Old Clitherall hunters overcame challenges [UPDATED]Published 10:21am Monday, November 5, 2012 Updated 9:08am Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Those of us who hunt deer each fall in and near Leaf Mountain Township near Inspiration Peak do so with a sense of history. In this area, close to 150 years ago, settlers in Old Clitherall used old-style muzzle loaders while in search of wild game.
“I remember the first deer that I killed,” wrote Lurett Whiting whose account is recorded in “Old Clitherall’s Story Book” compiled by the late Hallie Gould.
She was a descendant of two early pioneer families who were part of the first non-Native American settlement in Otter Tail County, in 1865.
Gould’s book includes diary accounts from several Old Clitherall settlers, including Whiting.
“I had not gone far until a big buck jumped and ran past me,” said Whiting. “I drew my rifle up and fired a shot. The buck made a few more jumps and fell.
I ran up to the deer and by that time my friends Lon and Ike were also at the location where the deer fell. We field dressed the deer, loaded him into the wagon and went home. I don’t believe there was a happier boy than me.”
In late October 1867, once the fall’s chores were completed, the three young men rigged up a covered wagon and prepared for a week of hunting in the Leaf Mountain area.
“We supplied ourselves with provisions, plenty of ammunition, bedding and feed for our oxen,” said Whiting.
The weather was good at the start of the journey but then the hunting party battled a snowstorm.
“It was hard walking in some places where there was about 20 inches of snow,” said Whiting, “but we were all full of ginger and grit and did not mind it.”
Whiting shot a buck, returned to the wagon for oxen, loaded the deer and returned to camp.
“After dinner we looked around in the east but found that the storm had driven the deer west into the heavy timber,” said Whiting.
Lon headed toward Eagle Lake, south of what later became Battle Lake, platted in 1881. Whiting and his friend, Ike, hunted a little further to the north.
“Our bread was running low, so we decided to hunt one more day and head home,” wrote Whiting in his diary. “We killed two more deer the next day. Now having five, we gathered them and started to head home. We brought home plenty of venison for the winter months.”
In a succeeding year, Whiting again headed to the Leaf Mountain area with a hunting party in search of deer. With him were his brother, Alonzo, his uncle, Sylvester Whiting, and Henry Way.
“Before we left, the women baked up several two-bushel sacks of bread for us, made pies and fried cakes and supplied us with butter, salt and sugar,” said Whiting.
The hunt near what later became known as Inspiration Peak was successful.
“On our way home, Alonzo scared up a big buck which ran toward our wagon,” said Whiting. “Henry had pulled his boots off to rest his feet but he grabbed his gun, jumped out of the wagon and fired a successful shot. We bagged 11 deer in all.”
When the hunting party arrived back in Old Clitherall, family and neighbors surrounded the wagon to view and admire the results of the latest hunting venture to Leaf Mountain.
Each year, as I begin my annual deer hunt, I give a symbolic wave to the spirits of those early settlers from Old Clitherall who hunted so long ago in what’s now Leaf Mountain Township.