Black Powder Hunting Trips
1956— Wallace and his father hunted in Dark Hollow (near
Hanging Rock) Wallace wounded and lost a deer with
an original iron mounted .32 caliber percussion rifle. Deer
was coming toward Wallace and angled down hill. Found a
skeleton the following year which had what appeared to
be a round ball track on the lower jaw bone.
1957— Original J. J. Henry rifle blew out drum and split barrel
back to breech. Wallace cut off the split section and converted it back to flint.
Wallace hunted on Fort Lewis Mountain with a neighbor,
Billy Roark. Billy carried one of the thousands of .303
British Enfield rifles being dumped on the market. It
rained for two straight days while Wallace was wearing
leather bedroom shoes for moccasins. They camped in a
tiny rock shelter on the NW side of the mountain.
1958— Wallace and his father hunted in Kelly Hollow
(Jefferson National Forest, Botetourt Co., VA) Wallace
shot a doe which they trailed and lost but killed button
buck with the J. J. Henry rifle. Wonder if that was the
first deer killed in Virginia with a flintlock rifle
1959— Wallace and his father hunted in Kelly Hollow.
Wallace wounded and lost a deer with flintlock .38 caliber
smooth rifle he
1960— Wallace and Duck (Donald Lewis) DeHart hunted in Kelly Hollow.
Duck wounded and lost a big buck. Wallace shot a turkey
at long range in the snow, aimed for the head -
expecting to drop into body - made a perfect neck shot.
Both Wallace and Duck were on television at the check out
station because hunting with a black powder rifle was
newsworthy back then.
1961— Wallace and Duck took two of Wallace's friends
camping with them - Steve Moshigan (Sp?) and Saul Nunley. Terrible rains.
Creek in Kelly Hollow rose and almost flooded their
1962— Wallace, Duck, and Steve Moshigan in Kelly
Hollow over Thanksgiving week. (Steve was hunting with a Mauser given to his dad,
an Army officer, by some foreign government and carried a
repro cap and ball revolver.) Gary hiked in after school
on Wednesday and was hunting with an original rifle
(dated 1822) borrowed from Wallace. Being new to the use
of a flintlock he loaded the rifle the night before to
have it ready before dawn -- bad ideas as it turned out.
On Thursday, Thanksgiving, morning Gary went to the very back of the
Trail Hollow. Four deer came by: First a big doe which
he greeted with a flash in the pan (from dampness
accumulated overnight), picked the touch
hole, re-primed and, on second try, missed at long
range: Second, while the rifle was empty, a big buck
with a freak rack came along the doe’s tracks. It stood
by while he attempted to speed load (by guessing at the
charge and using no patch) when he shot the charge was
so weak the ball did no harm. That buck ran off and Gary
started to load normally when up came yet another buck.
It was a six-pointer but it didn’t hang around for Gary
to finish loading. Incredibly a fourth deer came
crashing out of the laurel. This one a beautiful
ten-pointer. By now the rather rough original bore was fowled and Gary
couldn’t get the ball down. He cut a twig and using it
as a short starter backed up to a tree got the ball
started. Surprising the buck stood and watched until
Gary began to prime. He then ran off but stopped at
about 70 yards. By then Gary was so shook up he
Wallace, hunting at the back end of the main hollow, ended up
at the crossing point of a drive being made on the
Little Patterson side of the mountain. He shot at a
bunch of deer at long range but didn't kill any. Later
he blew the gold touch hole out of his rifle while
trying to shoot through a log at camp. He hiked out,
drove to Salem, fixed the rifle, and returned.
or so later Wallace accepted a job with Colonial
Williamsburg and moved east for good.
1963— Wallace, Duck, and Gary for the week in Kelly
Hollow. Packs loaded with canned food and a canvas wall
tent weighed nearly as much as we did.
Gary missed an 8 point buck that came up behind him in a
steep hollow to the left of the main hollow. He was
hunting with a left-handed rifle made by Harry A. Wilson
of Roanoke, VA.
Wallace hunted, in his fringed leather hunting shirt,
with a .44 caliber wood-patchbox rifle he made in
Williamsburg (after hours) during that summer. It was
the first rifle he made there and had an original barrel
and a large original French or Dutch musket lock. He wounded a big
yellow cat with a long tail in thick
laurel brush. Blood trailed it but lost the trail. (It
couldn't have been a mountain lion because the game
department insisted there were none in Virginia at the
time. Must have been a 70 pound house cat!)
hunting season Wallace traded the rifle he had used to Howard Sites,
a gunsmith in Covington, Virginia, for two antique longrifles.
Duck killed a spike that same day Wallace shot the cat in what came to be
known as "Duck's Gap".
When the three of them came out of the woods on Sunday they
discovered that President John F. Kennedy had been killed. They
were probably among the last in the country to learn about his
Wallace in fringed leather shirt and rifleman's cockaded hat from
Colonial Williamsburg. Duck cleaning his rifle.
1964— Duck and Gary for two weeks in Kelly
Hollow. Mike Hunt from Glenvar was there
part of the time. Gary wasn’t in college because he was
recovering from a broken jaw he suffered in September.
Mike got a button buck about 10 o'clock on the first
Monday. It was small enough that we just strapped it on
my pack frame and carried it out.
Duck wounded a four pointer Tuesday but it got away. He
was hunting with the .45 caliber rifle he made.
Gary was hunting with an original rifle borrowed from
Wallace. It was .46 caliber and had straight cut
rifling. On Wednesday he crossed over into the Patterson drainage and
killed a six-point buck. He shot it in the neck at about
forty yards. It went right down but the started kicking
so that it got back on its feet and came crashing down
the mountain toward him. It fell again and Gary shot it
in the head.
On Thursday it rained and Duck had a slow fire on a big
buck. He missed.
Wallace had planned to come up from Williamsburg for the
last weekend of the two week season but didn't make it.
1965— Gary and Duck hunted Kelly Hollow off and on during the two
week season. Wallace's wife, Georgia, was expecting so
he stayed in Williamsburg.
During the first week, Duck shot a six pointer using the
all handmade rifle he borrowed from Wallace. He shot it
in the head. Gary hunted with .45 caliber rifle he made
and had a twig deflect the ball when he had a clear shot
at a huge buck. Hard to imagine a 3/16" green stick
a couple of inches from the muzzle deflecting the ball five feet at 40 yards but it did--the
ball struck a small maple and left a clear mark that
documented the wide miss.
This was the year the modern gun hunters from Salem really invaded our
hidden muzzleloader camp. The landowner (Wertz) whose
cabin and posted land had previously helped block access
to our camp was not hunting that season so they had easy access. Charlie Hale, Wayne,
Bay and Lee DeHart and Allen Ray showed up. Bay had a
muzzleloader made by Harry A. Wilson of Roanoke. Charlie
killed an eight pointer with his 7mm Mauser.
The invaded camp during lunch.
Charlie Hall and his 8 point buck.
Lee DeHart and his buck.
On about the 16th of December, Duck and I drove to
Williamsburg to return Wallace's all handmade rifle.
1966— First year in Rich Hole, George Washington
National Forest, Rockbridge Co. and our first effort at a
primitive hunt! Gary had read about this isolated area
of virgin timber in a
Virginia Wildlife magazine and he and Duck had scouted
it in March and again in October. (Rich Hole was later
made a Wilderness Area.)
Wallace, Duck, and Gary
for the whole week, hiking in on Sunday and out on Saturday
evening. They camped in a lean-to for the first time.
Tuesday morning Duck shot a six-point buck as it ran by
him on the flat just up the ridge from the camp. The
deer was hit too far back, through the right ham, and
had to be blood trailed for a huge distance. The trail
finally ran out but Wallace decided to try and get ahead
of the buck's line of travel by cutting up the mountain
and back down. He went a half mile or more before taking
a stand. He heard the buck even farther ahead in the
distance and ran forward to it. As he approached it
struggling up a ridge it collapsed and rolled down the
hill toward him, dead.
Wallace yelled for us to come over but he was so far
away that we did not realize it was him. Finally we
worked around the side hill to him and when I saw the
dead deer Gary asked if he had killed it with his damned
knife -- since they had heard no shot.
The buck was quit heavy so they cut him up and put parts
on each pack board. By the time they got him out and
checked it was too late to go back in the woods. They
spent Tuesday night at home and returned the next day after
loading up on junk food and Dr. Pepper. Gary had saved
the deer’s heart in camp but Wallace and Duck refused to eat
any of it.
Since this was their first attempt a primitive camping, the
food was supposed to be bacon, dried beans, fire baked bread, and dried
apples. Unfortunately Duck bought fatback instead of
bacon and the dried apples were commercially made and
tasted of sulfur. This year became known as the
“starving times” because after a while the grease and
sulfur were just too much. It was also one of those
years when there were hardly any squirrels. The one
Wallace killed must have been ten years old -- like
eating rubber bands!
1967— Back to Rich Hole and setting up a new camp at the big
hemlock tree clawed by generations of bears. In addition
to Duck, Gary, and Wallace the party included: Lynn
Neal Smith, and a very young Branch Meanly. Fire danger was
very high and we ended up building a stone fireplace
about four feet high to reduce the chance of a forest
Left to right: Neal, Gary, Branch, and Wallace. Camp was
a canvas lean-to.
Six carved longrifles and one pistol--who says that nice
rifles were not built to be used?
This is the bear tree. From the ground to the highest
scratches was about 8 feet but we figured the bear had
to have been standing on snow.
1968— Rich Hole again. Gary, Duck, Lynn and Neal ....
Duck, Neal and Lynn
Duck, Neal and Gary
1969— Gary and Neal were in the Army. Duck hunted in
Kelly Hollow and killed a spike buck.
1970— Gary was still in the Army but was able to get
leave and he borrowed a big wall tent from base services
at Fort Belvoir. The hunt was moved to the Gathright
Wildlife Management Area on the Jackson River and camped
in a big field by the river. Some modern hunters pulled
in near us and ran a generator all night!
1971 — Rich Hole by way of Alum Springs (up the
creek rather than through the gap). During the packing
in a rifle got caught in the brush and accidently
discharged--fortunately no one was injured.
1972— Back to Rich Hole. Gary, Wallace, Neal, Jon
Laubach, Lynn Murray packed in together. Tom Strohfeldt
came in a few days later and Wallace and I met him up in
the gap to show him the way to camp.
This was the year we got caught
by the big snow. Lynn walked out while the snow was falling and
it was getting dark. Those of us who remained in camp
were worried that he could get hurt but he made it fine. Jon
and Tom walked out the next day in 10 or 12 inches of
snow. Neither Jon nor Tom
knew the trail and they ended up reaching the top of the
mountain a good way east of the trail gap.
Gary, Wallace, and Neal stayed for the rest of the week but ended up leaving the canvas lean-to in the
woods. It was too wet and heavy to carry out.
Tom warming before our rock fireplace.
1973 — First year of the special “Primitive Weapons
Season” restricted to three wildlife management areas:
Goshen-Little North Mountain; Clinch Mountain and
article written for Virginia Wildlife magazine.)
Our time was very limited and we decided to hunt from a
vehicle accessible camp in Gathright WMA. We only hunted
for a few days. Wallace found stone axe after dreaming
that he would.
(Pictures from this modern camp)
1974 — Second year of the special “Primitive Weapons Season”
the group decided to hunt on the south end of
Little North Mountain off a trail that crossed the Maury
River on a swinging bridge at the west end of Goshen Pass.
Gary killed this small buck in a laurel thicket not far
from the North Mountain trail. It was in such thick
cover that the only shot he had was in the neck just
under the jaw. The rifle was the
wooden box display
rifle from the shop. The load was two .490 balls and 110
grains of FFg. Balls struck about an inch apart and the
deer went down like he had been hit with a sledge
After dragging the deer out to the field near the river.
1975— Second year on Little North Mountain at Goshen
Pass. The hunting party included Gary, Wallace, Lynn
Murray, Neal Smith, Collie Harris, Frank Tate and Jon
Laubach. Wallace decided to hunt with an atlatl and spear but, after
Jon killed a deer and left for home, Wallace used both rifle and spear.
The weather was unseasonably warm. We were able to strip
down and bathe in the creek.
In mid-week Wallace and Neal decided to hike out for
some fresh supplies (junk food) and, after visiting the
country store in Rockbridge Baths, came back to camp
with two chickens. Before the rest of us returned to
camp from the afternoon hunt, they had roasted and eaten
both of them!
Lynn, Wallace, Neal, Gary, Collie (in breech cloute), and Frank
(in his Civil War uniform).
This was year that we discovered that "wickiup" was
the Indian word for
"wind tunnel." We had put the open end toward
the prevailing wind.
1976— The primitive weapons season was expanded to
include National Forest land and we hunted in Kelly Hollow again.
Camped at the same site we had used years before but did
not try for a period camp. Gary, Neal Smith, Jon Laubach,
and Lynn Murray were back.
Danny McDaniel, an old friend from Salem,
joined us for the first time. Danny hunted with this
NC style rifle that Gary had made the year before.
On this trip Danny cut a knuckle on his hand with his hunting knife
and it ended up bothering him for years until he finally
had surgery on the joint.
One of us shot a "camp doe" the first day and we ate
wonderful fresh venison all week. An accident with a
home-made candle lantern almost burned up the pile of
Lynn took this picture of the rifles in our camp. All of
them are from the Colonial Williamsburg shop. Lynn's
pistol had just been finished that year.
Iron Mounted Pistol
Lynn killed this buck on Thursday, November 4th. with the iron
mounted rifle Wallace made for him in 1972.
Iron Mounted Rifle
1977— My son was born in September! Hunted near
1979— This was the year of the big ice
storm at Rich Hole. Wallace and Gary arrived at the parking area
on Route 60 at about
dawn and started up the mountain. As we climbed toward
the gap the ice was thicker and thicker. By the time we
rounded the corner at the rock outcropping limbs
six and eight inches in diameter were crashing to the
With each crash, the shattered ice would slide down the
steep slope with a tinkling sound reminding them of a
falling glass chandelier. Ice covered branches hung so
low they blocked the trail in places. The ice was nearly
three quarters of an inch thick and still increasing.
About the time we reached the gap we realized
that our lives were in real danger! We retreated down
the mountain to where the ice wasn't as thick and hunted
the rest of the day in a winter wonderland. In the
afternoon the sun came out and the the mountain
1980— Wallace Gusler, Lynn Murray,
George Suiter, and Dave Wagner hiked in to Rich Hole. Downed trees and massive limbs
from the previous year's ice storm made this an ordeal to be
Once they got through the trail gap the party split up
with George and Lynn going straight down the trail
hollow toward the creek and Wallace and Dave "side
hilling" searching for the old trail. Wallace and Dave
reached camp first and were beginning to get worried as
darkness began to fall before George and Lynn came in to
It was "Young" Dave's first experience in
the rough mountains of Virginia and he exhausted himself on the
climb. Wallace ended up having to carry both his rifle
and Dave's down into the creek side camp by the "bear
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