Appalachia

Fox Horn

Calling the dogs with a fox horn wade wilson

Papaw Wade Wilson blowing his fox horn surrounded by his dogs.

———————

Fox Hunting written by Charles Fletcher

In the mountains of Western North Carolina it was natural that the oldest son would learn about guns and know how to hunt when he was the age of ten to twelve. His knowing how to hunt would help supply the meat for the family table. I was one of those boys.
I was about that age when I first started hunting squirrels, rabbits, and pheasants. I had heard of fox hunting but had never been on a fox hunt.

One day I heard dad talking with two of his friends about going fox hunting. His friends, Dave and Joe, always kept dogs that were called fox hounds. I asked if I could go along on this hunt with them. “Sure, be glad to teach you if Fletch will let you go” Dave said.

It was all set. The fox hunt would be this coming Saturday night and I was invited.

About five o’clock on Saturday evening I was in the A-Model with Dad headed to Dave’s house. Joe was already there when we arrived. There was three dogs in the truck seat of Dave’s truck. Sally, Nell, and Old Red was their names and they belonged to Dave.

Each hunter, except me, began to load the sack they had brought along. We were soon on our way up the road to Beaverdam Mountain. Dad and me in the a-model, Dave and Joe in the truck.

We went up an old logging road as far as they could with the cars and parked. Dave was leading his dogs, Joe and Dad carrying the sacks. I was having a pretty big job just keeping up with the hunters.

Finally we arrived to a flat field at the top of the mountain. I could see that there had been others there from the big circle of rocks that was used for the fire. Also someone had left a big pile of wood for us to burn.

Dave turned the dogs out and the sacks with what ever they had brought was set by the circle where the fire would be.

“Where are our guns?” I asked the hunters. “Guns, that’s a bad word. If someone should kill a fox they would “Blackballed” the rest of their life.” I decided not to ask any more questions, just watch, I said to myself.

Joe was back from the spring on the mountain side with a soco lard bucket full of water. He put it on the fire that was burning in the circle, took some coffee out of the sack and dumped it in the water. This would be the coffee for the night.

Everyone had claimed their favorite place to set around the circle where the fire was burning. Dave raised his head up with his hand around his ear. “Listen” he said “there goes Sally, and Old Red is joining in.”

“WHOOP-EE, GO GET EM”. Dave said. “Ain’t that the prettiest music you ever heard?” “SING TO HIM.” Joe hollered.

“I’m a little thirsty.” Dad said. Out of the sack came a half gallon fruit jar. I was thinking this was water for us to drink but after Dave, Joe, and Dad passed it around they didn’t offer me a drink. It didn’t take me long to figure it out what they were drinking. I could smell it all the way across the fire.

All three of the dogs were barking as loud as they could and the hunters were hollering about what pretty music that was. To me it only meant that three dogs were trying to catch what I guessed was a fox.

I went in the trees close by and gathered me some cedar limbs and made me a bed on the back side of the fire. I was getting sleepy. I was soon asleep.

It was getting day light when I woke up. I looked around and there was the three fox hunters sound asleep. Laying by was the half gallon water jar, “empty”. All three of the dogs had found them a bed and were sound asleep too.

Every one was soon awake, dogs loaded in the truck, sacks loaded and we were down the mountain headed back home.

This was my first fox hunt. And my last trip listening for some dogs run just to hear them bark.

It was fall season here in the mountains. All the nut bearing trees were loaded with nuts for the animals that lived in these mountains. To me it meant “squirrel hunting time”. I was nearly twelve years old and ready to go.

I got out of bed while mom was cooking breakfast for the family. She had started the cooking especially for me because I was going squirrel hunting. This was the first hunt this season. I had me a place staked out on Clark Mountain. There was a large grove of hickory trees and they were loaded with nuts. I would have to fight them off I told my mom.

The five thirty morning whistle at the paper mill was blowing when I was leaving the house headed to the cove on Clark Mountain. I had made this trip many times before and knew exactly where the trails were. I wanted to be there before the squirrels started feeding. I found myself a good place on the side of the ridge where I could see all over the hickory trees.

It was nearly day light. I was sitting very quite when I heard something moving in the leaves down the holler from where I was setting. I strained my eyes and finally located what was making the leaves move around. There walking up the trail leading to where I was setting was an animal I had never seen. Or at least I didn’t recognize it.

A few days early there was talk of seeing a panther in our part of the mountains. I began to picture all kinds of wild animals coming straight to where I was setting. I pulled the hammer back on my eight gauge shot gun, raised it to my shoulder and sighted it straight at what ever was coming to get me. I had decided that I wouldn’t let him get too close to me. The more I looked the bigger that thing got. I decided that this was long enough. I took a good sight, pulled the trigger, “BANG”. There was a blood curdling scream, flopping and kicking and then every thing became quiet.

I put another bullet in my old shot gun, got up and started walking very slowly down the trail to see what I had shot. I took my foot and turned whatever it was over. There it was. The largest gray fox I had ever seen. I kicked him a few more times to see if he was dead.

With the gun shot and me moving around all the squirrels were gone. I asked myself “What can I do with this beautiful animal?” “I’ll take it home and sell it with the rest of the hides.” I said.

I took some small rope from the pocket of my duck back hunting coat I always wore when hunting. I tied the foxes feet together, hung him on my shoulder and headed for home. I stopped at the wood shed and laid the fox down and hollered for my mom to come out. She come to where I was standing by the fox. “Look what I killed” I showed her. I told her “Guess I’ll skin it and send it along to sell with the possum hides I have.”

“Better not let these fox hunters know you killed a fox, no telling what they would do to you.” My mom said.

No one ever found out that I had killed a fox. I skinned it and shipped it to sell along with the other hides I had nailed on the side of the wood shed.

This was a “Real Fox Hunt”.
Charles Fletcher
10-1-2011

———————

I hope you enjoyed the guest post! Charles has seen many changes since 1935 when this story took place in western NC.

I once read fox hunting was 99% getting away from the house-I think Charles’s story supports that statement

Tipper

You Might Also Like

26 Comments

  • Reply
    Paul Dietz
    January 4, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Ivey Wesley Cashatt was my wife’s grandfather. They did indeed raise pheasants there. The birds were raised to be hunted, so I am not surprised that some would escape.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I have a cousin who was a JAG. I thought JAGD might be the similar but when I googled it, it only showed me some kind of a hunting dog and a lot of foreign language entries.
    Thanks Frank-you were a great help!

  • Reply
    Frank Vincent
    December 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Hi Tipper, in response to Ed Ammons request regarding the acronym following Capt Ivey Wesley Cashatt-North Carolina-Captain JAGD-WWI & WWII…”JAGD”.
    JAGD is Judge Advocate General’s Department which is a military branch designation for lawyers.
    Not that I’m a lawyer but rather a retired military aviator…
    Happy Holidays to you and your Family…!
    Thank you for your blogsite!!
    Warm regards,
    Frank

  • Reply
    TimMc
    December 9, 2014 at 6:23 am

    When I was a boy Fox hunting was still very much alive.. We had a man by the name of John Christy who would turn out his dogs close to our house at night, he use to hunt with my Pawpaw Mc years earlier..But when he’d turn them out you could hear the “Music” for hours.. Some time go plum out of hearing, then just when you would think it was over, here they would come again.. But as someone mentioned he’d always be hunting his dogs a few days after, and usually one or two would come and stay with us until Mr Christy would be around to pick him or her up…We still have some folks who run the coyote around here,, some use Walker hounds to find the coyote and after a lengthy run they turn out the greyhounds to catch’ém now that’s a vicious fight they say..but don’t last long.. the greyhounds are good at what they do besides run and that’s Kill..Some of the farmers allow hunting because the coyotes have become a nuisance, especially to small calves…sheep or goats..

  • Reply
    RB
    December 8, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Seen some red fox down in our area often, but only one gray one in all the time we’ve lived out in the country here. I hear they’re getting rare. I pray not because they’re a truly beautiful animal.
    Our dog Buddy is at least part Walker Hound, used for fox hunting in the UK for generations. From time to time, fox must cross our property, because when Bro Tom takes him out some mornings, his sensitive nose gets a whiff of it, and he dances and whines, wanting to get off the leash and go a’hunting. We don’t let him though cause when he has gotten loose a time or two, his “bossy” nose took him a long way down the county before he’d turn and come back again, and we don’t want him to face the danger of crossing all those roads any more than we can help it.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 8, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Tamela – We called them wood hens or wood chickens. They sounded like an old motor starting up. They were surprisingly loud for such a little bird.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 8, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    There is a bronze plaque at Sawmill Hill Cemetery in Swain County that bears the inscription: Ivey Wesley Cashatt-North Carolina-Captain JAGD-WWI & WWII Jul 26 1893-Aug 25 1968.
    I know little of Captain Cashatt other than he and his wife were very private people and that they lived right down the road from my uncle Wayne. You had to turn off to the left and go back under the end of old US 19 bridge that crossed the Little Tennessee at Lauada. The Cashatts had a gate across the road so I never visited their home.
    Sometime in late 1968 or 1969 my cousin Crazy Joe (that’s uncle Wayne’s Son) told me he had a job to do and wanted to know if I could help. That job was to pour a concrete slab and embed a plaque at Sawmill Hill. That is the grave marker of the same Capt. Cashatt mentioned in an earlier comment. I remember hearing that he raised pheasants. I don’t know what the JAGD on his marker means but would like to if anyone knows.

  • Reply
    Howland
    December 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    I spent many a night on top of the hill by the tobacco barn listening to the dogs run after the fox and, of course, listening to the others opine as to whose dog was in front. The dogs were Walkers, mostly, but not the treeing kind as they had been trained to hunt only foxes. My dog was a quitter; he’d come to the house at about two in the morning, oftimes I was already there. One of the amusing parts of the hunt was at the very start when, if the dogs didn’t find a scent right away, the fox would bark as if to say “C’mon hounds, lets get this show on the road!” There was coffee in thermos bottles but no corn squeezins as we were church-goin’ folks, mostly. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it but neither can I say that I’d go tomorrow night if there was a hunt on…

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 8, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Growing up I was a meat hunter so I never got into Fox Hunting. I had an uncle who lived in Franklin who was a big Fox Hunter, he had a pen full of dogs which he and his buddies would take out on Saturday night and listen to them run, he would then spend the biggest part of the next week hunting his dogs which might be scattered from Cowee Mountain to Shooting Creek in Clay County. I always kidded him they should call it Dog Hunting instead of Fox Hunting since they put a lot more time and effort into hunting their dogs than they did “Hunting the Fox”. I’m still a meat hunter, I can’t understand anyone who kills an animal which isn’t endangering or harming anyone or their stock just for the thrill of the kill. I love wild game and many times growing up this was the only meat that graced our table. There was Squirrel, Bear, Deer, Groundhog, Rabbit, Quail, Grouse and Pheasant. These Pheasant would migrate up the river from just below the Sandlin Bridge when they would escape from their pens where a WWI & WWII Vetran named Cashatt raised Ringneck Pheasant.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    December 8, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Another good read. Reminded me of some of my Dad’s stories about trapping for furs in the scattered woods around eastern Kansas in the 1930s.
    to add to the list of names for grouse, we have Prairie Chickens near the Texas Coast. Do your pheasant/grouse/??? “boom” during mating season?

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Way back when I lived on English Mtn, fox hunting a prime pass time for several oldtimers. I loved sitting on the porch of a night to listen to the dogs sing! Sadly, the old timers and the dogs have moved on to their happy hunting grounds, but they sure left a nice memory behind-

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Tipper,
    and Charles…I really enjoyed your story of fox hunting. I have heard the tales of some hunters imbibing on liquids of the stronger than water flavor when hunting. Personally, I would want my wits about me, just in case a big old black bear or the elusive cat-a-mount wandered my way. But, then that is the purpose of the ever present fire or wood coals to keep the other varmints away! Also I suppose there is safety in numbers…
    When I was a girl visiting aunts in NC around Waynesville, there were fox hunters on the ridge across from her house. Almost every weekend. We could occasionally hear the dogs and see the light from the fire or their lanterns. Fun times watching the moving light until they settled.
    My Dad who would have been 103 on Dec. 6th was not much of a fox hunter. But, when he was a young man loved to bird hunt. I have two pictures of him holding his gun, dogs, friend and killed birds laying or strung for the sake of the picture.
    I am pretty sure they were pheasants but he did grouse hunt as well.
    I sent Tipper a picture of him a year or two ago. I guess I need to look up that picture again and check it out, after Jim’s comment on pheasant. I thought the common pheasant was introduced in the 1800’s and Dad said that when they hunted they were scarce back then. I have heard of him speak and especially of my aunt who loved birds of the extinct parakeets too. I loved parakeets when I was a child and would dream of them flying around my home free after hearing the tales of the parakeets from my North Carolina relatives…
    Thanks Tipper and Charles
    PS Tipper do you still have that picture I sent you in your old computer files?
    My computer was struck by lightning this summer. I am not sure if all photos were retrieved, but I do have the pictures that I could scan again. Now I want to check out those birds…LOL

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    December 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I also did my first and last fox hunt in one night when I was about twelve years old. I went with my brother-in-law and his brothers. The next morning we went back to their mother’s house for breakfast. Mrs. Turner could tell I was not too impressed with fox hunting, so she told me this story.
    A new preacher in the community had never been fox hunting, but he was impressed by the stories the hunters told about listening to the beautiful music. He decided to go on a hunt to hear the beautiful music. As the dogs struck trail, the men started talking about the beautiful music. They asked the preacher if he liked the music. He replied, “No, I can’t hear anything but those damn dogs barking.”

  • Reply
    Ken
    December 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Tipper,
    I love reading Charles Fletcher’s
    stories of life when he was a boy.
    Never did any Fox Hunting but we
    did catch a Fed Fox in a steel trap that was eating our chickens. I skinned that thing and sent it off to a place in New York City. Later
    they sent us a check for $20.00. On the side of our crib we had lots of muskrat hides and some
    posseum hides. We got $2.15 for
    a muskrat and $1.60 for a
    posseum hide.
    Charles mentioned Pheasants, that’s what we called ’em too.
    One time I was hunting at the
    Appletree Place in Nantahala and
    ran into a didtant Kinfolk. His
    name was Vincent Jones, played
    with my dad, and invited me to
    his place to rabbit hunt. It
    tickled me whan he said “Pheas-nuts” and that I could
    get me a couple of pheasants at
    the edge of the woods cause my
    dogs would put ’em in a tree.
    Thanks Charles for bringing back
    memories of yesteryear…Ken

  • Reply
    Ben A Byrd
    December 8, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I distinctly remember seeing ring-necked pheasants as a child. I know they are not native but they are here. They were brought into this country long before Charles was a boy.

  • Reply
    Margaret Johnson
    December 8, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Thanks, Mr.Fletcher, a great story! Oh, how I love to read about times gone by and like someone else said. I never understood what it is about fox hunting. Thanks again.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I had not given any thought to pheasants and grouse until reading this story. They were plentiful in the fields of Pennsylvania where I came from.
    Now that I think about it I have not seen either one since I moved here. Rabbits are not as plentiful either.
    Must be the large mountain terrain.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    December 8, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I really enjoyed the story this morning. It brought back lots of memories.

  • Reply
    Trisha Hash
    December 8, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Being the daughter of a Fox Hunter who could call his dogs in by blowing his hunting horn I enjoyed the story.

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    December 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

    BELIEVE IT OR NOT
    In January, 1944 I, with several thousand soldiers were marching from the train station in New York City to the Queen Elizabeth anchored at the deck to load for our trip to Europe and WW II. There were large crowds of people waving us good by. In the crowd I saw a lady with my fox hide wrapped around her neck to keep out the cold wind from the water front.
    Believe It or not. There was my fox hide.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    December 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Well Tipper: While listening to Eva reading Charles’s story, I was suddenly swept aback to my own memories of hunting squirrels in the woods around our farm in East La Port. The pay off for me was my mother’s squirrel gravy!
    Charles captures the details that are only known by mountain men who have had such an experience. GREAT JOB! Jim Wike

  • Reply
    Shirl
    December 8, 2014 at 9:08 am

    We see a fox around here every once in awhile, but never heard of anyone hunting them. Someone told my daughter it was a fox that keeps getting her chickens out of the hen house at night. Maybe we need a fox hunter like Charles, one who shoots.

  • Reply
    Vernon Kimsey
    December 8, 2014 at 7:53 am

    I guess I internalized the “hunt for meat” idea growing up. I never have had much interest in just hanging a head on the wall.

  • Reply
    dolores
    December 8, 2014 at 7:51 am

    That was a very interesting story. I enjoyed reading about growing up and learning how men sometimes do an interesting hunt. (poor kid really didn’t know what was happening) I would really enjoy reading more of these stories. Thanks, Mr. Fletcher!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    December 8, 2014 at 7:28 am

    One of my neighbors began keeping chickens about a year ago. We now have foxes around that no one seems to think we had before. The rabbits are fewer also.
    Like Charles, I never got the why of fox hunting. Why hunt something you can’t eat?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 8, 2014 at 7:27 am

    One interesting tidbits from today’s guest column immediately jumped out at me. That’s the mention of “pheasants.” Charles really didn’t hunt pheasants as a boy; he hunted grouse. But in common with lots of mountain folks from two or three generations back he used the name pheasant to describe ruffed grouse. My Grandpa Joe did the same thing, although at times he would also describe them as “pottiges” (partridges). The latter term is also interesting because it’s commonly used as the name for grouse in New England.
    I don’t know when the usage began to change, but daddy always called the birds grouse (which is the proper name). Incidentally, whether you call them grouse, pheasants, or pottiges, they don’t seem to be nearly as common as once was the case.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Leave a Reply