Hunting Stories of the Glenvar Boys

Updated 10/05/2009

Christian Oerter Letter
18th-C Apprenticeships
Curly Wood
Fantasy Rifle?
Scratch Built???
Iron & Steel
Muzzle Blasts
Hunting Stories
What's a Virginia Rifle?
Why Straight Rifling
Hunting was just something most boys did when they grew up in Glenvar Hollow in the 1950s. They had access to either a .22 rifle or a shotgun by the time they were ten or twelve. We could walk from our houses into woods and mountains were the most common game was the gray squirrel. Rabbits and quail were also in the overgrown farm fields but shooting a quail on covey rise was beyond most of our abilities. Unless you could afford to keep a pack of beagles, rabbits were easier to trap than shoot. Several neighborhood boys, including Wallace Gusler, set a line of box traps that had to be checked daily. Gary had only one trap and doesn't remember catching a single rabbit.

Deer were so rare then that you could hunt for a week and not see a single track in the mountains near home!  Turkey were being restocked and bear were only hunted seriously by those who had bear hounds.

... well that is part of the story.

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 since 1900?

1959— Wallace and his father hunted in Kelly Hollow. Wallace wounded and lost a deer with flintlock .38 caliber smooth rifle he had made.

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 camp.

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 completely missed.

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.

A month 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!)

After 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 death.

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 Murray, 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 fire.

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.

— First year of the special “Primitive Weapons Season” restricted to three wildlife management areas: Goshen-Little North Mountain; Clinch Mountain and Gathright. (See 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 hammer.

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 sleeping gear.

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 Williamsburg.


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 ground.

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 sparkled.

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 remembered.

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 camp.

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 tree."