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November 24, 2005

Take a second look at hunting history

I have written several articles in the hunt season over the years and in this article will look at the Beaver Meadow Hunt Club (BMHC), one of the oldest of many in the area.  The BMCH is located north of Restoule and was established about 90 years ago and incorporated with guidelines in 1919.  The original members were from the McColl-Frontenac Oil Co. which became Texaco.  Some CFL players were members in the early years.  The original 1915 camp was replaced by a larger camp in 1928 and a larger one in 2004 (see photos).  The club has 16 senior members with a short list of men who take unused time slots. 

The Beaver Meadow Hunt Club in the 1930’s and the 2004 upgrade. BMHC Archives.

Derek Witlib one of the members saw my former hunting articles on my website and emailed me with some history on the club.  He tells me that before logging road access, the members came by train and went by water to the south shore of Lake Nipissing via Chapman’s Landing near Nipissing village.  Supplies were walked in.  Over time supplies were brought in by horse and wagon and later by four wheel drive vehicles.  Many locals were involved in maintaining the camp, in transportation, cooking and guiding. 

Hunt Club members in the 1930’s and currently.  BMHC Archives.

Local resident Lloyd Byers who was the manager for years provided me with information on the camp including access to John Banks the camp’s archivist who provided me with a file on related information including the photos here.  The cook for the past decade is Roly Gagnon of Chisholm township, assisted by his neighbour Don Van Alstyne.  The dogs are usually rented.  One of the areas legends, the late Cliff Swackhammer, was associated with the club for many years. 

Swackhammer’s Stormy Weather 

Cliff Swackhammer settled in Meadow Bay on the west arm of South Bay with his wife and a son and daughter and hunted and trapped there.  He eventually established some tourist cabins and purchased a 47’ launch that he used extensively on the lake including transporting BMHC hunters.  Cliff, who lost an eye in an accident, was a very large presence especially when he was into the refreshments.  Gladys Piper of Powassan who provided me with a couple of newspaper articles on Cliff worked at the Windsor Hotel in Powassan and remembered that you always heard him before you saw him when he came in and that he soon drew a crowd.  He traveled the ice in winter by snowmachine and various old cars.  He lost his daughter and three grandchildren in an accident when their car went into the South River at Chapman’s Landing.  Cliff died young in 1977 while returning from taking hunters into the Beaver Meadow Camp when he got stuck and died alone trying to extricate the vehicle.  His son Ross still lives in the area. 

Cliff Swackhammer at the wheel of the Stormy Weather. Newspaper Photo.

The fine new BMHC camp is also used outside the hunt season now but is mainly a hunt camp.  The 16 members have a carefully rehearsed circular procedure, supported by dogs and they usually get a good harvest of moose and deer.  An important part of the hunt is the camaraderie as the members get to spend time together to talk, play cards, eat well, etc like other hunt groups.  Beer and other refreshments are restricted to the evenings.  Local businesses benefit from the many hunters in the area. 

In perusing the internet I found some interesting information on deer hunting.  The male deer is a called a buck because in frontier times that was what was paid for a male deer hide.  I also found out that beer nuts cost about $1.79 and deer nuts are under a buck. 

Thanks to our hunters for legally controlling the excess of deer.  A recent report noted that Manitoulin Island had 25,000 deer and there was danger to crops and vehicles causing an increase in the number of tags available. 

Congratulations to the Beaver meadow Hunt Club for their longstanding and organized approach friendship and the sport.

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