And Now We Hunt the Doe

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And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe
Emily Dickinson

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tail Deer [1]

In my last post, Forest Primeval, I wrote that Native Americans would set fires in the forests of the Firelands. Today, we’ll find out why they did this.

Indians in canoes

Indians in Canoes [2]

Native Americans did not live permanently in the Firelands at the time the first pioneers arrived. Instead, Canadian tribes would cross the lake in autumn to hunt. To make it easier for them to spot game from a distance, they would start fires and burn off the underbrush that had grown up over the summer.

Why did they want to see prey from a distance? Can’t the animals see the hunter too, and run away? They can, but although we humans are not as fast as our prey, we can travel farther. In a technique that goes back to a form of hunting first practiced by our earliest ancestors on the plains of Africa, we can use our stamina to advantage, running or walking long distances to exhaust prey. Called “persistence hunting,” this strategy involves hunters keeping an animal, or herd of animals, in sight, pushing them along until they can go no farther. The hunters then can approach and kill their prey at close range. [3]

Settlers picked up this technique from Native Americans. According to pioneer John Niles “It was a maxim among deer hunters, that if a man could follow a deer at the rate of forty miles per day, the deer would tire out before night and lay down.” [4]

Forty miles a day seems a fast rate to maintain all day, but “a day” most likely meant from dawn to dusk. While hiking here in Colorado, I have on occasion kept up that rate for nine hours in fairly rugged terrain, so I can imagine maintaining that pace even longer on the flat-lands of northern Ohio.

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As settlers arrived and pushed the Native Americans out of their traditional winter hunting grounds, these annual fires did not occur, and the forest soon became choked with underbrush, much as we see it today. [5]

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Whitetail doe,” Wikimedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 29 June 2008. Web. 2 May, 2018, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whitetail_doe.jpg

[2] Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 12.

[3] “Persitence hunting,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 March, 2018. Web. 3 May, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting

[4] John H. Niles, “Memoirs of Richmond,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; pp. 68-69.

[5] Marcus E. Mead, “Memoirs of Greenwich,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p. 75.

 

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7 Responses

  1. Very interesting. I read that the Native Americans did something similar in Yosemite to keep the underbrush from growing too wild.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great follow up post on Forest Primeval, never hear the term Persistence Hunting before and can’t recall that form of hunting being used by our Ancient Indigenous people here, you gave me a reason to do some more Australian research.
    Enjoyed the post.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for your comment and your kind words. I think this form of hunting would be effective in Australia too. I’d be interested to hear what you learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder if the fires ever got out of hand. And if the fires helped prevent larger fires.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. fascinating history … poor deers!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for your comment and your kind words.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love this kind of history when one can know the nitty gritty of HOW things happened. One can wonder what the humans were eating to sustain the long persistence.

    Like

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