Hunting a hundred years ago…

Salem is Oregon’s state capital. Located about 50 miles south of Portland, this city of 155,000 people and miles of sprawl was a tiny town 100 years ago. As you would expect, the hunting around there was a lot different back then.

Salem Hunt Club, 1910
Salem Hunt Club, 1910

Salem sits like a bull’s eye on Oregon’s Willamette Valley–ground zero for the first successful Chinese pheasants releases in the United States. This happened around 1882. By 1911, wild pheasants thrived up and down the valley. So did monstrous ducks and ruffed grouse.

Paul Nicholson grew up around Salem and he hunted the area extensively his whole life. This article is based on his experiences and recollections. My heart ached a bit when I read this part:

“Five cock pheasants was the limit, and it was no trouble to get limits for four or five men. We always kept a couple of bird dogs. A few were top performers, and we lost no crippled birds. Hunters were few, and we knew most of the farmers where we hunted. “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs were almost unknown.” You can read the rest here.

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5 thoughts on “Hunting a hundred years ago…

  1. During the 1960’s, due to an almost complete conversion of agricultural land to grass seed farming, pheasant habitat in the Willamette valley was virtually eliminated. For a terrific firsthand account of Oregon’s initial pheasant hunt look at “UPLAND GAME SHOOTING” by H L Betten.
    As an aside, I live outside Eugene, OR. and adjacent to wildlile area that has a state pheasant stocking program. Conveniently, I can walk my English setter there.
    The best part comes later, when large flights of snipe arrive with the first winter storms. My dogs have been trained to point them. Shooting vintage English doubles, over eager and well seasoned snipe dogs – well, it’s as good as it gets.

  2. I agree with you – snipe over a pointing dog, vintage English guns, that is as good as it gets. Do you ever see any woodcock out that way? And how are the ducks?

    Too bad about the pheasants disappearing. Are there many wild pheasants left in Oregon?

    I’ll check out that book.

    Thanks for the post.


  3. The H L Betten book is a true classic and one that you would enjoy. He provided a personal, historical record of western upland shooting during the so called “golden age of shotgunning”. He is somewhat unique in that his contemporaries were all based in the east. In regards to that first pheasant hunt, author Worth Mathewson of Salem, OR., did a magazine article some years ago in which he stated that H L used a 16 ga Lancaster on that first hunt in 1892.
    A small black and white photo, which appeared in the sams article, shows H L with an old style English setter. According to Mathewson,
    H L lived well into his 80’s and was still actively hunting in the 1960’s.
    My understaning is that woodcock,with rare exceptions, are found east of the Mississippi River. We have none in Oregon.
    There is a lot of duck hunting on the wildlife area which I live adjacent to. It is actually managed for waterfowl (hence the large numbers of snipe),the pheasnt stocking is just an add on. I don’t waterfowl hunt.
    The wild pheasants in Oregon are primarily located in two areas of the state, both east of the Cascade mountains. The first is near Ontario, on the Idaho border. The second is in the north central part ,near the towns of Condon and Heppner. The state has worked hard to open up private land to the public with various programs,so there is hunting for wild birds. A lot of property is also leased.
    I have the good fortune to belong to a club with acess to property in the Condon area. The habitat here is very mixed, it is not what you would find in the midwest. As a result, multiple gamebird species are present. We shot pheasant, chukar, California quail, and Hungarian partridge all in a single day last year.
    I understand you worked for New England Arms in the 90’s. I purchased two shotguns from them in the early 90’s. The sales person I worked with was Steve. (I can’t remember his last name, but he mentioned he was a former police officer). I visited the shop in 1997 when I was back there for the first Vintage Cup– what a great place.The location was terrific.
    On a final note, one of the guns I purchased from NEA was an Alex Martin 16ga. I wrote an article called ” Highlands Of The Northwest”
    which appeared in the 1992 winter issue of the DGJ. The gun is featured in the article.

  4. Thanks for the info.

    Regarding woodcock, I know they make it west of the Mississippi. I think people have tried to establish them on the west coast, but with little luck.

    Steve McCarthy was the guy you dealt with at NEA. I worked with him while I was there. He was quite a character.

    I loved that shop. What a place -the finest gunshop ever, by far. Too bad it’s gone now.

    Take care,


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