatest inclination was to be president.
Ramsey Russell: Politics wasn’t a career back then.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, he would not have been a politician. But you have to imagine you’re coming out of the revolution and you still got some problems going on with the English and other hostile French, even. You got to have somebody with little military experience and there was nobody probably better qualified than him.
Ramsey Russell: He was the man.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: I mean, he knew how to manipulate politicians because he started with the French and Indian war in the 1757, lasted 7 years. So, I mean, the man knew what he was doing, but he would have been happier at Mount Vernon without ever being president and just fox hunting.
Ramsey Russell: What did he do on Mount Vernon besides hunt? I mean, was he farming tobacco?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, tobacco, some corn.
Ramsey Russell: Corn and tobacco. But he was a duck hunter, that’s what blows my mind.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, but like I said, you’re not going to find much about it. And that’s a little bit like Teddy Roosevelt, I’m not going to get into Teddy too much because he is absolutely known as a big game hunter and rightly so. But I have racked my brain in search and search to find out how much of a duck hunter he was. And I suspect from what little I can find, he was probably duck hunting more than it’s written about, not much is written about him duck hunting. So I don’t know if I’ll ever get enough to do a podcast on him.
Ramsey Russell: Well, were there other presidents in American history that were notable duck hunters?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah, the two. And you have to think this is a 12 year span we’re talking about, it’s from 1787 and go 12 years from that. And I’m going doing 12 years because we have 12 years of an avid and passionate presidents. And 8 years of those terms were done by President Grover Cleveland. They were non consecutive terms. So in the middle of his first and second term, you have Benjamin Harrison in the middle of that 12 year term for his 4 year. Those two presidents and there’s no other presidents that come close to these guys, they absolutely were passionate and they went duck hunting, I don’t care if they were president or what, they went duck hunting whenever they could. Just take President Grover Cleveland, he was the 22nd and the 24th, President Harrison was the 23rd. So we’re talking about the latter 1/3rd of the 19th century. Grover Cleveland, he was president and this is how he loved duck hunting. He would fill a full day in Washington DC with the politicians, at nightfall, he board a government steamer, go down to Potomac River to Whitewater, which was about 40 miles south of Alexandria on the Potomac River, hunt the next day, all day, because he stayed in that blind, he got in his limit, it didn’t matter. He just took a little tiddly bit to eat lunch and he’d come back that night and be at work the next day. That’s how much that gentleman loved duck hunting. And I’m going to tell you folks, at one time it was frequent. And when he wasn’t president, even before he became his first term as president, he was duck hunting on the Potomac and he learned a lot of that from his brother. Now his daddy –
Ramsey Russell: Where was he from?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: He was born in Virginia. And his father, I don’t want to get the president’s confused here, I think his father was even born in Virginia. Now, his father was a heck of a hunter, too. And he tended to hunt more. He had a huge old long fowler piece, about 7ft long, which most people couldn’t handle, but he was a big guy, George was 6’2, so he was a big guy. So his father could handle a big old 7ft shoulder fired gun and he loved to go on the Potomac and shoot swans. And George, he wasn’t into shotguns as much as Harrison. Harrison loved them, he loved those big LaFevers and he loved those coats, he loved those parkers and so on.
Ramsey Russell: Where was President Harrison from?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: His family was born up on James River in Virginia and then they went to Ohio, where he was born and then he became president. So Washington shot mostly American made guns back then, a lot of New England gun makers but he also shot a few from England, he imported and I think when he died he had one long fowler, now get this, it was only 4ft long, 4ft and 1 inches so it barely got into the long fowler category because long fowler barrel had to be from 4ft to 7ft to be shoulder fired.
Ramsey Russell: That period of time that Cleveland and Harrison would have been president must surely have been the golden age. But at the same time, unless your last name is Obama or Biden, you got to figure president had a good duck hole, you got to figure he has access to some good duck holes.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: That’s the reason I’m running for president.
Ramsey Russell: Speaking of which, to me it’s virtually impossible that President Bill Clinton did not duck hunt. The governor of Arkansas had to have been a duck hunter, he had to have been.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, Clinton hunted a little bit and President Carter hunted a little bit in Arkansas. Carter tended to hunt at two places and not often Claypool, Wild Acres which is in wiener and then Leonard Censor’s place which is 720 acres of green timber. And folks, if you ask me to list top 10 duck clubs, that’s still going, the old time duck club still going and even the new duck clubs and even the top 5 Leonard Censor’s would be there and Claypool’s would be there.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: But back to George Washington, Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, there was a place about 40 miles which I mentioned whitewater which was on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, that was a famous spot. That was the spot to go to back in the late 1900s.
Ramsey Russell: And they all 3 hunted it?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Washington didn’t go that far because you didn’t have steamboats. Listen, Grover Cleveland and Harrison, they didn’t just go down the Potomac River and steamboats, they went across to the eastern shore, hunted what’s called the Broadwater or what’s now called Hog Island, but it was called Broadwater Island back then. So he hunted that eastern shore island of the Chesapeake Bay and then he even went east of that, so he hunted that shoreline between the eastern edge of the eastern shore and the islands that bordered it. And then they come down, they hunt Chesapeake Bay, they hunted all of those famous clubs and just what you just mentioned, the presidents have those famous, they hunted all the famous clubs in Chesapeake Bay. Then they come on down to Currituck sound and Back Bay, which I’ve mentioned, they had all the famous places there. So now they go down to South Carolina, they got all the famous places down there. And Cleveland even goes as far as Florida and duck hunted and Louisiana, he even went to Louisiana.
Ramsey Russell: That was my kind of president.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: That’s what I’m telling you, you need to be president, man.
Ramsey Russell: I swear. The things you learned. I mean, the things you learn in the world of duck hunting. Wayne, I appreciate you, as always. I love these talks with you. I love your perspective, you obviously spend a lot of time researching a lot of this stuff, which reminds me, you’ve got a new podcast. Tell me about your podcast.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Well, Ramsey, it’s called Historic Duck Hunting Stories podcast and that’s all you got to do is Google that and you can get to it. I think I’ve done 17 episodes, I try to do one every Tuesday and I have done one every Tuesday. And it’s a little different type and I don’t know how well it’s going to go over, but it’s not an interview process, it’s just me by myself and as you listen to my podcast, you can probably tell I’m a rookie, that I’m not a professional like this gentleman here, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a lot of information, you’re covering it. And I listen to it, I’ve enjoyed listening to it.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: I’m having trouble right now with my software because when I stop recording, it doesn’t stop recording. So it picks up recorded when I pick up from where I stop, so there’s really no pause, so I have to go back and edit and put pause in things like that. So you’re going to see it’s a little bit fast track on sound. But anyway, what I try to do, it’s a storytelling, which is like I just said and what I do is take the history of old time duck hunting, many which I’ve written up in my book and many which I haven’t written up my book because a lot of the stories in my books go too long to do a 30 minutes and some of my podcasts go an hour, so that’s getting a little long. So it’s really me just doing old time duck hunting stories. And every once in a while, I’ll put in just sort of a little podcast talking about me and my family that the one I just did is called boyhood. And when I do one on me, or just a contemporary type, I try to do one that’s going to evoke emotions in people, bring out their memories of when they take their kids duck hunting, their sons or their daughters duck hunting, it will spark something in their brain. And hopefully, as I’ve said with Ramsey on the first occasion, I met Ramsey about 4 or 5 months ago when he did podcast. But I always ask the fathers to keep a diary of all their hunts, a journal of all their hunts with their kids and take multiple photographs of the hunts, because I don’t have one photograph of me hunting with my daddy and I’m sad about that. So I recommend that all the fathers keep a journal and photographs of their hunts. Because I’m going to tell you, when you get to be my age 79, you’re going to go back through that journal and read those things and you’re just going to smile on your face at some of that stuff and see all those images of your hunts and see the smile on your kid’s face.
Ramsey Russell: So much information lost because people don’t write down a lot of stuff, but you’ve written books, volumes of books, because people did. Apparently, George Washington did keep some notes, the presidents Cleveland and Harrison kept some notes. Thomas Morton must have kept some notes for you to better track that stuff down the written word and put it together and better tell a story about it. So that’s important to me. I mean, else it’s just all lost and forgotten.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Ramsay, before the Internet and when I say Internet, I started out with an old tandy 1200 bought from Radio Shack and you’re using a floppy disk and it’s called floppy because if you shake it, it flops. And it’s about 3 or 4 inches wide, circular and you just insert it in there, it’s a floppy disk and that’s where you stored all your memory. You may have 200, I don’t remember how much megabytes, maybe 10 megabytes on that one floppy. And then you did your operation on, you didn’t have Google and all that stuff, you had a DOS system and you had to type in on DOS what you were searching. And there was no Google stuff catalog back then, nothing.
Ramsey Russell: I say old, I’ve been watching a television series from about 2002, 2003 up in that time frame and last night, the big buzz, it puts you on a timeline were the Walkman cassette players. You remember those?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Big old thing, bigger than a phone, you put on your belt and had little headphones to listen to a cassette. And then they walked into somebody’s house and technology was really cutting edge. The lady in the house had just stacks and stacks and walls full of CDs, now that’s all by the wayside.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: And one of my old major professors used to say, the weakest think is stronger than the strongest mind, to your point of taking notes and documenting what you’re going through unless you forget it.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Before the Internet, I’m going to every courthouse, every archives, library, courthouses and I mean, I’m going to New York to do research, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, California, all that area, all that to research. Going to where the Forest and Stream sporting journal, which got started in 1873 and continued on to the 1920s, where they’ve got all their old journals. And I went up through there and went through all their journals, then went to the American Kennel Club because they have the American field journals. Now, American Field Journals got started in 1874, too and it was mostly geared towards pointing dogs. However, they had a lot of waterfowling stuff in there. And I’d go to the federal archives in Atlanta and Dallas or Fort Worth, wherever it’s at and to go through, but then the Internet came along. And I’m going to tell you, nowadays it boggles my mind what you can get off that Internet. Without the Internet, there’s no way I could have found all of this material to put this thing sort of complete where I sort of got a grasp of what went on across this country and that I’ve got a grasp of what went on from the ice age up until the present time. What I don’t have a grasp on and of course nobody, I’ve told you this before, nobody knows what’s happening as we’re in this warming period and things are drastically changing and how they’re going to change over the next hundred years, thousand years. And when I say thousand years, the glacier periods, the ice ages lasted a lot longer than the warming periods. I think there’s been 6 or 7 ice ages and they would last up anywhere from 40,000 to 120,000 years. A warming period only doesn’t last that long, usually about 20,000 and some would bump 40,000. When I say we, I think the scientists have a fairly good grasp of what happened in the last ice age when it started warming and the ice started retreating back up into Canada and the Arctic. We have a pretty good feeling of what happened to the ducks, that’s how we have the black ducks and the mottled ducks and all that stuff. But we don’t have a good grasp for what happens during the warming period. And I suspect it’s going to be a little bit like the ice age. When the ice came down to Ohio, where the Ohio River met the Mississippi River, that was the low ice, that’s how far low it got. And then as it went towards the west coast and the east coast, it sort of slanted upward northward and all the ducks couldn’t migrate from Asia and Alaska, except for pintails and probably teal. They could still go down to Mexico and southern California, but the old mallards couldn’t come. So they got bottlenecked below that ice. So they got bottlenecked between the Ohio River and the Mississippi River and that area, as it slants upward all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and they bottlenecked. And that’s the reason you have the mottled duck, Mexican duck, the Florida duck, the gulf coast duck, that’s a hen colored, because they just got developing and to get away from predators in that area, they started turning, got away from the greenhead.
Ramsey Russell: I got a question for you now, I’m ending on this good note right here, because we’re talking about the weather, we’ve gone talking about early colonials to the weather. As you were thinking all your research, Thomas Morton and George Washington and Grover Cleveland and President Harrison, did you ever run across any notes where those guys were waiting on weather or talking about the weather that affected ducks?
Dr. Wayne Capooth: No, they talk about if it’s snowing or something, it’s tough hunting then. But they’re hunting, baby. They didn’t know anything about global warming going on then, they didn’t worry about that junk.
Ramsey Russell: They probably didn’t know much about migrations either.
Dr. Wayne Capooth: Yeah. No, they knew fairly well because that got started, I wrote a whole story on migration, but they knew about migration. About that time, they knew where the black ducks were pretty much going up in the boreal forest up in, what is it? Labrador. And they knew where the mallards were going up in Canada in the prairie pothole region of North America. They knew that pretty well.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you, Wayne. Folks, thank you all for listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, you’ve been listening to my buddy, Dr. Wayne Capooth. Check out his podcast, Historic Duck Hunting Stories, where he goes 30 to 45 minutes in depth on a lot of these topics we touched on, I know you’re going to find it immensely interesting, same as I did. Thank you all for listening to episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.
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