Haven History: Hunting experiment ends in failure

By Lou Bernard

April 4, 2013

In 1849, in the Beech Creek area, no other event was quite as exciting as the Great Ring Hunt. Which is interesting, considering what a failure it turned out to be.

It was the fall of 1849. The forest around Beech Creek was teeming with wild game, and the men of the area came up with a plan to hunt some of it. They’d heard of “ring hunting,” which essentially consists of surrounding the animals and closing in. They decided to try it.

Three hundred men gathered with various implements of destruction: Pitchforks, lumbering poles, fishing spears, and even the occasional rifle. They split into two columns, both of which moved off to surround a ten-acre clearing. This resulted in a circle of people, all armed, closing in on one another and ready to shoot. It’s hard to see how that could go wrong.

The signal to begin was the sound of a bugle—It was 1849; texting hadn’t been invented yet. The men moved forward, and the circle started out two miles wide and began to shrink, driving the animals toward the center. They waved their pitchforks and shouted, trying to frighten the animals. (Again, it was 1849. Safety wasn’t invented until the 1970s or so.)

They closed in on the animals, but before you report me to PETA, you should find out how this all ended. The men hadn’t come up with much of a system other than to walk toward each other shouting, so there wasn’t a lot of coherence in the circle. The animals slipped out through the gaps, of which there were plenty. At one point, seven deer were seen escaping through one gap in the line.

At the end, when the three hundred men came together in the middle, not one animal had been shot or captured. The men stood around in confusion for a while, and then all of them headed home in disappointment. At this point, they were pretty firmly convinced that none of them fully understood ring hunting.

Lou Bernard is the Adult Services Coordinator at Ross Library and can be contacted at ross13@rosslibrary.org

Posted in: A&E

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