FISHING AND HUNTING IN 1774 (February 13/12)

“Shad is the best poor man’s fish of any, for they are fat of themselves, that they need nothing to make them ready for eating.”

Two British farmers touring Nova Scotia in 1774 wrote the above about shad after seeing how plentiful they were in Annapolis Valley tidal rivers.  Besides shad, they said, “these rivers abound …. with plenty of fish of different kinds.”

After completing that long ago tour the farmers took pen to paper, describing the province and its people in detail, writing a document that eventually was deposited in our public archives.  Most interesting of all, for those of us who wonder what hunting was like here over 200 years ago, there’s a description of wildlife and its harvesting.  There was little or no sports hunting here in those times and game was taken mainly to supplement the food supply.

But even then, the lengthy excursions into the winter woods to hunt moose must have taken on a holiday atmosphere.  Take the description of those winter hunts, for example: “Great numbers of the inhabitants employ much of their time in hunting in the woods, where they will frequently continue for a week, taking a quantity of provisions with them.  And at any time when their store is exhausted, they can readily make a fire and dress part of the game they have taken; for which purpose they constantly carry a steel and tinder box, with matches, &c. in their pockets.  At night they make large fires, near which they wrap themselves up in blankets and lay down to sleep with as much composure as if they were in their own houses.”

At that time game was abundant, the Britishers report:  “They have abundance of game in the woods.  The mouse-deer (moose) is also in great plenty….  They also have rein-deer which they call carraboes and numbers of bears, both of which they reckon good eating.”

Bears and wildcats are mentioned, the former “very ravenous and frequently kill sheep, calves and swine wherever they fall in their way.  Wildcats, or “lucovie” they call them, are also a “fierce animal (that) frequently does much damage amongst sheep.”

On small game, the report mentions “wild fowl and game in great plenty, such as geese and ducks, of which they have two sorts, and teal.”  I find this amusing.  Many waterfowl hunters today distinguish between bagging ducks and bagging teal, as if the latter wasn’t a duck.  The report indicates the British practiced the same distinction and we’re still doing it over 250 years later!

The report mentioned the various wild birds that were observed, among them “eagles, gleads, hawks, buzzards, ravens and water-crows.”  Now, what are gleads and water-crows?  Were buzzards resident here in 1774 when today they’re classed as accidental visitors?   Readers who have answers to these questions can reach me at via e-mail at  You can read the entire report by googling Robinson, Rispin.  Thanks to Roger Meister, New Ross, I have a copy of the report, which was printed and released in 1944 by the Public Archives of Nova Scotia.

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