By: Glynn Harris
My friend Jim McCafferty is a sleuth hound. When he gets a hint of something he’s looking for, he stays with it until he finds it, even if it takes a quarter of a century.
Such was the case when in doing research for material regarding bear hunting in the early days in the Mississippi delta, he found something written in the 1840s that described in detail the bear of the delta, it’s habits and the guns and dogs used in its pursuit.
McCafferty was excited to find this treasured piece of writing but there was just one problem. The author’s name was not shown, only the initials H.J.P.
Tucking this bit of valuable information in the back of his mind, twenty-five years later he wrote a book about 19th century bear hunters of the lower Mississippi valley. As a result, Mc Cafferty’s book, “The Bear Hunter: The Life and Times of Robert Eager Bobo in the Canebreaks of the Old South” came off the presses.
“In preparation for that project,” McCafferty said, “I reviewed my files and began to read and transcribe old articles I had collected over a quarter century before. Among those vintage magazine pieces was H.J.P.’s “Bears and Bear Hunting”.
While transcribing the article written by the mysterious “H.J.P”, McCafferty came up with an ideal. Taking clues from the story, he searched the internet and within 20 minutes after a 25 year lag, he found the identity of the author, Dr. Henry John Peck of Sicily Island, LA along with a wealth of information on Dr. Peck, born in 1803 and died in 1881.
Peck practiced medicine in the Sicily Island area, was owner of Battleground Plantation on Sicily Island, grew cotton and entered politics serving both as a Louisiana state representative and senator.
McCafferty has put together a gem of a little 115 page book beginning with his introduction and notes as to how he finally came across Dr. Peck’s identity and events leading up to his publishing of H.J.Peck’s book, “Hunting Bear and Panther in the Old South”.
A blurb introducing the book talks about the big game that populated the delta in the 1800s. “The bear and panther that populated the woods and canebrakes of the lower Mississippi Valley in the 1800s left a permanent mark on the collective memory of that region. Little survives, though, to provide real insight into how the early settlers hunted the big game of that time and place.”
Peck’s book adds richly to that scant body of southern lore. Besides his writings on the animals named in the title, the book includes the doctor’s articles on hog – yeah, they had feral hogs even back then – and deer hunting. One thing of interest was his description of “fire hunting” for deer, an early description of something that would get one in trouble today, that being night hunting deer with spotlights.
Peck details how “bear knives” were made and describes accounts of dangerous and sometimes fatal encounters with panthers and bears. Armed only with knives and muzzleloader weapons, it’s easy to imagine what risky business it was to head into a thick canebrake thusly armed.
McCafferty has this fascinating little book back from the publisher and on sale. Search Amazon.com to purchase the book, priced at $12.95 plus handling. To order an inscribed copy, send a check for $12.95 plus $2.95 handling to Jim McCafferty at Canebrake Publishing Co., P.O. Box 822, McComb, MS 39649.
BUSSEY BRAKE – Fishing overall has slowed. A few bass are being caught around the grass and pads and scattered catches of bream have been reported. No report on crappie or catfish.
BLACK BAYOU – Bream are fair; others are slow. Contact 323-8707 for latest information.
OUACHITA RIVER – Bass have been fair fishing the mouth of the cuts on soft plastics. Crappie have been fair fishing submerged tops in the river. Some catfish are being caught on trotlines or tight lines using shiners or goldfish. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE D’ARBONNE – Crappie fishing has been slow to fair on the flats. Some are being caught below the spillway around the submerged tops on shiners or jigs. Bass have been best fishing the edges of the channel along the drops on soft plastics and crank baits. Bream have slowed and are basically fair on crickets and worms. Catfishing has been good fishing off the banks with cold worms and night crawlers. For latest reports, call Anderson’s Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE CLAIBORNE – Some crappie are still being caught fishing the submerged tops with shiners or jigs. Bream are fair but running small to medium size. Some bass are being caught but they’re running rather small with best fishing late afternoons on plastic worms. A few catfish are being caught tight-lining cold worms. Stripers are schooling early mornings and hitting spoons, bucktails and spinner baits. For latest information, call Tim Loftin at Kel’s Cove at 927-2264.
CANEY LAKE – Fishing in general is slow. A few bass are being caught in breaking schools on shad imitations while some are hitting plastic worms or crank baits along the deeper channel drops. Crappie are slow this week. Bream fishing has been best fishing worms or crickets around the piers. Catfish are slow. For latest information contact Bateaux on Caney Lake at 259-6649, Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE POVERTY POINT – Catfishing is fair while crappie, bream and bass are slow. For latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318-878-0101.
LAKE ST. JOHN – Bass are catfish are fair while bream and crappie are slow. For information, call Ken Mahoney at 318-201-3821.
LAKE YUCATAN – Water is on a slow fall and some fair reports this week on crappie and bass. Bream are slow but catfishing is good at both ends of the chutes. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318/467-2259.
LAKE BRUIN – Crappie have been fair around the deep tops. Other species are slow. For information, contact Carlos Gray at 318/766-0075.