CGP Community Stories

Daniel Diamond, November 19, 2018

Title

Daniel Diamond, November 19, 2018

Subject

Black and Tan (Black and Tan Coonhound)
Burlington Flats, New York
Cherry Valley, New York
Coon Hunting (Racoon Hunting)
Coyote Trapping
Crossbow
Dairy Farming
Deer Drive
Drivers
Fox Hunting (red and grey)
Hop Farming
Hunting
Hunting Dogs
Muskrat Trapping
Muzzleloader
Open Sights (also known as Iron Sights)
Plott (Plott Hound)
Roseboom, New York
Selling Furs
Shooter Buck
Standers
Trapping
Treeing
Turkey (tom and hen)
Walker (Treeing Walker Coonhound)

Description

Mr. Diamond’s family has been living in the upstate New York area for over 200 years. Mr. Diamond was born in Cooperstown, New York in 1970. He initially grew up on the Diamond farm in Cherry Valley built on the site of the Abraham Roseboom house. His recollections include the house he grew up in, which was originally a tenant house for hop farm workers. His father Charles Diamond worked as a dairy farmer when Daniel was young, then worked in logging.

Daniel Diamond grew up hunting. He began trapping muskrats at age eight, and has extensive experience in deer, turkey, and coon hunting (among other animals). In the interview Mr. Diamond recounts how hunting deer used to be done in the area, with drivers pushing the deer to standers. This is juxtaposed with today’s practice of sitting in a tree stand or blind and waiting for a deer to walk by. It is Mr. Diamond’s view that this new style of hunting has led to a more solitary approach which feels less communal.

The interview took place in Mr. Diamond’s home, there was a wood stove running (which had a fan that is audible in the recording), and Daniel’s son Nathaniel was also in the house.

Mr. Diamond speaks in a manner which often includes abbreviations and reflects local pronunciations. I have chosen to write the words in full to clearly convey their meaning written on the page with the exception of the word coon short for racoon. It is impossible to accurately reproduce all of the details of Mr. Diamonds speech in print and therefore researchers are encouraged to consult the audio recordings.

Creator

Andris Balins

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2018-11-19

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.7mB
audio/mpeg
28.8mB
audio/mpeg
8.9mB
image/jpeg
3024 X 4032 pixel

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Coverage

Upstate New York
Cherry Valley, New York
1970-2018

Interviewer

Andris Balins

Interviewee

Daniel Diamond

Location

3381 State Highway 166
Cherry Valley, New York

Transcription

DD = Daniel Diamond
AB = Andris Balins

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AB:
This is the November 19th, 2018 interview of Daniel Diamond by Andris Balins for the
Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course. Recorded at 3381 State Highway 166, Cherry Valley, New York. Could you tell me your name and where and when you were born?

DD:
Daniel Diamond, February 9th, 1970. I was born in Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown.

AB:
Could you tell me about the house that you grew up in?

[TRACK 1, 0:35]

DD:
I grew up in the, I guess it would be considered the tenant house for the farm where the migrant workers lived when they came through to harvest and plant the hops. It was a three-story home. I lived there until I was, I think, 10, and then moved into one of the tenant houses on the farm. There was only four of us kids in the original house I lived in, which had 32 rooms in it, not counting the closets, and 15 bedrooms upstairs that we used to shut off in the winter because it was so hard to heat. So just downsizing we moved into one of the tenant houses, and that’s where I lived until I moved out. Spent most of my life here, on the farm. Lived in Oneonta for a year or so, lived in Cobleskill for a year or so, lived in Carlisle for a year or so. Other than that I’ve always lived here on the farm, and now my house is on the edge of the farm.

AB:
You mentioned that was the tenant house for workers on the hop farm. At what point was that active?

DD:
That I’m not sure of. I know that it would have to have been the late 1800s, early 1900s, I would say. I know as far back as I can remember it was just a dairy farm, but Otsego County was at that time was the largest producer of hops on the East Coast, and one of the largest producers in the country of hops. So pretty much everything around here was a hop farm, it was big industry here. I don’t know when that ended, I guess I would say late 1800s, early 1900s. But when I was young I can still remember the hop barn, we had a hop barn. What a hop barn was, is a barn with a cupola on top, it has sort of a four-sided roof, comes to a peak in the middle and then there’s a cupola in the middle of that, that is open. The second floor has slats with gaps between them, and they would lay the hops out on them, and then the natural convection of the air would dry them. All the farms around here had hop barns in them. I can remember when I was a kid that was still standing and actually was right next to my grandmother’s house. When you went across the bridge you had the horse barn with the harness shop, and then you had the hop barn, and then behind that you had the straw barn. It was an open fronted lean-to barn where they stored the straw for horses. All the farms around here had it, as far as the timeline of that, I’m not positive. I would say probably up into the 1920s and 30s, because I don’t remember my dad ever talking about harvesting hops or anything, so it would have been before his time. Yeah, I can never remember anybody harvesting them, but I know that was something that was done. The house, I believe, the house was built, actually it is in this book [DD reaches for Roseboom history book written by Patricia Mabie], 1843 is when that tenant house was built. I was always told that that was where the migrant workers stayed. The house that I moved into when I was 10 or so that was where the hired hands for the dairy farm lived. That was another small building, and that was the house that I lived in most of my life. The neat thing about the house that the migrant workers lived in, it was fed by an artesian well, artesian spring I should say. Off of the hill behind the house there was a spring, and there was a spring box there that a pipe came out of and it was pitched down the hill and as it went along it got smaller and smaller. So by hydraulic pressure it would build head pressure as it got smaller and smaller, it would go into the basement of the house, and it went up to the third floor, by hydraulic pressure, and there was a slate cistern up there, on the third floor, that would fill. That was slate on the inside, it is still there actually, it is slate on the inside, then the outside was wrapped in mahogany wainscoting, and that would fill and then that was how the house was plumbed, it was piped from that and it was all gravity fed to the lower floors. That is how before they had pumps, electricity, that is how they did the plumbing in that house, and that cistern is still there. It is still, I imagine if you wanted to it could still be used. That whole room was lined with mahogany wainscoting, we always called it the fur room because that’s where my dad hung all the furs to dry from hunting and trapping, because he did a lot of coon hunting when I was young, I did a lot of coon hunting as well, but we always called that the fur room because that’s always where they hung the furs. I don’t know exactly where that spring was, but I know it was on the bank behind the house, and that’s where it would fill all that. Which was interesting, it is actually a marvel of engineering to think of that. To gravity feed that up three stories and then use the hydraulic pressure for water for the house.

AB:
And that was active when you were living in the house, that system?

DD:
No, that was before I was born. But I remember my dad talking about it, that it was always like that. I had always known that room to be the fur room, that was always called the fur room. I can remember going up there and there being coon hides hanging on stretchers in that room, because that would get morning sun on the one end of the building and it would be warm in there, and that’s where they always put the furs. I don’t know when they stopped using that, I would imagine probably when electricity was common here. When they had electrical pumps they didn’t have to rely on the gravity feed anymore. I know my dad said that when he was a teenager the spring box was still there on the bank, so when it stopped being used I don’t know. I would imagine probably my dad would have remembered it being used, but I don’t know exactly when it was done.

AB:
Could you tell me a little bit about coon hunting, maybe how you came to learn it?

[TRACK 1, 10:34]

DD:
Before I was old enough to hunt deer my brother who is 13 years older than me, he loved to hunt coons. So I can remember being eight to nine years old and going with my brother coon hunting. My dad, and my grandfather, and my uncles, and my great uncles, my uncle Glen, that was something they had always done, and they always ran foxes as well. They always had coon hounds and fox hounds, usually run Plott’s, Walkers, Black and Tans, but when I started we didn’t have any per se, quote unquote, coon hounds. We just had the farm dogs, we always had dogs around the farm. I don’t know how my dad did it, and I wish I knew because I wish I could do it, he had a knack for teaching dogs how to run coons. I don’t know how he did it. I can remember the dog I hunted with the most, Weasel was his name, he was half German Shepherd and half black Lab. We got him at a Fireman’s auction, when I was a young boy five or six years old. They were giving them away at the Fireman’s auction. My mom picked one up. My dad taught him how to hunt coons. He was probably the best hunting dog I can remember. He would hunt anything. He would hunt coons, he would hunt pheasants, ducks, rabbits, anything, and he would tree. I can remember I started trapping when I was about that age, I was about eight or nine years old. I can remember going with my brother coon hunting and we would leave right after dark. We would come home from school, you would have to do your homework, and then if you had chores in the barn to do, or chores around the house you did them. Then by the time you got done with supper it was dark, we’d leave the house and walk up behind or go somewhere else, and let the dog go. Most of the time we’d be out till 10 or 11 o’clock, we’d either carry a rope with us and you’d hang the coons in the woods, and skin them right in the woods, so you don’t have to bring out the whole coon, or we would hang them in the road as we went and then pick them up on our way back. I can remember my dad talking about it, they coon hunted a lot, that was their enjoyment they hunted every night. My brother’s got pictures of my grandmother’s house, the Harry Roseboom mansion, my dad had a pair of Plott’s they were brothers named Bunk and Buck, he’s got a picture with I believe it was Bunk on the front porch of my grandmother’s house, with 17 coons that they got one night. The dog sitting on the top of the steps, I wish I had the picture I’d show it to you. The coons are all lined up on the steps, coming down, and that was one night. What they used to do was they would shoot the coons out of the tree and hang them along the road and then go back the next morning and get them with a horse and buggy, so they wouldn’t have to carry them out. I remember going from, just walking along with my brother, to when I got to be probably my son’s age, probably 14, 15, going by myself. I can remember my favorite night to go coon hunting, just because it was, I don’t know, it kind of triggered something in me, was Halloween. I loved to hunt coons on Halloween. It was something about it, because most of the time it was clear, and you had a big moon, and there was something about it. That was always their tradition, hunting coons at Halloween, you always did. Once I was old enough where I didn’t go trick or treating anymore, which was 12 or so, always went coon hunting on Halloween. Every Halloween we went coon hunting. I remember one night we let the dog out, and my dad always told us don’t feed the dog before you take him, because he’s not going to run off, because he’s going to want to go home and eat. So we never fed the dogs before we left. I remember one night I left, and treed a coon right away. One of the first things I learned was, and I kind of laugh when I watch people hunt coons, or talk to people about hunting coons, because they try to find a coon in a tree with a light. Coons will close their eyes when you shine them with a light. They’ll close their eyes and you can’t see them. So what my dad taught me was when you get to a tree, unless it’s a hemlock tree, you leave the lights off and you look for a lump in the tree. Because trees don’t have leaves anymore, most of them, so you look for a lump. You look for a big spot on a limb. You have a limb and it will be slender, and it will be sky lined, so you’re looking up, you look for a bump. Nine times out of ten that bump is going to be the coon. Once you find the bump then you hit it with the light. Usually when you hit them quick, they’ll blink, they’ll look at you and they’ll blink, and you can see their eyes shine. You always aim below their eyes, I don’t know why, I didn’t believe my dad. Because you’re shooting up, and you’re shooting at open sights. It’s kind of a juggling act, because you’ve got to hold a flashlight with your cheek, look down the gun, line the sights up, and when you line the sights up you aim about two inches low on the eyes, and you’ll hit them in the head every time. Because that’s where you want to hit them, you want to hit them in the head. Because when they hang up in the tree you have to crawl up the tree and shake him out. I always laugh when people are trying to find them in the tree. I’ve gone with other guys over the years hunting and they are always trying to find the coon in the tree with a light and I’m like shut your lights off. Well why, you won’t be able to see them? Just shut your lights off and listen, and learn something. They shut their lights off, look for about, yup there’s your coon. How did you see that? Well, you shut your lights off, then you look for the lumps, you look for something abnormal in the tree. Then if you still can’t find him you start at the top of the tree, and you work your way down. You look at every branch all the way down, and eventually you’ll see their tail or a bit of fur sticking out, that’s how you find them. Or you bang on a tree with a stick, they’ll look, they’ll blink, soon as you catch an eye, because their eyes glow in the dark with a light, as soon as you catch an eye then you know where they are. That was always so much fun. I remember one night, I was starting to say. I left home, got up on the hill, hit a coon. I was in the big ravine up behind the house, I was in the bottom of the ravine, dog treed on top. So I crawled up the rocks, shot the coon out, carried it to the road and dropped it off. The dog treed at the bottom of the ravine, so crawled back down the rocks and shot the coon, carried it back up, dropped it in the road. Was coming around, and I went up behind my parents barn and I was working my way out here, well he treed up here, and I shot the coon. The next time he treed he was almost to Roseboom and I got that coon. I was coming back, and I had to go to school the next day, and it’s like 11:30 at night now and I still had a mile and a half walk back home. So I couldn’t get a hold of the dog because every time you’d shoot the coon out, he’d grab the coon and shake it, then he’d take off and then he’d tree another coon. So finally right up here behind my house, I finally got a hold of him, got a collar and chain on him, and dragged him home. By the time I got home I had six coons and I didn’t have time to skin any of them out. So I was carrying probably an average of 15 pounds apiece, you know, so I was carrying 60 pounds of coons and a gun, and dragging the dog down, and I still had to get to bed to go to school. I didn’t get to bed till one o’clock that night. Got up the next day and then when I got home from school I had to skin them, I had to check my traps in the morning too, I always had traps out too. Never put traps up here because they didn’t want to catch a dog, but we’d trap down here, and in the valley, and trap for, well then we didn’t have coyotes, but you’d trap for coons and foxes, grey foxes and red foxes, because coyotes didn’t move in until the mid 1980s. I can remember the first coyote we caught, we thought we caught somebody’s dog! My brother and I, to get off the coon hunting subject, hopefully that’s ok. My brother and I were, I was still, I was probably 14, 13, might not have been that old, yeah I was probably about 13. I wasn’t really trapping foxes yet, I was water trapping muskrats and stuff like that, which are really easy to catch. I was going with my brother to check his traps, and we had traps set over here, we came up over the top of the bank, and said well, damn we caught somebody’s dog. Nobody knew what coyotes were around here, we didn’t have any. Well we had some but there were very, very few, nobody had ever seen them. So dammit we caught somebody’s dog. Which contrary to popular opinion, traps don’t mangle animals, they just restrain them, they don’t break bones, it’s just a common misconception. Many times I’ve gone to check traps and an animal will be sleeping. They’ll fight the trap for a little while, for a few minutes, and then they’ll give up, because they know they can’t get away, and they’ll curl up and go to sleep. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to check traps in the morning, especially with foxes, and it’ll be frost on the ground and everything will be white except for a little circle where the trap is because you know that’s where he was sleeping, because he was curled up in a ball. The way foxes sleep is they put their heads down, they put their tails over their faces, that is how they keep their faces warm. So you’ll have a little ball, that won’t have any frost on it, and you know he’s been sleeping because it’s perfectly round, if they are in that much pain they are not going to sleep. We’d gone up, and said we’ve caught somebody’s dog. We’ll make a release pole and release him. So what you do is you take a piece of pipe, they make them commercially now but we didn’t have any money back then so we used to make everything. So you take a piece of pipe, and you take a piece of aircraft cable, and you slide it down the pipe, you bring it out and make a loop, then you take two hose clamps and you clamp the wire to the end of the pole. Then on the other end where your wire is you wrap it around a dowel, to give you something to hold on to. What you do is walk up, because they’ll try to get away from you when you come up to them, so you walk up, you put the noose over their head and pull it tight, you pin them down to the ground, just restrain them. You take your feet and open up the trap, and then you take the noose off and they run away. That’s how we’d release small coons or things we didn’t want to take. So we released it, and he ran off, no broken bones. What it does is it just cuts off circulation in their foot and their toes go to sleep. So he ran off and he was fine, so we’re like he’s going to go home, his owner is going to find him, he’ll have sore toes for a couple of days but then he’ll be fine. We used to sell all the furs right before Christmas, for Christmas money, so we used to sell our furs to Ray Schedavive over in Burlington Flats. So we went over to Ray’s, walked in with our foxes and coons and such, muskrats and whatever, and we see what we come to find out is an eastern coyote hanging on the wall. I remember asking my brother why the hell do they have somebody’s Dalmatian or Malamute skinned and hanging on the wall, and my brother said I don’t know. So we asked Ray, why is there a dog on hanging on the wall? He said that’s not a dog, it’s an eastern coyote. They were rare around here then, they weren’t regulated because the DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] didn’t regulate them because we didn’t have them. Back then eastern coyote were bringing $150 a piece, so we released a $150 coyote. We said we caught one of them two weeks ago. We didn’t know what it was, we thought it was somebody’s dog, and that’s the first coyote I ever remember seeing. I like the outdoors anyways, but I love trapping because it takes a lot of skill. The pan on a trap is only that big, and you might have a 20-acre hay field, and you have to put that trap where the animal’s foot is going to be.

AB:
That would be about two inches?

DD:
Yeah, probably an inch and a half. I started when I was eight years old, I started trapping. My dad never did a lot of predator trapping, because they always ran dogs for foxes and coons, so he never wanted traps out because he didn’t want to catch the dogs. But he always did a lot of water trapping, muskrats and mink and beavers. So when I was probably eight or so, I can remember asking my dad if I could start trapping. He said yeah, so he gave me one of my brothers old traps and told me I could trap in a little creek behind the house. Muskrat season doesn’t open until about now, it should be opening here within the next few days, so it’s usually open during deer season. I can remember going down and setting a trap in deer season. I would check it every morning before I went to school. I would get my little rubber boots on, walk down into the creek, it was only right there by the house. My mom would let me go down by myself, I would go down and check it, didn’t catch nothing, didn’t catch nothing, then finally one day I went down there and there was a muskrat. You would have thought I had won the lottery, as excited as I was to catch that muskrat. Took it home, and actually my sister taught me how to skin it because my sister used to skin all the muskrats for my brother and my dad. She never went out trapping, but she was always the one that did all the skinning. So she showed me how to skin it, and I skinned it. She showed me how to stretch it, and I stretched it. Had a local fur buyer, that was when I was little, his name was Bert Hoose and he lived over in Roseboom. He would always come to the house, great big man, big round belly, and he always wore denim bib overalls and they were always covered in grease. He would come over and sit down in the kitchen, ma would put out a straight back chair for him, he’d sit in the chair and he’d have a cup of coffee there. You’d bring over your furs and he would go through them, he would count them out and he would have a little piece of paper with notes there and whatever and he’d tell you what he’d give you for them. Then depending on how much money he was going to give you, depended on which pocket he took the money out of. That man probably would carry around eight to ten thousand dollars in his pockets.

[START OF TRACK 2, 00:00]

DD:
Because that’s all he did, he went around buying furs. He bought beef hides, deer hides, furs, whatever. So he would take out his money and give it to you. So then after I caught my first muskrat, sold it, then I bought a trap. My own trap. I bought it up at the Agway in Cherry Valley, used to be an Agway store in Cherry Valley. I remember going up with my mom, with my, I think it was two dollars, I went up and bought my first trap. From there it just went on. Every year I caught more fur and bought more traps. I haven’t trapped in a few years, life has kind of gotten in the way, but my brother still does. Now we do a lot of coyote trapping, and bobcats, there’s a lot of bobcats around here. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. Right now I’m actually in the process of getting my certification to be a hunter safety course instructor with the ultimate goal of being a trapping course instructor. Because there’s not one local, I think the closest one is like Sloansville, the next closest one is in Herkimer County; there’s not one right here in the area. The guy that is my mentor wants me to go through and get the actual trapping certification for the instructor. It’s something that we enjoy, and actually my son really enjoys going with me to do that. That was all something that started when I was eight years old. I can remember the year I was a senior in high school, furs back then, that was when the big fur boom was on. The Russians and the Chinese were buying everything as far as furs. Most of the fur market in Eastern Europe, which was most of the fur market, most of our furs go overseas, what doesn’t goes to Canada. But back then, muskrats, you were getting 12 to 15 dollars for a muskrat, extra-large coons you were getting 40 dollars, red foxes you were getting 65 to 70, beavers were 50 to 60 dollars. The year I was a senior, I looked the other day to try to find it because I was going to show it to you, somewhere I still have my sales receipt from the year I was a senior in high school and that year I made over 4,000 dollars just trapping. That actually bought my first car, and my Christmas presents that year. That was all foxes, and coons, and beavers and mink. A mink back then was 75 dollars, and a mink is only that big, like 12 inches long, 15 inches long if it’s a big one. I got outside, I got the fresh air you know, got some wet feet a lot of times. Boots always seem to have a hole in them. I can remember when I wasn’t old enough to drive I can remember checking muskrat traps on a bicycle. Pedaling a bicycle with hip waders is not fun, and pedaling a bicycle with hip waders that are full of water is even worse. Many days of frozen fingers and frozen toes, but I wouldn’t trade it for nothing. I loved it, it was so much fun. It’s like deer hunting, when I was too young to hunt my job was skinning the deer. My dad would bring them over to the house on a front end loader on a tractor and put them in front of the porch so I could see the porch light, and I’d skin them on the porch. If I had a dollar for every deer I’ve probably skinned over the years, I probably could make a couple of truck payments with it. Because that’s all we did, and that’s all I was allowed to do then, wasn’t old enough to hunt yet. Back then it was a huge family affair, all my cousins, my uncles, there would be 20 people here opening day of deer season. Everybody did deer drives then. You’d get a group of guys and you’d take a chunk of woods, you’d spread out in a line and everybody would walk and push the deer. Then you would have standers that would shoot the deer as they come out. It’s not like that anymore. I can remember when I was young, when I first started hunting deer when I was 15 or 16 years old, it would just be a solid rolling echo of shots up and down the valley. Just because there were so many people hunting. This year I heard a lot of shooting opening day, more than I have in a long time but all day maybe I heard 40 shots. You would hear that in the first hour when I was kid. The hunting populace has gone down. There is not as many people hunting, it’s not as politically correct, quote unquote, as it was then. It’s how I grew up. My son doesn’t really have much interest in it, but if he ever expresses interest in it he is welcome to go and I would do anything I could to make sure he had fun, and I think if he got into it he would enjoy it. Just for the stories, we’ve all hunted together for years, we tell the same stories every year but everybody still laughs at them, sitting around drinking a cup of coffee and having a laugh about it. It’s a dying art. It’s very commercialized now too. You see it on TV, and social media, and matter of fact I just got into a discussion on social media about it today that it’s changed. It’s changed so bad and I don’t like where it’s going. It’s all about the number of points and how big the rack is. My son and I eat venison as much as we can, every deer that I shoot saves me two months’ worth of beef I don’t have to buy. He loves the taste of it, I love the taste of it. I’m just as happy to shoot a nice fat doe as I am a big buck. I’ve killed some big bucks, I’ve got some big ones mounted but it wasn’t because I was hunting for them, it happened to be they were the first ones that walked by. The term that you keep hearing is, it’s a shooter buck, and I swear to God if somebody says it’s a shooter buck one more time I’m going to puke, because it’s way too commercialized. It’s not what it was and I don’t like where it’s going. I really stress that in my hunter safety courses, as long as it’s legally harvested and it’s humanely harvested so the animal doesn’t suffer, any deer, or turkey, or squirrel that you take is a trophy. You’re taking a life, and that actually means a lot to me. Whenever I shoot a deer I always take a moment of reflection, because I’ve taken a life. Of course I’m excited but it’s also kind of a solemn moment, for me at least, and it always has been. I think as I get older it is probably more and more so. All the people that we hunt with that we’ve lost. A couple of years ago we lost a guy that passed away, it’s funny because he had come down and hunted with us on Sunday, my brother and I were going to go up and see him on Tuesday or Wednesday and have a drink with him because my brother likes high-end bourbon and so does that guy. So he had bought some new bourbon he wanted us to come up and try, so we were going to go up to see him on Tuesday or Wednesday and I got a call on Monday at noon or so that he had passed away. He had actually shot a deer and was dragging it out and had a massive heart attack. There’s not as many kids coming up to replace him either. Around here not so much, but a lot of places it’s just all about the rack, all about the points and the score. I would be just as happy to shoot a little six point, or a doe or whatever, of course I’m going to be happy to shoot a big buck but I’m not going to be any less happy to shoot a nice small buck, it’s tasty, in the end it’s about the meat, it’s about the harvest of the animal and the population control. I love taking people hunting for the first time, especially turkey hunting, because turkey hunting is a very interactive sport. You’re going against mother nature. The way mother nature designed it is that the hen is supposed to go to the tom. The gobbler, he gobbles, and I don’t know if you know it or not but Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird. If you’ve ever been in the woods and seen a turkey strutting, you would know why. The colors on their feathers, they change color because of the oil on their feathers, it catches the light and they change, they’re gold, and then they’re blue, and then they’re orange, and then they’re white. Mother nature designed the male turkey to be, I am the male turkey, look at me shining, you’re going to come to me, the hen. When you’re hunting, you can’t go to the gobbler because their eyesight is a hundred times better than ours. You have to bring them to you. So it is against what mother nature had planned, the gobbler to come to you. Just the look on a new hunter’s face when that tom comes in and he’s fanned out and his head is bright red, he’s all puffed up and he’s gobbling. I’ve taken so many people turkey hunting for the first time and watched their gun shake because they are so excited. I took somebody two years ago, a woman, turkey hunting and she killed two birds, she killed a bird opening day and killed a bird the second day. I was sitting behind her so that I could instruct her on what to do and the bird came in, when the bird came around the tree and she could see it, I could hear her breathe, I could hear her intake of breath. She was so excited and so taken aback by the spectacle of what it was. I can remember her gun barrel was going in a circle like this. She ended up getting a bird and she was so excited, it wasn’t because she killed it, that’s almost anticlimactic. It’s because of what it was. It was just the bird gobbling, and the colors. You wake up with the sun. I love taking pictures, matter of fact I just posted something on Facebook yesterday. That was the sunrise opening morning.

AB:
That’s beautiful.

DD:
How many people are going to see that? Because they are not going to be up, and they are not going to be in the woods. I posted it on Facebook and I said nobody has a better paintbrush than mother nature. All the sunrises and sunsets I’ve seen over the years either hunting or trapping or just being outside, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Seeing a fox catching mice in a field, and just watching it, it’s something that a lot of people will never experience. And that’s where I don’t like where hunting is going because it’s getting too much, the end result is I shot a bigger deer than you. That’s not what it is, to me anyway. I’m not judging what everybody else thinks but that’s not what the meaning is to me.

AB:
Have you seen changes in the years you’ve been hunting?

[TRACK 2, 17:10]

DD:
Back when I was a kid you could only hunt around here with a shotgun. I think it was 2005 maybe, 2004 or 2005 they changed it so that you could hunt with a rifle now. New York State in their infinite wisdom said ok we’re going to let you use rifles, so that’s changed. Two or three years ago they allowed crossbows, you can hunt with a crossbow now. The style of hunting changed. Like I said when I was a kid everybody drove deer, around here you did deer drives. Basically you pick out a patch of woods, you have your drivers and they are going to push the deer out of the woods towards the standers. The standers are the guys that are on the likely escape route for the deer. We never drove in the traditional sense of driving where the drivers make noise, they hoot and holler to scare the deer. Basically our drivers would still hunt, they would hunt slowly through and basically gently bump the deer out. The drivers shot as many deer as the watchers did. Everybody around here did it. So if we drove here, we’d kick the deer over on Alpaugh’s, they were driving and kick them back. Or if we kicked them up on the hill they’d go up on Yerdon’s, and Yerdon’s would drive them and push them back. So the deer were constantly moving. Now nobody around here drives. Everybody sits in a tree stand or in a ground blind. So if you drive, you’re going to drive deer off and they’re not going to come back, at least not for the rest of the season. They’ll move back into their natural pattern after a while, after the season is over but if they’re pressured they’ll move off. So pretty much everybody is forced to sit now. It’s more of a solitary style of hunting and I don’t really like it as much. Because we don’t see each other hardly at all anymore. We’ll come out of the woods at like 11 or 12 o’clock, and hey did you see anything? No, I didn’t see nothing, or whatever. Where it was always before at the end of every drive everybody got together then you’d split up for the next drive. That’s when all the fun happened, all the stories. Now it’s like: eh, a deer walked out in the field, I watched it for a couple of minutes, I shot it. Ok that was exciting. You still get things that happen that are exciting, but nothing like it used to be. Then muzzleloaders got popular for a while. The last few years before they changed over to make it legal for rifles most of us actually hunted with muzzleloaders because you would get greater accurate distance than with a shotgun. Contrary to what people say 99% of the shotguns are 75 to 100 yard max range. You still got people that will shoot 150 yards but they are not doing that ethically, they are more likely to wound a deer. Whereas a muzzleloader is 150 yards accurate, consistently. So there were five of us that changed over to muzzleloaders the last few years before they legalized rifles here. I think the first year that we changed over to muzzleloaders the five of us killed I believe 13 deer that year with muzzleloaders, just because we had a little more distance. Those shots that we weren’t taking with the shotgun we could take easily with the muzzleloaders. It’s a lot of fun, it’s enjoyable. They have an extra season for muzzleloaders after regular season is over. I think this year the regular season ends the 10th or 12th of December, then you have another 10 days for muzzleloader, that you can just use muzzleloader. We usually kill a lot of deer in that time, because you get special tags for a muzzleloader that you don’t use with a regular gun. The deer are in their winter patterns so they are bunched back up and looking for food. Right now the only thing the bucks are interested in are does, because they are rutting. The bucks aren’t really paying attention to the food, they’re just chasing does. The biggest change I’ve seen is the style of hunting. It’s gone from a family group activity to more of a solo activity. It’s always been kind of a solo because you know you’re by yourself when you shoot but it doesn’t have the family group dynamic anymore and I kind of miss that. That’s one thing I always regretted that we never had a deer, quote unquote, camp, and that’s something that I’ve always wanted. I’ve always wanted to be part of a deer camp, like in the Adirondacks, I’ve always wanted to be part of that. I’ve actually looked in to trying to join one up north a couple of times, but they’re really hard to get into and they usually have membership fees and stuff like that. My brother and I have talked about building one over the years but it just has never happened. I always read stories about the traditions of deer camp, all the memories that go along with it. It’s something that always appealed to me, but it’s just never happened. Everybody that we used to hunt with is just getting less and less now. We lost another guy this year, he’s not hunting this year at all, he’s getting older and he’s in his 70s now. So it’s down another one. Now it’s down to, on a normal basis there is six of us now, and I’ve only seen one of them so far this year. Other than that I’ve been hunting by myself every day. I still enjoy the experience but to me it’s the camaraderie and the stories. The last good story that we had, my cousin, a younger kid, he’s in his late 20s, he might be 30 now. We had sat all morning, this was just a few years ago, and I actually videotaped the conversation, it was pretty funny. We had all come out and we were down by the house, there were still a few of us hunting at that time, this is a few years ago. We’re standing there around the porch, having a cup of coffee and chatting, laughing and giggling you know whatever. So we heard a shot up on the hill, and it sounded like it was on us. I said to my buddy, who’s left out? He said Johnny and Michael are out. Well Johnny is my first cousin, and Michael is his son that’s my second cousin. I said well that sounded like where Michael sat, and said well alright give them a few minutes and then go check on them. So we waited a half hour or so, got on my buddy’s four wheeler and went up. We got up there and he wasn’t answering his radio so we were kind of nervous and my cousin wasn’t answering his radio, so we said well we know where he is sitting so we’ll go check on him. There was a tree across the road so we couldn’t drive up there so we got off and we were just getting ready to start walking up to where he was and we see him coming up the road and he’s dragging a deer. It was a buck. We said was that you that shot and he said yeah, oh ok, did you shoot just once? He said no I shot twice. We didn’t hear the second shot, he said you guys probably heard the second shot and didn’t hear the first one. So I said ok where did you shoot it? He said I shot it in my stand. Well did you have to shoot it again? Yeah it ran off and went down in the ravine and I had to finish it off in the ravine. Now where his tree stand is on an oak flat. The flat goes out like this and then it drops off, I mean it drops off. When you go down in this ravine you have to go from tree to tree, you have to let yourself down tree to tree that’s how steep it is. You can’t walk down, you can slide down. He said after I shot it, it ran over and went down the bank. It bedded down at the bottom of the bank, I walked over to the bank and I saw it bedded down so I shot it. Then it rolled the rest of the way down the bottom of the hill. I said well how did you get it up here? Well I dragged it up the hill. You did what? He said, yeah I dragged it up the bank. I just shook my head and looked at my buddy and said you realize where he shot that? He said yeah. I said you realize where it went? He said yeah. He dragged that back up the hill. The kid dragged this deer up a 45 degree incline by himself. We said man. He was stripped down, the only thing he had left on was his t-shirt and it’s like 20 degrees out and he’s in a t-shirt, and he's sweating. I said to him Michael why did you drag that deer up the hill? He said well I didn’t want to drag it all the way down the ravine, because from where he shot it to the barn would have been like half a mile. He said you guys couldn’t have gotten to me with a four wheeler. I just shook my head and I said Michael come here. Now Michael has a reputation for having hunting issues, he’s always at the butt of everybody’s jokes because he's always doing something. I said come here and we took him back over and when you got to the top of the ravine when you looked down you could see the blood trail going down the hill, and then you could see where the deer bedded when he shot it the second time. You could see where it rolled down, you could see everything. So we saw where the deer ended up. I said Michael is that where the deer ended up? He said yup. I said look straight up, now look to your right, do you see those two pines trees?

[START OF TRACK 3, 00:00]

DD:
They were about 70 yards from where the deer lay. He said yeah. I said, do you remember the deer that you shot yesterday that died in the four wheeler trail? Yeah. Those two trees are in the four wheeler trail. He just looked at me and his face dropped. Dude, we give you all sorts of props, you dragged that deer up that mountain by yourself, you have our total respect, but man. He’s like no you’re kidding. The look on his face. We bust his chops about that all the time now, so that was our last good story about Michael was that he dragged that deer up the side of that mountain. His dad told him after the fact, you have their respect because you dragged that deer up the side of that mountain by yourself, but the fact that you dragged it up the side of the mountain when you only had to go 60 yards downhill to get to the four wheeler trail, you are going to hear about it for the rest of your life, and he will. He’ll hear about it till somebody else does something stupid. But that’s the kind of stuff that I miss, those stories. There’s no meanness meant to it, because everybody has to go through it. If you’re the youngest one you have to take it, it’s part of the initiation, it’s part of being accepted. Because if you weren’t accepted we wouldn’t pick on you. So when you’re called to the mat, you know you’re accepted. The funny thing was when we got down to the house, because we loaded the deer on a four wheeler for him and took it down the rest of the way. We got down to the house and that’s when I started videotaping. I said to my brother, ask Michael where he shot that deer. So he asks him, and he tells him. Now have Michael tell you the rest of the story, all my brother did was, you did what? You dragged that deer up the side of the mountain! It really hit me a few years ago, I had an epiphany moment. I’m generally not an emotional person, but it actually almost brought a tear to my eye. When my dad passed away, the last few years my dad was alive, the cold really bothered him so he didn’t get out and hunt much. He’d go out, but he wouldn’t go out early with us, and he would maybe do one watch a day. His inclusion in hunting was that he would stay home and when we came in from drives or whatever, he would come out on the porch with his cup of tea, because my dad always drank tea. He always had a teapot on the stove, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the teapot was always there and it was always brewing, always. That’s what he drank, he drank tea, he never drank coffee. His inclusion in hunting was he would come out on the porch and we would all tell stories about the hunt, where we were, who shot what. My dad knew the farm so well that we could just tell him, ok we were driving the elm flats and I was sitting on the milk crate, or I was sitting in the pit, or we were driving the gulf and I was sitting on Lorraine’s tree, I was at the barber’s chair, I was at the silver birch, whatever. That’s how he would live through us, through our stories, that’s how he felt included. We would always talk to him in the morning and he would never tell you where to go, because that way you could say, well you told me to go there and there was no deer there. What he would say was, well if it was me, what I would do would be lahdahdahdahdah. So he was always the master of the hunt, even after he stopped hunting he was always the master of the hunt. It was like paying homage to the godfather, that’s what he was. When people were invited to hunt they felt very privileged to hunt with us because it was a very closed group. I think when we talked before, we talked about my dad and how he was. He was always the master of the hunt, and as he got older that’s how he kept involved. He would always sit in the same place, there was a white wicker chair on his porch and he had one of those tall wrought iron Victorian ashtray holder that he would put his cigarette in, and he had a little desk that he would put his teacup on. He would sit there in that wicker chair and we would all sit around on the porch and tell about the hunt. Everybody always sat in the same spot. I didn’t realize that till later, because I always sat on the top step, because we never went in the house because we were all dressed to be outside so we didn’t want to get sweaty when we went in the house. So we all sat out on the porch and we all sat in the same spot. So after my dad passed away, my dad died in October. The first year was kind of hard because we didn’t have him. We still hunted but it wasn’t the same. The second year it was a little better, but it still wasn’t the same, so the third year comes around and you know we are getting on, it’s a little better but it’s still not the same. The funny thing was nobody was living at my dad’s house, but we still always went there after every hunt and sat on the porch and told the same stories and everybody still sat in the same place. I was sitting there that third year eating my sandwich and drinking a cup of coffee and I looked over and nobody was sitting in my dad’s chair. I just realized that day that nobody had sat in his chair since then, it was just empty. It really hit me that nobody had taken over, he still had a spot. That brought me to tears, and I’m choking up a little bit talking about it now. He was still there, his presence was still there, nobody even thought to sit in that chair. Everybody still had their own seat. Eventually after a couple of more years, then my brother took that chair, but it’s still not the same. Each year as we lose more and more those holes get bigger and bigger.

AB:
Thank you very much for your time and for the information.

Duration

29:52 - Track 1
30:00 - Track 2
9:19 - Track 3

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps/44.1Khz

Time Summary

Track 1, 0:35 - Childhood home and hop farming
Track 1, 10:34 - Hunting
Track 2, 17:10 - Changes in hunting

Files

Citation

Andris Balins, “Daniel Diamond, November 19, 2018,” CGP Community Stories, accessed April 25, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/346.