Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 1001, added October 21, 2006
Hunting Rabbits With Phonograph
Sportsmen in Vicinity of Fox Lake Find Talking Machines Useful.
Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1903, p. 42.
THERE is an unwritten law in the Fox lake country against the shooting of unfortunate ducks that are frozen fast in the ice, just as there is a written law against chasing the rabbit out of his warm burrow or brush heap by means of the squeaking ferret. And thereby Squire Otto Muehrcke has done a good deal of work in past years in clearing friends charged with the violation of the rabbit-ferret code especially.
�Think of it!� has been one of the arguments of the squire. �Only last winter it took twelve hours for the defense to get a jury, which finally decided for the prisoner: �Well, we can�t see why a man should be fined for catching a mess of perch through the ice.� Now, when it takes that much time for such a case, what am I to do?�
As a result, in connection with rabbit shooting and the use of ferrets, a Chicago friend of the squire has solved the difficulty for the present winter, though increasing his own field equipment thereby.
This friend, who is fond of rabbit shooting, has a pen of ferrets at home. Also he has a talking machine of unquestioned accent and purity of tone. The rest has been easy.
How the Ferret Hunters Work.
In hunting the rabbit with the real thing in past years the most effective portion of the ferret is its squeak. The lithe, rattish little animal squeaks at a touch, and it continues its serpentine squirmings in the hand to the music of a note pitched close to that of a slate pencil on a second grade schoolroom slate. Between the squeak and the squirm and the suggestions of sharp teeth no mere novice would hunt rabbits with a ferret anyhow; it is too much like chasing them with a pet rattlesnake. But the type of man who isn�t afraid to try to feel the wind from a buzz saw with his fingers occasionally takes to the ferret, if the law allows, or if he is certain of the kind of jury that he can draw upon in an emergency.
In hunting with the live squeak the animal is taken from a pocket, from the trouser leg, or from almost any portion of the clothing where it has squirmed to in transit, and at the entrance to the rabbit�s burrow, or to its hole in the brush pile, the ferret is turned in , nose first. If there is another exit from the burrow or the brush heap the rabbit goes out at it with the momentum of light; if there is only the entering passage the rabbit still comes out at the given rate, having passed its slim enemy in the burrow entrance. Then it is that the hunter gets in his deadly work with a charge of shot.
But in the Fox lake country one cannot hunt with ferrets, and the Chicago man who is piling up the scores above every one in the neighborhood of Fox lake station is Squire Muehrcke�s friend with the talking machine.
Where the Phonograph is Useful.
Before starting out on his shooting trip, the Chicago man takes his ferret to the machine in which he has inserted a new registering cylinder. Pinching the creature and fumbling it before the instrument, he accumulates a series of hysterical squeaks upon the wax cylinder, which is calculated to bring terror to the biggest bunny that ever holed up in the woods of Lake county. Then with the machine under one arm and the gun under the other, the hunter is ready.
Before a burrow showing fresh tracks in the snow, the hunter places the detonating barrel of the machine, clicks the starter, and in a moment there is a series of excited shrieks, and chatterings, and squeaks, and gnashings of teeth reverberating through the bunny burrow, making the Miller�s station dugout and the automatic trio look less than 30 cents. A Washington park hostler couldn�t hold the rabbit from bolting, and at the psychologic moment the hunter takes the cottontail on the jump.
All Lake county has been stirred deeper than a burrow over the innovation. On the part of those who shoot rabbits for sport, it is declared to be wholly within the law. On the other hand, those who shoot for dinner, declare that it is a patent evasion of the law�a something designed for the rich man who can afford a talking machine and take it out into the woods instead of keeping it in the third flat at home, buzzing it on solo work.
�To me,� said Squire Otto Muehrcke, �it is like this: Suppose a gang of men should surround your house, and hoot, and yell, and hammer on the doors until you ran out in a fright and then robbed your house. That would be riot and robbery. But suppose some one should load up a phonograph with these yells, and hoots, and cries, and set the machine outside your house some night and turn it loose�you couldn�t arrest any one for riot, could you? It would be a practical joke, wouldn�t it? And no judge or jury could hold you for a practical joke played on a rabbit, could it? Well, I guess not.�
In the meantime the mere dog who �knows his master�s voice� is entirely pass� in Lake county, Illinois.